Photos from SMC:The Annual Show

In stark contrast with its disturbingly serene atmosphere, during the week following its opening on April 18, the SMC 26th Annual Photography Show opening reception was filled with a euphoric crowd of students, faculty members and community members.

The reception took place in both SMC's main campus photo gallery and the Madison campus' Pete and Susan Barrett's Art Gallery on Saturday.

"Nobody really goes to the opening to look at the work. If you really want to enjoy the exhibit and take a good look at the work, you have to visit the gallery when it's quiet, before or after the reception," said Larry Jones, the chair of the photography department, who enthusiastically spoke about the show.

The opening reception gave photography students and professors an occasion to celebrate their fruitful collaboration and learning experience during the two-year Photography Program at Santa Monica College. Diplomas of completion, as well as five awards for best photos in each category were delivered to students.

"We want to show them our appreciation and congratulate them for their great work," said instructor Ford Lowcock, who looked very proud of his students.

However, the ongoing construction that has transformed the Madison campus into a "hard hat area" has discouraged many from visiting.

For the past couple of years, the gallery has loaned its space to harbor the increasingly extensive photo selection, which could not fit into the smaller Santa Monica College Photography Gallery, located on the second floor of Drescher Hall.

Out of a 1,000 photo prints, only 216 ended up on the walls of the galleries, as decided through a majority vote of the 18 judges, including professors Bob Ware, Ford Lowcock and Chair, Larry Jones.

"There is no pre-set number of prints," said Jones. "Whatever we like, we hang." Ranging from traditional black and white portraits to still life and commercial shots, the photos aligned along the bright blank walls of both galleries form an eclectic fusion.

"It's a good mix of funny and serious shots and a promising showcase of talents," said illustrator Jared Rogness, who helped one of the photographers with the framing of her work.

The three large framed photos hanging on the entrance window of the SMC Gallery symbolize the creative dynamism of the show.

Student Dominic Di Saia's photo, which is on the right side of the entrance, represents a melancholic black and white portrait of an old man in a light linen suit who is standing against an austere background, holding a Cuban hat against his chest, with an expression of desperation in his eyes.

A sense of artistic productivity and creative unrest emanates from the left photo, which represents empty paint bottles shot by Brenda Hartshorn.

The central piece of the gallery's entrance, created by Ken Thompson, represents a 'still life' of a tied bunch of asparagus pointing in all directions, on a nearly invisible background, which almost seem to be floating and alive.

Thompson was ecstatic when his professor Lowcock announced that he won the Best of Show award for his asparagus' still life photo. "It all started when my grandmother gave me a really old-fashioned camera," said 41-year-old Thompson, laughing. "I had no idea how to use it, so I took two basic photo classes from Community Service. I ended up loving it and wanting to learn at a higher level, so I went through the two-year program. It opened new horizons."

Many photo students already have a degree in another discipline when they come to the program. "They are re-trainers," explained Jones. "They wake up one morning and realize that they are bored with their job and decide to do something they really like."

David Choo's experience illustrates Jones' description, as he gave up his job as a securities broker to become a full-time photographer. "I picked up a camera three years ago, and now I am completely obsessed with it," said Choo who had just won the "best experimental" award for a creative commercial shot of Absolut Vodka. "I live with it, I breathe with it."