Photography Student’s NY Show Transforms Books Into Still Lifes

When James Boeding ’14 was back home in Millerton, N.Y. for the summer, he walked into a downtown art gallery without any prior notice and told gallery owner Deborah Kendig he wanted to show her his portfolio of photographs.

“He walked in off the street, which takes a lot of hutzpah,” Kendig said. “It takes a lot of nerve for an artist to do that.”

But Kendig makes a point of nurturing emerging artists, so she invited Boeding to show her what he had. “I was sitting here, and James started pulling out of his prints, and it just knocked my socks off. Because the whole collection – there’s no question it’s art. I said, ‘Lets have a show.’”

‬The show, Book Play, opened June 29 and has been positively received, with prints continuing to sell steadily, according to Kendig. The collection includes 13 prints of “books as art,” the gallery announcement says, and will be up until the end of August.

”Originally I was fascinated by the camera’s ability to capture a moment in the world, and preserve it as a new object. I began taking pictures for artistic purposes during my first year in college. Since then I have developed a different approach to the camera and its abilities.I am less fascinated by its ability to capture moments and more interested in using it as a simple tool to capture what I want to create. When I am photographing, there is an end-goal in mind behind the camera that I visualize and work towards. The element of control over composition, color, and perspective is especially important to me in my work.”

Boeding created the photographs last spring for a photography seminar with Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Meggan Gould. The idea began when Boeding decided to photograph books in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library (where he had a work-study job), and picked up momentum as he experimented with combining books with different backgrounds. He says he was also inspired by the work of Abelardo Morell, who graduated from Bowdoin in 1971, as well as by artist Mary Ellen Bartley.

The responses Boeding received from friends and family to his photos helped him drum up the confidence to approach Kendig. “I was really happy with these, and everyone else was interested and excited about them. They’d say things like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this before’,” he said. But he didn’t quite know what to expect.

Kendig says Boeding’s compositions and use of color show off his skillful eye. “And bibliophiles, when they come in, just go nuts,” she added.

Boeding says he was particularly touched by the reaction of one woman who approached Boeding during the opening to thank him. “She said that she had stopped taking photographs because she got bored or frustrated. She told me she was inspired to look with a new eye and take out her camera again,” he said.

At Bowdoin, Boeding is a double major in visual arts and government and legal studies. This summer, he has an internship with the New York City Department of Small Business Services in New York City, and is making a two-hour train ride into the Manhattan every Monday, returning to Millerton on Thursday. This commute has inspired another photography project, for which he was awarded a McKee Photography grant from Bowdoin to pursue this summer. “I’m documenting the changing space around me, which becomes a study of the weekender, the city and the country, an urban environment versus the rural,” he explained.

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