CHARLES TOWN – Making a standard portrait doesn’t hold any allure for Frank Robbins.
For his new exhibit,“Artists and Artisans,” he sought to create one-of-a-kind environmental photographs of 20 of Jefferson County’s most creative residents.
The 66-year-old self-trained photographer, whose work has been published in several magazines and in The Washington Post, said he hopes his portraits help residents see some of the county’s artists in a new way.
“I didn’t want the clichéd artist-at-the-easel photo,” Robbins said. “I wanted to collaborate with each
artist to create something unexpected, something original.”
Robbins’ show debuts Thursday at the Firehouse Gallery inside the Charles Town Visitors Center. An opening reception, happening from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, is open to anyone.
Although Robbins, who has lived just outside of Harpers Ferry for a decade, is known for his preference for film rather than digital photography and for favoring black-and-white images over color ones, making “Artists and Artisans” took him in new directions.
“Color is so much of what so many of these artists create – I realized it just wouldn’t be right to create portraits where the color was stripped out,” said Robbins, a University of Maryland grad who worked for the federal government in D.C. for 34 years, including serving as training director for the Naval Research Lab.
To get just the shots he wanted, Robbins said he spent time with the artists in their studios to see how they work. He also took preliminary snapshots and then studied them at home to figure out how best to capture each artist’s spirit and work.
Two of Robbins’ subjects for the exhibition aren’t conventional artists, but creative types nonetheless: fur trapper Catfish Apperson and blacksmith Eric Johnson.
Others who posed for Robbins are more traditional. They include potters Joy Bridy and Pam Parziale; muralist/painter Jim Shumate; mixed-media artist Becca Jones; painter Doug Kinnett; furniture artist Judy Rand; sculptor Gil Garcia; graphic artist Jared Scheerer; and visual artist and writer Tara Bell.
Robbins also included two portraits made close to home: a self-portrait taken in his garden as well as a shot of his wife, writer K.P. Robbins. (Her first book is set to be published as an e-novel in November by a Canadian company. For details or to read an excerpt, check out the website, thestonehengescroll.com.)
Besides the chance to see Robbins’ portraits and meet the award-winning photographer, Friday’s free reception also will offer visitors the opportunity to glimpse several of Robbins’ subjects first hand. “I’ve heard from a number of the artists who plan to be there,” Robbins said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
The exhibit will run through Nov. 20 in Charles Town, where the gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Starting Nov. 23, Robbins’ portraits will go on display at Shepherdstown’s Studio 105.
The project was funded in part by a grant from the Arts & Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County.
Want to go?
What: Opening reception for photographer Frank Robbins’“Artists and Artisans” exhibit
When: 5:30 to 8 p.m., Friday
Where: Firehouse Gallery at the Charles Town Visitors Center, 108 N. George St.
How much: Free admission
For details: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.