Early Works Project

I recently submitted work to the Early Works Project. It is a photography show based on images you took as a child, as well as short narratives about how that image is important to you as a photographer. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m currently making or thinking about, but it seemed like a fun project. Unfortunately I didn’t get accepted, but it was really enjoyable as an exercise to look back at 6 year old photographer me and see what I was drawn to. So, despite the small amount of disappointment, I wanted to share the 3 shots I selected and what I wrote about them.


My brother in a hotel on the first morning of vacation – Colorado, 1996 

This shot was taken on my family vacation to Colorado in the summer of 1996 when I was 10. The rest of the roll was filled with typical Rocky Mountain scenery, but this photo of my brother in our hotel was only taken because it was the first of the roll and I was never certain whether or not the first picture on a roll would turn out. I love this shot because of the nonchalance with which it was taken. There is nothing arranged, posed, or even intentionally communicated; it is simply a record of what was. However, it does manage to reveal some of the relationship between my brother and I at the time. He is 7 years older so we were never very close growing up, but he was in many ways a hero to me. This photo shows that reverent watchfulness of my youth directed towards the person I most wanted to be like.

Photograph of a Snow Day – 1998 

This shot memorializes a snow day viewed from my bedroom window looking towards the back yard. Growing up in New Jersey, snow days were a sporadic blessing that granted freedom from school work, hours of play in the snow and even a financial influx from shoveling. Depending on the year we could get several days off from feet of snow or mere dustings, taunting my friends and I with a wintery coating without the freedom that made it so enjoyable. I can remember many times of staying up later than normal, watching the weather report in hopes of some fateful prediction of “worsening” weather (as if that wasn’t the very thing we were all secretly wishing for). At times when only a few inches were in the forecast I would wildly concoct scenarios that would still require a school closing: my principle not being able to get out the driveway, buses not being able to start in the cold, or reports of dangerous black ice on the roads. Then the next morning I would wake up early, run down to the radio and turn on KYW, desperately listening for my school closing number to be called. On the day in this photo my dreams came true and I was left with the gift of freedom from daily routine, which in retrospect seems entirely worthy of a documenting photo.

A Harbor at Dusk – 1993, Nova Scotia  

This landscape of a harbor at dusk was taken by me when I was 7 with the first camera I ever had. It was a children’s plastic disposable model that used 110 film and had a little flip up square on top to use as a viewfinder (which I apparently had a hard time using judging by how most of my pictures barely have the subject in the frame). The vacation to Nova Scotia was filled with typical picturesque lighthouses, rocky shorelines and many hours of road trip family bonding. But this picture captures a fleeting moment of the last colors of the day sinking past the world’s western horizon. The film grain typical of a tiny negative combined with the low light conditions occlude much of the visual information, but this photo manages to successfully describe the magical quality of dusk over a quite harbor that must have caught my 7 year old eyes. In this case I think photography serves as a way of describing and remembering what otherwise would be a forgotten intangible moment, a characteristic that continues to inspire me in my practice.


Return from a Brief Hiatus

Ok, I’m back into real life now and its time to start up my art brain again after having temporarily decommissioned it post graduation. But I had my rest and am now used to the daily routine of things enough to start working my practice into it (part of which includes maintaining this blog if for nothing else than to keep me consistently involved in thinking and producing something).

So really the big question is, now what? I have my terminal degree, the sky is the limit, and yet there are times that the limitations are all I feel, of money, time, and practicality. One thing that I am working on is applying for a Fulbright research grant. I’m still working out the details, and I have 1 month to get the details sorted and everything turned in, but I want to apply if for nothing else than the experience of taking all those steps. My wife is actually applying for the english teaching Fulbright as well, so we’re doubling our chances just to see if there is anything there for us. It seems like it could be now or never, so we might as well take a shot, right. In addition, I’m making it my goal to find one good Fellowship/Grand opportunity that I can apply to in the fall. We wrote one for a class this summer, which I may still send in, but I think there may be better fits that will serve me better, so I’m gonna keep my eyes and ears open for the right opportunities.

Finally, I want to produce some work. And, since ultimately I want people to see what I produce, I’ve got my sights on a few shows that I am making work towards. Right now I am in the early stages of development, but I am building off some of the ideas and imagery of my thesis, and just continuing to push myself and the concept through interesting territory, hopefully hitting on some great work and opportunity to show along the way. I’ll be throwing out some ideas as I post about what I’m thinking, where I’m going, and ultimately what I want to communicate.
In the mean time, here are some images of me during the final Thesis presentation/defense.

Presentation of my Written Thesis (despite what looks like an empty auditorium, there were more than 30 people there, it was fun)

Sara Gersbach and I talking about my #foodsunsetcats video piece.

Introducing my visual thesis to the crowd.

Q & A from the thesis panel

Final Week

I’ve been slacking on the blog, but I really have been pressed for time enough that it just never made it into my daily routine over the summer. The good news is, I have one week left and I feel in good shape. The written thesis is done, with one more presentation/defense left. My work is done except for the installation side of things. So, I’ve been putting a lot of time into my website (as an extension of a class that had us organize our portfolio for residency applications) and I’m pretty happy with it for now. Eventually I want to do something a little more custom, if for no other reason than I want to really learn some more web building skills, but for now I’ve just used 4ormat, which I would recommend to people who have portfolio they’d like to display in a minimal format. Anyway, benpanter.com, check it out.
The opening for the thesis show in the Levy Gallery at Moore is early afternoon on August 11th. I’m excited to be done, I’m excited for my work, and I’m excited for people to see the work in a gallery.

Noosphere, video, 2:30

Show Opening at Moore

The opening for the 5 into 1 show was yesterday. It was a good time. I got to meet and talk to a few people and see what other people in the area are working on. I do think that the more I look at work and think about my own work, there is at least one thing that I’m sure of. I want my work to tell the viewer that it is carefully made and that specific decisions were made for legitimate reasons. Maybe that is some kind of elitist perspective, but an increasing amount of work that I see doesn’t strike me as being  careful. Maybe it has become popular to be so “intuitive”(to use a trendy word) that specificity and even reason is lost, and to me communication is wrapped up in both of those things, and if that is completely lost, then what’s the point?

Here’s a link to a review of the show, both me and Sarah are mentioned:
http://www.knightarts.org/community/philadelphia/five-schools-in-one-show-at-moore

Installation in Progress, FAIL

Installation in progress

Here’s a little shot of the 5 into 1 installation before they are up on the wall. I was trying to use this show as a way of devising a hanging solution that could be broken down to make it more portable/storable. However, it was a resounding FAIL, so I had to undo an hour and a half’s work of hanging and resort to classic alligator clips. Visually I don’t really mind it, but it doesn’t scream “elegant solution” the way I’d like. Ultimately, I want no frame or structure or clips, just the print on the wall. if you have any ideas about how to do that, let me know.

5 into 1 show

I have work in the upcoming 5 into 1 show being held at Moore. Each year the show features work of graduating students from the 5 philly art schools. It’s great to be selected (along with sara gersbach) and be recognized for my work. I’m honestly using this as a trial run for a few ideas for my thesis, so it was nice to be able to see how a few things worked in print and in the gallery. I am slightly confused by the fact that when I submitted work, it was through my program director, Paul, who told us about the show as the 5 school show. However, the invitation card clearly calls it a “sculpture” show. Well, my work is clearly not sculptural (and neither is sara’s), but it was accepted in, so I guess I shouldn’t feel awkward about that. Anyway, the reception is on June 2nd at Moore in the afternoon, so come and check it out. These are the prints I got into the show, but really, you need to see them in person, full size.

Social Status, Jake

Social Status, Joe

Social Status, Mallory

I want less

If there is one word that comes to mind when I think of the Internet, I think it would be “excess”. It seems that most people believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, redoing, parodying, meme-ing or subverting, all in the name of self expression. Just as all roads led to Rome, all fingers should be pointing towards Google. The culture that they have fostered for profit and ultimately exploitation of its willingly unpaid prosumer army is that of the notion that more content equals a good experience. But this is fundamentally flawed. I don’t want more, I want better. A simple google search tells this story. I receive in a tiny fraction of a second millions of results. Who needs that?

Yes, it does filter the results, but in order of the most popular, not most relevant. In its framework for allowing access to the entire Net, they have built in a homogenizing force that rewards popular sites with prime real estate in their search engine, thus circularly causing well SEO’d sites to grow while relegating all others to the forgotten back ally of the Web. If we combine this system with the way people are becoming unable to do anything other than a cursory search for a quick answer and with the blind faith that is placed in Google’s “doing good for humanity” mantra, we get people who are only aware of the most easily accessible, popular path. This is hardly an algorithm that helps humankind.

Acceptance into Perkins’ Works on Paper show

That’s right! A recent work of Ben’s has been accepted into a show! This is in the well-known Perkins Center for the Arts which is located in Moorestown, NJ. This particular work is a long, vertical print- NOT a photograph. And the exhibition is entitled Works on Paper. More information (dates, photos, etc) to be forthcoming.

[by] melissa

praise God who holds in his hand our life and all our ways