Photographic art, both high and low, in Midtown exhibitions

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
"Penalty Box" by John Dykstra in the Scarab Club's "2018 Photography Competition," closing Nov. 17.

Two Midtown photo exhibitions right across the street from one another beckon invitingly on this first wintry weekend. 

The annual photography show at Detroit's Scarab Club and "Lost & Found," with work by ordinary citizens at the Detroit Institute of Arts, illustrate the medium's range -- from artistic finesse to the punch and power of spontaneous snapshots. 

Scarab's "2018 Photography Competition" will be up through Nov. 17. "Lost & Found" will close March 3.

Taking the former first, this exhibition in the venerable art club's airy first-floor gallery makes for a highly enjoyable walk-through, with images that include urban landscapes, photographic abstracts, and portraiture. 

Kate Gowman's "Tae" took first place in the Scarab Club's annual photo competition.

"I’m a little less interested in straightforward photography," said Wayne State photography Prof. Millee Tibbs, who juried the show, "and more interested in images that ask questions, are a little more poetic, or deal with the materiality in an interesting way."  

That's certainly the case with John Dykstra's intriguing black-and-white "Penalty Box," in which a crouching man is drawing the white outlines of a cube that appears to box him in. 

By contrast, the first-place winner, "Tae" by Kate Gowman, reads like a no-nonsense color portrait, but one in which Tibbs saw unexpected force. 

" 'I felt the subject was really giving it back to the photographer in a powerful way," she said, "and that the portrait's large scale made it a really compelling image."

Elegant and a little haunting is "The Pear" by Darrell Ellis, who used to work at The Detroit News. In this image, a black woman with gleaming skin holds a white pear that appears to be made out of glass. 

"The Pear" by Darrell Ellis in the Scarab Club's "2018 Photography Competition," closing Nov. 17.

Ellis took an honorable mention for another portrait, "Olusike # 3," but "The Pear" is an equally striking exercise in tonality and contrast. 

Other prize-winners include second-place Chris Bennett and Antonia Stoyanovich in third. Three honorable mentions went to Jerry Basierbe, Daniella Gobetti and Ellis.

With "Lost & Found," the DIA presents about 200 photographs from 1865-1980 by anonymous photographers, or lesser-known practitioners, all discovered after being discarded and donated by collectors and artists to the museum.

“Untitled (Group Portrait with Cameras, Belle Isle Conservatory, Detroit),” around 1970, attributed to Allen Stross at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

As the wall label summarizing "The Found Photograph" notes, these amount to a sort of folk art -- "the creative expressions of everyday people produced outside of the rules and traditions of fine or high art."

It's a dizzying, absorbing array, from the huge, opening shot that greets you of a young couple a split second from a kiss, "Untitled" (attributed to Allen Stross), to a charmingly routine shot of a woman in a straw hat with one hand on her 1960s Dodge Dart or Plymouth Valiant, again by an unknown shooter. 

“Untitled (Portrait of a Woman in a Pink Sweater with a White Automobile),” around 1950–60, Unknown photographer, in "Lost and Found" at the DIA.

One of the most delightful early photos is a 1915 untitled shot by Wendall Hotter of "Herbert Hotter and Girlfriends, Detroit," in which four amused women stand in a line, all leaning against Mr. Hotter, who looks mighty pleased. 

Also highly entertaining is a series of pictures, "Are We There Yet? Snapshots from the Road," the high point of which is a little boy between his parents in a 1950s-era car who's turned around to face the photographer in the backseat.

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy


'2018 Photography Competition'

Through Nov. 17

Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth, Detroit

Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun. 


(313) 831-1250


'Lost & Found: Photographs from the DIA's Collection'

Through Mar. 3 

Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit

9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Thurs; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 

$14, adults; $9, seniors; $8, college students; $6, kids 6-17; free, members and Wayne, Oakland or Macomb residents

(313) 833-7900