“Capturing the world around us in a new way” is the theme of the Currier Museum of Art’s second Photo Slam competition.
Twelve photographers were selected to present their work to the public and will compete for the Visitors’ Choice Award at the Photo Slam, which will be held Saturday, April 21.
The Currier sent out a call for photo submissions in early January and received entries from 110 people by the end of February. Michelle Lamuniere, the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family assistant curator of photography at Harvard Art Museums, was asked by the Currier to choose 12 artists whose submitted photographs best represented the theme.
The theme was chosen to align with the Currier’s current major exhibition, “A New Vision: Modernist Photography,” said Michelle Pennington, who manages the museum’s public programs.
“Modern photographers were really using the camera to look at the new world around them — the Industrial Revolution, steel working, construction,” said Pennington, who has worked for the Currier since 2007. “There were new perspectives on familiar things.”
Pennington’s role in the Photo Slam process has been managing submissions and now coordinating with photographers for the competition. She is working with the chosen artists to get one framed photo from each of them, which will be displayed in the Currier’s community gallery.
“There’s a real range,” Pennington said. “I think the curator did a good job of selecting varying interpretations of the theme, incorporating some color and black-and-white and [different] subject matters.”
The artists chosen are Allen Palmer, Doug Johnson, Jack Ahearn, Jill Kyle, John Capurso, Kevin Salemme, Kyeong Kim, Mark Stevens, Shawna Gibbs, Susan Lirakis, Vivien Goldman, and couple Len and Joan Weinstock. The majority of the artists live in New Hampshire; four live in Massachusetts, Pennington said.
“I was looking for work that was creative in vision and clear in artistic intent,” said curator Lamuniere. “That avoided clichés and gimmicks in favor of artists who demonstrated purpose that was clear in style and subject matter.” Lamuniere said she was also looking for consistency in the images submitted, color contrast, and artistic and purposeful cropping, among other elements.
The first Currier Photo Slam was held in 2009 in conjunction with the exhibition “Brett Weston: Out of the Shadow.”
“We were testing the waters; there was no theme,” said Pennington. “People responded really well and requested it be an annual competition,” which Pennington said she would love to do. The frequency ultimately depends upon timing with exhibitions, she said.
The Visitors’ Choice Award went to 13-year-old Charlie Minicucci, who submitted photographs of a rusty fishing boat, the spiral staircase and interior of a red-bricked lighthouse, and a wooden staircase in black-and-white that evokes a beach scene. The images play with interesting angles, shadows and contrasting colors.
“His mother told me he said it was the best night of his life,” said Pennington. “It’s really special to be able to provide that opportunity for someone and encourage their work.”
Each of the 12 chosen artists (or artist pair) will have five minutes to present his or her work. Artists can discuss specific images, their process or style, inspirations or anything else they choose. At the end of the presentations, attendees will vote for their favorite. (Currier staff will abstain from voting.)
Kyle, of Auburn, is one of the selected photographers who will present at the Photo Slam. Her submitted works were “Field of Lupins,” “Queen Anne’s Lace” and “Eagle Lake, Acadia.” Kyle, who does design work for Dell in Nashua, says that nature and bold patterns figure heavily into her work. Her design background also spills into her photography work, she says.
Salemme, who teaches and directs media instructional services at Merrimack College, submitted his work because he thought it fit in well with the competition’s theme. Salemme works in triptychs, three photos presented together in three panels. He explains them as three moments in time captured, one after another.
“I’ve always been enthralled by trying to get a sense of place in a landscape,” said Salemme, who lives in Beverly, Mass. “What it feels like to be there. ... I’m interested in how photographs make the world look strange. They’re frozen, and we don’t normally experience vision that way.” There is a saying, Salemme said, that “photographs can cause inanimate objects to become animated and vice versa.”
Currier’s Pennington said the museum has been trying to strike a good balance of showcasing content that the museum provides and content that the community provides. She thinks the Photo Slam does this well, she says.
“Last time, there were 97 submissions, and the place was completely packed,” Pennington said. “There is a need in our community to organize these sorts of things, to have the opportunity for [people] to come together and share what they do. That’s rewarding.”