Belen Art League photographers capture the essence

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The Belen Art League is going retro.

This Saturday, April 21, the art league will host an open house for a black and white photography show that will feature 40 to 50 images from local artists and photographers.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Belen Art League artists hold up their photography work. On Saturday, April 21, the artists will host a black and white photography show.

The show, which is in its first year, will run through Saturday, May 12, in an event that pays tribute to an art that is sometimes forgotten.

“I think black and white all over is making a comeback,” said CeCe Aragon, an organizer of the show.

Aragon said she came up with the idea to have a black and white show after she saw “The Artist,” a black and white film that recently won critical acclaim.

She said the genre allows people to see the essence of what the artist is attempting to portray.

“I’m excited about black and white,” Aragon said. “It makes you look deeply into the movie. You are not seduced by color.

“Instead of paying attention to the color, you are paying attention to the emotions, the facial expressions and to the body language,” she said. “Black and white photos do the same.”

The throwback show gives a kind of nostalgia to the viewers that sometimes gets lost in the digital age.

But members of the art league say they want the best of both worlds — the technology of digital and the beauty of detail in colorless photos.

Art league member Malvern Stevens remembers when photographers would have to sit in a dark room to create the desired images instead of enhancing photos while perusing the Internet and drinking their morning coffee.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: This photograph of a windowsill is an example of what will be on display at the Belen Art League Gallery on Saturday. The group will host its first-ever black and white photography show.

Stevens, 74, said he bought his first camera in the 1950s when cameras looked like a complex gadget of its time and film was in paperback form.

Some members own anything from a 35 mm camera to something called a “Brownie,” where older models resemble a metal box that looks like it ought to be on the next edition of “Antiques Roadshow.”

“The detail was pretty good,” Stevens recalled. “But you had grain on the film. That lessened the sharpness of the picture in some sense. The digital cameras, the better ones now have so much more resolving power to get a sharper, better image.”

Another photographer, Robert Fink, said he appreciates both old and new school photos. He said, in the past, photographers had to think about how the photo was going to look in black and white.

“Digital cameras of today are marvels of electronics,” Fink said. “I like the older ones because they are marvels of mechanical engineering. Today, there are also computers built into them.”

Members say some pictures look better in black and white rather than pictures that are full of color.

For instance, detail can pop out of certain images instead of being masked by different pigmentations.

Cheryl Mina Colston said her picture of a windowsill wasn’t very appealing as a color portrait. But it was a different story once she converted the photo.

She said the conversion brought out “peacefulness and softness” to the piece.

“When the print was in color, I didn’t care for it,” Colston said.

Aragon agrees.

Her photo, “Standing Guard,” a picture of the trunks of trees, shows the detail of bark that gets lost when its in color.

Yet, members say technology is an important part of today’s art and they say modern-day advances should be incorporated into photographs.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Cheryl Mina Colston, left, and CeCe Aragon, right, of the Belen Art League, show different cameras in preparation for the league’s upcoming show.

For this show, members are allowed to use both film and digital forms when entering their works.

But Colston said she wasn’t sure she liked the digital format until she bought a camera six or seven years ago.

“As soon as I started using it I was sold,” Colston said. “You can take 200 pictures of one subject or more and it doesn’t cost you any money.”

The show will feature judge Valdis Garoza, a senior academic advisor at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus. Garoza, a Belen resident, has a bachelor’s degree in studio art from New York State University and has taught numerous art classes in the area.

Aragon said the show is a great opportunity for the league to expand its membership and grow in popularity. This year is the first time the opening reception will be held in the evening hours.

The reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m, Saturday, April 21, at the Belen Art Gallery. Admission is free. A 10 percent donation will be requested on any piece that is sold at the show. Refreshments will be served at the opening reception.

“We are trying to draw more people into the art league,” Aragon said. “It’s not just for the members to come and support the photographers, but also people off of the street to come and see what our gallery is all about. I think it’s exciting.”

For more information, call CeCe Aragon at 980-4082


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.