Fellowship 15 honors two photographers

By: Sean Ray | The Duquesne Duke

Feeling in the mood for some photographic art? Then the Silver Eye Center for Photography in South Side may have you covered. From Jan. 16 to March 21, the Center will be holding its annual Fellowship 15, featuring exhibitions from Christopher Meerdo of Chicago and Matthew Conboy of Pittsburgh. The two were chosen after winning the Center’s International Award and Keystone Award respectively.

The exhibition features a number of photographs from both artists, as well as two videos, though one of the videos is very unique. A series of flashing colors play while the viewer wears headphones and listens to music as the colors flash by. The second video is more straightforward, but very thought provoking, displaying a range of images from protests around the world.

The photos range from scenic landscape shots to some more experimental ones, like a series of photos by Meerdo that are made up of recovered data from thrown out video cards. Many of the photos are very abstract, such as a few in which a reflective sheet of metal is put in the center of several scenic landscape shots.

Locations of the photos vary greatly as well, whether they be a waterfall, a skate park or simply a bonfire in the middle of a field.

Courtesy of Silver Eye Center - Attendees come together for Saturday's Fellowship 15 photography exhibit

Courtesy of Silver Eye Center – Attendees come together for Saturday’s Fellowship 15 photography exhibit

When asked about where his interest in photography first came about, Meerdo said it first sprung up when he was an undergrad, inheriting a camera from his grandfather, which he still owns. Conboy’s interest also first came about as an undergrad, and he remembers begging a teacher to let him stay in a photography class that had filled up.

Conboy cited W. Eugene Smith as a major influence on his photography style. Smith was well known for taking photo essays of Pittsburgh, something Conboy also does.

“I like landscapes a lot … really flowing landscapes,” Conboy said. “I think my theme is looking at the correlation between people and landscapes and how those connect.”

He further brought up his positive experience of being an artist in Pittsburgh.

“There [were] so many opportunities and possibilities, it can be daunting,” Conboy said. “We can’t think Pittsburgh is small when it comes to art. It can challenge other art centers and supports its artists.”

Christopher Meerdo, however, takes his inspiration from a very different place.

“I derive my influence from things that are happening in news cycles and things that are happening on the Internet in terms of memetic culture,” Meerdo said. He further stated that he got a lot of inspiration from his fellow artists as he collaborates with the Chicago art community a lot.

Meerdo said that his art generally does not have one unifying message or theme. Instead, the message changes from project to project.

“There are five projects here with different aims,” Meerdo said. “Some are more political, some are conceptual and some are formal.”

Meerdo also gave some very unique advice when asked what he would say to aspiring photographers.

“Spend a year not taking photos,” Meerdo said. “I think it is an important practice. Photographers should spend time writing or making something else. Investigate other disciplines.”

The Center hosts three to five exhibits per years and is open every week from Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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