You might walk into the Columbia Photo Artists' exhibit titled "Places" expecting to see familiar Howard County places showcased on the walls of the Columbia Art Center. Well, bring along your passport. This exhibit proves that these camera-wielding Columbians are eager to document the rest of the world.
One of the few local sites certainly does resonate at this time of year. Dennis Gilbert's "Path in Winter - Columbia" features a winding path heading toward a lake. Although snow completely covers the ground, a park bench and the bare tree limbs, it's worth noting that the snow has been cleared from the path. You're encouraged to vicariously take a walk down that path, and so you don't have to worry about getting snow in your boots.
Other photographers in the exhibit are literally all over the map. Their shots of assorted international locations occasionally feature human subjects, but for the most part they focus on buildings and landscapes.
There is a strongly implied human presence, however, as in Joan Forester's "Inside Out, Amsterdam." Shot from the inside of what's presumably a restaurant, this tightly cropped shot presents a cafe table pressed against a round window that offers a terrific view of an old church and houses.
Another sort of visual framing tactic can be seen in Joe Bettinger's "View of a Sleeping Giant." Taken from an elevated spot in the Italian city of Sorrento, this shot is cropped in such a way that a palm branch functions like a symbolic proscenium arch at the top and blooming flowers brightly extend across the bottom of a misty view of Mt. Vesuvius off in the distance. Bettinger has several other photos in the show that are quite different, because they emphasize the narrow streets of Sorrento and don't let you see much further than a street corner.
It's understandable that other photographers in the show also are drawn to the ever-photogenic Italian landscape. Jones Taylor Sr.'s "The Leaning Tower of Pisa," "A Scene in Pompeii" and "A Bridge in Venice" are so attractive that you'll wonder why you're here and not there.
Ann Eid also explores Italy. Her "A Door in Italy" is a close-up view of an arched door set into a wall that looks like it has not been repaired or painted in centuries. The bicycles and motorbikes parked in front of the door give a palpable sense of the otherwise unseen residents.
Among the most distant places visited is China. Jerry Gettleman's "Forbidden City Entrance, Beijing" is a moody shot in which a darkly clouded sky hovers over an ancient building whose reflection in an adjacent body of water enhances the already-contemplative mood. The same photographer's "Temple of Heaven" is a more cheerfully colorful shot, because this Chinese temple is painted in such heavenly shades of red and blue.
Just as most of the above-mentioned photos suggest the human presence without directly showing it, Harriet Rosenberg's "Valley of Fire" lets you know that people have left their mark on the landscape. In her case, though, she has photographed a desert cliff in Nevada on which you can barely see faded drawings of animals made by long-vanished Indians.
As for direct appearances by humanity, one of the more clever photos in this regard is Bruce Blum's casually titled "Catherine's Summer Place." Judging from the gilt mirror-lined palatial room in this photo, we're in the Russian summer home of Catherine the Great. She's long gone, of course, but what appears to be a bored-looking museum guard stands at the back of the room.
For a moving photograph of humanity on the move, take a look at Jerry Weinstein's "Father and Son." A father and his young son ride their horses across a beautifully vast Mongolian landscape. They're thousands of miles away from us, but the family emotions evoked by this picture are close to home.
In a separate exhibit at the art center, Roslyn Zinner has mosaics that astutely demonstrate how small pieces of glass and tile can be joined together to make portraits of inspirational subjects including Nelson Mandela and Harriet Tubman.
On a personal level, there are mosaic portraits of Zinner's family members; and on the local political level, there is a mosaic portrait of MarylandSen. Barbara Mikulskithat pungently conveys her making a point.
The Columbia Photo Artists and Roslyn Zinner exhibit through Feb. 12 at the Columbia Art Center, at 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to http://www.ColumbiaArtCenter.org.