You wanna start a collective?
The idea is simple, especially as it relates to the expensive, industrial art form of photography. Instead of you and I spending sleepless nights bidding on the same enlargers on eBay, we pool our resources and share the equipment, not to mention the rent.
The Bakery Photographic Collective seems to make this recipe work so well that they are now improvising the ingredients. They’ve exchanged their original space on Pleasant Street in downtown Portland for the Brooklyn-esque lure of bigger-more-open-space-for-cheaper in Westbrook.
Another pioneer of wild Westbrook is Chicky Stoltz. He has channeled his Portland-earned infamy into an attractive restaurant and is welcoming the Bakery Collective to the neighborhood with an exhibit.
The Collective’s presentation of their work makes clear they are not promoting a unified aesthetic. The disparate photographs and attention given to individual bios point to comfortable associations and relationships of convenience. Not that there’s a dearth of curatorial connections. Intentionally or not, many of the works featured favor landscapes depicted in such a manner as to abstract their constituent elements into emotive color-fields.
The two largest pieces in the Bakery’s presentation seem to stand guard like similar sentries. Tanja Hollander’s “Untitled 18917 (Scarborough, Maine)” takes the strata of field and sky and gently loosens the focus while deepening the colors. The resulting amber waves of grain are transformed into a natural weave of what looks like brushstrokes. Scott Peterman’s “Olfusa” of 2003 remains in tight focus, but achieves the same transformative effect. A gray beach day makes for a bleached-out sky that seamlessly becomes strand. The sublime scene feels more like the mental landscape of a Rothko than a space for humans to inhabit.
Grace Hopkins-Lisle approaches compositional abstraction from the microcosm. A precise zoom into an industrial intersection of forms results in oblique forms of yellow, green, blue and cream. The porous concrete of whatever structure we are observing is laid bare, drawing the viewer’s interest in towards the minute variations of rust on rivets.
David Leith captures the mysticism of the nascent days of the medium with “Old Stump Stone House Brook, Chaplin CT” of 2000. A haggard, peeling stump is centered in the frame, personified into a living spirit and surrounded by a battered gathering of similar beings. The hazy black-and-white image recalls a Muybridge print, hearkening back to a day when the mere exposition of a scene was call for amazement.
Tom Bolduc pulls off the same sense of incantation with a diptych portrait. One older and one younger subject both stare down the camera. There is something supra-objective about the comparison, as though the true subject is the moment the shutter releases or the millisecond captured when the subject genuinely questioned whether the camera lens might steal their soul.
A byproduct of this loose organization is the varying degree of experience within the members of the group. Portland resident Justin Van Soest can boast a voluminous resume of commercial and architectural photography with the likes of JetBlue and Tommy Hilfiger (and rightfully so: his contribution of “Women’s Powder Room #2, Radio City Music Hall” is a pristine example of a professional eye) whereas A.D. Jacobsen’s photo of a snowy playground holds equivalent merit despite the artist’s young age, student status, and desire to be a “either a fireman or baseball player for the Red Sox when he grows up.”