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PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERFrom left, Jett Ulaner Sarachek and Matthew Beniamino, Baum School of Art, Allentown, where their artwork made with iPhones is on display through Nov. 15. Copyright - © Ed Courrier PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERFrom left, Jett Ulaner Sarachek and Matthew Beniamino, Baum School of Art, Allentown, where their artwork made with iPhones is on display through Nov. 15. Copyright - © Ed Courrier

Baum School of Art gets smart with phone images

Monday, October 29, 2018 by Ed Courrier Special to The Press in Focus

“High Tech-Low Tech: Smart Phone Image Makers Matthew Beniamino and Jett Ulaner Sarachek” at the Baum School of Art features the work of an emerging Millennial artist and a veteran Baby Boomer photographer, with an opening reception talk, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1, and a closing reception, 6 - 8 p.m. Nov. 15, David E. Rodale and the Rodale Family Galleries, Baum School of Art, Allentown.

Sarachek began her career as a street photographer and photojournalist in the mid-1960s. The Moore College of Art & Design graduate experimented with alternative cameras such as pinhole, Diana and Holga, as well as alternative photograph processes.

She began exploring Apple iPhone photography by utilizing the Hipstamatic app. “In that app, I get to choose what lenses I want to use, I get to choose what film I want to use,” Sarachek says about shooting digital images that mimic film images taken with vintage cameras.

“When I take photographs, I look at everything as a work of art, a painting, rather than just capturing what I see in front of me,” says the artist.

Landscapes, still lifes, interiors, commuters, and street scenes are among Sarachek’s exhibited works. Her atmospheric “Painters” (archival pigment print, 12 in. x 12 in.) of artists participating in a plein-air painting workshop on the beach, was taken in Provincetown, Mass.

“It is not the camera, it is the artist behind the camera that makes a good photograph,” says Sarachek confidently.

Beniamino photographed fellow travelers while commuting by bus and train from his home in Fishtown, a Philadelphia neighborhood, to his job at a photo lab in center city Philadelphia.

“The commute was like an hour and a half when I started there,” says Beniamino, who decided to pass the time by surreptitiously taking digital shots of those around him with his iPhone.

Since Beniamino was looking for creative ways to deal with all that downtime, he discovered an app where he could download animal heads and place them digitally on the bodies of the commuters.

“In college, I worked with a lot of masks, like animal masks. I loved this idea of taking mundane, everyday things and making them just a little ‘off,’” says the artist.

“Owl” (chromogenic print, 12 in. x 12 in.) features a woman with a barn owl’s head using her cell phone. Beniamino edited this and others in his series with an app that blurs lines. He also utilizes Instagram’s editing tools.

“I usually work in film or historic processes. This is a big departure for me,” says Beniamino, who received a BA at Moravian College.

Baum School Gallery Director Kris Kotsch was one of Beniamino’s teachers at Moravian several years ago and she met Sarachek when Baum hosted a “Vision-Sound: Allentown’s ’80s Arts Scene Revisited” event in 2017.

“I was really fascinated that somebody of her generation and stature was using their smart phone to create art,” says Kotsch of Sarachek.

“Matthew, on the other hand ... I found his work humorous.” Although they both use iPhones to create art, “They are using this new technology differently, but it is the same tool,” says Kotsch.

The exhibit, sponsored by City Center Allentown and J.B. and Kathleen Reilly, is part of Lehigh Valley Photography Month of the InVision Photo Festival presented by ArtsQuest.

Baum School of Art, 510 Linden St., Allentown. Gallery hours: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday. baumschool.org; 610-433-0032