The desolate environments in artist Miguel Mejia’s black and white, roughed up photographs may convince viewers they’re in hell, the scratched, stepped-on negatives producing a landscape of inescapable whirlwinds born from Mejia’s own marks of destruction. Usually, that’s not what one pictures when they think of pristine, traditional photography.
That’s the point of PHOTOVARIOUS, an exhibition showcasing works by nine local artists pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, “who see the world differently,” according to the description.
There’s Mejia’s pieces, inspired by the Mexican phrase, “Vete a la Chingada” or “Go to hell,” that depict “the place that every Mexican has been told to go to when they have been screwed,” according to the artist’s bio. There’s artist Ross Sonnenberg, who uses fireworks as his light source to create galaxy-like photograms and veteran Terri Jeffcoat, whose long exposure times allow her to express her PTSD, “the tremendous range of emotions” she feels in a series of haunting self-portraits.
There’s also Cal State Long Beach journalism student Garrett Troutman’s “The Quarantine Diaries,” combining traditional portraiture with his subjects’ written accounts of how COVID-19 has affected their lives.
Curated by Mick Victor, an experimental photographer in his own right whose works are also included in the show, PHOTOVARIOUS is on view at the Long Beach Creative Group / Rod Briggs Gallery through Nov. 7. Not meant as a definitive or final response to non-traditional photography, Victor said in a statement that rather, the show is “an invitation to use your own camera and workspace in seeing even the smallest things around you a bit differently every day.”
“When I was asked to curate a photography show for LBCG, I knew right away I didn’t want to do a standard legacy show where we simply invited all the regular experienced photo people in the area and showed their best shots,” Victor told the Hi-lo. “Photography and photo imaging is changing so much and I wanted to bring together a range of people who today are actively breaking the boundaries in their process, approaching the camera and its role in photo imaging in new and compelling ways.”
Selected from a call for artists back in May to submit “non-conventional” works, which garnered more than 40 submissions, Victor said, “With PHOTOVARIOUS, I want to show some of the really innovative thinking being done in photography by artists who see the role of the camera differently. I want to feature work that represents a newer photographic process and thinking that too often gets quieted by the insistence on traditional skills.”
Submissions were also reviewed by the Museum of Latin American Art’s chief curator Gabriela Urtiaga, as well as members of art collective Long Beach Creative Group, with support from the Port of Long Beach. The artists selected in the show are Sheriann Ki Sun Birnham, Nicole Fournier, Terri Jeffcoat, Miguel Mejia, Martha Spelman, Garrett Troutman, Katie Stubblefield, Ross Sonnenberg, and Mick Victor.
The exhibit is open weekends through Nov. 7 at 2221. E. Broadway, Saturdays and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment; or visit the PHOTOVARIOUS website here to see more of the show.