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September 09, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, September 09, 2005

Shades of life Shades of life (September 09, 2005)

In 'Monochrome' show, photographers search far and wide for their muse, from beaches to foreign lands to the faces of strangers

by Tim Seyfert

It's close to dusk, and San Jose photographer Joe Decker stands on a beach in Morro Bay, Calif., staring into the lens of a camera.

Searching for his ideal frame, he waits for the sun to hover over the ocean's horizon, hoping for something close to the vision in his mind. Seagulls are buzzing the beach in search of stray food, as a steady rhythm of waves crashes on the shore.

To the untrained eye, a picturesque scene like this could mean any number of obvious clichés, from a tranquil escape from the city grind to a surefire way to kick any romantic interlude into overdrive.

For Decker, a 15-year photography veteran with a fervor for capturing landscapes and nature sights on film, standing in the middle of a coastal paradise spells only one thing: "A chance to catch that random moment," he said. "A moment that tells a story."

"I'm not above clicking away," he added. "But I like to take my time, wait, and eventually find my shot. Sometimes it takes 200 frames; sometimes it takes less. I aim for less."

Like Decker, many photographers see their art as an individual process, with no clear-cut formula on how to create their work. This month, Decker joins more than 20 of his cohorts from around the South Bay to showcase their creative diversity with "Monochrome," a juried photography exhibit hosted by the Palo Alto-based Photography Interest Group (PHIG).

The exhibit is being held at the Pacific Art League's Norton Gallery at 668 Ramona St. through Sept. 30.

The gallery displays both black-and-white and color photographs, in keeping with the exhibit's monochromatic theme: pictures shot and/or developed in different shades of the same color. Like the exhibit's photographers, pictures vary widely in approach and presentation, ranging from lush hillsides to foreign landmarks, from wind-swept trees to intimate portraits of unique-looking strangers.

"We wanted to have a concept that didn't limit photographers too much in the types of work they would be showing," exhibit organizer and PHIG member Pete Zivkov said. "We hope that with this exhibit guests will be able to see things a little different from their everyday lives."

Zivkov added that the exhibit will equally serve the event's photographers.

"It's a special opportunity for artists to meet other artists," he said. "To see what their peers are doing, and improve on their crafts through swapping ideas and gaining some non-competitive feedback."

For Katie Cooney, photography isn't only about creating art; it's therapy.

With 20 years behind the lens, the San Jose artist uses photography to immerse herself in her surroundings and dive straight into escapism.

"I love to slow down and just soak into a subject, working for a photo," Cooney said. "The whole process (of taking pictures) can be very dramatic."

"Monochrome" will also reflect a major trend in contemporary photography: a merging of old-school traditionalism with 21st-century digital media.

"Photographers today have a lot more possibilities in terms of how to go about creating images," Cooney said.

Cooney added that she tends to prefer film over digital because it's "more challenging to capture a moment" -- there's "less room for mistakes" with film. Still, she said, digital media has its time and place.

"It really just depends on what kind of image you're trying to create," she said.

Both Cooney and Decker cited some advantages to digital photography, including the assistance of computer-based programs such as Adobe Photoshop, which allow photographers to manipulate images by changing shapes or adding/subtracting colors.

Both traditional works of film and digital prints will be on hand, harmoniously sharing wall-space with each other. And one thing is certain to be present at "Monochrome," according to Zivkov.

"This exhibit is about possibility," he said. "We want to showcase the possibilities of photography, and perhaps show just how unique and diverse this art form really is."

What: "More than 20 photographers will display photography at "Monochrome," a juried photograph exhibit hosted by the Photography Interest Group, an affiliate of the Pacific Art League.

Where: The Norton Gallery (upstairs), Pacific Art League, 668 Ramona St. in Palo Alto.

When: Open to the public through Sept. 30, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Info:f"45 Helvetica Light"> For more information, call (650) 321-3891 or go to

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