For her ongoing series “Listen,” Rhona Bitner has been taking large-scale color photographs of sites associated with American popular music: recording studios, concert halls, clubs, and the like. So far she’s photographed more than 200. Seven of her images are on display at the Howard Yezerski Gallery through Oct. 23.
They look great. Unmatted, mounted on aluminum, and at 40 inches by 40 inches, they seem more like windows than images. Some of the places are famous, even legendary, like Electric Lady Studios, in New York, or the Whisky a Go Go, in Los Angeles. What an air of crisp mystery Bitner manages to impart to the Whisky stage, through a combination of harsh light and darkness.
There’s a powerful temptation to say that these pictures sound great, too. There’s a gleam to Bitner’s images that the ear picks up on no less than the eye does. You can almost hear the music that has filled these spaces — this despite the fact, or perhaps because of it, that some are now in such tough shape. Detroit’s Grande Ballroom closed in 1972, and the magnificence of decrepitude is something to see.
Bitner knows the importance of details — the less expected the better. Why shouldn’t there be a Turkish carpet on the parquet floor at Electric Lady? And is that a shopping cart over in the corner of the Birmingham, Ala., club Tuxedo Junction? Yes it is. There are no people in any of these photographs, but mysteries and memories in abundance.
Hard as it is to make music visual, it’s that much harder to achieve with faith. For more than 30 years, Linda Connor has met that challenge. Anyone who enjoyed “Odyssey,” the excellent Connor retrospective at the RISD Museum two years ago, will be eager to see the 27 black-and-white photographs that make up her show at the Clark Gallery, in Lincoln. (Several were in the RISD show.) It runs through Sept. 29.
Light in Connor’s photographs has an almost-palpable weight. This has been consistent throughout her career. The Clark show ranges from 1978 to last year. All have this same effect of weightiness. Her pictures seem to come from — or exist in — another time.
Partly that’s owing to procedure. Connor exposes her negatives in her garden (so much for fussing around in a darkroom — or, of course, digitally), then tones them with gold chloride. The results are dark and luminous. Partly that weightiness is owing to subject. Chartres, the Wailing Wall, Ladakh, Hagia Sophia, Benares: These are sites that defy trivialization.
Most of all, it’s owing to Connor’s artistry. She uses the long exposure time of her view camera to make a set of votive candles at Chartres look like bioluminescent flowers. In a photograph of a nun saying prayers in Ladakh, Connor captures light spilling into the room with a sense of drama Caravaggio would envy. Throughout, there’s a balance between the solidity of this world and the very different solidity of the world beyond. It’s there, spectacularly, in “Fireworks for the Virgin, Peru,” with the light born of worship yet creating a visual extravaganza. Or there’s “Goddess on Turtle, Nepal,” which gives you the duality of sacred and profane about as directly as it comes.
The thrill that many find in music, and the gratification that others find in religion, Roger Tory Peterson found in nature. He’s best known as an artist and writer — any field guide to field guides would feature him front and center — but Peterson was also a photographer. Some 200 of his photographs were auctioned off in New York last Saturday.
The prints were made by Digital Silver Imaging, in Belmont. A dozen are on display at its exhibition space, Griffin Museum of Photography at Digital Silver Imaging, through Sept. 28. They’re all in color and big —16 inches by 20 inches or 16 inches by 24 inches — which lends them an impressive immediacy. A jaunty King penguin in close-up; a quartet of carmine bee-eaters, looking marvelously nonchalant on a branch; and so on. The size and colorfulness of the birds are shown to excellent effect in the new gallery space at DSI. After spending a year in the South End, the Griffin satellite returns to its original Belmont home. Birds migrate at this time of year, too, no?
RHONA BITNER: Images from the Series “LISTEN”
Howard Yezerski Gallery,
460 Harrison Ave., through Oct. 23, 617-262-0550, www.howardyezerskigallery.com
Clark Gallery, 145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, through Sept. 29,
ROGER TORY PETERSON: Photographs from the Roger Tory Peterson Collection
at Silver Digital Imaging,
9 Brighton St., Belmont,
through Sept. 28, 617-489-0035, www.digitalsilverimaging.com