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Photography as Fine Art Examined

Camera in hand, anyone may imagine he or she is an artist.

In the digital age, photography has never been more accessible or easy. No messy chemicals or special darkrooms. No dodging and burning. All you need is a few megapixels of memory and a computer.

Some argue the digital camera has robbed photography of its artistry, while others contend it has merely opened up new avenues of expression.

That question is at the heart of Susquehanna Art Museum's latest exhibition, "Photography as Fine Art II." The exhibit features 54 works by Pennsylvania photographers, chosen from more than 200 submissions.

"Photography is considered a secondary medium by some in the art world who view it as more of a commercial craft than as fine art," said Corrine Topper, executive director of SAM.

While few dispute the artistry of photographers such as Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz, there is a debate about where to place photography on the spectrum of fine art.

SAM's exhibit sets no particular boundaries and includes traditional and avante-garde photography.

There are works captured on film, as well as digital images. Most are in color, but some are black and white. Quite a few have been manipulated in some way using software programs such as Photoshop.

For example, included in the exhibit is "Lunchtime at Lee's," taken inside a York County roadside diner by Camp Hill resident Donald Uvick.

Uvick used Photoshop to add isolated splashes of red to the monochromatic, 16-by-20-inch print, including the lone patron's shirt and several countertop ketchup bottles. The effect is striking.

Jeff Wiles of Chambersburg uses digital technology in his photos at the exhibit and in the works simultaneously on display at the Doshi Gallery in the exhibit, "Photo Fusion," which also opens today.

"Photography as Fine Art II" follows a 2005 show with the same theme at SAM.

Clyde McGeary, one of the museum's founders, was the driving force behind the first show, and he hopes photo exhibits become a regular event at SAM.

"We need a place in central Pennsylvania that is serious about providing a statewide venue for quality photography," McGeary said, "a place for people who are serious about what they are doing and are willing to submit their work and have it judged."

The current SAM exhibit was selected by Tom Beck, chief curator of University of Maryland's Kuhn Library and Gallery.

Beck will participate in a public symposium about photography Saturday morning at the museum. Joining him will be Patriot-News photographer Gary Dwight Miller and Harrisburg-based photographer Bryson Leidich.

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