And so, individual portraits, all taken with an old-style, cumbersome 8-by-10 view camera, fill the gallery’s walls. Suchy didn’t shoot any of these images in a traditional studio setting; she photographed her subjects in her back yard and other locations—in front of a subject’s house, at the Onondaga Nation, where several choir members live, and at the Westcott Community Center, the choir’s practice site.
Shooting outside broadened the range of possibilities for the portraits. In the portrait of Carol Simpson, for example, the image extends beyond trees and into a cloudy sky. In the photo of Lori Saile, sunlight pops right above her head. And Suchy’s shot of Allison Frost emphasizes both the subject and the shrubbery right behind her; she seems to almost blend into the vegetation. Those images aren’t a prototype; they blend with tight shots, making little use of the background. That variety, essential for an exhibition of this size, helps keep viewers engaged.
The women’s room: Lida Suchy’s photo of mother-daughter pairs is one of 100 images on display at ArtRage Gallery.
Similarly, Suchy enlivened the show with her decisions on organizing photos. The exhibit moves from solo shots to groups of four, six, nine or 12 images. Within some of those groups, certain familial connections emerge. Thus, a quartet of images portrays a mother and three daughters. Another set of photos goes row by row, first showing a mother, daughter and father, then a father, mother and son. A third group depicts mother-daughter pairs.
Such photos alternate with and complement images showing a cross-section of the choir, and solo shots portraying one person only. Indeed, one of Suchy’s best photos is a striking portrait of Eleanor Russell, who she photographed from the side instead of the usual frontal view.
All the images share one thing in common: They were created after interaction between photographer and subject. As in any portrait photo session, the subject is clearly aware of being photographed, and the photographer is trying to gradually relax the person. “In my case, it took about 20 minutes,” said Paco Valle. “I tried to stay still, I talked with the photographer, and I eventually gave in to the process.”
Another choir member, Nancy Gwin, was impressed by the contrast between the view camera and today’s digital photography and by the session’s intimacy. “A relationship developed between Lida and myself through the lens,” she said. “She puts you at ease, and you begin to explore yourself. It’s as if she peeks into your soul.”
Suchy has been doing this kind of photography for more than two decades, and the current exhibit is not her first extensive project. She made several trips to the Ukraine over a three-year period, photographing many of the residents of Kryvorivnya, a rural village where her parents grew up before emigrating to the United States. In the course of that project, she used individual portraits to create a composite portrait of the village.
She has exhibited her images not only in upstate New York venues such as Light Work, but also in galleries located in London, Hamburg, Germany and Levoca, Czech Republic. Her photos are found in several public collections including Light Work, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester.
The current exhibit at ArtRage both continues Suchy’s photographic work and has personal connections for her. Her son, Myko, has participated in the Children’s Chorus choir, and his photo appears in the show. Her husband, Miso, produced Giving Voice, a video documentary about the choir. The video documents choir practices at the Westcott Community Center and a concert at the Palace Theater, combining close-up shots of people singing, poignant movements such as members of the Children’s Chorus lighting candles and a collage segment mixing many images. Among other things, Giving Voice references the choir’s intense interest in promoting community and its openness to anyone interested in singing.
On Saturday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m., Giving Voice will be screened at ArtRage, followed by a small concert with members of the Syracuse Community Choir. Voices of Diversity is on display at ArtRage, 505 Hawley Ave., through Feb. 14. The gallery is open Wednesdays to Fridays, 2 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 218-5711.