197. PhotoSynthesis Gallery

Down the Dark Alleys of Manchester
Manchester
(Google Maps location)
November 20, 2010

197hWhat a day. A surprise visit from EdHill, a hastily thrown together itinerary, A fairly well-behaved Damian, the largest serviceberry tree in America (CTMQ Visit here) and two gallery visits including this one, the small Photosynthesis Gallery tucked away in downtown Manchester. It’s so “tucked away” that is has a ½ address, as in 36 and ½ Pine Street. The entrance is in the back in a nondescript old brick building – but there is an inviting sign and the red, white and blue OPEN sign at least.

The gallery at PhotoSynthesis displays rotating exhibits of photography by accomplished and emerging fine art photographers. Their goal is to offer six to ten shows per year, each hanging for a period of three to six weeks. We were only there to check out the exhibit, of course, but PhotoSynthesis offers much more for the artistically inclined. I’ll get to that in a minute, as we’re about to enter the gallery…

The three were stopped in our tracks before entering.

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Oh yeah! Ed and I high-fived and giddily entered the building. (No, I didn’t really think about the fact that Damian’s mind would be corrupted. I’m not sure how else to say it, but Damian’s special needs provide a sort of protection against that.) We barged 1967ain, excited to see some sexy art… And, wait, what?!

It’s naked dudes?! Sigh. Ironically, Ed likes to remind me that when he and I go to art galleries with my son that we look like a gay couple with an adopted Asian kid. I never pay his fantasy any mind, but at this moment, staring at men’s nude buttocks and taking pictures of them, yeah, I just wanted to give that big lug a hug.

The exhibit was titled NEW WORKS: Figure/Space, featuring photographs by two artists, Todd Blais and Robert Calafiore. This was a photography exhibition of Cyanotypes and Chromogenic Pinhole Camera Prints. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any record of Mr. Blais’s work. I do have a shot of some basaltic looking rocks, from a small room off the main gallery, but I still don’t think they are from Blais. Maybe though; here they are:

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So I guess we have to focus on Calafiore’s work. I should note that EdHill is a graduate of the University of Hartford with a degree in, yes, photography. And, he was acquainted with Robert Calafiore back in the 90′s while getting his degree. So he can pretend he wasn’t into staring at the guys, but I could tell he was proud.

197aMr. Calafiore wants you to know that his work involves “no post manipulation, nothing digital and no tricks. These are one-of-kind prints made entirely in the pinhole camera.” To his credit, Calafiore’s small font full page description of his work doesn’t descend into the typical artist blather that no one (including the artist) can understand.

No, Calafiore uses his page to explain the process of capturing these images. And, quite frankly, it’s pretty dang interesting. Basically, he built his own pinhole camera – after a long series of trial of error – in a uniquely modern (foamcore) way, and the whole photographing process is very old school.

Even though the pictures look very modern and dare I say Photoshoppy, they aren’t at all. And that, to me anyway, seems to be the point. Each photograph required 20 minutes of exposure, so yeah, that downward dog guy was probably all lightheaded when he stood up. The negatives were processed in an actual darkroom with those chemicals our artsy Aunts all had in their basements.

197bOkay, Calafiore does explain his process in the last paragraph, but it’s not too goofy for me. He even references “looking through the glass, darkly,” which is always cool.

This gallery isn’t your typical gallery at all. In fact, it’s pretty unique in that it allows photographers to use their equipment and to learn about new techniques and such.

PhotoSynthesis is dedicated to providing photographers, artists, and students with a comfortable, enriching environment in which they can learn the craft of photography and refine their techniques at their own pace. Additionally, we offer services for those not inclined to partake of the hands-on aspect of our business. Individuals and organizations of all sorts can benefit from our solutions to their photographic needs.

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I like how Damian appears to be critiquing the work.

PhotoSynthesis is the only facility of its kind in the area. Our rental spaces, workshops, gallery, schedule of events, and varied services make us a destination to visit often. It is our belief that people in this digital age desire an outlet for handcrafted creativity. We offer this in the form of rental darkrooms for traditional black-and-white photography and alternative processes. 197fMany of our workshops address the teaching of these nearly lost arts. There is a certain satisfaction to learning these processes and helping to maintain them as the legitimate forms of art that they are.

This said, we do understand that current demands are for digital photography and computer-aided image-making. Our wide-format printers, digital workstation, and workshops answer the needs of those working in the digital medium.

A rotating display of photography can be found in our gallery. Each show generally hangs for three to six weeks. Check our website for upcoming exhibits, openings, and other gallery events.

It is our intent to provide people of all ages with a learning experience in photography. Please inquire about future possibilities for small school groups, scout troops, and other organizations

197gPhotoSynthesis also offers a selection of lab and studio services, including custom B&W fiber printing, fine art inkjet printing, print finishing, and various studio camera services. Check our website for the most current information.

So that’s all cool. How great would it be if every art gallery was able to offer so much to interested parties? But here’s the thing about our visit: Even though several people were milling about back in the much larger non-gallery area, not only did not a single person approach us to say hello, no one even looked at us as far as I could tell.

Was it because we brought a little kid to an exhibit featuring naked dudes? I don’t think so. I just think that Ed in his pedestrian Oregon sweatshirt with me in my – hey, I was wearing black! – so I have no idea why they avoided us. Must have been the little kid thing. Hey man, Damian’s got a butt and all the other boy parts in the pictures. Big deal.

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Cost: Free
Hours: See here
Food & Drink? Hartford Road Cafe, if you dare
Children? Sure, but depends on the exhibit
You’ll like it if: You like to be alone in the dark
You won’t like it if: Oh, I think you’ll know
Freebies: Magnet!

For the Curious:

Photosynthesis Gallery
Robert Calafiore

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3 responses to “197. PhotoSynthesis Gallery”

  1. Chris Huestis says:

    Hello,

    I was just scanning the latest Facebook feed when I noticed a link to your site. I decided it was worth a look and was quite surprised to find that your latest post was a review of our back alley gallery here at PhotoSynthesis, 136 1/2 Pine Street, Manchester.

    Let me start by saying I was thoroughly entertained by your article, that is, until the last couple of paragraphs. As the owner/director of PhotoSynthesis, I must apologize for any lack of greeting when you visited. This was inexcusable and if I had any employees, they would all be harshly reprimanded. Alas, I do not, and so have only myself to blame. I can only assume that I was deeply involved in another project or had to run an errand while a friend watched over the place. I can say most certainly, though, that it had nothing do with the little kid thing or Oregon sweatshirt-wearing Ed. Heck, I’m about as casually dressed as they come. It is my goal to strike up a little conversation with everyone that takes the time to visit. How else am I supposed to make them aware of the other stuff we do?

    Let me take this opportunity, then, to invite you back for a proper greeting, full tour, and a look at another gallery show. Our next show opens in a few days. You’ll find all that information at
    http://photosynthesisct.com/Gallery_Exhibitions.html
    Not to disappoint anyone, but there’s a good chance there won’t be any naked dude pictures in this exhibit. What you will see, though, is more excellent work by a group of photographers shooting film on large format cameras. If you stop by Saturday for the reception, there’ll even be a few snacks to go along with your free magnet.

    Anyways, thanks for the visit. Love your blog—keep up the good work.

  2. C Rakoczy says:

    I made it to the “naked dude” opening reception, and was also impressed by the DIY nature of the homemade, pinhole, old-school images, even if their content wasn’t my favorite. But hey, that’s art! And there have been MANY other exhibits that have broader appeal. Their Annual Member’s Show and Sale was fantastic, with lots of different artists’ works in display.

    Photosynthesis is way more than a gallery though. Their workshops are plentiful and diverse, their darkroom a rare analog gem in a digital world, and their printing capabilities are excellent.

    As far as food, Hartford Road Cafe is good, but a short couple blocks to downtown Main Street brings you to Mulberry Street Pizza, Corey’s Catsup & Mustard, Suko Thai, Sunny Side Up, Rocco’s Pizza and Grill, the Hungry Tiger, Great Harvest Bread… okay, so I like food!

    Anyway, go visit PhotoSynthesis, take a class, attend a reception, and ask around for Chris – he’s probably chatting it up with another visitor.

  3. Steve says:

    Thanks for the comment and the invite Chris. I saw the upcoming exhibition and know I’d really dig it. If you poke around this site, almost everything is “point in time” and I rarely make an effort to get to a particular gallery show. It’s just how it all works out. But perhaps I’ll get out there for the opening.

    (I should note that I wasn’t exactly begging for attention during my visit. When I take my pictures, I like to do it on the downlow, so I rarely draw attention. The inattention from the folks at the gallery was as much my fault as theirs.)

    Mr. Rakoczy takes some rather great pictures himself. As for his food recommendations, you’ll find them on some of the other Manchester museum write-ups. Gotta keep it fresh, y’know?

    Thanks for reading – it’s always funny what recent posts are on the home page when someone links CTMQ. Today, The Wadsworth linked me and li’l ol’ PhotoSynthesis Gallery was on top. With naked dudes.

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