By Mike Giuliano
5:29 PM EDT, August 15, 2012
Members of the Central Maryland Photographers Guild shed light on their subjects in the aptly titled group show "Capturing the Light" at the Meeting House Gallery in the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center. Most of these photographers are working outdoors, where natural light levels can make a world of difference in terms of how the resulting photos look.
Two of the exhibiting members, Michael Francis Pucciarelli and Jim Auerbach, have been given extra wall space in which to present multiple examples of their work.
Pucciarelli makes a strong impression with a series shot in Central Park in New York City. These photos emphasize how the park's carefully tended natural environment is just yards away from the surrounding neighborhoods.
In "Central Park — Trees," his relatively tight cropping directs your attention to solid tree trunks that are spaced at a polite distance from each other and also from a stone wall in the background. You can just make out some lofty buildings at the very back of the composition.
Similarly, "Central Park Bridge in the Forest" features an old bridge whose slender, arcing design and ornate metal rail make it a welcome reminder of the civilized visitors for whom the park was built in the mid-19th century. Buildings are barely visible through trees in the distance. It's significant that no actual people are present in this Central Park series, and yet their presence is indicated through well-maintained plantings, bridges, walls and paths.
Pucciarelli's other photos feature natural scenery in other places and, on a local note, he also has two unpeopled shots of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. "Baltimore Harbor — A Dramatic Experience" and "Baltimore Harbor at Night" both look toward the office and hotel towers in Harbor East. Just as much of the city's development energy has been taking place on the eastern side of the harbor in recent years, this photographer seems to have followed the action.
Auerbach's work includes several shots taken in California's Death Valley. The coloration of its dry hills and plains varies considerably according to the time of day and atmospheric conditions.
People only make occasional appearances in most of this group show, but they're present in all their individualized detail in a series that Auerbach did with Asian subjects. "Life's Full Measure" presents an elderly woman whose wrinkled face speaks to a long life; and you frankly can't help noting that this woman's teeth seem like they've never met a dentist. In "Montaignard Village Woman," the elderly subject's lively stance is accentuated by the smoking pipe she's holding.
Village children also pose for their portraits, including a young girl inquisitively looking in the photographer's direction in "Looking at You" and a "Young Scholar" who is immersed in the open book sitting in front of him on a humble table.
Among other photographers in the show, natural subjects tend to predominate. Stephen Talabac, for instance, takes what amounts to wildlife portraits. "Snow Egret" shows its solitary subject in side profile; a "Burrowing Owl" is resting on a wood post; and "Osprey Eyes Its Catch" presents the bird contemplating the captured fish that is about to become its dinner.
Most of the above-mentioned photos are sharply defined, but other photographers in the show have reason to present a more environmentally softened picture. In "Foggy Morn," Sally Stevens calls your attention to a single person in an orange canoe that nearly disappears in a natural setting in which the water and sky are a grayish blur.
There's also reason to feature a blurred depiction of humanity. Melissa Cunningham's "Fast Fingers" is a close-up of a hand playing guitar strings with such intensity that it's difficult to make out that it's a hand. This musician in motion must be playing up a storm.
The Central Maryland Photographers Guild exhibits through Aug. 26 at the Meeting House Gallery in the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, 5885 Robert Oliver Place in Columbia. Call 410-730-4090 or go to http://www.themeetinghouse.org/gallery.htm.