Face value Joe Standart Captures New London In A Series Of Portraits

AaAt the opening Friday night of “Portrait of a City: The New London Project,” New York-based photographer Joe Standart will be standing by, waiting for the opportunity to snap the final image for his show.

Standart had wanted to already have photographed as many people as possible standing at the foot of Street for the “exclamation point” of his exhibit, which opens Friday at 10 venues in New London and features the faces of those who live and work in New London.

Logistically, it just didn't work out, he says. Instead, he will look for the chance at the opening at 6 p.m. at Union Station.

“I'll be at the kick-off at the train station and if we get enough people ... I'll have my camera and be ready to go,'' says the professional photographer who culled about 115 portraits from 6,000 images for this exhibition he is calling a community effort. More than 25 groups have been involved in putting on the exhibit, from the Rotary Club to local art galleries.

Ten different venues — from the Lyman Allyn Art Museum to the side of a barn at Mitchell College's Michael's Dairy — will feature portraits taken by Standart during the past two years. Some of the photographs will be life-size, and some will be bigger than life.

Some will be free-standing and printed on mesh, so those looking at the image can see through to the other side.

“It's to play with the concept — what do you actually see when you see someone?'' he says. “If you stand on one side, you can see through it and see people walking around the gallery. They become part of the image.''

He hopes visitors will be “delightfully intrigued.”

Standart opened a studio on Bank Street in 2004 and invited people into his storefront to be photographed. He hopes people who see the images will walk away with a sense of what the city is like.

“Every person is going to have a different response,'' he says. “I would hope they see their neighbors in a more open-minded way. I would hope they would be more open-minded. And I would hope they get more of a sense of delight in their community.”

Standart, who has done commercial work for Architectural Digest, House & Garden, General Electric, Viking Range Corp. and The Cindy Crawford Collection, is hoping “The New London Project” becomes one section in a larger show he will call “Portrait of America.” He is working on obtaining funding for a four-part exhibit that would travel across the country.

His idea is to feature four aspects of American life and photograph the inhabitants of one city. “The New London Project” would represent American “community.” New Orleans would be the setting for a group of photographs about “home.” Detroit would center on a work theme. Los Angeles or San Diego would be the setting for “play.”

The New London exhibit, which features photographs up to 20-feet tall, opens at 5 p.m. at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum and progresses throughout the night to several other downtown establishments. A free reception will begin at 6 p.m. at the train station. The Alva Gallery, Golden Street Gallery and the Hygienic Art Gallery will all host openings of Standart's work.

Photographs will also be on display in windows of the Kente Cultural Center and the Garde Arts Center and in a gallery at the Coast Guard Academy. Several images will be outside, including one on the side of a barn at Michael's Dairy and several on the Parade in downtown New London and along the water in the Riverfront Park.

Openings will include food and music. Visitors to the four main galleries, who get stamps on a “passport” will be eligible for a raffle at the end of the show to win a portrait sitting and a large scale print from Standart.
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