It's the third time I've driven to Portland in the last month. Once was for an assignment, the other times have been to mount and, now, dismount my show at Camerawork Gallery. It's always a sad sort of denouement to take down a show. What took so much effort to hang, and with such anticipation for what was to occur, is swiftly cleaned away at the end like so many dirty dishes after the dinner party.
The gallery is a funny little spot on the ground floor of the Linfield College School of Nursing, next to Good Samaritan Hospital, but apparently it is the longest continuous photography exhibit venue on the West Coast. I ran into Scott, the gallery manager, on my way out, and he assured me that “Thousands of people have come through to see your exhibit. It's a funny little spot, but it's really a destination to see work.”
Seattle and Portland are different that way. I feel like I am living in a far flung province, remote from where the action is. You can count the number of dedicated photography venues in Seattle on one hand and still have most of your fingers left over. Portland has this amazing photography community that is extraordinarily supportive, and for which there are an abundance of places to show work. The Portland Art Museum has a quite rich photography department, and Blue Sky Gallery has been a dominant presence in the city for decades. It dates back to the 1950's when Minor White lived here and ran photography critique groups. After he left for Rochester the group still sent him steamer trunks full of photos, which he would return with his criticisms. A strong support for photography seems to have been his legacy.
As I was taking down the show a woman showed up. “Oh, I'm so glad the show is still here,” she said. “I saw it was the last day on my card, and I had to come down.” She oohed and awed, and I think she's now committed to taking a photo a day, just like me, and showing up at the contra dance tomorrow night, with or without husband. People are really serious about their art here. If I were a young photographer looking for a place to move to, I'd pick Portland.