A collection of city scenes constitute ‘Streetwise’ at the A Gallery

Photo by Monina von Opel

Seeking a bit of an urban outlook after a summer on the Vineyard? Check out A Gallery‘s latest show, “Streetwise,” on exhibit from Sept. 2 to 22, with the opening reception at 5 pm on Saturday, Sept. 2. The show is devoted exclusively to images of cities — primarily New York.

The exhibit will feature the work of four photographers and one artist working in charcoal. Of the photographers, only Christopher Wright has shown his work on-Island before. The other three, Monina von Opel, Allen Look, and Amy Upton, are new to the Vineyard art scene, although all have been shooting for years.

Street photographer Monina von Opel splits her time between New York and Martha’s Vineyard. While walking the streets of New York City she has found herself attracted to unusual images — not your typical cityscapes. Her selection of photos in the show includes images of bus stop ads, signs in windows, and even bits of debris.

“I did a workshop with Alison Shaw and I learned so much, but I found that I wasn’t interested in beaches and boats and sunsets,” says Ms. von Opel.

Instead, the amateur photographer has turned her eye to the small details of city life. Trash, for instance. In her artist statement, Ms. von Opel writes, “New York shamelessly shows her underbelly … providing heaps of visual treats … IF you look and listen, the streets speak. Wandering the concrete canyons I find treasures nobody else seems interested in — a strip of plastic on a crosswalk on 57th Street, the bizarre antics of a schoolgirl in a recycling pile, or even just a lost notebook.”

“I really like to walk around New York and think,” says Ms. von Opel. “It’s just endlessly interesting to me what I see around the city — so eclectic and unexpected.”

Allen Look, who can trace his Island roots back to the 17th century, has been stockpiling photos since the 1960s. Only recently did he embark on a mission to transfer old 35mm negatives to digital files. The selection of prints found in A Gallery’s show are all urban images spanning the globe from New York and Boston to Paris and Tangiers.

Mr. Look was born and raised in New York City, and many of his photos were taken there. In 1972, though, he traveled to Europe to take part in the delivery of a boat from “Gibraltar to Menemsha,” as he puts it. His black-and-white images from Spain and Morocco are fascinating snapshots of life in another culture. Clearly Mr. Look is interested in visual storytelling. Describing one of his photos in his artist’s statement he writes, “An ancient man walks with a cane, his back to us, along an ancient waterfront formed by quays bespeckled by a measure of time that echoes through the battlement walls rising above him; the harbor bound by a hillside of terraced husbandry, descending to a cluster of township, along a roadway carrying a bus.”

—Allen Look

The Island Images gallery in Oak Bluffs recently hosted a show of Mr. Look’s contemporary images from Vietnam. These two shows have launched what the photographer hopes to be a third career. Although he worked for most of his life in construction as a project manager, Mr. Look began as a filmmaker, and he ran a film production company on-Island for a number of years. During the ’70s and ’80s he shot a lot of video documenting the people and the culture of the Island. He is now working on transferring that footage and putting together a series of films examining Island life.

Amy Upton studied photography before starting a business and raising a family on the Island. However, she has maintained her original passion, and has been shooting all along. In her urban views she focuses less on people and more on captivatingly haunting scenarios like the interior of an abandoned mental institution and a dumpster on a lonely side street. She shoots in black-and-white, and has contributed a number of her gritty gelatin silver prints to the show’s selection.

Christopher Wright has been represented by A Gallery for a number of years. In contrast to the other artists in the current show, Mr. Wright shoots in large format in color, and his subjects are more traditional cityscapes than the work of the others. He loves to shoot New York at night, using a process that beautifully captures the lights, the activity, and the vibrant colors of the city alive with nocturnal energy.

The one nonphotographer featured in the show, Chris Weller, creates highly realistic charcoal drawings of New York City. With her most recent work she has been capturing the seven bridges connecting New York to the various boroughs. However, what she is showing at A Gallery is a series of sketches she calls “D Train Doodles.” During her travels back and forth between her Manhattan apartment and her studio in Brooklyn, Ms. Weller sketches passengers on the subway. She catches people reading, sleeping, looking at their phones, or just sitting quietly.

“I’ve always found it a nice informal snapshot way to look at the city,” says the artist. “Ninety-eight percent of the people don’t even know they’re being drawn.”

Ms. Weller has participated in many group and solo shows in New York City and Michigan; this will be her first time exhibiting on the Vineyard.

Other participants in the “Streetwise” show include Tara Rose Macuch, Doris Lubell, Mariana Cook, and Harry Seymour, working in various mediums. “Streetwise” is the final show of A Gallery’s summer season, although the space will be open and presenting new work throughout the fall.