A bit of Paris on Durango, Durango Herald, March 23, 2007

Photos courtesy of Open Shutter Gallery. Michael A. Shapiro’s work in “Oui” at the Open Shutter Gallery is all untitled. His work captures the connection between Paris and its people. Shapiro’s and Deborah L. Nelson’s work take an intimate look at Paris. The show runs through April 12.

Photographers bring view of France to Open Shutter Gallery

“Oui,” a photography exhibit of works by Deborah L. Nelson and Michael A. Shapiro at the Open Shutter Gallery, brings a bit of Paris to Durango. In fact, a visit to the gallery is like a stolen
moment in Montmartre – an intimate glimpse into the lives of Parisians.

Nelson’s soft and quixotic works are all black-and-white, limited-edition prints. She captures the tones and depths of Paris in shades of gray. Her works are not intense in high-contrast black and white, but instead filled with spectrums of light and shadow.

Many images evoke the romantic Paris, such as “Montmartre avec bicyclette, Paris 1997,” a view down herringbone brick steps, the black iron light posts and railings typical of Paris under the mottled shadows of large trees; “L’Econte, Paris 1999,” a large sculpture of a head resting against a hand, on a patterned brick plaza, an encrusted Rococo style building in the background; and “Solitude, Paris 1997,” a man sitting alone in a park, reading beneath a classical sculpture.

Other images capture Paris at night or in movement. “La Rotonde, Paris 2001,” shows a café on a rain-wet street, after hours, chairs stacked up, the customers gone. “Champs de Mars, Paris 1997” shows a view through the lit base of the Eiffel Tower. “Le Carousel, Paris 1997” brilliantly captures the sweeping motion of the lit carousel, a small boy standing alone in front, small and still before the eternally moving merry-go-round.

The artist began photographing Paris in 1983 and sojourns annually to the City of Light. Many of her photos balance the soft and delicate with the crisp and vivid. My personal favorite is “Les Mots, Paris 2000” capturing projected words onto a brick wall, the words swirling in an abstract manner. Another vivid image is “Musee d’Orsay, Paris 1999,” which looks through the backside of the large museum clock.

Nelson’s work is shown with Shapiro’s carbon pigment prints, a digital printing process that uses four tones of archival carbon-based pigment. The work has a velvety blackness directly related to the printing process. Particularly evident is the image of a woman, all dressed in black, merging into a shadowy background. As she reaches into her handbag for a lighter, a very white cigarette hangs from her lips. Everything else in the image is tonal, but the cigarette is white.

Shapiro provides no titles for his images, no biography, no artist statement. His work captures a slice of life, a narrative moment in time and an intimate connection between people in Paris.

One image is of two women, greeting on the street, in front of a large billboard advertising a Boticelli expo. Another captures a couple leaning together over a table at a busy cafe, a single glass of beer between them.

The most poignant and powerful works are that of a woman’s hand caressing the back of a man’s head, and a cafe scene where Shapiro caught the moment a woman looked up from her book, hand to her mouth, deeply contemplative and the woman at the next table, still looking down, into her book, hand to her mouth.

There is story in Shapiro’s work and one feels voyeuristic in viewing these life moments, stolen and captured and shared.

“Oui” is a feast for the eyes and for the soul.

lgoebel@centurytel.net Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs.

Contents copyright, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.

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