From his Van Dyke facial hair, named after a seventeenth-century painter, to his portraiture evocative of Johannes Vermeer, yet another Dutch Golden Age painter, Zane Logan and his photography both appear timely antidotes to the age of Instagram.
“My portraiture—and not on a small screen—gives you time to do things you normally wouldn’t do in an everyday interaction with another person,” Logan says. As an example, he shows one image as compelling as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired a novel, a movie, and Logan. “I can look at her nose and her eyes without scaring her, intimidating her, or being really weird.”
Yes, you can get to know a person by looking at her for more than just the time it takes to snap a selfie. Though creepiness isn’t cool in these #MeToo days, Logan says he hopes his work connects people without and within his hand-built frames; he’s old-school that way, too.
Posing his subjects only in front of a white wall with natural light or against a black studio background with minimal lighting, he asks them to “negotiate” with viewers, too.
“‘I want you to just empty out or think about people who are looking at you,’” he tells them. “‘What would you want them to read from your face?’”
You see a lot in Logan’s face, a quick smile, easy connectivity. Sitting in a tiny photography studio deep in the cavernous Taylors Mill, he flips through images on his decidedly contemporary laptop.
While he does make some environmental portraits—a subject in, say, a field of flowers or posing outside a mountain chapel—he mostly eschews them.
“Those objects, either consciously or subconsciously, start to influence the way we read the individual, and I think by doing that, our reading happens faster: ‘Okay, this person has had these experiences, they’ve had this type of life,’ partly because of what we read on their face, but also because of the setting they’re in.
“What I’m trying to do with these is to rid them of that setting, of all that information, so it’s just you and the subject, and what I hope happens is that there’s a pause, and you ask, ‘Well, why do I think this guy has maybe had a hard life or he’s worked really hard?’”
Perhaps getting twenty-first-centurions to stop long enough to exchange silent gazes with a picture is a big ask these days. He asks anyway. “How many of those opportunities do you actually have? With a photograph, you can create a body of work, and multiple people can have that same kind of interaction.”
His body of work is exhibited frequently—some 50 exhibits so far. His portraits appear at the One Building in downtown Greenville. While he says he appreciates Instagram and the like—“some of the best work I’ve ever seen comes from photographers on some of those social media sites”—he still shoots for lingering connections.
Says Logan, “It’s a completely different experience to slow down sometimes.”
by John Jeter
For many photographers, using a camera is a method of understanding the unfamiliar, of knowing the unknown. For photographer Polly Gaillard, this discovery process is frequently a two-way street that encompasses both herself and her subject.
Portraiture is Gaillard’s language of choice. It is the genre that she has consistently circled back to throughout her twenty years as a photographer. And while no single picture can reveal all, her portraits offer moments of vulnerability from friends, neighbors, a Take 5 Oil Change attendant, a student from her Mosaic After School Program, a man she met at the Triune Mercy Center.
Gaillard admits that there is something cathartic about getting out of one’s skin, and inhabiting someone else’s world. “People want to be heard, want to share, and I’m a naturally curious person.”
A native of Greenville, Polly became interested in photography while a journalism student at the University of South Carolina. Inspired by the work of Richard Avedon, Mary Ellen Mark, and Diane Arbus, Polly headed west in the early 1990s for an unintended nine-year trip that proved to be a fertile time for the photographer, who completed her first major project (Moment of Inertia) about teenage girls in the San Francisco Bay area. Of this project, Gaillard explains, “I started the project as an investigation in issues facing teen girls—body image, self-esteem, teen pregnancy . . . . I was trying to discover if self-esteem is something we are born with or something we gain through maturity.” Working with interviews and photographs, Gaillard began a working method that has been the hallmark of her photographic practice ever since.
Gaillard’s images are frank, direct portraits that alternate between color and black and white. Says Gaillard, “Black-and-white portraits rely on expression and gesture to convey meaning . . . . I use color when it doesn’t distract from the face or the eyes, which are the most important part of the portrait to me.”
Her subjects seem to know and trust her. Much of this is due to the time spent with them, hearing their stories and history. Says Gaillard, “I want to know about people . . . their lives. There’s no need to create fiction when life itself is so diverse and challenging to so many people.”
Since returning to Greenville in 2000, Polly has completed a number of projects that have garnered her national recognition, most notably the series about her daughter (Pressure Points) and her mother’s end of life (December and Everything After). Part storyteller, part documentarian, Gaillard jokingly refers to herself as a voyeur, but perhaps that designation can be given to anyone who spends years behind a camera trying to communicate a kind of truth.
These days, Polly wears many hats: as communications director for the Emrys Foundation, as an adjunct photography professor, as a contributing writer for various photography websites. She does all this while making stunning images of people who typically go unnoticed as we move through our everyday lives.
While looking suggests a cursory act, photographic seeing involves a deeper dive, an attempt to get beyond surface description. Polly Gaillard sees clearly, and we are the beneficiaries.
by Terri Bright
Some are pensive, some are defiant, yet most are smiling. The faces that José Zurita captures through his camera lens lay out a diverse cross-section of the Greenville community. When he is not teaching life skills to mentally ill adults at Gateway House (his day job), Zurita often strolls the streets of Greenville looking for a pose to strike him.
When I ask the handsome Bolivian-born photographer what brought him to Upstate South Carolina, he answers in one word: “love.” He came to the United States in 2005 and attended college at the University of Southern Alabama. There, he met his future wife before graduating with a degree in international relations. She was from Spartanburg, and the couple ended up moving to her hometown.
Though Zurita has been fascinated by cameras since he was a child, his first real foray into photography was with an old Canon Rebel that belonged to his late mother-in-law, a retired newspaper journalist and his biggest fan.
Sadly, the marriage did not last, and Zurita moved to Greenville in 2015. Lonely and in a new place, he employed his camera to process the pain of his divorce. “I told myself that once I pressed the shutter, I was going to filter all those emotions and pain into something positive.”
The camera, he soon found, was a tool that helped him to overcome his natural shyness. Zurita, who was raised by his grandparents, is driven to connect with his subjects. He always introduces himself and asks for permission before taking a photograph. In the process, they often share details of their lives. “The picture is secondary to the whole experience for me,” admits the 37-year-old.
Case in point is a man named Hal, who Zurita has seen for years in downtown Greenville. “I always ask to take a picture of him because he looks awesome, but he always says ‘no.’” One day, Zurita noticed the skin on Hal’s face was peeling. They got to talking and Hal finally revealed that he had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, which was causing the peeling. “You may not get the shot,” Zurita muses, “but you may share a coffee and talk to that person, and it makes you see life from a different perspective. That’s the beauty of the camera.”
He approaches his work these days equipped with a Nikon D750, a 35mm lens, and a compassion that manifests itself in his powerful images. Yet it’s not easy finding the perfect shot. “Sometimes I walk for hours and don’t find a single shot, and then I’m walking back to my car and I see it,” he explains. It might be someone on the corner smoking a cigarette, an arresting piece of clothing, or a compelling expression on someone’s face.
Zurita takes many of his photos in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, where he sees beauty in every smile. When he posts his portraits on Instagram, he includes the subject’s first name. “I want people to know who this person is,” says the photographer. “I hope people will see the humanity in my photos.”
Going forward, Zurita wants to document social issues through photojournalism. “But portraits will still be my passion,” he insists. “I’m always trying to find that human connection.”
by M. Linda Lee