Photographer Peter Alan Monroe opens his vault to reveal a treasure trove of vintage images
Signs [Volume I, 1977 to 2015]: New and vintage photographic prints by Peter Alan Monroe, curated by Kate Hunter, on view at The Greenfield Gallery, June 21 through August 10. Artist reception Friday, June 28, 6 to 8 p.m.
Turners Falls photographer Peter Alan Monroe is an old-school darkroom photographer. He loves the technical side of printing—experimenting with darkroom chemicals and perfecting the tonal qualities of prints—almost more than he likes taking pictures. These days, with the advent of digital photography, he doesn’t take many pictures at all.
Luckily—for Monroe and for us—he has decades worth of black and white and color negatives taken from the 1970s on that he has begun to explore with the help of photographer and master printer, Kate Hunter.
Monroe’s new exhibit, Signs [Volume I, 1977 to 2015], treats the viewer to a collection of new and vintage prints gathered under the theme of signage. Curated, and in many cases digitally printed by Hunter, the exhibit offers a glimpse into Monroe’s vault, bringing to life images that have never been printed before. Some vintage prints Monroe made when he still had a working darkroom will be included as well.
The exhibit runs Friday, June 21 through Saturday, August 10, with an artist’s reception Friday, June 28, 6 to 8 p.m. at The Greenfield Gallery, 231 Main Street.
Most of the images were taken in the 1970s and ‘80s. “When I look at these pictures, I don’t feel any time has passed,” Monroe says. “That was my era. It feels just like yesterday.” Noting that young people think of that time period as “ancient history,” Monroe says, “I’m sort of the ambassador to a portal to a vanished world.”
Monroe has always been interested in the cultural aspect of signs. He appreciates the unknown artists who hand-painted them or the graphic designer who chose the fonts. He photographed many of the signs at Coney Island, which he describes as a “sign-lover’s paradise,” but locals will recognize the old Swift Cleaner’s sign that reigned over the far end of Main Street until about 2015.
As Monroe and Hunter sort through his negatives, scanning and printing them, they are compiling other collections. Monroe lists several: “Men Who Still Wear Fedoras, Hotels that Still Advertise They Have Color TV, Old Movie Palaces,” and one he calls “Greenfield Cut-outs,” which features photos of old newspapers given to him by a neighbor. Each collection is augmented by Monroe’s written notes and narratives, and Monroe and Hunter plan to mount an exhibit and a book for each one. Pre-orders for the book Signs [Volume 1, 1977 to 2015], which will include additional images to those in the show, will be taken at the Greenfield Gallery.
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