Through the On-Site Review program, 4Culture evaluates arts and heritage organizations who receive Sustained Support funding. On-Site Reviewers attend events produced or presented by recipients and write up short reviews, which give the adjudicating Sustained Support panelists a patron’s-eye-view of each organization. Each month, the 4Culture blog presents excerpts from these reviews. This month’s review is by Kascha Snavely.
Photo Center Northwest has on display a show appropriate to its name: a collection of photos by and of Northwesterners. This free gallery fills the entrance of the Center, which also offers classes, workshops and other events. Quiet signage indicates the theme of each wall: “Practices,” “Portraits,” etc. The current show includes images by contemporary Northwesterners such as Susie J. Lee and Matika Wilbur, as well as Northwestern photographic pioneers like Asahel and Edward S. Curtis. Photographers captured images of well-known residents and visitors to the area: from contemporary and antiquated pictures of Duwamish and Swinomish tribes members to shots of Jimi Hendrix or R.E.M. on tour in the 1990s and the so-called Seattle Tubing Society. Some of the photos are “fine art” and others are evidence of photography used to document the history of the Northwest. The curators selected work by a number of artists who have shown with PCNW in the past, interlacing the institution’s and the area’s pasts.
The title of the show does not do justice to the intrigue of these pictures. I expected to scan over images of the Northwest and instead looked slowly, caught up in the portraits and peculiar historical moments called up by the photos. Moreover, given that all the work is in one medium, this show was very diverse, both in image and technique. The pieces ranged from video stills to Photoshopped inkjets to antique photographs.
By dividing the small space with partial walls, the exhibit designers created a good amount of wall space to accommodate many pieces in a moderately sized room. Occasionally, I wished for more space around individual images so that I could contemplate them in isolation rather than in conjunction with surrounding images.
The Center is so close to buildings on Seattle University’s campus that I wonder if passers-by don’t confuse it with some part of the University. That this is a free gallery is such a gift. It is small, but worth a trip, perhaps on a lunch break or date night in Capitol Hill – they’re open late!
Photo Center Northwest is at 900 12th Ave, Seattle, WA. The current exhibition, NW Focus, runs through Oct 16.