It was four days after September 11, 2001, when a group of photographers opened Gallery 14 in Hopewell with a group show titled “Lenses and Light.” On September 14 of that year, the gallery, on the second floor of 14 Mercer Street in Hopewell, held its first opening night reception, as the residents of Hopewell were out in the streets below to honor those who had been lost in the terrorist attacks.
“It was pretty tense; we tried to figure out whether we should open or not,” says David Miller, a co-founder and former president of Gallery 14. “During the opening, that was the night when people went out for a candlelight vigil in the streets. We had everybody walk out with a candle and stand out on the street for a bit, that was the original opening.”
The gallery ended up drawing a lot of visitors that night and to hear Miller and other member photographers tell it, Gallery 14 has been a success from the start, drawing fine art photography lovers from throughout New Jersey.
In honor of its first 10 years, the gallery is opening its “10th Anniversary Member Group Show” on Friday, September 9, featuring works from its 12 member photographers. The exhibit will take up both the main gallery and the smaller gallery called the Jay Goodkind Room, named last year for a former member who left the gallery because of failing eyesight. Most photographers will be exhibiting a mix of photos that have been shown at the gallery through the years, along with some new images.
The gallery is a cooperative and started when a group of photographers who met regularly decided to open a home for fine art photography. The name was chosen because the number 14 was part of its incorporation date (July 14, 2011), the date of its first opening night (September 14), and its address.
“It seems there aren’t really galleries like this around, a fine-arts photograph-only or almost photography-only gallery, and I think that is one of the reasons that so many people come to it,” says Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, a founding member.
In the exhibit David Miller’s pictures include “Hooded Eagle and Hunter,” which was included in his 2007 show, “Mongolia: Where Kazakhs Hunt with Eagles” (U.S. 1, January 3, 2007). The picture shows an elaborately-hooded eagle dominating the horizontal frame. The right half of the hunter’s face is seen to the right of the frame, the hunter looking at the bird.
Travel is the subject of Miller’s work (his website is www.what-the-traveler-saw.com). As an international banker, he lived all over the world — including Africa and Russia — and he and his wife continue to travel. His subjects have included Antarctica, Egypt, China and, more locally, Seaside Heights.
“Three Women, Kabul,” taken in 1968, shows his wife, Katherine, in an airport next to two women wearing burqas. It’s an example of the street photography Miller takes, capturing candid scenes. “I saw these two women coming, and I remember thinking — and it was pretty extraordinary — ‘Oh man, if they sit down next to (Katherine) it will be the most amazing picture.’ And they did, and so I walked over, I got the camera ready and went ‘snap snap.’ I got two pictures.”
Kassof-Isaac says one of Miller’s talents is his way with people. “He’s made a contact with them, not just an eye-to-eye contact, but he’s made them comfortable. And you can see this, the people who he photographs are either not aware of him or extremely comfortable, so that they’re very natural,” she says.
Kassof-Isaac’s pictures in the exhibit include a painted photo of a cathedral in Zurich, which has stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. The city was hosting a festival and the picture shows a Ferris wheel in front of the cathedral, the circular shape of the ride complementing the circular clock with golden Roman numerals on the church. She painted the image in Photoshop. For other photos, she painted printed photographs with inks and pastels.
“This very serious church had a huge Ferris wheel in front of it,” she says. “Not only did it follow the circle of the clock but it framed the building and the church.”
That picture is part of Kassof-Isaac’s “Houses of the Spirit” series. Another is a double exposure of a church in Spoleto, Italy, taken from different angles. The shot was taken in the 1960s or ’70s, according to Kassof-Isaac.
She says she inherited artistic genes from her grandparents, and she later studied art at the Pratt Institute. She, her husband, Henry Isaac, and their two sons lived in Zurich from the mid-1960s to the 1980s. They had wanted to live in Rome, but Henry got a job as translator for a bank in Zurich, which allowed them to make regular trips to Rome.
Kassof-Isaac was a painter, but started taking pictures after the move to Zurich. “How could you not do photography in Europe? I remember my first serious photography was in Venice, and I thought I invented Venice,” she says.
Kassof-Isaac says she enjoys being part of Gallery 14 because it offers photographers who take their art form seriously to inspire each other. “I think inspiration is very important, (and) I think you get inspiration from working with other people,” she says.
Martha Weintraub joined the gallery in 2005 and is the current president of the gallery, taking over in 2010 for Miller, who recently stepped down. She submitted a portfolio at the suggestion of Kassof-Isaac, and was turned down before resubmitting.
She started taking pictures about 14 years ago when her husband gave her a camera as a gift. When asked if she ever expected that she would join an art gallery, she quickly answers, “No. It’s been a late-blooming. This is my second or third career in life.”
Weintraub says her work involves spending as much time at the computer as behind her lens. For a series she exhibited in 2010, she spent hours coloring black-and-white images with Photoshop.
Among the images she is showing in the upcoming exhibit is “Rhododendron” from her 2009 show, “Awakenings.” The image looks like a painting in parts but other areas, such as a leaf toward the bottom left of the frame maintain their realism.
Another image she is showing is “Tuileries Garden” from her 2005 show, “Nature’s Garden.” The picture is of flowers twirling, hanging by needle and thread. The white and green flowers are in the forefront and look alive with movement. Behind them on a wall are images of ballerinas behind them. Weintraub says she couldn’t have captured that image in the pre-digital age, because it took hundreds of snaps to get the quality ones, and that would have been impractical with film.
Another member, Frank Magalhaes, joined Gallery 14 about a year after it opened. He had been taking pictures since the 1950s but never showed his pictures anywhere. He’s a retired engineer, and would visit the gallery when it opened. Kassof-Isaac got to know him and suggested he submit a portfolio.
“I didn’t have a portfolio,” he says. “It was a hobby, totally. And I had been in and out of it, I had times when I did a lot of it and times when I didn’t.”
But he put a portfolio together and was accepted. He says being part of the gallery has been a good experience because it helps photographers focus on their work more. “You’ve got to do a certain amount to keep going and keep a presence here,” he says. “Just the process of doing it, and meeting other people who are doing it and picking up things from them — even without picking up things from them — just having to do more yourself, you push your own boundaries.”
For the 10th anniversary show, Magalhaes will show a new diptych called “The Little Mermaid” in which he uses the text of Hans Christian Andersen’s story to create a scene of a mermaid statue against a body of water. The original photo he created of this image is actually a composite of two photos, one of the statue and one of a lake. By darkening and lightening the text, he recreates the statue, the waves of the water, and the sky.
The members say the gallery’s photographers take an artistic approach to picture taking. There are openings for new members available, and anyone interested in joining should visit an exhibit and talk to a member photographer before submitting.
Standards are high and some people who bring in portfolios are turned down because, while their pictures are good they are simple records of what they saw, rather than something that’s provocative. Photographers looking to join should also get an idea of what styles Gallery 14 features. For example, National Geographic-type nature photography isn’t a genre that interests members.
Miller says laymen often don’t know what goes into creating a picture. He tells a story about a show in Washington, which featured pictures he took in Afghanistan. Several people looked at his images and noted that they had taken photos just like it, without realizing they were looking at scenes of Afghanistan.
A major goal of Gallery 14’s photographers, Miller says, is to create exhibits that delve into a theme or even tell a story, as opposed to hanging pleasant-looking pictures together, no matter how good they might be. “(That’s) a totally different endeavor, and a much tougher one, quite frankly,” he says. “That was one of the motivations of creating the gallery for ourselves. It’s also been one of the real impacts on the people who exhibit here. One of the things that we struggle with is creating a coherent body of work that shows as an exhibit.”
Art Exhibit, Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell. Friday, September 9, 6 to 8 p.m. Opening reception for the gallery’s 10th anniversary exhibit featuring the work of current gallery members. On view to Sunday, September 25. Gallery hours: Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. 609-333-8511 or www.photogallery14.com.