An emotional pull
Photo by Clare Benson of Tucson, Arizona.

An emotional pull

Vermont Center for Photography brings back its Open Juried Exhibition after a Covid hiatus

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Center for Photography (VCP) has brought back a popular annual event, thwarted twice in recent years by the pandemic. Now through the end of this month, one can see the VCP's Sixth Open Juried Exhibition, an eclectic, engaging display of works by nine photographers from around the country, each with its own micro-exhibit.

The VCP's bright new home on the second floor of 10 Green Street is sparse and elegant and offers a library of books of and about photography, two darkrooms, a digital photography lab, and workspaces for earnest photographers.

Up front, though, the main gallery space, where the exhibition on view is well lit, welcoming, capacious.

Word of the exhibition - an open call for open subject work - went out through the national photography community; it's a juried show for which the entry fee is lower than most others of its ilk. Rather than monetary prizes, recipients can display their work for two months in a well-frequented space; have their work placed in a limited edition exhibition catalogue; and become members of the VCP.

Artists were invited to display several photos each, not just the one or two customary in other such shows, thus giving both the artist and the viewer access to fuller exposure and depth.

Curators for the exhibition are Joshua Farr, VCP executive director, and Davida Carta, VCP operations manager, both photographers themselves.

Farr, of Guilford, who has managed VCP for more than 10 years, is also a designer, printer, art handler, and curator of the center's monthly photographic exhibitions. Carta, originally from Milan, Italy, moved to the United States to further her training in photography. Founder of the online platform Underexposed Magazine, she publishes and curates fine art photography.

Both she and Farr hold degrees from New Hampshire Institute of Art.

The co-curators note in the exhibition catalogue that, within the selection process of this open-themed show, “there was no preconceived idea of what the exhibition would become; we guided what emerged from an initial collaborative reviewing process, earmarking work that we had an emotional pull to.”

Farr notes that common themes arose as they reviewed submissions, and they all had a palpable recall of recent years' trials.

“After you view the first pieces,” Farr notes, “you pick up common patterns - response to the pandemic, isolation, loss, family, nostalgia, a sense of place - and self in place, identity, and gender identity.”

Artists selected for this exhibition are Clare Benson, Tucson, Arizona; Krystal Boney, Wake Forest, North Carolina; Semaj Campbell, Avon, Connecticut; Lisa Cassell-Arms, Shelburne, Vermont; Diana Cheren Nygren, Brookline, Massachusetts; Logan CW Kinney, Greenfield, Massachusetts; Yorgos Efthymiadis, Somerville, Massachusetts; Karen Spears, Rock Hill, South Carolina; and Yshao Lin, Bronx, New York.(2)

Nine artists display work

Centered on family hunting experiences in the Alaskan wilderness, Clare Benson's display is, as her exhibition catalogue write-up explains, “deeply rooted in my family history. [...] [This series] is a poetic investigation of memory, tradition, and mythology.”

Of Krystal Boney's exhibit, her catalogue text includes: “My current series, 'Black Manufactured,' examines the ideology of colorism. Playing with structural elements in hair products, these portraits examine the process and conflict of assimilating into mainstream society.”

Semaj Campbell focuses on family and family history in his collection employing beautiful light and lenticular technique. Of his work, he writes, “my photographs explore and deconstruct the linear narrative of black life, which has historically been misrepresented, exploited, and constrained to a narrow narrative.”

Lisa Cassell-Arms's work blends images from disparate parts of the world into seamless landscapes. “My merged landscapes,” she writes, “mimic the stereoscopic format and hint at the enigmatic and slightly unreal quality that I've loved about those early mysterious images.”

Diana Cheren Nygren's work looks at family history - then and now. “Though rooted in personal narratives,” she explains in the catalogue, “the pictures also address both a universal experience and a culturally specific one. My father's parents came to escape religious persecution in Ukraine. My mother's family came earlier and tried desperately to erase their history and assimilate into the upper crust of Midwestern American culture.”

Logan CW Kinney uses Instax film - a kind of modern-day Polaroid format - to create absolute one-of-a-kinds, “giving the viewer an arm's length view into my queer space,” they write. “Often, my images are like a desolate party that only sent out one invitation.”

In the narrative of Yorgos Efthymiadis, his “There is a Place I Want to Take You” is in three parts: “diptychs and polyptychs of landscapes fabricating a personal geography from my fragmented memories, interiors of familiar places from my childhood, and portraits of close friends and loved ones who made me the person I am today.”

Of her collection, Karen Spears' (3)catalogue narrative reads, “These images [cyanotype on fabric] document my process of untangling narrative through archived objects. A blouse, pressed and preserved handkerchiefs, reels of film. [...] Through the process I engaged with the overlapping narratives of six women, a record of feminine Americana.”

Finally Yshao Lin's exhibit is part of a “documentary series about [her] (4)hometown, a remote island close to the border of China,” and a mass migration from that place. “I not only aim to explore the juxtaposition of one's identity during the migration but also to reconnect our past.”

Exhibition raises VCP's profile

Attendance for the exhibition has been “great thus far,” Farr notes. VCP is pleased that area art lovers will have a chance to catch the exhibit through October, if they haven't yet.

“The event helps expand VCP's identity, not just in Brattleboro, in Windham County, or even in Vermont. We've been around for 25 years,” Farr adds, “and we continue to garner more recognition on a national level.”

The Vermont Center for Photography is home to darkroom spaces, a digital photography production lab, classes, workshops, events, and a comprehensive photo thrift store, proceeds from which help significantly to fund the work of the VCP, a nonprofit organization.

The current VCP Juried Exhibition is on view - for free - through Oct. 30, Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Up next at the VCP: Brattleboro Foto Fest from Nov. 3 through 6. For more information, visit

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