Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Couple of Cameras

Photographs by David Scherrer and Susan Bennerstrom at Salon Refu
"Mayo Cottage" photo by David Scherrer
Damn! This show just barely opened and already it’s almost time for it to close. It will be open Christmas Ever and Dec. 26 and 27 from 2 to 6 p.m. It’s definitely worth seeing if you appreciate fine photography, so while you’re downtown doing your Christmas shopping, stop by Salon Refu.
You do do your shopping downtown, don’t you? Of course you do.
Scherrer and Bennerstrom are Bellingham artists. He is a professional photographer, and she is known primarily as a painter (you can see her paintings at
 or at Linda Hodges gallery in Seattle) but as this exhibition demonstrates, she is also skilled with a camera. Both appear to have a technical mastery of the art of photography, but more significant than their technical mastery it is their eye for composition and for choosing the perfect spot to aim their cameras from among the myriad sights they come across in their travels. They apparently travel a lot, and the photos in this show are from those trips. 
It is people that catch Bennerstrom’s eye, while for Scherrer it is architecture, nature and light. Her photographs are filled with people in mostly urban settings, whereas the presence of humanity is felt more than seen in Scherrer’s urban scenes. The few people who show up in his photographs are often isolated, and seen from odd angles — birds’ eye views abound. We never see their faces, so there is a feeling of aloneness and perhaps sadness. There is a satisfying richness of light and shadow as he points his camera down from on high at the streets and town squares and dense tree branches of Europe, and at the few people who wander into his camera range.
"Red Curtains" photo by Susan Bennerstrom
In “Yellow Chairs,” one of my favorites, he focuses on a group of chairs in a haphazard circle on a city square. They are more chartreuse than yellow. There is a scattering of leaves on the ground that creates a pattern like footprints of dancers, which resonates musically with the chairs. And there is a single woman seen from high above, her head and face covered by a hat and scarf. One wonders what she is doing. Is she cleaning up after the crowd has left, or is she the last straggler to leave the party?
“Figure” is a photo of a woman in the shower murkily seen in silhouette through a shower curtain. Her dimly viewed figure is reflected in a mirror, but the reflection is no more clearly seen than is her body behind the curtain. There is an open window through which brilliant sunlight shines and bounces off the white tile walls. This photo calls to mind Edward Hopper’s paintings “Morning Sun” and “Hotel by a Railroad.” 
Scherrer’s enigmatic “Entrance” is a picture of a large blank wall with a single small door out of which crawl a couple of black garden hoses that sneak across the patio among fallen leaves. The hoses create a sensual line drawing
One entire wall of the gallery is filled with Bennerstrom’s photographs of street scenes in Barcelona. They are lighter and brighter than Scherrer’s photos (meaning light hearted, not necessarily more sunlight, which can be seen in abundance in his photos as well). There are crowds in her pictures bustling about their daily routines. There is a candid feel to these photos. Clearly none of these people knew nor cared that they were being photographed. There is almost an obsession with feet and legs in her pictures, as if she has decided that picturing legs in motion is the best way to depict the busy quality of these people’s lives.
There’s one called “Barcelona Species” that pictures four human legs and feet and a pair of large dog feet as if the dog is just one more walker on the street. “Barcelona Stride” pictures four walkers with long strides seen from the knees down. One gets the feeling they are in a great and determined hurry. “Barcelona Rest” focuses once again on legs and feet with three pair of feet at rest and two walking.
One of her photos that stands out in sharp contrast to the others is “Trident.” A trident or pronged garden tool sticks out from the bottom edge of a red curtain and touches the edge of something on the ground like a manhole cover, which is painted white and appears to have been made of wood. The overall effect is mysterious, abstract, and somewhat ominous.
Scherrer’s and Bennerstrom’s photos — unframed and casually displayed — fill the space at Salon Refu nicely and are definitely worth seeing.

David Scherrer and Susan Bennerstrom at Salon Refu, Thursday-Sunday 2-6 p.m., and by appointment. Through Dec. 27, 114 N. Capitol Way, Olympia,

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