Portraits of Love: Photographs by John Bentham and Rick Gerrity
February 1 – March 15, 2012
Curated by Hyewon Yi
Opening Reception: Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 4pm –7pm
Lecture: Monday, February 27, 2012, 4:40pm – 6:20pm (Campus Center F114)
The Amelie A. Wallace Gallery at SUNY College at Old Westbury is pleased to announce a special
exhibition by two professional photographers, John Bentham and Rick Gerrity.
Portraits of Love is a joint venture by PMDA (Photoimaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association) and the USO* to provide free portraits to families of deployed service members of the US military at holiday time. For the third year of this project, 2011, these New York-based photographers volunteered their time and skill, driving eighteen hours to Gulfport, Mississippi for the two-day shoot. Bentham and Gerrity photographed about forty families, producing over one hundred images. For this exhibition, seventeen individual and group portraits will be presented.
These portraits of children, from toddlers to teenagers, including three images that include parents, remind us of what is absent from so many of these families—the fathers. Dani , a little blonde girl, holds a Daddy Doll that bears a photo of her Marine father printed on the fabric; she takes it everywhere with her and even sleeps with it. Presented with broad smiles and dressed in their best holiday clothes, the children in these pictures deliver a message of love to their fathers (and sometimes mothers) overseas. One serviceman, shown holding his son upside down, was to be deployed to South Korea in a few short weeks. Children photographed with an American flag offer patriotic gestures. Two young mothers left behind are also shown smiling cheerily despite the lack of emotional and practical support that challenges them in the absence of their husbands.
Behind this evidently loving presentation of playful children and faithful spouses is the reminder that large numbers of U.S. military service personnel are stationed overseas. Regardless of one’s view of U.S. foreign policy and the powerful cultural, social, and political impact that U.S. foreign bases have on their host countries, the challenges faced by the families left behind, many living on U.S. military bases waiting for the return of their loved ones, deserves understanding and compassion. Although it is not conspicuous in this project, the shadow of anxiety and tragedy hangs over military families. In addition to combat deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of mutilated bodies and psychological injuries is tremendous. As just one indication, the U.S. Army reported record high suicide fatalities for 2011. This exhibition hopes to raise awareness and promote discussion of such topics.
The photographers employed traditional studio portrait techniques that include full-body, waist-up, and three-quarter profile portraits shot in a temporary studio. John Bentham used mostly dark backgrounds for his sitters, creating a deeper receding space behind each model. Gently directed children show an awareness of Bentham’s camera, through which he captures the vulnerability of the young ones and theawkwardness of the teenagers. Bentham portrays these young individuals with dignity, offering the viewer a naturalness akin to the sensibility of August Sander or Diane Arbus. Employing a white background, Rick Gerrity opted for more lighthearted moments in which the children were free to express playfulness among themselves. The performative aspects of Gerrity’s sitters were brought out by his sense of humor and inventiveness as their poses suggest a lively interaction between sitters and photographer.
John Bentham (b. 1959, Toronto; working in New York since 1991) is an award-winning photographer specializing in documentary and portraiture. His images have been widely reproduced in periodicals andbooks. As his particular interest is in sub-cultures, he has documented a diverse range of subjects,including biker rallies, burlesque dancers, Native American powwows, drag queens, and underground NYC clubs. He was named A Photographer to Watch by Kodak, and in 2009 was awarded one of only twelve coveted slots in the Magnum Photos portfolio review. Bentham has garnered accolades from Nikon, Magnum Photos, Photo District News, and The New York Times. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris, Tokyo, and Prague.
Rick Gerrity (b.1954, Newark, NJ; lives and works in New York and New Jersey) has been photographing professionally over the past twenty-five years, specializing in people, products, and locations throughoutthe U.S. and Canada. Gerrity has documented bikers in the tradition of iconic figures Danny Lyon and Hunter S. Thompson. A motorcyclist since age seventeen, Gerrity utilized, to some extent, the participant observer approach to record the lives of the bikers. Gerrity’s twenty-one year-old son, Marine Lance Corporal Ryan Gerrity , is serving his second combat tour in Afghanistan, a connection that makes Gerrity’s participation in this project all the more poignant.
A reception to mark the opening of Portraits of Love will be held between 4:00pm and 7:00pm on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. The exhibition remains on view through March 15, 2012. Gallery hours are Mondays and Wednesdays between 12pm and 7pm; Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12pm and 4:30pm; and by appointment.
The lecture is scheduled for Monday, February 27, between 4:40pm and 6:20pm in F114 Campus Center. The photographers will discuss their works accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.
Canon and Gilbert Displays generously donated the printing and mounting of the images.
For further information about Portraits of Love , please contact Gallery Director Hyewon Yi at email@example.com or 646-421-5863. Please visit our gallery Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.
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* The United Service Organizations Inc. (USO ) is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the United States military.