Matt DeZee, the Members’ Gallery coordinator at Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts, had an idea for an exhibit back in 2020. The COVID onslaught and coordinating the moving parts took time.
“I usually put out notifications for galleries two months in advance. For this, I put it nine months in advance because I knew it would take a while for a group to get together and decide they wanted to do it,” he said.
DeZee’s idea was to have teams of five photographers each choose destinations and themes for themselves. The photographers would then set out to somehow illustrate their team’s theme or capture something interesting at the chosen destination.
In time, the groups did the work, and Fritzi Newton, Lee Cochrane, Norma Woodward, Penny A. Parrish and Sue Henderson—who came to call themselves “Women’s Eyes”—earned space in the exhibit at the center’s Members’ Gallery through Oct. 29.
Women’s Eyes chose Fredericksburg’s A. Smith Bowman Distillery as the place to start.
“They were willing to do a tour that day just for us,” Parrish said of the distillery staff. “It was a very open space and we figured it was local and a very interesting place that has all kinds of possibilities.”
“They let us see all kinds of different rooms and gave us a tour guide. She knew that we didn’t need a ton of details on Bowman. We were a tour with a different purpose, a tour who see things through a camera lens rather than learn about making bourbon,” Parrish said. “It was interesting for us, and I think it was interesting for her to see what we ended up with.”
Women’s Eyes submitted photos from the distillery for judging and came in as the top team among the three teams that accepted DeZee’s challenge.
“Once we were told that our entry, which was Smith Bowman, was chosen for the show, then we met to choose our other topics,” Parrish said.
Women’s Eyes chosen topics and destinations included the Rappahannock River; Fredericksburg at Night; Gatherings; May 18, 2021; and the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar–Hazy Center.
Gatherings produced photos of people, fungi on a log and barstools in Paris.
“Whenever we saw things, people, items, plants, whatever, gathered together, we all came up with very different takes,” Parrish said. “Gatherings was fun for some and challenging for others.”
Parrish said she thinks the photos from the Udvar–Hazy Center turned out the best.
“I think the most creative ones are from Udvar–Hazy. The satellites hanging above the shuttle—people played with some of those and came out with incredible images,” said Parrish, who is also president of Brush Strokes Gallery.
DeZee said the assignment came out of years of watching photographers and marveling that each would interpret the same scene or subject so differently.
“Over the years, I’ve noticed with photographers—having attended workshops with fellow photographers—everyone has a different vision when they look at something. You could take 10 different photographers and put them literally within three feet of each other and they would each create something different,” DeZee said. “I thought it would be really interesting for people who come to FCCA to really see how each individual sees things differently.”
Parrish said the work was rewarding, but there was some pressure.
“You knew you were going to be with a group of fellow photographers who are outstanding in their field, so trying to get something that was interesting, of quality, worthy of FCCA and would make your fellow photographers proud, that was a real challenge,” Parrish said.
DeZee said the concept had never been tried at the gallery, but he thinks things worked out.
“I think they look very good,” DeZee said of the group of 30 photographs. “It’s going to be a really interesting exhibit. I think this is one of the most unique ones we’ve had in the Members’ Gallery. I think it’s going to be talked about for some time.”