Two photographers find a lot in ‘Common’

Commons: A Curious Pairing of Photographs
Opening reception Thursday, Dec. 6, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

On view through January 11
The Spirit Room

It’s hard to imagine Ann Arbor Miller or Britta Trygstad without a camera in their hands. Both are full-time photographers with their own local photography businesses and both are continually on a quest to use the camera to take better and better images.

But for their second tandem photography exhibition, Commons, the key thing to remember is that most of the hard work, and the artistic intent, happened after the shutter closed. The duo gathered images taken individually over the course of the last year and intentionally juxtaposed them, one image per photographer next to another. It’s a reminder that, in photography, the work doesn’t always end at the camera (or in Photoshop).

“For me, the most exciting thing about this show was the editing process,” Trygstad said, “us getting together and seeing what (the photos) say. Because they have some commonality, it makes them say more together than they would if they were apart.”

“We invite people to consider something by itself and then look at how its meaning changes when it’s combined with a companion,” Miller said. “When you look at two pictures next to each other that are very much unrelated, created by two different people at two different times in different locations, what do you see?”

This is even more significant when you consider that the images weren’t taken with such an intent in mind. For both Trygstad and Miller, the photography here results from the experience of finding something visually exciting over the course of their day-to-day lives and finding it necessary to take the photo–photography qua photography, perhaps. Their images single out stripped-down incidents of line, color, form, and subject that typically go unnoticed: the jagged lines of an old building, perhaps, or drips of paint on a wall, all framed in a way that almost feels abstract, but with enough reference to tell the viewer that these images do indeed live in the real world.

These images may not fit directly into their respective professional lives, both photographers said. Instead, they ask for a new, novel relationship to be formed between the viewer and their environment, one that reduces the way of seeing down to bare fundamentals.

“A number of my images I would call outtakes from other assignments. They were photos that just needed to be taken, something that intrigued me,” Miller said, adding, “some of these images came from client work, but I knew even while taking them that weren’t probably wouldn’t fit the clients’ needs. Through this collaboration with Britta, I’m finding ways to use photos, because I see them every day.”

“Mine are from life, walks around the block, and I would take them no matter what,” Trygstad said. “There’s no purpose for me to go out and take those photos. I feel compelled to take them whether they have a place or not.”

And here, they’re given a place, bearing to mind another notion. After months of photography and weeks of editing, the images in Commons not only invite the viewer to consider a new relationship with their visual world, they also offer a peep into the eye and mind of these photographers.

Image: a pairing of two photos by Britta Trygstad (left) and Ann Arbor Miller. Courtesy of the artists.

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