Photography has long held a unique place in art. Sometimes it's conceptual, sometimes it's journalism, and the lines between art and documentary are blurred. When done well, photography is powerful. By its nature, photography is always documenting something and a narrative is implied. Even if you know intellectually that you're being taken for a ride via the photographer's visual trickery, you are drawn in anyway. Seeing, after all, is believing, even if a photograph very artfully bends reality. You willingly suspend disbelief.
That's when it's done well, and the works included in the Coalition of Photographic Arts Second Annual Juried Exhibition are, in fact, done well. The photos of 42 Midwestern artists are included in this show at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts, and it's a surprisingly diverse display that comes together. Juried by George Slade, artistic director of the Minnesota Center for Photography, the works range from stunning photojournalism to created scenes and even pictograms, and all harness the medium's power to imply narrative and a glimpse of reality. The show as a whole presents a strong statement on the art of photography. A welcome absence is work that is too self-conscious or over-reaching in its effort towards the artistic; the photos here are fairly straightforward and the beauty is in the implicit power of photography.
Some of the stronger pieces, in fact, edge toward photo-journalism. Caitlin Arnold's photographs Nicole, Kimmy and Bridget are excellent examples. Well-executed and straddling the line between photo-journalism and portraiture, Arnold's subjects are adolescent girls, self-conscious and tough. The girls don't smile, but it's hard for the viewer not to, even if there's a darkness and mystery in the implied narrative.
The implied narratives, really, are what makes this show so successful. It's about photography doing what it does best.
The exhibit runs through Oct. 18. Juror George Slade give a gallery talk Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.