“Nice juxtaposition of future-oriented construction specifics and intense as-if-remembered snapshot panoramas.” — Guest book comment on photographer Michael Sherwin’s exhibit “Dis•Location.”
June 18-28, photographer Michael Sherwin will lead a photography workshop in the Jackson area. The workshop is sponsored by the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts , where Sherwin is on staff. For a time, Sherwin and his wife lived in Jackson Hole, and his June 2005 Art Association exhibition, “Dis•Location,” remains one of my favorite local photography exhibits to date. Sherwin arrived in Jackson from Oregon. Sherwin is assistant professor of photography and digital imaging at WVU’s Division of Art and Design.
Sherwin practices his craft democratically, openly encouraging new and experienced photographers. He’s accessible. Ego: checked at dark room door.
The 10-day workshop will be held in partnership with the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, meaning Sherwin will have access to its photography studio. The workshop is offered through the extended learning office at WVU so it is open to everyone, says Sherwin. As a WVU program, college credit is available. Visit www.michaelsherwin.com. Application deadline is May 1. Hop to it!
The workshop will cover a broad range of photographic practices and principles, with an emphasis on instruction targeted to the individual level of the student. Primary instruction will include the use of digital and 35mm film cameras, along with color inkjet or black-and-white darkroom processes. Students will also have the opportunity to explore work in medium- and large-format cameras and alternative processes.”
My Arts Observatory article on Sherwin, written for Planet Jackson Hole in June 2005, is reprinted below.
* New Photography Studio Clicks
“Wow!” responds Sherwin. “Future-oriented in the sense that these things were mapping structures underneath the ground, intended, I guess, for safety. So when you began the construction you wouldn’t dig up or damage what is underneath. And I love the idea of a snap shot panorama. I frequently talk about this work as a panoramic of experience, in that it’s not one single image, but a segment of time, riding the fence between still and moving images.”
Uncovering Fred Hayden’s spot-on observation of Jackson photographer Michael Sherwin’s exhibit, “Dis•Location,” now on display at ArtSpace’s upstairs gallery at 240 S. Glenwood, was kismet. In fact, our interview was blessed with a confluence of happy incidents. As Sherwin and I began to review his work, Diane Hazen, a gallery visitor, remarked that she was a long-time resident of Eugene, Oregon, where Sherwin’s photographs were shot. She recognized the locations. Hazen is also a city planner, and was that day transfixed by Sherwin’s fluorescent street symbols and overlapping, exposed images. Sherwin’s color photographs are extended, abstract urban street scenes, patterned with construction symbols, maintenance markings, and dynamic linear composition. Looking at his work, you might be reminded of a path.
“Yes, the path as the narrative act is a big part of this work. I was studying the idea of psycho-geography, which studies the way different geographies in the city and country affect us emotionally. That idea of the path really played into this work.” Contemporary work harkening back to the ancient.
How did Sherwin come to photograph urban road markings, putting them into the panoramic format that he does? “I was walking and biking to school. I always had my camera on me, so I was paying attention to what was going on around me. Using a toy camera, and using an entire roll of film really started here in Jackson. I was fascinated by how my walk was being mediated by man-made constructs. Here I was interested in the road signs and other things coming into my contact. In Eugene, it started with noticing different paint on the streets, different colors. I followed them through the landscape, and I documented where they were falling at my feet and the landscape as I moved through it. That led to graffiti, and subconscious types of art. Unintentional aesthetic acts. I was interested in the boundary between things that are seen as logistics and things that are considered aesthetic.”
“You photograph the low part first, which is technically under exposed, and then when you photograph the back it brightens the whole image,” said Hazen. “Exactly,” replied Sherwin. Sherwin used a toy camera to capture his urban street photos, and his success in capturing the subtle interlocking patterns that occur when nature meets city proves once again that it is the photographer, not technicals, that renders good results. “It is a process of trial and error with this camera,” Sherwin continued. “You really don’t know what you are going to get. The city is either sunny or cloudy, and you learn what weather works best, with what exposure.” Examining one image, “13th Avenue University of Oregon, #13496,” Sherwin and Hazen noted the hot pink road markings. “This paint is by far the most colorful, the most fluorescent I’ve photographed. Who would think hot pink? And it is the most hieroglyphic of all of the [street markings]! Random marks that weren’t signifying anything that I could tell.” Indeed, the markings are like petroglyphs. “Yes,” agrees Sherwin. “There’s almost a male/female symbolic language going on. It was really fascinating, these street equations that were worked out that have no logical meaning to me at all. It’s purely aesthetic.” Discussing the symbols we realize that such records are chosen as communication vehicles, and are recognizable to a culture, because of their universality. There is no difference between the determining of ancient petroglyph symbols and the cryptic street markings recognized and easily read by urban planners. Sherwin’s markings represent an acquired knowledge reflecting a distinct community element. Sherwin notes that the other interesting element of these particular pink markings was that they were water-based. The evening of the day Sherwin photographed them, it rained. Virtually all the symbols were obliterated. “And that made it the chance of a lifetime, photographing that pink,” says Sherwin.