Four local photographers open 823 Photo Collective in downtown PT

Photo-only art gallery to showcase four unique visions

Posted 2/12/20

If the four founders of the 823 Photo Collective want the public to know anything, it’s that Port Townsend has a host of native talent in the field of art photography.

Their cozy art gallery …

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Four local photographers open 823 Photo Collective in downtown PT

Photo-only art gallery to showcase four unique visions

Posted

If the four founders of the 823 Photo Collective want the public to know anything, it’s that Port Townsend has a host of native talent in the field of art photography.

Their cozy art gallery can be found at 823 Water St., on the same third-floor level as Sirens, and within its first month of opening its doors, the 823 Photo Collective has just shy of two dozen works of photo art on display on its walls, available for viewing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a new round of photos ready to put up every month, in time for the First Saturday Art Walk.

Joe Tysl, one of the four founders, credited his girlfriend, Dee Weber, with cajoling him into taking the shared, wistful “Wouldn’t it be nice if …” idea and turning it into a reality.

“It was a kernel of an idea, but she kept prodding me,” Tysl said. “And then, when we went out to Sirens one night, we saw this place, and we saw the sign, and we made the call. From there, it was a matter of sharing the rent with someone.”

“The rent and the blame,” laughed Rick York, fellow co-founder of the 823 Photo Collective.

Tysl said he and York had been “photo friends” for years, and he talked up York’s skills as a “planner” for the venture.

“Rick started up and hosts ‘Print Night’ at Fort Worden, through the Port Townsend School of the Arts,” Tysl said, adding that the two of them were able to rope in Ginny Banks and Johanna King from the Port Townsend Photo Club as their final co-founders. “There’s a lot of photographers in town.”

“There’s so many good photographers in town that I’ll see exhibits at Northwind, and even after being here for four years, I don’t always know who it is,” Banks said.

“The Port Townsend Photo Club is pretty active,” York said. “It’s been around a lot longer than we have. Johanna is a wonderful observer, and Ginny is the only one of us with formal photo training.”

Banks holds a Master of Fine Arts in photography from Clemson University and met the other members of the 823 Photo Collective through classes she taught at Port Townsend School of the Arts and Peninsula College.

While they all praised Banks’ skills as a photography teacher, she returned the compliment toward the monthly “Print Night” event, which York founded in May of last year, and that Tysl credited with affording area photographers a regular opportunity to describe their journeys as artists in a supportive environment.

“It’s not about talking about cameras or lenses, but sharing stories through our photography,” York said.

“And people in the community can observe and be part of the conversation, without being photographers themselves,” Banks said.

York said the 823 Photo Collective plans to use the Print Nights as both sneak previews and early feedback methods for their gallery’s First Saturday Art Walks and subsequent monthly shows.

“It was the logical next step,” York said. “Port Townsend needed a photography-only art gallery. Once we got over our mutual fears, we all agreed that, if we didn’t do this together, we would always regret it. Fortunately, this is a fun group to do this with.”

 

WHY PHOTOGRAPHY?

Banks is a former graphic designer who, like York, got her start in photography about the age of 18.

“I’ve always been very visual, and when I see beauty, I want to capture it,” Banks said. “Photography allows me to do that very quickly.”

King insisted she’s not an artist, over the objections of her peers, and described herself instead as a psychologist.

“I’m not tempted by paints or sculpture, because I like to be close to the real world,” said King, whose favorite aunt gave her a camera, a box Kodak Brownie, when she was in the third grade, and who still has photos she developed in the bathroom when she was a teenager. “I’ve been traveling the world my entire life. I like the immediacy and interactivity of photography. I don’t feel like I’m at a distance from my subjects.”

York acknowledged that, regardless of the reality, “most people feel like they could take a nice picture,” and while he denied any skill at writing or painting, he admitted that he too has always found photography “very approachable” as an art form.

“I’ve always enjoyed doing it,” York said. “When I went to art galleries, I would seek out the photo exhibits, because I thought, ‘I could do that too.’ I’m visual enough to prefer pictures to writing, and I like the simplicity of one camera, one lens and a city setting. After 50 years of doing it, the best photographs I’ve taken are the ones I’m taking now.”

Tysl grew up without any art in his home, but time spent at one of his friend’s houses in high school revealed what he called the “magic” of photography to him.

“His darkroom was set up in his kitchen,” Tysl said. “When those pictures appeared from his tray, it was like magic.”

Tysl and his friend became college roommates, and remain close to this day, and perhaps for that reason, Tysl has always been as curious about those who create photographic images as he is about the images themselves.

“I look deeper, for multilayered compositions,” Tysl said. “I try to be invisible, so I can recognize what is happening without disturbing the moment.”

With four founding photographers to provide four distinct visions, York expects the 823 Photo Collective to be able to present an entirely new lineup of photos in its gallery every month, previewed each time by the Print Nights at the Port Townsend School of the Arts, and kicked off each month by the First Saturday Art Walks.

The 823 Photo Collective at 823 Water St. is open Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 3 to 7 p.m., except on First Saturday Art Walks, when it’s open from 3 to 8 p.m.

Print Night is held at the Port Townsend School of the Arts on the second Wednesday each month from 7 to 9 p.m., and everyone is welcome.

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Robert Gray

Terrific photographers. Check it out.

Saturday, February 15