Best of 2008 Photo Show features local photography, impresses and entertains all
On Saturday night, some of Richmond’s most prolific photographers gathered to display their best photos from 2008. Harrison Street Coffee Shop became an album of last year’s parties, rock shows, and interactions as folks wandered through the exhibit. Each photograph was labeled with a lengthy explanation of the significance of the piece, and reading those descriptions offered a glimpse into the variety of experiences the photographers wanted to emphasize.
The whole epic undertaking is the brainchild of PJ Sykes, a well-known Richmond photographer. He’s tackled everything from the most obscure indie bands to Barack Obama himself, and found himself thinking about the possibilities of displaying a group photo collection. “I wanted to do a photo show with a few other people, and then I was like ‘what if I did it with 5 people,’ and then ‘what if I did it with 10 people,’ and then ‘what if I did it with 20 people?'” He pored through local publications as well as Myspace and Flickr and assembled a list of Richmond photographers whose work interested him. And so the Best of 2008 Photo Show was born.
“I picked the people and gave them the challenge to find their best photo,” said Sykes. “I didn’t even get to see most of the photos till they were framed and in my living room.”
The result was that the exhibit became a study not just of the photographers’ most meaningful moments of 2008, but of the intersection between the viewer’s experiences and those on display. Because of the local focus of the pictures, it was natural to reflect and ask questions like “where was I when this was taken?” and “hey I think I know that guy” and “ah, I remember that night.” It made for a more personal effect than most art openings might accomplish. And since Sykes chose a mix of friends and strangers for the show, it did not end up displaying only one clique’s lives, or the happenings of one part of town. Sykes included professional photographers who make a living off of the events and people they shoot, as well as high school students just starting out in the world of photography. The pictures ranged from band promo shots to amusement park rides to portrait photography, and even a photo of “the prettiest tree in Richmond” from area musician and photographer Liza Kate. Some profits from the show will also benefit Art 180, a local nonprofit that seeks to introduce art to kids who may otherwise have no creative outlet.
A periodic Richmond retrospective could continue to entertain and gather momentum as the years move on, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the Best Of series. Sykes has been questioned by participants and fans alike as to whether there are plans for an annual photo show. He seems optimistic, but doesn’t make any promises. “I’m going to try to pass it on to somebody else, and see what they can do with it.”
The exhibit is currently up at Harrison Street Coffee Shop (402 N. Harrison St.), so stop by and take a look for yourself while picking up your daily cup.