Last year was the first “Exposure: A Mobile Photography Exhibit” at CS Gallery, and there were some unexpected complications. Power outages, car crashes and bears, oh my. All right, no bears, but still.
A power outage during the opening reception knocked out the lights, which are obviously needed to see the collection of photographs (taken and edited only on smart phones or tablets). But it turned out to be a happy accident, because attendees just whipped out those multiuse buggers from their pockets and purses.
“For the first couple of hours it was pitch black, but it turned into a delightful surprise because everyone used their cell phones to light the artwork,” said Amy Leibrand, who founded the exhibit and co-curated with CS Gallery owner Daniel Colvin. “There was this glow in the room, and it was very atmospheric. Then the power came back on … and you could hear everyone go, ‘Aww.’ Someone yelled out, ‘Turn the lights back off!’”
So the blackout was actually fortuitous, but a high-speed car chase along Parsons Avenue three days later that ended crashing through the front window of CS Gallery was surely not. The damage caused the gallery space to be uninhabitable, and all the art had to be taken down, ending the exhibit.
Despite the unfortunate portents from that first year, “Exposure” will thankfully give it another go. Given that “Exposure” features 300 fine-art mobile-photography works by 60 artists from around the world, the exhibit’s return is welcome.
Taking a cue from that power outage, this year’s “Exposure” will replicate the blackout for the first hour of the opening reception, with the next two hours going lights-on. There will be some low mood lighting, but the darkness was so pleasant Leibrand wanted to bring it back.
“It just seems so fitting to have folks look at the work with their cell phones because these are pieces of art that were made with cell phones,” Leibrand said.
Lit traditionally or by phone, visitors will see wonderful photos taken and edited using only smart phones and tablets. These artists aren’t just employing Instagram, and never use Photoshop.
“No, no, no. I’m doing everything on my phone. There just seems to be a lot of confusion about the process, or people didn’t seem to know there was this big community out there,” Leibrand said. “So I wanted to bring that exposure, pun intended, to Columbus. I wanted to show people that it’s more than just a snapshot, more than just applying a filter. There are some really complicated things you can do.”
Judging from the beautiful complexity in these photographs — from hypnotically abstract to compositionally flawless — “Exposure” more than proves that excellence can be achieved with a mobile device. Anyone can do mobile photography, but to excel at it and create fine art is a unique challenge.
The photographers often use apps that do some of the same processes of Photoshop, but it’s also about having a “photographer’s eye” for composition. Leibrand points to local artist Adam Elkin, who’s held a number of solo shows for his mobile photography and has more than 36,000 Instagram followers, as a good example of having that “eye” with his series focusing on puddles.
“It’s the way that he composes the shot, and he understands how to use the lens to his advantage. It’s not just about the apps, but the creativity of what you can do with the phone,” Leibrand said.
Of the 60 artists participating in “Exposure,” half are from the Columbus area, and the other half hails from all over — California or the East Coast, even as far as Turkey or Australia. Each artist submitted five photographs, mounted on eight-by-eight-inch wood panels. The five aren’t necessarily considered “a series,” more of a representation of what can be accomplished with a mobile device. An online gallery with every image will be viewable at “Exposure’s” website through the exhibit’s run.
“Exposure” opens Saturday, March 15 with a reception from 7-10 p.m. The blackout hour will be first, accompanied by an acoustic set from the Jeff McCargish Band. DJ Moxy and pRODUCT will spin from 8-10 p.m.
Photo by Meghan Ralston