The Barrister Fall 2017 - 16

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From My Perspective

Do you see what I see?

A REVIEW OF RETROSPECTIVE JOHN ELDER,
GOGGLEWORKS CENTER FOR THE ARTS
By John J. Duffy, III, Esquire

I

realize that what I am about to say
might appear to be counterintuitive,
particularly because I am not yet
past the first sentence of this article, but
please humor me with what might be
an exercise known to you. Close your
eyes for one minute. (Some might find
the closing of one's eyes to be salutary
regarding all of my writing). Are you
back? Good. Now be honest, if only with
yourself. If I had been with you while
your eyes were closed, would you have
been able to describe for me with any
particularity what is in front of, beside,
and behind you? Would you have been
able to tell me what the most prominent
color is in the area in which you are
reading this piece? Would you have been
able to relate any sound(s) that you heard,
and anything that your nose detected? If
your replies to most of these questions
would have been in the negative, I would
hope that you are not a detective.
Please continue to humor me. With
your eyes open, and with all of your
senses fully engaged, how effectively, and
in how much detail, can you respond
to those questions that I posed? What
do you see? Is there anything that you
observe, hear, or smell, upon increased
focus that you had not previously
noticed? Go to a place that is quite
familiar to you, should you not already
be in such a location, and perform this
exercise. Have you ever performed
such an exercise? If you had difficulty
answering those questions, or if you have

16 | Berks Barrister

never performed such an exercise,
I would suggest that you are not an artist.
I fear that we all routinely go through
much of every day neither perceiving
our environments. Should this be true,
a necessary and sad corollary would also
be true: we do not appreciate all that
our surroundings have to offer, whatever
their characteristics might be. These
statements are not applicable to the
photographer, and attorney, John Elder.
Riveting. Provocative. Poignant.
Intense. Disconcerting. These are some
of the primary adjectives that I would
use to describe the 80 photographs by
John Elder that I recently viewed, and
that were exhibited from September 2
to October 15, 2017, in Retrospective
John Elder at GoggleWorks in Cohen
Gallery East. All of the photographs,
which were identified as Untitled No. 1,
2, 3, and so on, were in black and white,
and according to information available
at the exhibition and online at the
GoggleWorks website, were silver gelatin
prints on fiber-based glossy paper.
Also available was John Elder's
Statement on Photography. In that
statement, Mr. Elder, who advised this
writer that he is a solo practitioner who
specializes in criminal-defense law,
and who is certified to defend capitalhomicide cases, sets forth his definition
of his photographic work. In summary,
he breaks that work down into four
categories: Street Photography; abstracts
taken on the street and not concerned

with the human condition; medium
format photography, which is inanimate
and somewhat abstract in nature; and
Portraiture, which is taken both in and
out of the studio.
The large and high-ceilinged Cohen
Gallery East provided an excellent
viewing space for these photographs,
and the arrangement of the prints
in that space afforded the viewer the
opportunity and ability to view those
prints, individually and comparatively,
in favorable lighting and in a conducive
ambience. In the space remaining in this
article, I hope to afford the reader not
only a review of this exhibition and my
insights into it, but also a suggestion.
As we proceed, please bear in mind
that I am not a photographer. There are
many activities that I do not do, and
photography is one of them. Should you
ever see me at a ballgame or a gathering
of some sort, and should you want a
picture taken of you and those with you,
you should not ask me to take it. Please
allow me to apologize in advance.
The photographs exhibited
portray a stark and searing realism.
They evoke reactions that range from
serious contemplation, reflection, and
introspection, to dark discomfort and
perceptual disruption. Some of those
street abstracts that depict concrete,
industrial structures, as well as Elder's
more abstract prints, might be included
in the latter category, but a few
photographs that depict, at least in part,


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The Barrister Fall 2017

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