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Terry Johnston preparing to lead us into the rainy evening
Even with two straight days of rain and a pretty hefty wind to contend with, the Grand Rapids Art Museum adapted and presented their GRAM on the Green events on schedule last Friday night. Dan Richardson’s concert was moved inside and an intrepid band of photographers gathered for Terry Johnston’s Friday Night Conversation and photo walk. This particular photo walk also happened to fall on a day in which admission to the GRAM was free, and as a result the walk and the talks before and after felt a lot like a free photography class.
“You know, rain isn’t even the worst thing for your camera,” Johnston cheerfully informed his followers, before we ventured into the damp evening. “Sunscreen is. So if you’re ever putting on sunscreen make sure you wash your hands before you touch your camera.” After meeting in the lobby at 7 o’clock Johnston moved the walk upstairs for a quick introduction before hitting the rainy, windswept streets.
“As we go out today I want you to think about what your intent is. What is your intent with a photo? What are you presenting?” This Friday Night Conversation was presented in congruence with the GRAM’s present Cities in Transition exhibit. Johnston relocated us to the second floor, which is where Brian Kelly and Andrew Moore’s photography is currently being displayed.
“I’ve actually talked with Andrew Moore and it’s funny because [his intent] for this actual show was to prove to humans that no city is over-powerful," says Johnston. "He wanted to show that no matter how technologically advanced [or] how rich a city is, if we take it for granted mother nature can reclaim [it]. There is some form of nature reclaiming the space in all of these photos.”
As for Brian Kelly, whose photos are meant to document people rather than the hauntingly derelict buildings of Moore’s work, the message is about the remaining possibilities present in Detroit. “His intent is to show what Detroit’s future will look like- what’s new, what’s coming.”
In addition to the overall intent of a photo’s message, Johnston went on to say that light quality is another aspect of intent to be considered before actually going out to take pictures. The photos will experience different moods and lighting depending on the time of day or weather the in which the photoshoot is taking place. Johnston told us not to feel discouraged because of the rain, stating that some of his absolute favorite photos were shot on rainy days.
“You’re actually getting the purest colors in the rain because the rain is cleaning the air.” With that we wandered outside, zipping up our jackets and battening down the hatches, while some of the more forward thinkers in our group proceeded to wrap their cameras in plastic wrap. Genius. My little point-and-shoot digital camera and I did our best, but without an umbrella I had to retire it to my pocket to dry off for a bit after every couple of shots.
The group was enthusiastic, and while some people wandered off to take photos ahead of the group, a lot of people used the opportunity to talk with Johnston, himself a professional photographer, and ask him questions they had about cameras or photography in general. We braved the weather for about thirty minutes, but once we heard thunder Terry decided to wrap it up.
Once the walk was concluded our group hung together long enough to briefly tour the Andrew Moore exhibit. Others stuck around long enough to hear the winners of the GRAM’s “My City in Transition” contest present their photographs. In the less-than-sixty days since the project was launched, it has “reached over 37,000 people” and generated a lot of buzz and notoriety for the GRAM. All the contest winners presented interesting ideas regarding how to keep their cities relevant and innovative. The majority of them were aimed at Grand Rapids. While one contest winner wanted to see rail transport become re-incorporated as one of the city’s primary means of transportation, another wanted to find a way to incorporate the city’s love of public art into a way to transform vacant walls along the riverfront into works of art.
The combination of the “Cities in Transition” exhibit, last Friday’s conversation with Terry Johnston and the “My City in Transition” contest have sparked an on-going conversation on how our city will evolve and what we as citizens of Grand Rapids can do to help maintain the city and ease its transition as the world continues to change.
Although I originally hail from Northern California's Bay Area, I moved to Grand Rapids in November of last year and have happily installed myself in my new post-grad, East Town life. I work part-time at a local bookstore, and when I'm not in the store peddling their wares I'm usually at home reading them. The Rapidian is my first writing gig, but I've been thoroughly enjoying it and learning a lot, so I hope I can keep throwing things out there to be published, and who knows: maybe I can keep doing this when I grow up. In the meantime I shall continue on in this vein, watching re-runs of Frasier and The West Wing between my article-writing and reading endeavors.