Nelson outdoor photo exhibit reflects physically distanced life

Photographer Thomas Nowaczynski’s with one of his photos that shows an auto parts store with the sign, “We’re in this together. Be Kind.” Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Jake Sherman’s photo of a lone swimmer. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Portraits of a Pandemic will run at Lakeside Park until Oct.15. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Portraits in a Pandemic photo by Jake Sherman. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Louis Bockner’s photo of his neighbour and his neighbour’s daughter fishing on Kootenay Lake. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Portraits of a Pandemic will run at Lakeside Park until Oct.15. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Professional photographer Jake Sherman was shooting up to 2,000 photos a day throughout last winter and he was “getting really burned out on photography.”

Then the pandemic hit, he lost most of his jobs, and, “I ended up in my cabin alone in the woods with very little to do.”

He usually photographs people, but because of social distancing, masks, and lack of public events, his subject matter was limited.

So Sherman decided to slow down, and he restricted himself even further by taking only film (non-digital) photos in black and white.

“The question was, how do we have an art exhibit in the context of what’s going on in the world? How would we even do that, right? And how do we get this work seen?”

Answers can be found in Portraits of a Pandemic, an exhibit of physically distanced photos at Lakeside Park on the grass in front of the Rose Garden Cafe. The exhibit runs until Oct. 15, with photos by Sherman and local photographers Louis Bockner and Thomas Nowaczynski, all shot with film in black and white.

Bockner’s contributions stemmed from being in quarantine at his home in Argenta after travelling abroad. He says he has always wanted to document life in that remote rural community.

“So this spring, I really started documenting it more seriously,” Bockner told the Star, “with a medium format film camera, and developing my own film at home. And I think that process started to feel really right, it started to feel like I was getting images that I was really happy with for that project. And so the eight photos that I chose [for this exhibit], they all came out of that.”

Nowaczynski said that during the pandemic he got interested in signage. Only in a pandemic, he said, would an auto parts store install on its street sign the words, “We are all in this together. Be kind.”

“The word ‘heart’ just keeps coming up for me,” he says. “To me, this exhibit is about really seeing the heart of the community and the way that people have a heart for each other. I think that each of us has documented that in a different way.”

All three photographers remarked on how visitors to the park responded curiously and positively to their work as they installed it on Wednesday.

On Thursday the Star spoke with one such person viewing the finished exhibit in the rain.

“I just think this is amazing,” said Della Fenkner. “It’s beautiful. And what I love about it is that this is happening in the rain, and the raindrops are adding to the ambiance of each of the pictures. It’s wonderful.”

Bockner and Nowaczynski both credit Sherman for the existence of the exhibit.

“He has been the mover and shaker in all of this,” Nowaczynski says. “He came up with the idea. He pitched the idea to get funding, got a permit, co-ordinated with the printer.”

In turn, Sherman says about his two collaborators, “We work in such a competitive industry, particularly in small local markets like this, it can be so cutthroat and so competitive … I am so grateful to have these great peers and colleagues and that we have this great working friendship.”

Portraits of a Pandemic was funded by the Nelson and District Arts Council, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, and supported by Speedpro Signs.

Related: Why film photography is less work (and more rewarding) than digital

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