Visitors to the Creative Arts Guild can enjoy an up-close-and-personal view this month of the photography of Paul Caponigro — as well as photos by two of his protégés — “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Savannah Thomas, the Guild’s gallery director.
Caponigro, one of America’s preeminent landscape photographers, “has exhibited internationally — he’s a national treasure, really — and he’s one of the last great southwestern photographers,” Thomas said. “He’s in that same space as Ansel Adams, and others.”
A Caponigro exhibit “is a rare opportunity for our area, (because) he is a world-class great,” said Dalton’s David Dennard, a local physician who has dedicated himself to photography, learned under Caponigro, and contributed his own works to the Guild’s exhibition. “Paul is the main attraction, and it’s a privilege for me to be part of it.”
Caponigro, who received the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society in 2001 as recognition of his significant contributions to the art of photography, “is a mystic, and his work carries that within it,” Dennard said. “Art is a reflection of the consciousness of the artist.”
He’s mentored both Dennard and Pradip Malde, the third member of the exhibiting trio, Thomas said. Seeing photography from them in the same space, one notices “patterns and lines” intersecting among their works.
For example, in one corner of the gallery, Caponigro’s photograph of Stonehenge is immediately to the viewer’s right of Malde’s photograph of one large rock, which is directly to the viewer’s right of a Dennard nature photo that includes a modest stone, Thomas said. “I see them interconnect.”
Dennard and Malde have been “influenced by Paul, but we’re also all similar in our spiritual pursuits, and that wraps together in the art, because it’s who we are,” Dennard said. “The whole circle is complete, and it’s a great show that way.”
Though they share much in common, each artist approaches his work in a different manner.
Caponigro, for example, “is classic, all dark room,” Dennard said. “Each print has its own required tone, and Paul is a master of those qualities.”
“I’m mostly digital, because I realized I couldn’t do all the things in a dark room that I could on the computer,” he said. “I can try 100 things in 30 minutes on the computer (with Photoshop), but that would take me a year in the dark room.”
Dennard snaps photos when “something feels right — whatever strikes me — and the second phase is me discovering it in Photoshop,” he said. “Sometimes, I know what I’m looking for, and sometimes I play around.”
Malde, a native of Tanzania, “is a mixture” of techniques, Dennard said. “He shoots the negatives, then scans them to make a digital negative.”
This exhibition “shows what photography is capable of, and I hope people take the time to appreciate it,” Thomas said. “My undergraduate degree is in photography, so I have a soft spot in my heart for good fine art photography,”
It’s “hard to choose my favorite, but this is such a stunning piece,” said Amanda Brown, the Guild’s executive director, as she peered into Caponigro’s “Reflecting Stream, Redding, Connecticut, 1968.” In that photo, “there’s so much going on, (yet) so much stillness.”
It’s “one of Caponigro’s oldest pieces,” Thomas said. “It’s also one of his most iconic” works.
Perhaps even more famous is “Galaxy Apple, New York City, 1964,” Brown said, gazing into it. “Isn’t that fantastic?”
Seeing Caponigro’s “Galaxy Apple, New York City, 1964” in Paris when he was 17 helped inspire Malde, a professor at Sewanee: The University of the South, to become an artist, and this rare exhibition combining pieces from Caponigro, Dennard and Malde will be on display through the end of this month, Thomas said. The Guild is open 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Private tours can be arranged by emailing Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Guild’s exhibition space recently received major lighting improvements, and this is the first display under those new lights, Thomas said. “I’m so grateful this is the first exhibition with these lights, because I want” visitors to see every detail.
The Guild will host a Zoom discussion with Dennard and Malde on Thursday, Feb. 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. led by Thomas. Admission is free, but registration is encouraged. More information and a link to register will be found on the Guild’s website at www.creativeartsguild.org.
“I’d encourage everyone to join that chat,” Thomas said. “It will be a great opportunity to ask questions and engage with” Dennard and Malde.
Dennard long enjoyed photography, and he was encouraged by Malde to seek Caponigro’s tutelage, which “took me into a whole other realm,” Dennard said. He discovered the connection between art and spirit, and he seeks to reach people in a deeper way through his photography.
“Another thing I learned from Paul is what constitutes a truly fine print, and the impact of tones, which are like musical notes,” he said. Caponigro, 88, a native of Boston who spent decades living and working in New Mexico, “could have been a concert pianist, and, (for him), a print is a combination of visual notes, like an orchestra on paper.”
He also observed Caponigro’s “absolute devotion to his art, a level of commitment I have not seen,” he said. “Art is his life, and his whole existence is photography.”
Like Caponigro, Dennard photographs from his heart, he said. “I once asked him what percentage of a photo (is heart), and he said, ‘100%,’ (which is one reason) he has a grace within his work that places him above all others.”
To learn more
The Creative Arts Guild will host a Zoom discussion with exhibiting photographers David Dennard and Pradip Malde on Thursday, Feb. 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. led by gallery director Savannah Thomas. Admission is free, but registration is encouraged. More information and a link to register will be found on the Guild’s website at www.creativeartsguild.org. “I’d encourage everyone to join that chat,” Thomas said. “It will be a great opportunity to ask questions and engage with” Dennard and Malde.