We are thrilled to welcome Arden and Lloyd Davidson back to the library for a brand-new Local Art @ EPL exhibit. After making their library debut in 2015 and returning for a 2016 show, the talented Evanston photographers have a fresh collection of breathtaking nature photography captured everywhere from Spain to the Chicago Botanic Gardens to the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California to Lighthouse Beach. You can preview the Davidson’s photos on their website, and you can catch their inspired show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through the end of November. Don’t miss it!
Charles McCleanon is a local photographer who is the latest to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. A Chicago native and a retired Dean of Information Technology at City Colleges, McCleanon’s appreciation of 35 mm film inspired him to begin his photography career 25 years ago. He formed the company CGMcPhoto and began shooting political campaigns, street fairs, weddings, and community events. He eventually channeled his skills into digital photography and now combines his talents with a passion for travel that’s resulted in countless breathtaking images. You can catch his show through the end of October on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and meet him at a closing reception at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 25. We recently spoke with him via email about his artistic origins, creative process, and future photography goals.
Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in photography What inspired you in the beginning? What inspires you now?
Charles McCleanon: My initial interest commenced when my best friend Lenard was drafted into the army and became a battalion photographer. Upon his return he continued to pursue his interests by shooting, printing and developing film. I helped him build a darkroom in his apartment, and my interest was peaked. I began studying and learning the basics including types of film, lighting, speed and composition.
After he moved to California, I purchased a camera and started a portable darkroom of my own in my kitchen. Having to set up and take down my equipment was a daunting task. Eventually, I transitioned to a stable and dedicated darkroom space. I purchased better equipment and devoted every available hour to improving my technique.
As my skills increased, I was offered work and realized this could actually become lucrative. I met a fellow photographer who worked for the City of Chicago whose photography interests were political. We hooked up, started a company and began shooting freelance for city, community and political events. We were pleased and honored to be hired for both of Mayor Washington’s campaigns and inaugurations.
Although I sought to earn a living (and quit my day job), I discovered my true calling and passion when I began to travel. Being able to seize the intangible beauty of nature or an iconic landmark for posterity is truly inspirational.
EPL: Can you give us a window into your creative process? How do you choose your subjects?
CM: The visual concept is everywhere; however, the art of shooting is to translate on to film and print what my imagination formulates. I am moved by symmetry, colors and movement. The simplicity of different lighting effects on a subject is fascinating. Sunrise and sunset are two of my favorite times. My mind’s eye visualizes how the photo will translate on paper, and I am ecstatic when out of 30 or 40 shots I successfully capture one of the precise moment I first saw in the viewfinder.
EPL: Can you walk us through the conception of a specific photograph?
CM: My thought process for each photo varies and is easily influenced by my moods. A perfect example is the truly surreal black and white series “cloud segment.” They were shot on a bleak, nondescript day when I was taking a walk on a North Shore beach without my camera. As I ran for the car to avoid the obvious impending storm, I spotted unusual cloud formations. Having my camera in the car (never leave home without it!), I was enthralled by the rapid movement of the approaching storm which changed in the blink of an eye. The transitioning shapes created movement like crescendos in a symphony. I was in awe and knew that I could only recreate these unique shots if I continued shooting.
Ironically these pictures were shot in manual mode and post production was minimal. I think they speak for themselves. I was able to capture and print exactly what I saw. The fact that they are black and white makes them one of my most accomplished and prized photo series to date.
EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist? Do you have a travel destination you’re eager capture on film?
CM: As I have found my niche in nature, my love of travel presents unlimited opportunities to explore the postcards of the world. My wife is a great lover of all things water related, as evidenced by my many waterfalls and coastal scenes. Our next vacation will be to Costa Rica, but I would love to shoot the Serengeti and the Egyptian Pyramids.
EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist?
CM: I truly appreciate the creativity of my fellow artist. The Chicago scene is very competitive which further motivates me to find extraordinary subject matter and capture its pure essence through unique visualizations which will fascinate the viewer. If I can inspire and attract one’s interest for more than a fleeting glance, perhaps this will motivate people to see the world as it truly is, a never ending rainbow.
Interview by Russell J.
We are excited to welcome Charles McCleanon as the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. A Chicago native and a retired Dean of Information Technology at City Colleges, McCleanon’s appreciation of 35 mm film inspired him to begin his photography career 25 years ago. He formed the company CGMcPhoto and began shooting political campaigns, street fairs, weddings, and community events. He eventually channeled his skills into digital photography and now combines his talents with a passion for travel that’s resulted in countless breathtaking images. You can catch his show through the end of October on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library and meet him at a closing reception at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 25. Also, don’t miss a featured interview with Mr. McCleanon later in the month. Stay tuned!
Evanston’s Richard Cahan is an author, editor, and photo historian, and on Wednesday, March 29 he’ll visit EPL to discuss his haunting new book Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II. Coauthored with Michael Williams, the book presents the previously impounded work of famed photographers Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams who were hired in 1942 to document the expulsion of 109,000 U.S. residents of Japanese ancestry to detention center for the duration of WWII. Combining 170 of these never-before-seen photographs with primary source government documents and the firsthand recollections of Japanese-American survivors, Un-American was described by Booklist as “an intensely revelatory and profoundly resonant book of beauty and strength, history and caution.” Make sure to register to guarantee your seat at this important author event, and in the meantime, don’t miss Richard Cahan and Michael Williams discussing Un-American with WBEZ’s Tony Sarabia on the Morning Shift.
We are pleased to welcome Michael Berns, Brian Cox, and Roland Lieber as the next featured artists in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. Their striking photography exhibit is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main library where you can catch it through the end of February.
Michael Berns returns to the library after making his Local Art @ EPL debut in 2013. His selection of photos draws from his “Illuminated Shadows,” “Metra,” and “From Within – From Without” series.
Brian Cox is an Evanston writer and photographer making his Local Art @ EPL debut. His selection of photos is titled “FACES” because “nothing expresses joy, pain, rapture, heartbreak, or a palette of other emotions like the human face.”
Roland Lieber returns to the library after making his Local Art @ EPL debut in 2015. His selection of photos is titled “Portraits” and includes shots of East Indian subjects, parade participants, and warehoused mannequins that strive “to capture simplicity and elegance.”
David Pritchett is an Evanston educator and photographer who made his Local Art @ EPL debut with the 2015 exhibit “Daily China.” Now through January 31, he’s back on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library with “On the Job” – a striking series of color photographs exploring working life in Nigeria, Wales, England, Saudi Arabia, and China. Captured between 1964 and 2016, Pritchett’s fascinating images record farmers, entertainers, shop keepers, and sailors while examining how “work exists in all times, countries, and cultures.” Off the Shelf recently spoke with Mr. Pritchett via email about the challenges of shooting in different countries, how he connects with his subjects, capturing a Nigerian snake handler on film, and what he hopes people will learn from “On the Job.”
Evanston Public Library: Back in 2015 you made your Local Art @ EPL debut with your series “Daily China” before returning this month with “On the Job.” Do you see any connections between your two shows?
David Pritchett: The connection between “Daily China” and “On The Job” is that when we look at others there are no others. That paraphrases a Buddhist concept, and is not original with me.
EPL: For “On the Job,” you shot in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, England, and China over the span of 50 years. What has so inspired you to photograph working life all over the world? Did you encounter any challenges unique to shooting in the different countries you visited?
DP: Simplistic as it sounds, my work in social contexts and surroundings so different from my own ignited and keeps aflame my desire to understand what I see and the surroundings in which I witness. I’ve used some images in teaching my American students, but mostly I was acquiring a personal record that has become an extensive archive. Never persistent in journaling, I use a camera to record and preserve my experiences.
When I point a camera in some settings, subjects freeze or pose creating a more stiff, though authentic, image. In others, photography itself may be considered invasive so I exercise patience and circumspection before shooting. In most cases I ask, get permission, and shoot. Without permission or under cultural restrictions, I leave my camera in my backpack, then watch and listen.
EPL: Generally speaking, did you form connections with your subjects? How did you go about doing so? Can you describe any instances when you thought it was better not to take a photograph?
DP: In some cases subjects wanted to be photographed, especially those who were performing or demonstrating a personal skill. When one offers to take a photo of someone working, there is an act of validation going on. Photos are a powerful medium, and most of us like to be preserved in photos at our work places, with our tasks, and with our work mates. In other circumstances, I had become a part of the surrounding community and was not an unusual presence with a camera.
In Muslim contexts – Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates – I was aware of social conventions and worked within them, never trespassing. In Saudi Arabia, I was invited with my wife to join women weavers in visiting their work place and sharing sweet tea and coffee. In a shaded yard we were shown the processes of shearing goat hair, weaving in ground looms, and finishing rugs and camel bags. None of the women were veiled as I was non-Muslim and not harram (forbidden) to see their faces. However, it would have been unacceptable for me to take photos of the unveiled women. My cameras stayed in my backpack, those rich images now imprinted only in my memory. I always respected taboos regarding nudity, death, burial, sacrifice, prayer, modesty, and propriety thereby avoiding pushing the cultural envelope without permission just to get an image.
EPL: Could you tell us the stories behind the your striking photographs of the Nigerian snake handler or the train conductor in North Wales? How did each photo reveal itself?
DP: In 1965 during a school holiday, two Peace Corp teachers and I got part-time jobs assisting a UNFAO (United Nations Farm and Agriculture Organization) team which was working a land tenure project in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria. During our two week assignment, we attended two Friday markets which were held after prayers. Markets were filled with local crafts, some manufactured products, and food supplies. There were also entertainers like the snake handler or a young man with a chained hyena who performed for “dash” – whatever an observer wished to give for the privilege of watching. I gestured to the snake handler that I wanted to take photos, which he acknowledged. When I finished, I gestured a “thank you” and started to walk away. He became stern faced and walked toward me with two snakes in one hand and an upturned palm. I got his meaning, dug for the change in my pocket, and placed it in his hand. He accepted, and we parted without me personally meeting the snakes.
The train conductor was a “target of opportunity” image I took at a popular steam rail tourist attraction in Porthmadog, Wales. He was a volunteer during the summer tourist season, dressed in a period costume, but holding another day job.
EPL: What do you hope people will take away from “On the Job?”
DP: I hope the photos – though captioned to provide some context – will coalesce around the idea of the universality and dignity of common, and some truly uncommon, work.
EPL: Are you currently working on any new projects or preparing for any future shows? Where can we find more of your work after your EPL show closes?
DP: I am working on three new projects, as yet untitled, focusing on structures, machines, and settings in which people live. I have been posting this exhibition on my Facebook pages, accessible with my name, David Pritchett.
We are thrilled to welcome David Pritchett back for a brand-new Local Art @ EPL exhibit. After making his library debut with 2015’s Daily China, the Evanston photographer and educator has returned with On the Job – a series of color photographs exploring working life in Nigeria, Wales, England, Saudi Arabia, and China. Captured between 1964 and 2016, Pritchett’s fascinating images record farmers, entertainers, shop keepers, and sailors while examining how “work exists in all times, countries, and cultures.” You can catch this excellent exhibit on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through the end of January, and make sure to visit Off the Shelf later in the month for a featured interview with the artist himself. Stay tuned.
We are pleased to welcome Vietnam veteran and Chicagoland photographer Anthony Stetina as the next featured artist in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. His show is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through the end of December. Featuring photos taken in 1967 during “non-stressful situations” in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the exhibit superimposes black-and-white images of military equipment and Stetina’s Army buddies with snapshots of Vietnam’s people and landscape. Thought-provoking, moving, and sometimes haunting, Stetina’s exhibit is not to be missed.
Lloyd Davidson is an Evanston photographer who made his Local Art @ EPL debut back in 2015. Now the retired NU Life Sciences Librarian has returned with a fresh collection of breathtaking nature photography captured everywhere from New Zealand to the American Southwest to James Park. You can catch this inspired show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through the end of September, and you can view more of Dr. Davidson’s work by visiting his online gallery. Recently we spoke with him via email about his artistic inspirations including Kafka, Picasso, and Edward Weston, his three simple rules for capturing the perfect shot, the Louis Pasteur quote that is his motto, and the rich Evanston art scene.
We are thrilled to welcome Lloyd Davidson back to the library for a brand-new Local Art @ EPL exhibit. After making his 2015 library debut, the retired NU Life Sciences Librarian and Evanston photographer has returned with a fresh collection of breathtaking nature photography captured everywhere from New Zealand to the American Southwest to James Park. You can catch this inspired show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library through the end of September, and you can meet Dr. Davidson at an opening reception on September 8th at 7 pm. Also, make sure to check back with Off the Shelf later in the month for a featured interview with the artist himself. Stay tuned.