Fast learners

Courtesy of Heidi Lender

“Photographer” is one of Heidi Lender’s abstract self-portraits on display in a joint exhibition with Brooke Shaden at the Open Shutter Gallery to premiere today.

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

Open Shutter Gallery is showing its range again.

The photo-only venue is home to legendary names in the business such as McCurry, Gould and Harvey, but it’s also a springboard for up-and-comers, locals and anyone who displays a flair behind the lens. That’s how “Abstract Potraiture,” featuring the fine-art shots of Californians Heidi Lender and Brooke Shaden, came to be. The exhibit opens today.

The world of fine art photography is a small one, relatively speaking, and gallery manager Brandon Donahue said he discovered Shaden’s work in a trade publication. When he saw she was sharing an exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles with Jerry Uelsmann, of whom Donahue is a fan, he and owner Margy Dudley invited her to show at Open Shutter.

“They were describing Brooke and her work as similar to Jerry’s, but with a contemporary style and modern processes,” Donahue said.

“Margy and I spoke about it, and Margy called Brooke. As with so many of our photographers, Brooke was incredibly friendly and enthusiastic and we started planning the show.”

Shaden, like Lender, has been working professionally for only about three years, yet the quality of both’s work defies their inexperience. Shaden graduated from Temple University with a film and English degree and moved to Southern California, where she soon opted for still over moving pictures.

“I never had an interest in photography. I was more into writing, but I wanted to get my ideas out, and didn’t have a film to stand on to go to Hollywood,” she said.

“I decided to pick up a digital camera and get my ideas out that way by pushing everything I could into a photograph. Now, it’s my full-time main obsession and passion.”

Both artists add an abstract, surreal touch to their digital photography through the use of image composition and manipulation and both favor self-portraits, as well. The resulting exhibition has a fantasy, almost fairy-tale feel to it, though some shots are almost creepy in their darkness and manipulation but a nice creepy.

Donahue said the Open Shutter staff first learned of Lender’s work during their 2010 International Juried Show, “Exposure,” after she was recommended by photographer Suzi McGregor.

“When we can, we like to split a show with two photographers whose work is complimentary but not competitive with each other, and we immediately thought of Heidi,” Donahue said. “We’d been looking for an opportunity to exhibit Heidi’s work and found the perfect fit with Brooke Shaden.”

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