Staying in Focus
Why do people gravitate toward the Cape? Arguably it is the iconic images of this tiny spit of land that are responsible for making merely the mention of Cape Cod immediately recognizable for people around the globe. Lighthouses, unspoiled beaches with frothy waves washing them clean for eternity, foggy mornings on a still marsh or harbor; these are all the uniquely satisfying vistas people lean into. Therefore, when considering what to include when one is appointing a Cape house, the answer is right here. Not only outside our windows, but thankfully also on Main Street in Chatham. Focus Gallery has been offering curated, locally representational photography for over a decade. Owner and gallery director, Cindy Vallino was the sole artist in the early days of her gallery; today, Focus Gallery is home to eight talented artists, Vallino’s riveting close-ups of plants, shells and other sea life share the walls with work by Alison Shaw, Brian Skerry, Bryant Austin, Michael Kahn, David Hills, Michele Dragonetti and Stephen Lathrop. “I’ve curated all the artists we have here at Focus Gallery,” she explains. “It is a lot of work to represent somebody, and it is not a responsibility that I take lightly.” With the gallery’s limited wall space and commitment in terms of the time it takes to properly represent an artist, Focus Gallery rarely adds new artists. “Brain Skerry, a photojournalist who has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 1998, is our most recent addition as well as Michele Dragonetti, a photographer specializing in architecture and urban landscapes in addition to her popular Boat Hull series,” shares Vallino. “Alison Shaw, Stephen Lathrop, and Michael Kahn are probably the three artists we’ve had featured for the longest period of time at Focus Gallery, they have been with us pretty much since the beginning, so it really is a testament to how popular their work truly is.”
An awarded photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments, Brian Skerry continues to dive into the mysterious world under the sea. “My desire is to capture the magnificence / perfection of marine life so that others can gain an appreciation for their value to our planet.”
Inspired by her summers on Martha’s Vineyard, Alison Shaw of Alison Shaw Photography captures coastal scenes that she abstracts into contemporary works of fine art, using her camera to paint with light. Shaw continues to draw inspiration from her now permanent residence on the island.
As a photographer and a skilled print maker, Vallino creates the majority of Focus Gallery’s prints at her offsite studio, “We work with artists who either offer archival prints or we do the prints in-house,” she explains. “All of our prints are archivally produced with the highest quality papers and pigment ink; they really are the most highly-rated at this point for producing colored photographs. With the print being our product, we’re pretty picky about what we bring in,” says Vallino. “We do a lot of custom work, but we also have several standard sizes. If we need to adjust a size we start with the matting and framing, if necessary, we will do a print crop which prevents a printer cropping the original work of the artist.” She continues, “It really is important for us to work with the artist closely because we want them to understand how the final product is going to look. These are limited addition prints, so each run is a separate edition and with our printing being in house, we have quality control directly at our fingertips.”
A fine art photographer for over 25 years, Stephen Lathrop is what you would call a “deliberate” photographer. As he waits for just the right conditions to merge with the proper light, he captures the ever-changing moods of the sea in captivating detail.
With his 1950’s camera in tow, Michael Kahn photographs the world’s finest boats and seascapes. To this day, Kahn still capture everything on his film cameras, producing handmade photography in his darkroom that even landed him on Oprah.
Focus Gallery also offers corporate fine art consulting. “Clients usually find us through the gallery, and we will develop proposals for a few prints, or plan an entire building installation. Depending upon what the client is looking for, we are able to source work from artists, not just our own featured artists.” Working alongside corporate committees and teams, Focus Gallery’s art specialists have helped fit entire corporate buildings such as Mathworks, Rockland Trust Company, Lululemon Athletic and more with exceptionally produced art.
For the last 15 years, David Hills has captured the day-to-day activities of the commercial fishing industry. He shares, “When you get down to it, I love boats, water and fish.” Through his love of photography, he has been able to support our local fishermen.
In addition to their corporate consulting, Focus Gallery also works closely with designers, builders, and architects to fit homes with artwork that will provide major impact on the projects. With a 72-hour trial period, local clients are able to take a piece of art home to truly see how it works in their space, “Sometimes it really is a matter of taking it home and looking at it within the space,” shares Vallino. “We also create a Photoshop view of what the piece would look like in our client’s space, which is helpful for our long-distance clients.” With an almost a non-existent rate of return, Focus Gallery truly finds the right piece for a prospective space. “We have a lot of larger pieces at the gallery, so they need special shipping. At least 60% of what we sell we ship somewhere.” That somewhere includes significant client bases in New York, Florida and California. Vallino goes on to say, “We pretty much ship everywhere and we have clients from all over who have continued to source from us over the years, so it is important that the piece is the right fit.”
Michele Dragonetti specializes in architecture and urban landscapes, currently capturing abstract patterns with her Boat Hull series, she explains, “Photos in the ongoing series transform often humble vessels into abstract portraits, revealing their individual identity and experience and celebrating their imperfect appeal.”
As an acclaimed portrait photographer–of whales, Bryant Austin raises awareness of the incredible species through his breathtaking, often life-sized artwork. “They have this great mystery about them,” Austin says. “I want to inspire more people to be curious.”
Complementing the captivating images that command attention on the walls of the gallery, Vallino says that photography and “coffee table” books are also popular with her clients. Working directly with publishers, Focus has also brought in titles from photographers other than the ones represented, as well as books that highlight and benefit environmental conservation issues, “Which is kind of the gallery’s overall theme,” Vallino remarks. Undeniably, all of the photography at Focus Gallery represents a quintessential coastal feeling. And although the featured artists rarely rotate, each year the eight featured artists continue to bring new work in to keep the walls of the Chatham gallery fresh. Thankfully this year is no different for Focus Gallery, as the summer 2021 features new work, upcoming artist events, and the celebration at their Chatham location of the 11th anniversary.
To keep up with upcoming events visit thefocusgalleries.com/blog. Focus Gallery is located at 595 Main Street in Chatham. For more information or to place an order visit thefocusgalleries.com or call 508-348-1493.
Christina Galt is the editorial assistant/ digital coordinator for Cape Cod Life Publications.
Focus Gallery Events
- Brian Skerry ~ “Secrets of the Whales” Book signing event and new photographs from the whale series introduced. Tuesday, July 13 11:00 to 4:00. Advance purchase of books is recommended.
- Michele Dragonetti ~ Boat Hulls. Artist appearance in gallery. August 14; 1:00-5:00
- Bryant Austin ~ “Beautiful Whale” Book signing and gallery appearance. August 28 and 29; 10:00-5:00
- Michael Kahn ~ Book signing event and new photographs on display. September (Date TBD)
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