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Exhibit by National Geographic photographer opens at WFU gallery

By Pam Barrett
336.758.5237
January 21, 2004

Wake Forest University’s Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery presents the exhibit, “Sam Abell: The Photographic Life,” Feb. 6 through March 21. On opening night, Feb. 6, Abell will discuss his work at 6 p.m. in the Scales Fine Arts Center, Room 102, and a reception will follow in the gallery from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Admission to the lecture and reception is free.

Representing more than 30 years of professional activity, this retrospective of 79 photographs displays a broad range of creative approaches explored by Abell and traces his career and creative process.

A photographer since age 10, Abell was first introduced to the craft by his father, an amateur photographer with a basement darkroom. A contributing photographer-in-residence of National Geographic, Abell has worked for the National Geographic Society since 1970. He has published nine books with National Geographic, including his latest, “Sam Abell: The Photographic Life,” which is the companion to this retrospective exhibit and a book of his best personal and professional work.

"Fish Tank, Hagi, Japan," 1980, Chromogenic print

Although he has never taken a photography class in his life, Abell is widely sought as a teacher and lecturer on photography throughout the world. As told to American Photo Magazine, Abell said the most powerful learning experience a person can have is “seeing bad photographs published with your name under them.” He is a member of the board of trustees of the George Eastman House and the Santa Fe Center for the Visual Arts, where he teaches.

“The Photographic Life” exhibit will be displayed in four sections. The first, “The Photographic Life,” is autobiographical and features black and white photos Abell took with his father in the early 1960s around his hometown of Sylvania, Ohio.

In the second part, “Seeking the Picture,” 40 of Abell’s best images are paired with “outtakes,” photographs that were not published but led up to or followed the printed picture. These photos, like “Bison Skull, Standoff, Alberta,” tell the story behind the making of some of Abell’s greatest works.

Section three, “The Photography of Places,” is a presentation of photographic essays on places around the world, including Newfoundland, the Galapagos and a cattle station in Northern Australia.

In the fourth and final section, “The Life Behind Things,” works such as “Fish Tank” and “Vending Machine” illustrate the graphic power of his documentary photography and particular themes Abell focused on throughout his career.

The exhibition was organized by the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville, Va.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free. For more information about the exhibit, call 336-758-5585.

NOTE TO THE EDITOR: To arrange coverage or an interview, contact Pam Barrett at barretpm@wfu.edu or 336-758-5237.


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