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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

SVA Masters of Digital Photography Thesis Exhibition: "Connecting Ends"

Defining years worth of study and photographic practice in 3-8 images is a difficult task, but members of the School for Visual Art's Masters of Digital Photography program put out their best and boldest with the help of curator Michael Foley. Although the title "Connecting Ends" was ambitious and not quite achieved, the disparate work all presented interesting concepts with mixed results. The only thing that seemed to unite the eight photographers was their digital medium and educational institution.

Some of the best work presented social commentary, especially Heather Meyers' pairings of marked up portraits and their Photoshop-heavy counterparts. The glamorous faces juxtaposed with the instructions to completely re-imagine their faces, presented a scathing critique supporting the anti-retouching movement currently aimed against fashion magazines. As a viewer, "Beauty Blueprints" creates a sensation of guilt as one recognizes the beauty in the airbrushed image, yet cannot rightfully appreciate while being confronted with its inauthenticity and obliteration of the subject's actual identity. The twist: it is the subjects themselves who instruct the retouching, adding a level of commentary concerning self-image and societal pressures.

Randphy Rodriquez also enriched the viewer's palette and mind with haunting panoramas of New York City subway stations. "Sub conscious way" depicts these soulless spaces without a soul in them - a jarring view of the heavily crowded thoroughfares that demands attention. The grime and sterile quality speak highly to the squalor that New Yorkers take as commonplace in their everyday lives.

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Embracing her Caribbean roots, Diana Kharim used her artful composition and training to document her home village's unique lifestyle. "A Fisherman's Journey" is an ecstatic, colorful quest of hardship and intimacy rarely seen. Appreciating such beauty does not take away from the meaningful content in each photograph, though, a feat rarely accomplished in photographing exotic locales.

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Dila Atay also takes a spin for the exotic, but does so with fanciful, farcical miniatures she photographs in macro. Although playful, "Fruits of Nature" addresses more serious issues, such as the damage inflicted on species across the world by human negligence and environmental degradation. Pretty heavy stuff for photos of toy animals.

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As would be expected in a program emphasizing the digital practice of photography, many of the Thesis works rely heavily on image manipulation and layering. In "Mind Chatter," Stephanie Guttenplan followed the footsteps of many other art photographers, creating a series of self portraits. Guttenplan's work, although visually striking, doesn't compare with others such as Cindy Sherman who becomes an obvious reference.

Guttenplan's work offers little more than color and technical competency.

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Review and photographs by Justin McCallum.

Film review: WADJDA, (2013)

CCNY Darkroom Residency: Francesco Palombi "Mente Originaria / Original Mind"