We're going back in this post to 2006 to a one-person show I had at Panopticon Gallery when it was in Waltham, MA. It was still owned by Tony Decaneas then and Panopticon Imaging, which was the lab and printing component of Tony's business, was run by the wonderful Paul Sneyd with a lab in the basement.
Oakesdale Cemetery on the left and Billings, Montana on the right
I got it in my head that for this show I was going to exhibit "series works" so over the course of the previous summer and fall made whole series into fairly small inkjet prints, then matted and framed everything. My book, "American Series" had been published the year before and I was working to draw attention to it.
The gallery was quite large so this ended up being a big show.
Mystic, Connecticut on the right
By 2006 I was working in color, by shooting transparencies and color negatives, then scanning and making inkjet prints. But this show was all black and white.
The Mutter Museum photographs. I had just finished this body of work the year before.
I practically killed myself making the prints and doing all the framing. In fact, Shannon from Panopticon Imaging can tell the story of how I delivered the work bent over and almost unable to walk with a bad back. I remember I spent most of the opening on a stool as standing was very painful.
Summer Hill in Atlanta, Georgia on the left and Wheat (the large one in 8 x 10 and the smaller aerials in 2 1/4).
On the right, Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming.
The space was right on Moody Street in downtown Waltham and had a classic storefront window.
I remember arriving at the opening reception to find that Barbara and Tom Dunn had already arrived. Babs has just recently died. She was in her 90s. But these two were longtime family friends of my parents' generation. Babs was a wonderful artist and had been hugely influential to me when I was starting out. They lived in Lincoln MA which was not far from the gallery but by 2006 Tom was very frail and didn't go out much. This was a big effort to get to my opening and it brought me to tears to see them there.
It was difficult to get people to come to Waltham to see the work. I'd like to think this was a better show than the venue that displayed it, not because of the quality of the gallery but because of where it was. The opening reception attracted modest numbers. I believe Tony felt the same way. He got out soon thereafter and moved his gallery into the current space at Commonwealth Hotel in Kenmore Square in Boston.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Most often it is better to show work than not to. I have a longstanding belief that making photographs is a process of communication. This means that the end result is having the work be seen. The show that year at Panopticon Gallery did just that, although not to as many as I would have liked. Another benefit to showing this work was that I could put it behind me and move on to new projects.That year I started photographing with a digital camera, making projects and series works for the first time that were all digital. That was a sea change in the way that I make my art and is the way I work now. In some sense the Panopticon show was a way to put the methodology of analog behind me and to allow new ways of working and seeing to be front and center.