By Julie Garisto, AliveTampaBay Correspondent
When we think of photos, we imagine people and places frozen in time. What we don’t always recognize is the subjective influence of the photographer who, more often than not, isn’t just a casual observer.
Among those reaching further through the lens to engage the viewer are Maria Bevilacqua and Amy Martz, photographers who blur the line between reality and interpretation and provide a unique sense of place by using vastly different approaches.
Both will be featured in the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts’ New Visions 2016: An Examination of Landscapes from Disparate Points of View. The annual exhibition opens this Friday from 6-8 p.m. with a reception at the museum, located inside Ashley Drive’s cube building (next door to downtown Tampa’s iconic, cylindrical “beer can building”). Admission is free, but a donation to the museum is requested.
The opening reception at FMoPA includes wine, appetizers and artist talks from Martz and Bevilacqua at 6 p.m.
Each year, New Visions spotlights emerging locals, and the 2016 show gives us the complementary photography of two women who bring locations into focus at both the macro level (Bevilacqua) and micro level (Martz). Bevilacqua, who’s visited and lived in cities across the U.S. and on both sides of the Atlantic, beckons with surreal views of majestic landscapes and city scenes. Martz, an active participant in Tampa preservation and arts culture, zooms in on local architecture with an eye for detail, shape, color and accents, all the while using minimal Photoshop manipulation. A lifelong painter, she says her works have been described as having a “painterly” look.
Purists will appreciate what Bevilacqua accomplishes using film and shooting with an antique Holga toy camera instead of DSLRs and digital post-production work.
The Pittsburgh native studied art history, drawing and Italian in Lucca, Italy, near Florence. A protégée of photography legend and fellow Pittsburgh native Duane Michals, Bevilacqua received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in drawing and printmaking with a minor in communications. She is currently pursuing an MFA in photography and is the recipient of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art Exhibition Award. Bevilacqua now lives and works in Tampa, where she is the director of Creative Marketing for MaintenX.
“I love storytelling,” Bevilacqua says. “But whenever it comes to doing film-based photography, you don’t get to see immediately what you’re looking at. I often feel like I’m completely connected to the camera, the film, and there’s this lag time until the time you see what you’ve done and you sort of apply the situation you’re in or history that you’re in to that work. A lot of this is mysterious, like magic to me.”
Bevilacqua achieves her stunning overlapping imagery with movement while advancing the photo. The result is unsettling and oftentimes otherworldly, especially “The Painted Desert,” a desert of the badlands in the Four Corners area running from the east end of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
“The first moment I saw Maria’s photos, I thought the reminded me of something from a dream and had the same quieting affect on my busy brain that shooting does for me,” Martz said of her collaborator’s works in New Visions.
Bevilacqua expresses more enthusiasm about the subtext of her images and what viewers glean from her them rather than attempting to assign meaning to her imagery or explain the happy accidents that occur while using a toy camera. Using Holgas can be tricky — they are fragile and must be sealed with tape and stored in a dark bag.
“There seems to be a secret there,” Bevilacqua muses. “There are things that are hidden and revealed. We have a hard time seeing ourselves. It takes a marinating or maturation process to get to that understanding of where we are and what’s going on.”
Alternately, Martz uses a DSLR. Though she has no formal training, her skill level has attracted the recognition of local artists and academics who have taken note of her aesthetic prowess. She won the 2014 Best of the Bay critics’ pick award for Best Hotel Art for her Tampa Discovery Moments art collection, featured by four-star hotelier Le Méridien Tampa.
A USF grad born in Pensacola, Martz worked in advertising sales before giving up the corporate grind to run Martz Creative with husband Michael (and be a mom to 5-year-old Myla). Her photos can be found in commercial and private collections worldwide, as well as the City of Tampa’s permanent artwork collection.
“Amy’s work is interesting because it requires you to look again at the mundane and find something unique and special,” Bevilacqua says.
Martz points out, on closer observation, that the building accents we find commonplace are actually fascinating artistic statements made by accomplished architects. In this spirit, Martz seizes on interesting cornices, moulding and other flourishes that others don’t take time to notice — and she captures them with the an eye for lighting and unique angles. She has shot higher learning institutions that range from the vintage to contemporary, from USF-Tampa and the University of Tampa to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Florida Southern College, the newer Florida Polytechnic University and Parsons School of Design’s New School in New York
“Architecture in general is the perfect combination of logic and creativity,” Martz says. “I love figuring out why an architect put a certain design element into play and what magic it has in relation to the space. It’s difficult to describe, I am very fast paced, high energy, but when I come across certain design elements they make me pause. I literally feel the space and get a special feeling of intrigue that makes me want to stay and photograph that detail longer.”
Both artists say serendipity plays a big role in determining if a work is a success.
“The initial taking of the photograph is only about a third of the final work,” Martz says. “I never know if it’s going to work, or if it’s going to look good, or really what the final is going to look like until I get into the editing phase. Each stage of the process is like opening up a present.”
New Visions takes place in conjunction with Tampa’s Fourth Friday downtown Tampa arts stroll. Fourth Friday also features after-hours events at the Tampa Museum of Art (TMA), Tampa Bay History Center, outdoors on the RiverWalk and nearby participating restaurants that offer specials for patrons during the event.
There are nine cultural attractions and more than 20 restaurants participating. The Pirate Water Taxi provides up to two complimentary rides for patrons of the participating cultural attractions, identified by a wristband. The restaurant deals are serve those sporting wristbands. New this month: TMA will be open until 10 p.m. for Fourth Friday by popular demand. (Visit fourthfridaytampa.com for more details.)
If you can’t make it to the opening reception, admission is free by becoming a FMoPA member or for students during regular museum hours. General admission is $10. A closing event for New Visions will take place during the Fourth Friday on July 22 from 4 to 7 p.m., with artist talk scheduled at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Find out more at fmopa.org.
“Lights and Action” by Amy Martz. Lincoln Center, New York, New York.
Julie Garisto is a correspondent for AliveTampaBay.