Sometimes we search all over the world and find exactly what we’re looking for right in our own back yards. I witnessed that Saturday when I viewed two different photography exhibits — directly across the street from each other.
The first show, the 22nd Annual Power of Photography Show sponsored by Pensacola’s Wide Angle Photo Club, featured outstanding works by local photographers. As I viewed the photos I realized many of the winners had traveled to India or Africa or Georgia or Nebraska or Ohio to snap their prize photos. That’s great for the “travel” or “open” categories, but the old photography teacher in me wants them to look at their own surroundings for the other categories like people or elements of design. We have enough interesting people here that there’s a “People of Pensacola” Facebook page. Tourists and locals alike call this place Paradise, and professional photographers use the beach and Fort Pickens instead of studio backdrops.
My old school teacher conviction was validated when I crossed the street to see Richard Sexton’s photographs at the Pensacola Museum of Art. His exhibit “Terra InCognita: Photos of America’s Third Coast” fills two upstairs galleries with black and white photos of the “marsh, scrub lands, dunes, beaches, swamps and forests along the Gulf Coast from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle.” And the photos are so remarkable they almost take your breath away. Even one depicting rolled newspapers dumped in the bayou is mesmerizing (Unbottled Messages: Newspapers in Swamp Water).
The show is on loan from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, one of my favorite museums. Out of respect for Sexton’s copyright, I’m not reproducing his photos here, but if you follow the links to his website, you’ll see the beauty of what‘s in the backyard of Paradise.
“The problem is that the familiar is always taken for granted; we are seldom able to look at it objectively and with insight.” RICHARD SEXTON