Open Lens at Da Vinci is a democratic blend of photographic styles – Knight Foundation

Open Lens at Da Vinci is a democratic blend of photographic styles

At Da Vinci Art Alliance, the month of February is dedicated to apertures, shutters and the subjects they capture in their frames. Unlike many of Da Vinci’s multimedia group exhibitions, which encompass an array of media, “Open Lens” focuses solely on photography in its many manifestations.

Issuing a call to the general public for submissions, the spread of images is understandably quite democratic. One can find portraiture, architectural shots and abstractions in both color and black and white, as well as digital and film photography, all hung salon-style throughout the gallery space in a packed show juried by Joel Katz.

Christopher Kontoes, “Dimming.”

Christopher Kontoes provides a small piece of 35mm photography entitled “Dimming,” which focuses on a grouping of tree branches from below as they fan out across the sky. Always a popular subject of photos, the branches in and of themselves are compositionally sound, but not at all the highlight of the photo. The left side of the frame becomes blurred, out as if only visible through one’s peripheral vision, while the right side is lost in an encroaching spill of inky darkness. Only the center is truly in focus, and this third of the image is a thick band of blood red. In this way, the tree branches take on the appearance of veins, and suddenly the arterial allusions allow the dimming sight to take on more traumatic possibilities.

Laura Storck, "#philly_mannequins (American Apparel)."

Laura Storck, “#philly_mannequins (American Apparel).”

Taking a slightly more humorous approach, there is “#philly_mannequins (American Apparel)” by Laura Storck. Here we find a pair of women mugging for the camera, posing in blue and white wigs and gaudy sunglasses in front of a gold and blue fabric backdrop. Except the title isn’t even necessary to quickly discern that these are not women, they are mannequins. Their recognition of the photographer is merely a trick of the camera angle, and their poses and styles are planned configurations meant to draw in shoppers. This, along with Storck’s “What Is And What Can Be,” a mysterious barrage of gigantic red letters on the façade of what appears to be a strip mall, pokes fun at fashion, commerce, and the strange world of attention-grabbing advertisements and manufactured desire.

David Swift, "Untitled 3."

David Swift, “Untitled 3.”

Some photos here unsurprisingly deal with the urban environment that is constantly bustling around us. For David Swift’s “Untitled 3,” we see one of the countless new condos found popping up – seemingly from nowhere – across North Philadelphia. The black and white photo taken from street level forces our gaze upwards to the cloudy sky around the structure and the three figures hanging out on its roof.

Elke H. Muller, "Blue Bicycle (Urban Landscape)."

Elke H. Muller, “Blue Bicycle (Urban Landscape).”

Roof chilling may be quintessentially Philly, but so is biking. Elke H. Muller’s “Blue Bicycle (Urban Landscape)” captures a bike (hopefully locked) to a zig-zagging fire escape in a monochromatic blue that is reminiscent of the wintry landscape of the Northeast. As if climbing the stairs, the unmanned bicycle seems determined to get to the roof too.

With more than 40 individual photographers present in “Open Lens,” Da Vinci Art Alliance is a busy place right now. The exhibit will be on display through February 28.

Da Vinci Art Alliance is located at 704 Catharine St., Philadelphia; [email protected];