Big is what's big in photography right now.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Eight Voices in Contemporary Photography, opening Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Central Library Art Gallery in East Village, includes several oversized images—up to 3-by-4 feet. They are immersive pieces that once would've been extremely difficult to make. This large scale is one way curator Scott B. Davis connects the exhibition to what he calls "the global dialogue" in the art form.
"Artists are exploring historic materials and really understanding the history of photography, so that their work starts to build on that language in a way that they're not repeating, but pushing against or expanding on earlier ideas," he says. "Digital technology has done so much to unleash a whole new realm of thought, creative capacity, abilities and output. Photographers are starting to do things that were just not easily possible 10, 20 years ago."
Plain Sight features Andy Cross, Amanda Dahlgren, Judith Fox, John Brinton Hogan, Michael Mulno, Han Nguyen, Scott Polach and Rebecca Webb. Davis handpicked the group based on his experience as founder and director of the Medium Festival of Photography and his 13 years at the Museum of Photographic Arts. He wanted people doing smart, cutting-edge work, emphasizing artists who might not be known to the region.
Some of them play with expectations: the idea that the process ends when the print is made or that materials have to be used as they were intended. For example, Nguyen lays plants on light-sensitive paper and exposes it to daylight. This produces a photogram—a technique dating back to the 1800s— but he blasts them with an hour's worth of blazing sun instead of 10 seconds from a low-wattage bulb. Davis describes it as going from a whisper of light to a nuclear winter. The results are delicate pastels and textural, an image that looks rippled by heat.
Polach draws on his personal history. The son of land surveyors, he places landscaping flags and tape in public spaces to convey demarcation and territory, documenting the process in nonlinear video and adding a patriotic twist.
The show is timed to support the Medium Festival of Photography, which runs Oct. 23 through 26 at North Park's Lafayette Hotel. It opens with a reception from noon to 2 p.m. on Sept. 6 on the Ninth Floor of the San Diego Public Library (330 Park Blvd.). It will remain on view through Jan. 12, 2015.