May is National Photography Month, and Mara Torres, owner of MARA Art Studio + Gallery in the Rosemary District, believed there was no better way to discover the art form than with a photography-focused exhibit.
The works of eight photographers of different styles and backgrounds from Florida and Puerto Rico will be shown as part of the exhibition “THROUGH THE LENS … Perspectives”, which opened with a party on May 7 and will last until June 18.
Two of these photographers are Sarasota characters who use their cameras to highlight human emotions and the various forms of masculinity.
Torres started putting the exhibition together in January.
“I have a vision of what I want,” said Torres. “I started looking at photographers and their work, then putting the pieces together to build the puzzle.”
Jesse Clark, a 20-year-old student at Ringling College of Art and Design, says he has had black masculinity and shape on his mind for a while.
His new untitled photo series in the MARA gallery is an attempt to explore different forms of masculinity and how they intersect with black culture.
The collection consists of photos of black men wearing baskets and headdresses on their heads. Clark says that wearing heads is typical of women in many cultures and that he wanted to twist that idea to show the beauty and vulnerability of black men.
“As a Haitian American, I want to come back to (this culture),” said Clark. “… There are depictions of this idea of what the black man is on TV and in the media, and it’s usually tough and aggressive. I’ve been thinking about what masculinity is and what is vulnerability, and how can I show that so they know we are human too and have feelings? “
Clark made the headdress himself – each with an individual design with their own colors – and had three of his classmates serve as role models.
He says he had a background in dance and ballet that taught him how to balance toughness and softness, and he hopes his photographic work has better illustrated his interest in vulnerability and fragility. Better still, he says he’s proud of his work and happy to see it in a gallery.
“It’s definitely an honor,” said Clark. “I still feel young and am in this gallery with a lot of professionals who have been working for years. I see this as a start.”
The photographer Barbara Banks brought several pieces from her “Worker” series, which looks through a black and white frame at the many workers who transformed the 1926 Sarasota High School building into the Sarasota Art Museum.
Barbara Banks attended the opening party in May. 7th
Torres says she contacted Banks about participating in the exhibition because her portraits of various workers helped highlight the often-overlooked human element that has gotten into the art museum.
“They are overlooked and they are underestimated,” said Banks. “It was probably one of the most important projects I’ve ever done.”
The photos are a culmination of months of work for Banks, who says she slowly grew during her project time to connect with many of the workers. She says she took thousands of photos at the construction site.
“I asked people day in and day out if they would mind if I took their portraits while they were working,” said Banks. “I was just so touched by the way they knew they were being seen … I took a real interest and really cared about it.”