Cape Cod Home / Early Summer 2012 / Art & Entertainment, History, People & Businesses, Recreation & Activities
Writer: Rob Conery / Photographer: Cedar Hickey and Susan Paradise Burke
The Photography Center of Cape Cod gives guidance to a congregation of camera clickers on Route 6A.
The days when photographers would expose, develop, process, stop-bath, and drip-dry paper just to see a single print are mostly gone. But while the techniques required to draw exposures from film are easing into antiquity, the craft of photography on Cape Cod is perhaps more popular than ever. “With the light and the scenes available, we have opportunities here on Cape Cod that you just can’t find anywhere else,” says Roberta Miller, president of the Cape Cod Art Association. “We are seeking to share that with a larger audience.”
Enter the Photography Center of Cape Cod, an auxiliary of the Cape Cod Art Association that opened inside its Route 6A headquarters in Barnstable last year. The center provides aspiring and veteran photographers with the exhibit space, galleries, organized activities, and workshops on a scale rarely seen in the camera clubs that came before. “We realized there are hundreds and hundreds of photographers on the Cape, and there weren’t too many courses being offered in the area,” says Miller.
Yet this critical mass of photographers in the region was already embracing the latest technology. Miller estimates that 90 percent of the photography they hang is digital. By not relying on messy emulsion films, photographers are able to shoot more freely. “It’s become a really adventurous medium,” Miller says.
John Tunney, an award-winning photographer who teaches classes at the center and sits on the association’s steering committee, says, “Today’s cameras and software give photographers the same freedom that painters have to control tone, color, composition, and all the other elements of an image.”
The Cape Cod Art Association has always represented artists in a variety of media, from watercolorists to sculptors. “We aim to be inclusive,” says Miller. Dr. Fritz Talbot, a pediatrician from Boston who summered in Osterville, founded the CCAA along with several local painters in 1948 with the hopes of using the space as a gallery for their work. Over the years, its membership swelled to a current tally of 1,100, most of whom are juried members. Each is allowed to submit two pieces annually for display, and everything hung is for sale.
After a series of moves from its original grounds on Main Street in Hyannis, the association moved to Route 6A in Barnstable Village in 1972. With donated land from what was once the Bacon Farm Inn by owner Ensio Rapo, fundraising efforts, and the goodwill of members and neighbors, they were able to construct a permanent home with a wood-sided, modern design that, Miller allows, would probably not have been permissible with today’s tighter building codes. The grounds are dotted with sculptures and understatedly lush landscaping; the wings soar and look more like a contemporary beach house than a stolid museum. Inside, the wide-pine board floors and rough-hewn ceiling beams are augmented with natural light that seeps through an opaque skylight.
While supervisers scout for a separate location for photographers, the Photography Center of Cape Cod has made its home inside the Cape Cod Art Association. The center is still in its fledgling state: students bring their own laptops and classes are held wherever there is room within the CCAA building. But thanks to grants and contributions from art organizations like the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth and The Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as a host of private contributors, the center offers an opportunity for photographers to realize their own potential—and capture the irreplaceable scenery of Cape Cod.
The array of classes and workshops offered by the PCCC, would be the envy of far more established organizations, which covers an assortment of subject matter under a variety of conditions. Workshops offered this year include “The Art of Landscape Photography” and “Provincetown: Seeing More Than Meets the Eye” with Bob Singer and John Tunney. The center’s popular PhotoWalk and PhotoTour programs, in which students visit several locations around the Cape in one day and shoot under the auspices of a professional photographer, are conducted throughout the summer.
John Tunney, one of the group leaders, is excited to get started. “I enjoy teaching, helping people go from taking pictures to making photographs,” he says. Instructors and tour leaders this year also include Rhode Island School of Design professor of photographer Henry Horenstein, artist Bob Singer, and Shiv Verma, chairman of the Nature Division of the Photographic Society of America.
One of the core aims of the center is unlocking the talent hidden in amateur photographers. Last May, the Cotuit Center for the Arts presented “Anything Goes,” an exhibition that complemented a play of the same name held at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. (On July 28, photographers from the center return to the CCAA for “The Big Picture,” an exhibition featuring large-scale prints measuring 24 inches by 30 inches or larger.) Featured photographers included a pool of seasoned veterans from around the country. Yet among the show’s winners was Cedar Hickey, a junior high student from Sandwich who had taken Tunney’s Introduction to Photography course through the center. A three-judge panel voted her submission second-best overall. It’s one accolade that illustrates something more: as its students’ shutters pop open and snap closed again, the fruits of the Photography Center of Cape Cod come into focus.
Editorial intern Matt Nilsson contributed to this story.