Photography is an art; it takes time, energy and countless bouts of trial and error to master. It can also take years to develop a distinctive style, something that, when others see it, immediately know it’s your work they’re viewing. Some photographers never get to that point.
Others get there virtually overnight.
Joel Adams, a photography sophomore at UAA, is currently featuring his blend of photography and graphic design in UAA’s Student Union Gallery, and he’s only been at it for about a year and a half.
“[It’s] my first solo show at a real gallery; I’ve had a couple of First Fridays … one was in a bar and another was in a tattoo shop. So, it was nice,;they were great venues and a good way to get started, but when it has ‘gallery’ in the title I feel a lot better,” said. Adams.
Adams has gained notoriety in Anchorage by photographing local musicians, but it’s what he does after the shutter snaps that makes his work unique. Instead of making the standard edits to his photos, such as cleaning up noise and altering the exposure to more clearly show the images, he transforms them into a graphics, giving them a comic book like feel and appearance. He does this to varying degrees, depending on the photo series he is doing; his band portraits, for instance, typically feature portions of genuine photography fading into the graphic style.
“The style kind of started for an assignment in Garry Mealor’s drawing class,” said Adams. “At one point we had to do linoleum prints, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. All I knew was that it had to be totally white and totally black, so I just went on Photoshop and took a picture of my little brother’s arm and ended up doing something that looks similar to this [his gallery work].”
His gallery show, called “Twist/Volume/Edge,” consists of three different series. “Twist” is a detective tale gone wrong, shown through photos that serve as a storyboard, “Volume” is a series of band photos he has taken and altered and “Edge” consists of edited photos of local models in various poses. Combined, there are 60 images in the show, though there were supposed to be 80.
“I actually ran out of ink; I couldn’t print any more … and nobody else in town prints the size I need,” said Adams. “I actually bought out every one of those 13×19 frames in Anchorage, and I had to special order 50 more.”
One of those missing images is of Younger Oliver, a junior English major at UAA. Oliver’s portrait, and the other 19 that weren’t printed in time for the SU Gallery show, will be on display in Adams’s next show at the Avenue Bar downtown in September.
While Oliver is disappointed that she won’t be able to see the next show because she is underage and unable to get into the venue, she says her modeling experience with Adams was an enjoyable one that she wouldn’t mind repeating.
“He’s fun to shoot with and he makes you feel comfortable,” said Oliver. “I don’t model, so when I made a mistake he would laugh, but not in a mean way. He’d tell me what to do to get the shot he wanted; he was good at directing me.”
Adams explains that his models all seem to get excited when they see and hear about what he does with the photos, despite the fact that there is a lot of editing involved. And when asked when a photo ceases to be a photo and instead becomes a graphic due to the amount of editing that goes into it, Adams is firm.
“When you can’t see the original photo anymore,” he said, “that’s when it turns into a graphic — when you can’t see the original.”
“Twist/Volume/Edge” will be showing at the Student Union Gallery until Wednesday, August 5 during regular gallery hours. For more information about Joel Adams, visit him online at: www.facebook.com/joeladamsphotography.