A BFA Photography Exhibition that Helps Us Cherish our Neighborhood
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

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In the same week that CNN noted professional photographers still prefer film over digital processes for their most important work, I strolled over to San Jose State’s School of Art and Design to enjoy the Tuesday night openings of student exhibitions. The first show I encountered was Joe Claus’s My Neighborhood, an exhibition of photographic portraits all shot on Fuji film. Yes, you can see the difference. The subtle beauty of the grays and mid values, the softness and richness of the images, perhaps even the thoughtfulness of composition in full frame and the careful darkroom work, all seem to be attributes of working slowly and meticulously in a now old fashioned way, with film.

Claus’s series of portraits of individuals in the downtown neighborhood where he lives are handsome and respectful documentation of shopkeepers and small business owners in their own environments. We see Alexander from Faber’s Cycling Museum, Eddie of the Downtown Hot Dog Stand, David of the Stonelight Tile Design Showroom, Chuck from Bicycle Express, Cherri and Brian of Anno Domini, Marcos of La Victoria, Linh of the Gensing Chinese Herb Store, and more. These photographs exist someplace in between a traditionally posed portrait and a candid shot. The subjects stand relaxed, looking directly at the camera, the monarchs of their respective domains.

The photographer’s intention is clear. He declares that in the heart of bustling Silicon Valley, there still remains some of the dignity and humanity that characterizes a true “neighborhood”, and it is embodied in these individuals.

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The exhibition was quite simply yet effectively presented, with the photographs hanging in grids on each wall, unframed, clipped to taut wires. The informality of the presentation seemed sympathetic to the character of a neighborhood business that is professional yet friendly, down to earth and bears no false veneers.

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