Mainsite Contemporary Art focuses on fine-art photography with an exhibit showcasing a range of imagination and technique 

Photos by Ann Sherman, Joshua Meier, Esteban Pulido and Trent Still
through Sept. 4
Mainsite Contemporary Art
122 E. Main, Norman

Modern society is awash with imagery as hastily snapped smartphone pictures litter social-networking sites. Parents proudly record every millisecond of their child's life with point-and-shoot cameras and fixing their amateur eye with Photoshop.

It would seem that technology could kill the art of photography, but an exhibition at Norman's Mainsite Contemporary Art features several accomplished photographers still thriving amid the rapidly changing medium. In conjunction with the exhibition, the gallery is planning an inaugural photography competition, in which five photographers will be selected for exhibition and support, including cash awards.

Ann Sherman, one of the artists, has watched the evolution from when she started as a stringer for a television station in Tennessee. Over the decades, as professionals shifted from film to digital format, she made the transition, too. She's moved on from journalism and now specializes in architectural photography, but for Mainsite's exhibition, her work shown was made with archaic tools of the trade.

"I have been carrying pinholes and plastic cameras for about 15 years," Sherman. "It was my reaction to the digital revolution. I was resisting, getting back to pure photography. Pinhole photography is so pure, there is no lens "? only a box with a piece of film in the back and a pinhole to let the light in to make the exposure."

Sherman's images are of toy soldiers, inspired by her son, a captain in the 82nd Airborne Division, who arrived home from a tour in Iraq just in time for the show. Unlike her architectural photography, which is very reasoned and carefully structured, she said the soldier series is random. She never knows when she will find a good opportunity, so she carries the mini-men and her cameras with her on her travels.

"I get patted down in airports quite a bit," Sherman said. "I carry film, not seen too often anymore; strange box devices I claim as cameras; toy lead soldiers wrapped carefully in my carry-on. I go early when I fly."

Joshua Meier's pieces are from "Parables," a series he began nine years ago. Found items are featured in the photographs along with models he calls "characters." The relationship between the strange objects "? like a fabric cone, or balls of twine being harvested like hay bales "? produces a study of a world that is like ours, but a little bizarre and surreal.

"These objects have no real purpose or function, and yet, in the image, they are functioning as something," Meier said. "I don't create the object because I want a certain image. I will come into the studio and just start working with materials and construct ideas. Working with the materials and seeing what develops, I then imagine how the object can be used and what image can be made. It is kind of a backward way of working."

The objects on their own might be interesting in a gallery, but he said much would be lost without the photographic element. There is a unique power of photography that Meier believes will survive technological advances, so as long as galleries like Mainsite continue encouraging it as an art form.

"One of the things photography does is it lies to us. It creates this believability as to whatever has been photographed. Going the extra step of putting an object in a bizarre environment with an odd-looking person, I can really get creative," he said. "Because it is a photograph, people will believe it actually happened, because otherwise, I couldn't have photographed it, and being in the photograph, they get placed in a story and given a function." "?Charles Martin

top Ann Sherman's "Wyoming" shows toy soldiers in the snow.
bottom Joshua Meier used found objects and other materials to construct ideas explored in "Perhaps This Time."

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