Ron Hughes has maintained a varied photo exhibition program at his Composition Gallery through four exceptionally challenging years. That fact alone would be worthy of commendation.
Based on a nationwide call for entries, Hughes’ anniversary show (through March 7) is worth commending for another reason. Call-for-entries shows are, by definition, based on random submissions. Selecting from what was received, Hughes has assembled a geographically and stylistically diverse exhibition that feels distinctly coherent.
Philadelphia-based photographer Brittany Binler’s mysteriously lit nightscapes make the everyday trees and byways of suburbia seem science-fiction-like or sinister. Gregory Crewdson requires whole teams of lighting and production crews to achieve this kind of drama; Binler does it solo, and low-budget. (Top photo: Untitled by Brittany Binler.)
The same low-tech approach to theatricality is found in Camilo Cruz’s restaged scenes from the California courthouse where he works. Noticing sometimes undramatic but strangely compelling moments — two lawyers sitting in booths formerly used for public telephones, or a man and woman standing with downcast eyes at a water fountain — Cruz carefully reconstitutes the situations for his camera, using stand-ins.
These small dialogues between photography and fiction are complemented by the reality-based portraiture of Rebecca Finley. For the professor from Huntsville, Texas, portrait photography is a matter of situating the subject in his or her environment — but an environment chosen and composed by Finley to reveal personality.
Tom Meiss’ abstracted, low-key details of environments form a similarly pretty complement to Binley’s highly charged images. Meiss, a longtime Atlanta photographer, looks at the scene around him for objects and background colors that can be translated into pure pattern rather than readily identifiable subject matter. The tones and visual rhythms alone convey emotion, without resorting to implicit scripts of any sort.
In this way, the show comes full circle, and Hughes has accomplished a tour de force of contrasts and complements that begins the gallery’s fifth year on a high note.