Fill a town with interesting characters and talented photographers, and a bevy of photo shows are bound to spill forth, right?
Not exactly, says Sulfur Studios co-founder Emily Earl.
“Personally, I’d like to see a lot more photography exhibitions happening in Savannah, but clearly I am very biased!” laughs Earl.
Fortunately for us, Earl’s adding a much-needed photography show to the mix.
Sulfur’s second photography show ever, Semblance, opens Jan. 7 and features photographs by Emily Earl, Geoff L. Johnson, Cedric Smith, and Christine Hall.
Earl developed the idea for the show with Sulfur partners AJ Perez and Jennifer Moss.
“We were talking about upcoming shows for 2016, what we had shown so far and what we wanted to show that we hadn’t gotten a chance to in our first year,” explains Earl.
The studio hadn’t exhibited any photography, which, in retrospect, seems impossible given the variety of shows held there in its inaugural year.
Earl collaborated with recent studio space renter Johnson to choose their personal favorite photographers to add to the show. Smith and Hall made the cut.
“These are photographers who have been on the scene for quite a while, artists who are making a living off of their work while also making beautiful personal work,” says Earl.
All the photographs in the show are portraits, but each artist’s approach is different.
“I haven’t seen everyone else’s work that’s been put in the show,” says Smith, “so it’ll be interesting to see how we shoot people differently.”
Earl notes the different levels of intimacy between the subject and photographer in each portrait.
“Some of us get a little closer, a little more personal, while others kind of look on from further away,” she explains. “I can definitely see in Cedric’s work where his experience as a painter influences the way he shoots. I think Geoff is a little more documentary style, making order out of chaos, and Christine is more soft and sentimental — her work has beautiful tonality.”
Earl is definitely spot-on about the others’ work. Her own Late Night Polaroids series, notorious around Savannah for portraying nightlife, capture casual moments in black and white and give off a 1970’s vibe thanks to the Polaroid ProPack camera she uses.
“I realized really quickly that the camera itself was attracting all these people,” she recalls. “I guess you don’t see a fold-out camera with bellows much these days, so the camera made it easy to get all types of people to agree to having their photo taken.”
One of the standout photos of that series is of three girls wearing cutoff shorts and knee-highs, clustered together with one drinking out of a tiny airplane bottle. It’s an instant shot of vintage nostalgia and captures the 1970s high-school experience as well as a photograph from the new millennium could.
Smith’s series, “She Shall Be Called Woman,” inspired that same sort of volunteer spirit. The set features women ages 19 to 63 and He loves photographing people who don’t like having their picture taken.
“They’re a challenge,” he says. “They can see that it’s not that they don’t take good photographs, it’s the photographer taking it. As a society, we’re hard on ourselves, but you have to learn to embrace what you’ve got, and that’s the beauty I try to show in my photographs.”
His portrait of Camille, also black and white, is so high definition that her pores glisten in the light and give her skin a velvety look.
Smith’s portraits tend to capture moments with facial expressions, whereas Hall’s photographs include a lot of detail that make the portraits feel more personal. One photo in her portfolio includes a young girl on a pier holding a baby doll and shouting; all the elements combine to create a youthful, summery moment. Many of her subjects, particularly in her “First Light” series, are children making some kind of a face; these photos feel the most organic and unfiltered.
Johnson’s portrait of Robyn Reeder is of her back, but the fashionista’s style is still visible — she’s wearing a yarn, Princess Leia-like headband around her blonde mohawk and a lacy white dress.
A perfect example of Johnson’s ability to concentrate energy is his photograph of the crowd at St. Patrick’s Day, famous in Savannah for being the most chaotic day of the year. In this image, the crowd seems pared down and the revelers are suspended in time for one peaceful moment.
That’s the common link between these striking pieces: capturing that one peaceful moment, wherever it may be.
Semblance at Sulfur Studios
Open January 7 – 16
Opening Reception: Friday, January 8, 6 – 9pm