May is the month when high school photography students take over both the windows of the Corner Gallery and the back space belonging to the Art Center Ukiah. Their creative, unpredictable, and surprisingly excellent work is always a joy to behold, and the show is eagerly awaited by a wide variety of community members.
This May will be the 13th consecutive year for this exhibit…even when the gallery was closed due to COVID, the “Shelter in Place” themed photos were mounted on panels and displayed in the front display cases where passers-by could stop and enjoy them.
Ukiahi’s photography teacher, Lech Sloczynski, is the magician behind this display of young talent. The idea came to him 13 years ago when he entered the gallery on a whim and asked the person sitting behind the desk if it would be possible to put on an exhibition of the work of his high school students. . The answer, fortunately, was “Of course!”
The theme of this year’s show is “Transitions”. Lech explains: “We are moving from film to digital, and from professional cameras to everyday mobile phones. It’s the democratization of the media and it gives everyone a chance… like American Idol.
Lech continues, “Especially now that we’re coming back from COVID with too many years of kids online constantly using cell phones, I want to give my students a way to up their game. Kids take pictures all the time and publish them, and many photos are not interesting. Why not teach them how to improve by learning the basic artistic skills to make good composition, patterns, lines, colors and shapes? It’s an easy-to-use tool, so if you develop your eye, the images can look great.
Her own experience of posting one photo a day on Instagram throughout the pandemic inspired Lech to challenge her students to do the same. He explained that this activity gave children the opportunity to learn by doing. Lech sees the immediacy of cellphone results and the grainy texture flaws when photos are enlarged as strengths, and he encouraged everyone to do whatever they want to celebrate and explore the freedom of the medium.
Lech teaches a total of 120 students in his dual enrollment high school and middle school classes. He’s the one person to judge the hundreds of photos they submit for the show…he chooses the ones he thinks are the most visually and technically interesting, with a compelling message or special dialogue with the viewers. As in the past, judging for first, second and third place as well as some honorable mentions is delegated to Ukiah’s two most renowned professional photographers – Tom Liden and Chris Pugh.
Asked about the prizes for the winners, Lech laughed, “What are the kids going to do with $25 or $50?” He explained that he had a much better plan… “The winners will have a lunch with me and the two judges, where we can all talk about photography and they can get feedback on their submissions. Lech continues, “It’s an opportunity for adults to promote photography as a possible career and to encourage kids to keep going.”
The opening of the first Friday of the show will take place on May 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Live music will be provided by Steve Winkle. The Corner Gallery/Art Center Ukiah is located at 201 S. State St. in Ukiah.
Another special event will be a cell phone photography course taught by Lech. Through a grant from the Community Foundation, Art Center Ukiah is able to pay professional artists to give free workshops related to most themed shows through March 2023. The course is open to everyone and will be held at the Art Center Ukiah on Saturday. , May 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. Although there is no charge, people are asked to register in advance as places are limited. A sign-up sheet is in the Corner Gallery.