Down the Dark Alleys of Manchester*
Manchester (Google Maps location)
November 20, 2010
*Photosynthesis moved to East Hartford in 2018. See update at bottom!
What a day. A surprise visit from EdHill, a hastily thrown together itinerary, A fairly well-behaved Damian, the largest serviceberry tree in America, and two gallery visits including this one, the small Photosynthesis Gallery tucked away in downtown Manchester. It’s so “tucked away” that is has a ½ address, as in 36 and ½ Pine Street. The entrance is in the back of a nondescript old brick building – but there is an inviting sign and the red, white and blue OPEN sign at least.
The gallery at PhotoSynthesis displays rotating exhibits of photography by accomplished and emerging fine art photographers. Their goal is to offer six to ten shows per year, each hanging for a period of three to six weeks. We were only there to check out the exhibit, of course, but PhotoSynthesis offers much more for the artistically inclined. I’ll get to that in a minute, as we’re about to enter the gallery…
The three of us were stopped in our tracks before entering.
Oh yeah! Ed and I high-fived and giddily entered the building. (No, I didn’t really think about the fact that Damian’s mind would be corrupted. I’m not sure how else to say it, but Damian’s special needs provide a sort of protection against that.) We barged in, excited to see some sexy art… And, wait, aw, maaaannn…
It’s naked dudes?! Sigh. Ironically, Ed likes to remind me that when he and I go to art galleries with my son that we look like a gay couple with an adopted Asian kid. I never pay his fantasy any mind, but at this moment, staring at men’s nude buttocks and taking pictures of them, yeah, I just wanted to give that big lug a hug.
The exhibit was titled NEW WORKS: Figure/Space, featuring photographs by two artists, Todd Blais and Robert Calafiore. This was a photography exhibition of Cyanotypes and Chromogenic Pinhole Camera Prints. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any record of Mr. Blais’s work. I do have a shot of some basaltic looking rocks, from a small room off the main gallery, but I still don’t think they are from Blais. Maybe though; here they are:
So I guess we have to focus on Calafiore’s work. I should note that EdHill is a graduate of the University of Hartford with a degree in, yes, photography. And, he was acquainted with Robert Calafiore back in the 90’s while getting his degree. So he can pretend he wasn’t into staring at the butts, but I could tell he was proud.
Mr. Calafiore wants you to know that his work involves “no post manipulation, nothing digital and no tricks. These are one-of-kind prints made entirely in the pinhole camera.” To his credit, Calafiore’s small font full page description of his work doesn’t descend into the typical artist blather that no one can understand.
No, Calafiore uses his page to explain the process of capturing these images. And, quite frankly, it’s pretty dang interesting. Basically, he built his own pinhole camera – after a long series of trials and errors – in a uniquely modern (foamcore) way, and the whole photographing process is very old school.
Even though the pictures look very modern and dare I say Photoshoppy, they aren’t at all. And that, to me anyway, seems to be the point. Each photograph required 20 minutes of exposure, so yeah, that downward dog guy was probably all lightheaded when he stood up. The negatives were processed in an actual darkroom with those chemicals our artsy aunts all had in their basements.
Okay, Calafiore does explain his process in the last paragraph, but it’s not too goofy for me for once. He even references “looking through the glass, darkly,” which is always cool.
This gallery isn’t your typical gallery at all. In fact, it’s pretty unique in that it allows photographers to use their equipment and to learn about new techniques and such.
PhotoSynthesis is dedicated to providing photographers, artists, and students with a comfortable, enriching environment in which they can learn the craft of photography and refine their techniques at their own pace. Additionally, we offer services for those not inclined to partake of the hands-on aspect of our business. Individuals and organizations of all sorts can benefit from our solutions to their photographic needs.
PhotoSynthesis is the only facility of its kind in the area. Our rental spaces, workshops, gallery, schedule of events, and varied services make us a destination to visit often. It is our belief that people in this digital age desire an outlet for handcrafted creativity. We offer this in the form of rental darkrooms for traditional black-and-white photography and alternative processes. Many of our workshops address the teaching of these nearly lost arts. There is a certain satisfaction to learning these processes and helping to maintain them as the legitimate forms of art that they are.
This said, we do understand that current demands are for digital photography and computer-aided image-making. Our wide-format printers, digital workstation, and workshops answer the needs of those working in the digital medium.
A rotating display of photography can be found in our gallery. Each show generally hangs for three to six weeks. Check our website for upcoming exhibits, openings, and other gallery events.
It is our intent to provide people of all ages with a learning experience in photography. Please inquire about future possibilities for small school groups, scout troops, and other organizations
PhotoSynthesis also offers a selection of lab and studio services, including custom B&W fiber printing, fine art inkjet printing, print finishing, and various studio camera services. Check our website for the most current information.
So that’s all cool. How great would it be if every art gallery was able to offer so much to interested parties? But here’s the thing about our visit: Even though several people were milling about back in the much larger non-gallery area, not only did not a single person approach us to say hello, no one even looked at us as far as I could tell.
Was it because we brought a little kid to an exhibit featuring naked dudes? I don’t think so. I just think that Ed in his pedestrian Oregon sweatshirt with me in my – hey, I was wearing black! – so I have no idea why they avoided us. Must have been the little kid thing. Hey man, Damian’s got a butt and all the other boy parts in the pictures. Big deal.
Down the Dark Alleys of
Manchester East Hartford
Manchester East Hartford (Google Maps location)
June 4, 2019
So there I was, hiking the wondrous Hockanum River Trail in East Hartford. I tried to sort out where I was on my phone and saw “PhotoSynthesis” in the big brick building across the river. “Hm, I wonder if that’s the PhotoSynthesis I know from Manchester in 2010?”
A quick Google search later and yes. Yes it is. They’d moved to East Hartford recently and now I had to check out the digs. Once back to my car, I drove around to the building on the other side of the Hockanum and searched or PhotoSynthesis.
Good luck to me.
This building its a crazy, century-old maze. There wasn’t too much signage for the Photography shop, and some guy noticed my bewilderment and pointed me in the right direction. Which… holy crap. You go down a crumbling hall to some dark stairs and descend into the abyss. Then you follow dark hallways around until you find PhotoSynthesis.
Why did they move here? It’s nearly impossible to find, it’s dingy and probably scary for some visitors. I walked into the space and didn’t see a gallery. Sure, there were a few pictures hanging here and there, but the defined gallery of Manchester was gone.
A man stared at his computer screen across the room and never acknowledged me. I looked at a glass case of old cameras. I retraced my steps and escaped back out to my car.