Stephen Chalmers: Unmarked

This Thursday, April 1, Light Work will host an opening reception for Stephen Chalmers: Unmarked, which will be on view in the main gallery until May 29, 2010. This series of work features seemingly innocuous landscapes that also happen to be places where the bodies of murder victims were found. This switch, while initially shocking, proves thought provoking as the beauty of the scenes gives way to knowing that something terrible happened at these sites. Chalmers, who is a trained social worker, former emergency medical technician, and professor, interweaves themes of violence and death, remembrance and transedence in this unique series of work.

The artist will be present for the opening from 5-7pm, so please stop by if you’re in the area. Contact Sheet 156 is published concurrently with the exhibition and will be the first issue you receive if you subscribe today.

Stephen Chalmers: Unmarked
March 22-May 29, 2010
Gallery reception: April 1, 5-7pm

Scott Conarroe in PDN's 30

Former Light Work Artist-in-Residence Scott Conarroe is featured as one of PDN’s 30 for 2010. This yearly list highlights a select group of the best up-and-coming photographic artists as determined by a prestigious panel of industry taste makers.

Check out PDN’s online gallery plus a short interview with Conarroe about making his work, traveling non-stop, and being represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery.

The interview, written up by Debra Klomp Ching, features a shout out to Light Work: When asked his greatest challenge, Conarroe responds, ““I managed to get an MFA without bothering to spend any time on the computer. I did a residency at Light Work/Community Darkrooms and they made me competent in the digital lab.”

For more information about the Light Work residency program, please click here. We are continuously looking at applications throughout the year.

Still time for JGS Photo and Video Contest

Joy of Giving Something, Inc. (JGS) is accepting submissions to their quarterly, juried photography and video contest through March 31. Separate categories exist for artists and students. The contest was established to encourage photographers and videographers to share their unique artistic perspective. It is part of the Forward Thinking Museum, which is committed to providing access to engaging works of art for a wide audience and to fostering the creation of new art that is informed by the “forward thinking” mind.

The jurors for the artist level photography awards are: Willis E. Hartshorn (International Center of Photography), Karen Sinsheimer (Santa Barbara Museum of Art), and Kai McBride (Columbia University and Queens College). The full list of jurors or the list of previous winners is available online. JGS recently awarded its Annual $15,000 Artist Award to Marion Poussier, winner of the fourth quarter award in 2009.

Image: Marion Poussier, untitled, 2004, from the series One Summer

Stephen Chalmers: Unmarked

Stephen Chalmers: Unmarked
Exhibition Dates: March 22–May 29, 2010
Gallery Reception: April 1, 2010, 5:00–7:00pm

Light Work is pleased to announce our upcoming exhibition Unmarked, featuring photographs by Stephen Chalmers. Contact Sheet 156 will be published concurrently with the exhibition.

The large-format landscape photographs in Unmarked connect remembrance and the land by investigating the locations where serial killers abandoned the bodies of their victims. Photographing these places in a deliberately generic manner, Chalmers presents beautiful but ambiguous landscapes that seem to conflict with our veritable knowledge that something terrible ended at these sites.

By inviting viewers to gaze directly on the sites of untimely and tragic deaths, Chalmers gives them courage to confront their fears about the end of life and its remembrance. The sites are referred to as dumpsites, a term made popular by both law enforcement agents as well as television crime dramas. By acknowledging these dumpsites and the people who died there through his images, Chalmers lifts a stigma that unceremoniously draws a line of remembrance between those who died by intentional acts of violence and those who did not.

While Chalmers treads on sensitive ground as he explores and documents dumpsites in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, he hopes to exchange sensational headlines and the inevitable scandal tied to such sites with something more meaningful. Instead, he offers an elegant memorial that shifts the viewer’s gaze away from infamy and back to the humanity of the victims. Chalmers writes, “As a latecomer who has visited these sites months or years after
the event and the associated media coverage, one is immediately struck by the absence of spectacle, the beauty of the sites, and their silence and stillness.”

Chalmers received his MFA in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University, and a BA in Fine Art Photography and BS in Psychology from the University of Louisville, KY. His work has been exhibited internationally, including at Sushi Center for Urban Art in San Diego, CA; Center for Photography at Woodstock in Woodstock, NY; Shift Gallery in Seattle, WA; and the Pingyao International Photography Festival in Pingyao, China; among many others. His work is featured in permanent collections at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL; J. Paul Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, CA; and the Polaroid Collection in Waltham, MA; among others. He has received numerous awards and grants, and was an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work in 2007.

Light Work will host a gallery reception on Thursday, April 1, 2010 from 5–7pm to celebrate this exhibition.

Also on view at this time is Downstream: Encounters with the Colorado River, featuring photographs by Karen Halverson. Gallery hours for these exhibitions are Sunday to Friday, 10am–6pm, and by appointment. To schedule an appointment, please call 315-443-1300. Both the exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. Paid parking is available in the Marion Parking Lot and Booth Garage.

Light Work invites groups and individuals to schedule tours and gallery talks of the exhibition and facility. Light Work is a non-profit, artist-run organization dedicated to the support of artists working in photography and electronic media. Light Work is a member of CMAC, the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers at Syracuse University.

For more information, please contact Jessica Heckman at Light Work, 315-443-1300 or
**Digital press images and image information for this exhibition are available upon request.

Another satisfied artist

We received this note from an artist who recently made the transition to digital printing here at Light Work/Community Darkrooms. This is exactly the place to make that change and have it be fun. Read on to hear about Michelle’s experience in her own words.

“. . . I hope to be back in Syracuse next weekend or early the following week. I haven’t felt this excited in a long time! I basically came up to Syracuse with a vague notion of wanting to make a tightly edited portfolio of ten to twelve 16 x 20 prints. The images are from a project I’ve been working on for the past ten years—a mix of medium and large format film.

I have never seen a photograph printed larger than 8 x 10. I think I just wanted to see what these images looked like big. I do have a darkroom at home that I could have used, but I often find it difficult to stay focused when I am at home with so many distractions. . . .

Last Monday, I spent close to ten hours printing in the artist’s [black-and-white] darkroom. I have been printing for thirty years. I couldn’t even begin to calculate how many hours of my life I’ve spent in the dark, hovering over trays of chemicals. By the end of the day I was exhausted and frustrated. I couldn’t face the thought of spending another minute printing in the darkroom. By late Monday evening, I had made up my mind: my [traditional black-and-white] printing days were over.

I’ll admit, the Imacon scanner was intimidating. The process of creating a proper scan and then prepping the file for printing in Photoshop felt overwhelming. On Wednesday, I learned that most of the scans I had done the previous day weren’t very good. I had clipped both the shadows and the highlights. I felt like crying and calling my mother to come pick me up, which wouldn’t have been practical as she lives in Florida. [Digital Lab Manager] John Mannion just smiled and said, “It would be easy to give up right about now. Go back in there and get a proper histogram.”

Wax on, wax off, Grasshopper. I dialed up James, one of the Light Work mentors. It took him all of ten minutes to materialize. I’ve waited much longer for pizza delivery. He held my hand through two or three scans. Everyone helped with Photoshop suggestions. [Customer Service Manager] Vern Burnett even got me to re-think one of my images, which changed the way I ultimately cropped it. By Friday, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it: producing scans that preserved all of the detail in the highlights and shadows, at least where the detail was relevant. I was making nice files in Photoshop using adjustment layers.

The highlight of the week was attending Rachel Herman‘s opening reception [for Imp of Love]. I connected with her and her work immediately. We spoke at length. DC has no shortage of photographers, but most of the photographers I know essentially wear one hat: the wedding photographers shoot weddings for the sake of booking more weddings; the newspaper and wire photographers shoot for their respective employers; the commercial photographers are working for ad agencies and corporate clients. I know very few photographers whose work-for-hire is used as a means to an end. I often feel like I’m working in isolation.

This past week was transformative. It literally changed my life. I’ve learned a new set of skills and an entirely new way of working. Light Work for me is like an oasis!


Local reaction to Soldiers by Suzanne Opton

Over the weekend, a local Fox affiliate in Washington D.C. ran this video piece with an accompanying story about Suzanne Opton’s Soldier series. As with its other installations, the work is causing various reactions, all of them welcome by the artist.

Karen Halverson—Downstream: Encounters with the Colorado River

Light Work and Library Associates Present Exhibition and Lecture
Karen Halverson—Downstream: Encounters with the Colorado River
Exhibition Dates: March 8–May 29, 2010
Lecture and Book Signing: March 11, 5:00pm, Watson Theater
Gallery Reception: April 1, 2010, 5:00–7:00pm

Light Work and Syracuse University’s Library Associates are pleased to present an exhibition featuring the photographic work of Karen Halverson, and a lecture by the artist.

Halverson, a Syracuse native and fine are photographer, has been drawn to the open spaces and monumental land forms of the American West for a quarter-century, traveling the region’s vast expanses and stopping when moved to set up her large-format camera. In Downstream: Encounters with the Colorado River, a two-year study of the 1,700-mile river, she maintains her signature focus on human relationships to the natural environment. “In my travels along the Colorado,” Halverson writes, “sometimes I find beauty, sometimes desecration, often a perplexing and absurd combination.”

Halverson will tell stories of her “Photographic Adventures in the American West” at the next Library Associates lecture, March 11, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. She will speak about the photographic process and land use issues while presenting selected works. Guests are encouraged to arrive at least a half hour early to view the exhibition of her photographs before the talk. Copies of her book, Downstream: Encounters with the Colorado River will be available to purchase and have Halverson sign at the event. The lecture will take place in Watson Theater at Light Work, 316 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse, NY. Free event parking is available in Booth Garage, on the corner of Waverly and Comstock avenues. The event is sponsored by Syracuse University Library Associates. Visit for full details.

Halverson graduated from Nottingham High School and Stanford University and holds master’s degrees from Brandeis and Columbia universities. Her work has appeared at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Library of Congress.

Light Work will host a gallery reception on Thursday, April 1, 2010 from 5–7pm to celebrate Halverson’s exhibition.

Gallery hours for this exhibition are Sunday to Friday, 10am–6pm, and by appointment. To schedule an appointment, please call 315-443-1300. Both the exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. Paid parking is available in the Marion Parking Lot and Booth Garage.

Library Associates is a society devoted to the enrichment of the University Library and the greater Syracuse community. Members share an interest in books, learning, and the preservation of knowledge. To learn more, visit

Light Work invites groups and individuals to schedule tours and gallery talks of the exhibition and facility. Light Work is a non-profit, artist-run organization dedicated to the support of artists working in photography and electronic media. Light Work is a member of CMAC, the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers at Syracuse University.

For more information about this event, contact Anne Roth, 315-685-6832 or For more information about the exhibition, please contact Jessica Heckman at Light Work, 315-443-1300 or
**Digital press images and image information for this exhibition/event are available upon request.

Soldier Billboard Project in Washington, D.C.

Images from Suzanne Opton’s series Soldier will appear on billboards in six Metrorail stations throughout Washington D.C. from March 9 to April 4, 2010.

The Soldier Billboard Project features portraits of American soldiers between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Click here to read about various reactions to the series, which has been on a two-year tour to cities including Denver, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami, among others.

The series has generated considerable controversy in some venues, including CBS Outdoor’s decision to pull Opton’s billboards in Minneapolis-St. Paul during the Republican National Convention there in 2008.

Light Work has enjoyed working with Opton since 2005 when she was an Artist-in-Residence here in Syracuse. Light Work held the exhibition Soldier in 2006. As part of the exhibition, images from the series appeared on five billboards throughout Syracuse, which extended the work into the community where it could be seen by the general public. Contact Sheet 136 celebrates the series and the exhibition.

Opton continues to work with Light Work/Community Darkrooms by realizing prints with Digital Lab Manager John Mannion and his assistant Carrie Mondore up through today.

Three works from Solider are in the Light Work Collection, which you can view and read about here. A black-and-white image from this series, Soldier Conklin: 272 days in Iraq, 2006, is also available in the Light Work store; your purchase goes directly back into our programming that supports emerging and under-recognized artists.

Images: Above, left: Soldier Birkholz, 353 Days in Iraq, 205 Days in Afghanistan. Right: Billboards in Syracuse initiated by Light Work in conjunction with the exhibition Soldier, 2006.

Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP to lecture at Light Work

Renée Mussai, archive project manager for Autograph ABP in London, will give a lecture at Light Work tomorrow night, March 2, at 6:30pm. Mussai will discuss developing a collection that represents artists of diverse backgrounds for Autograph ABP, as well as the right to representation.

Within the framework of the Archive and Research Centre for Culturally Diverse Photography at Autograph ABP, this talk will present the organization’s twenty-year history in context and critically explore issues around diversity, cultural identity, and representation in photographic practice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As an online digital image bank and research resource, the Archive highlights a missing chapter in the cultural history of photography: Launching in 2011, its dedicated public program of education, outreach, and participatory photography projects will transform the collection into a continuously growing, living archive.

Mussai has been involved with Autograph ABP since 2001, where she currently oversees the establishment of the Archive and Research Centre for Culturally Diverse Photography. In addition to curating the archive collection, recent curatorial projects include solo exhibitions of Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s work; Ever Young: James Barnor, Street and Studio Photography from Ghana and the UK; as well as a forthcoming retrospective at Autograph ABP in the fall of 2010. Twice recipient of the Sofie and Emanuel Fohn Fellowship, she is based in London where she regularly lectures on photographic history and cultural identity.

Autograph ABP is an international photographic arts organization that addresses issues of cultural identity and human rights. It develops, exhibits, and publishes the work of photographers from culturally diverse backgrounds and advocates for their inclusion in all areas of exhibition, publishing, education, and commerce in the visual arts.

Light Work and Autograph ABP co-sponsor a residency every year here in Syracuse. Past Autograph ABP Artists-in-Residence have included Eileen Perrier, Admas Habteslasie, and Rik Pinkcombe.

Image, right: James Barnor, Eva, London 1960s. © James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

Renée Mussai Lecture and Reception—Autograph ABP: The Missing Chapter
March 2, 2010 at 6:30pm
Light Work