Mini retrospective celebrates Art Rogers's photography

04/03/2019

Art Rogers’s photography exhibit in the gallery at Toby’s Feed Barn affords visitors the chance to move through West Marin’s evolution. The show, which houses photographs from 1974 to the present, will run through April 30. 

Mr. Rogers has had a handful of shows at Toby’s, but recently offered to show his work if the site ever had a cancellation; he was promptly taken up on his offer. The resulting show, which was put together in just 10 days, “is kind of like a mini-retrospective,” he said. 

For the people who clustered in the exhibit during its opening reception, the photos were a way to memorialize the town as they had known it, and the place it had become. 

“Photographs are like catalysts,” Mr. Rogers said. “Your senses remember smells, visuals, music. Photos excite those memories and bring them forward.”

 The show includes scenes, including 64 “Baby of Month” portraits that have been published in the Point Reyes Light, where he has contributed for 45 years and now prints a full-page "Family Album." 

Snapshots of the town and surrounding farmland also abound: men joking around outside the Western, a couple with a Champion pumpkin, cows crossing the road. Because many of the photos have been in the newspaper, Point Reyes Station resident Rose Hulls said, they feel extra familiar. 

“This gives a sense of community: the sense of time passing,” she said. “Certain things have stayed the same, and yet a lot has changed.” 

Mr. Rogers has been photographing since he was a teenager. His two brothers were also interested in the art, and he remembers his mother making photographs using her box camera. He grew up in Miami, Fla. and moved to Raleigh, N.C. as a teen, where he started working as a stringer for local newspapers and taking portraits of babies in area department stores. 

After moving to San Francisco in the late ’60s, Mr. Rogers worked for the Redwood City Tribune, photographing subjects from Palo Alto to San Mateo. He later taught photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. 

When he moved to West Marin in 1971, Mr. Rogers had grown disenchanted both with teaching and commercial photography, and focused on gardening and his family. But when he brought a camera along on a family trip back East, his love of the art form came back to him. 

“I decided, ‘I’m going to make photographs that I want to make and don’t care if they are good or bad or art,’” he said. 

His passion thus renewed, he opened a studio in Point Reyes Station a few years later. 

“I consider myself a town photographer,” Mr. Rogers said. Indeed, his photographs document not just a place but a community: a cancan of construction workers, the former Point Reyes Light staff, the classroom of the Nicasio School teacher he would go on to marry. 

Mr. Rogers likens the view camera he is best-known for using to the slow-food movement. “It takes time to produce really good tasting food,” he said. “Well, view cameras, they are slow photography in every sense. It’s magical: you always get something beautiful.” 

The large-format camera, first built in the late 1900s, allows more control and focus over depth of field and the camera’s movements. 

“The thing about Art, when he’s taking a picture, is he never stops until he knows, ‘Okay, I’ve got it,’” said Connie Morse, who, with her daughter and granddaughter, has posed for portraits over the years. “To be able to see my changes, to be able to see Amy’s changes, it’s very precious. We’re a lucky town.” 

Painter Wendy Schwartz echoed that sentiment as she looked around the exhibit last weekend. “This series is a blessing for all of us,” she said. “We see the passage of time as a loss, but when I look at this, I see a blossoming.” 

 

Art Rogers’s exhibit is open for viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays through April 30.