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ArtsCenter exhibition displays student nature photography, local poetry

Nancy Chescheir's photo, "Harbor," is on display in the FRANK and ArtsCenter Partnership Student Exhibition. Chescheir is a contributing photographer and clinical professor in the UNC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Photo Courtesy of Nancy Chescheir/ArtsCenter.

Last Sunday and Monday, the walls of the Theater Gallery at the Carrboro ArtsCenter were filled with photographs from students in photography workshops, many of them retired and experimenting with new creative outlets.

The FRANK and ArtsCenter Partnership Student Exhibition came together from a series of classes each artist took through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the N.C. Botanical Garden. Several of the photographs were paired with poems from local poet laureates.

Artist and teacher Barbara Tyroler asked students from previous classes at the center to display their work in the exhibit.

Tyroler met Caroline Haller, the ArtsCenter gallery coordinator, during a 2nd Friday ArtWalk at FRANK Gallery, a monthly event that celebrated local art before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, they devised the idea for the photography gallery, as well as its inclusion of local poetry.

Tyroler and Haller worked with Liza Wolff-Francis, Carrboro Poet Laureate, to develop the interdisciplinary exhibition. The poems, provided by past laureates, were directly inspired by the photography in the exhibition. 

“That’s what I've tried to do with these galleries, is be able to connect to different things going on with communities at different points of time,” Haller said. 

Contributing photographers range from people with arts experience, like Anne Winslow, a retired creative director, to retirees from STEM fields like Blythe Devlin.

Despite their different backgrounds, Tyroler fostered all of them as students, encouraging them to push the boundaries of their comfort zones. 

Devlin said that when she went to shoot photos one morning, Tyroler recommended shooting 30 minutes earlier. She took the advice, and she said it made all the difference in the photo because of the light at that time of day. 

“Barbara is excellent at critiquing and encouraging you that you've already done a good job, but you can do better,” she said.

Nancy Chescheir, a contributing photographer and clinical professor in the UNC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said Tyroler created opportunities to look at things in a different way. 

She said that in one of her abstract nature photos, Tyroler recommended using a reflective surface in a pool and then capturing an image through the glass to provide a different perspective for the photo.

“Working with someone with a creative mind has really helped me develop in some really different ways than I ever will,” Chescheir said. 

Tyroler said the work students bring to class reflects how they see the world through their lens. Devlin’s biology background, for example, gives her a deeper understanding of naturalistic art by understanding how plants form.

“So she would explain to me these, this is the dependency or interdependencies these plants have, and here's how you show them,” Tyroler said.

She said it is important to know each student's background because it informs what an artist sees through the lens when taking pictures. 

Tyroler said she helps teach students both the mechanical skills of how to capture photos using a camera, but also the artistry. When a student goes to take a picture and questions what they should bring home, she said it is important to forget everything else and be in the moment.

Winslow said one of the things Barbara is encouraging people to do is not document, but interpret. 

“It's the process of getting out there, seeing and letting go,” Tyroler said.  

Despite all knowing Tyroler individually, each student came together to create the exhibition and learn from Tyroler and each other. Winslow said they were able to gain different perspectives to expand their own thinking. 

Students formed a classroom relationship and sometimes friendships by helping each other, Devlin said.

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“I knew I'd learned a lot about photography, but I didn't anticipate friendships. That seems obvious in retrospect, but it was an added gift,” she said.


@dthlifestyle |