Every photograph tells a story. When part of a body of work, the photograph takes on new meaning, becoming part of a bigger and more complete narrative. A portfolio allows the photographer to explore the complexities of their subject, and provide context that gives it richness and meaning that is more than the sum of its parts. Panopticon Gallery is pleased to share “First Look 2024,” our annual juried portfolio showcase, where five portfolios have been selected for exhibition.

Duygu Aytac, "Full With The Question"

I am a photographic artist originally from Istanbul Turkey. I immigrated to the United States in 2015, and have lived in Boston since. My work in Turkey explored themes of childhood memories, indoctrination, and one's relation to a place. These questions evolved and took on new meaning after becoming an immigrant to the US as an adult. The title of this work comes from an interview conducted with James Baldwin in Istanbul in 1969. He lived there on and off for ten years beginning in 1961:

James Baldwin: (...) I am full to the lid. I have a curious dilemma because perhaps I do not like some people, although even that is very rare. I am not capable of not liking people; I am much more intelligent than I look and I know a lot more than what I say, but I like people. I like people because I think that they have something; yes they do, I know they do. They have something they don’t trust. If only they could trust that “thing,” they would be less afraid of being touched, less afraid of loving each other, and less afraid of being changed by each other. Life would be different.

Our children would not be the victims that they are now, we would not be either. But for some reason love is the most frightful thing; something that the human being is most in need of and dreads most. I do not know why... Ibsen wrote a play called Ghosts about this and we all are still in that play which was written a hundred years ago. Like all poets, like some women and men, like some of us, I am full of the question of how the human being will be put to right (…)

Jordan Douglas, "My Father’s Things"

In 2021, I sold my father’s home and studio of 54 years, after spending the previous year emptying the brick cottage in the woods of Westchester, NY. He died in a nursing home this past June. In the wake of these two transformative events, I have been sifting through and re-assembling the remnants of his life. After extricating thousands of pieces of my father’s original art from his dilapidated and overstuffed house, I gathered boxes of things of his eccentric and aesthetic life.

One by one, I photographed these disparate items, over a light box, on black-and-white film. With the objective studies, I sought to represent a cumulative reflection of Stephen Douglas, an impressive and singular artist, who had become somewhat of a recluse in his later years. As I made contact sheets–positive prints from the processed film–I began to delight in the unplanned relationships across the individual shots, within the overall grid of the seven strips of five frames. From scanned analog contact sheets, I have been digitally editing to separate smaller grids of 4 or more neighboring frames.

These newly isolated grids may then be printed digitally. As I continue shooting rolls of my father’s objects, I am making the shots more subjective–by grouping elements and by considering the sequence of frames, instead of leaving the relationships up to whim and chance. Photographs can be simultaneously both specific and ambiguous. As an image, an item–however personal and rooted in one’s history–is open to the viewer’s associations and interpretations. A grid of images offers layers of conversation. Scale is democratized since the photographic space remains constant as the camera moves closer to smaller things. In two dimensions, objects may lose meaning and simply become form, with texture and tone.

Lawrence Hardy, "Zen Xan"

Zen Xan is an evocative journey through the intricacies of Lawrence Hardy's tumultuous life. It leads through the alleys of his mind as he combats his personal history of trauma and seeks the brighter side of everyday life. It unveils the impact of a childhood marred by violence, childhood abuse, and the abrupt loss of a guiding figure, his father, who not only played a paternal role but also that of a mother and cherished friend. The 'trickle-down' effect of this poignant narrative led to Hardy’s relentless struggles against mental illness and addiction. Set against the backdrop of Aroostook County's fresh summer mornings and freezing winters, Zen Xan spans over three years.

Hardy's fight against the stigma of mental health and addiction is beautifully expressed through his visual language, capturing moments that propel forward and occasionally set back. The journey unfolds from rock bottom to sobriety, utilizing the transformative outlet of photography, a medium that breathes life into Hardy’s narrative. It is an arresting visual expression of a personal story of feeling lost and gradually understanding life. Beyond clichés, it persistently offers reassurance, telling those facing similar challenges: ‘You’re not alone; there’s always a different’.

Denise Laurinatis, "The Missing Photographs"

There was a big box of family photographs that my mother kept on a top shelf in her closet for years. It was rectangular, with a lid that popped off the top easily so that she could add to the pile inside it. She left it that way for years. And years. Open, drop in, close. And done.

Then came that Mother’s Day when I organized the photographs for her. I bought a massive album and lots of photograph holder corners, old-style, lick and stick. I arranged the photographs in chronological order as best I could across the floor. And that is when it dawned on me: there is a gap.

A missing portion of my childhood. It just isn’t there. The gap between early childhood and adolescence, as if it didn’t happen. The gap between my father’s death, and when we kids were old enough to photograph with our pocket-sized 110 film cameras.

Memories of my father have faded like the velvet sofa that sits too long in the window’s sunshine. I sit here, in my home, with my husband and children by my side. I am here, today. Everyday. Present. I see my children for the little people they are. Devoted favorite colors that have not budged once. Organization, and disarray. They are at the age of the missing photographs of my youth, representing the time right after my father’s death.

The days pass quickly, and I take it all in. Childhood is fleeting, and I get to experience it all over again. The wonderment, the skinned knees, the giggles, and the in-between. I feel that excitement in holding a firefly, its tickle is so gentle as it walks across my hand. Did I actually live this before?

CE Morse, "The Farrago Series"

I spend a lot of time in vintage auto salvage yards and boatyards where I discover incredible visual elements that inspire me the same way as do the great abstract painters. I hunt for this wild art, looking for patterns, color, texture & composition in subjects both man-made and natural; embellished by chance and patinated by nature, with an unspoken history of random events that can only be guessed or imagined. There is no reference to the identity or the scale of what I photograph; the abstract imagery coaxes a personal interpretation contingent upon the viewer’s imagination.

Most of the images I create embrace the various layers and surface details of the subjects I shoot: peeling paint, delamination, corrosion, scratches, patina & the like. The Farrago series takes the images a step further: layering abstract details of found objects: combining rusty car fenders with boat hulls; dumpsters with broken glass, etc. to create abstract images from an improbable fusion of actual objects.