Recently, I went to the new show at C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore, knowing full well before I went in that I would see work with which I was already relatively familiar. Paintings by Hidenori Ishii (exciting) and although I had not previously seen Neil Meyerhoff’s photography, the name of his new body of work was “children,” so I safely assumed I would see some photos of kids.
Grimaldis is divided into a main space and back, smaller gallery, where they erroneously chose to show Ishii. The main space was filled with WAAAAY too many photos by this Meyerhoff dude. I’m not hating on photography, I started my art education with a photography concentration, but successful photography is about editing! Or at very least, engaging with your work and subjects enough to formulate a dynamic essay/exhibition that has more going for it than the camera having been pointed at the same subject over and over. I have a friend that takes pictures of dogs, a project I hated at first, and then saw the passion and interest developing, the format changing and evolving etc, and I have to say, there is more going on in those photos (most of which are taken in his own home) than this international photo-sniping of the world’s grubby youth.
In my Sophomore year of College, I received a travel grant based on a photo proposal, and traveled to Indian Kashmir to photograph the people and the scenery. Honestly, it is a hard thing to travel abroad by yourself and try to bring back an accurate account of a foreign place. I never took a photo of a person I didn’t first interact with on some human level, and while some of the photos suffered from a similar “for only 10 cents a day….” pitfalls, my subjects never looked uncomfortable, and were never shot from a high, disconnected angle. The photos were about the people (mostly children) as people, not as an idea. Coupled with the black and white, medium format landscapes of the Himalayas, the overall project was incredible labor-intensive, selecting images, printing, matting, framing etc.
Meyerhoff didn’t even print or frame his own work, removed again from the consideration of his subjects, the exhibition and the overall impression. I’m not arguing against the quality of the photographs, I am sure this man uses a nice camera, and has (for the most part) a decent feel for photographic composition, but the images are so impersonal, they could really have been taken by anyone. They’re easy. For someone who stresses his tutelage by Alex Webb and Sally Mann on his website, the signature voice and embrace of the setting is missing.
On a brighter note, check out Hidenori Ishii’s paintings, they’re pretty slick: