“Exposure 2017,” the 21st annual juried show at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, may be one of the best. It’s definitely the saddest. Earlier this year, BU told the PRC it has to vacate the premises. Packing up commences after the show closes June 10. Acting executive director Bruce Myren says the PRC is in “discussions” with several local institutions of higher education for a new home.
This year’s juror, Peabody Essex Museum photography curator Sarah Kennel, chose 14 photographers to include. Each has two to four images in the show. It’s a tribute to Kennel’s judgment that with most of the work you want to see more.
Camilo Ramirez’s series “The Gulf” records a 5,500-mile journey from Key West to Brownsville. The three photos seen here are dramatic, bravura. One of them, “Burnout,” looks like an escapee from a Batman movie. In contrast, George Nobechi’s four views taken through various windows are subdued and lyrical: studies in serenity. They’re perception recollected in tranquility. A similar sense of calm informs James Cooper’s three renderings of distant horizons. They manage to recall Hiroshi Sugimoto seascapes and color-field painting both.
Mood matters in Nobechi’s and Cooper’s pictures. It also does in Molly Lamb’s “Take Care of Your Sister” series, which among many other things is about the intersection of family, emotion, and memory. The washing out of the image in “Untitled 10” suggests just how fugitive those last two can be. With their blend of melancholy and whimsy, the mood in Brian Kaplan’s “Adults Should Not Swim Alone Series” is hard to pin down — which makes his four images in “Exposure” all the more intriguing. Actually, intriguing doesn’t do justice to the burlap-wrapped tree that looks like Jabba the Hutt.
Photography, by its very nature, is a form of artifice. What could be more artificial than reducing three dimensions (four, if you include time) to two? Most photographers ignore that artificiality. Hannah Bates and Ellie Ivanova place it front and center. Actually, Bates places it back and center: She photographs someone (a bowler, a diver) in front of a photographic backdrop of an appropriate scene (a bowling alley, a body of water). It takes a close look to see the discrepancy. Ivanova makes the artifice plain in her four photographs of World War II reenacters, degrading her silver gelatin prints through the mordancage process, as if time has melted.
Text and image are usually considered dualities. In photographs by Gregory Jundanian, Kimberly Llerena, and Tom Gearty they collaborate. Jundanian takes portraits of local poets and spoken-word artists. He has the subject write a poem or passage on the print. Llerena photographs a text that’s been transcribed into Braille, each image representing some element of the text. Best of all are the three examples from Gearty’s “Book Marks” series. He seeks out old books in which an image has seeped on to an adjacent page. It may sound simple and obvious, a bit of misguided antiquarianism. It’s anything but. In equal parts arresting and spooky, the results really make you think — about the passage of time, the relationship between word and image, even, yes, mortality.
The idea behind Greer Muldowney’s “Urban Turbines” could hardly be simpler. As the search for alternative sources of energy grows, wind turbines are becoming more common. Muldowney goes looking for them in familiar, thus unexpected, places. The catch is that she shows them in context. What you notice in “Medford Middle School” is the athletic field, the running track, and the athletes and cheerleaders. Look again: Yup, the blades of a wind turbine are in the background. That’s one of the things photography does best: making us see what we see — or think we see — differently.
At Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, 832 Commonwealth Ave., through June 10. 617-975-0600, www.bu.edu/prcMark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.