Some pictures are worth a thousand words. Others merit an in-depth discussion, according to Bill Pielsticker, chair of PhotoMidwest, a biennial celebration of Midwestern photographers hosted by the Center for Photography at Madison. These pictures are the focus of a juried show that runs through Oct. 30 at Memorial Union's Porter Butts and Class of 1925 galleries.
The exhibition demonstrates "the power of a well-executed image to really move people," he says.
National Geographic photographer Sam Abell chose the show's 49 works from a pool of 430 submissions from seven states, including Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. His selections range from colorful landscapes of farms and forests to black-and-white portraits that exude mystery.
One of the most discussion-worthy specimens is "Urban Monsoon," a black-and-white image by Eloisa Callender. Three shadow-like children bend toward its center, fingers splayed, as a downpour batters the earth. Whether these gestures stem from delight or distress is debatable, but the emotion's intensity is clear as can be. Illuminated by an eerie light source, the droplets form a curtain of white dotted lines. From a distance, they look like chalk marks, suggesting that the entire scene could be erased at any moment.
Maurice Menocal's untitled photo has a different but equally intriguing focus: a magnificent pair of shoes. Blues and grays comprise the majority of the image. Worn cement leads to a pale blue wall, against which stand a man and a woman -- or so it seems. Their faces don't make it into the frame, forcing the viewer to surmise their personalities from their clothing. The couple's jeans lend a few clues. The man's are loose and casual, and his flat sneakers suggest he's into skateboarding. The woman to his right is much showier. Her cuffed skinny jeans reveal a swatch of bare ankle, beneath which stands a very fancy piece of footwear. The shoe is an abstract American flag: The body is navy, peppered with white polka dots, and the heel is bright red -- a shade considered scandalous in an earlier era. In her world, style trumps comfort and safety. She pledges allegiance to fashion, even on a tough city street.