Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

 Matthew Girard’s ‘Mermaids, Freaks and Burlesque Girls; Coney Island Lives Again’ through February 28, 2007 at Black & White custom Photo and Digital Lab, 1916 Wilson Blvd., Suite 201, Arlington, Va. On view during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or after hours by special arrangement for small groups. For more information call (703) 525-1922, or

This collection of sepia toned black and white photos focuses on the wackiness we all know as Coney Island. While Coney Island has a long history as New York’s seaside playground, times have changed. This portraiture show, predominantly focuses on a mermaid parade, with some side show freaks, and a few burlesque girls to round out the view of modern day Coney Island..

One is mostly taken with the notion of how normal all these folks seem to be. Long ago, it may have been a tad ‘out there’ to dress up as Mermaids, but these folks seem down right quaint by modern day standards. Could be a fourth of July parade it’s so wholesome. OK, it is New York, so there are a few folks pushing things more than others. The guy dressed up as Poseidon comes to mind, but all in all it’s a bunch of normal people having a little summer fun.

While we can’t tell from these photos just how far the burlesque girls will go to entertain their audiences. I’m guessing it’s the old fashioned variety, where one’s imagination gets more of a workout than the eyeballs.

The side show freaks are certainly just that, but even these folks seem fairly normal. With virtually an entire generation filling tattoo parlors all across the country, just how freaky is it to be the tattooed lady? With TV shows incessantly trying to out gross each other, we’ve become so inured to the freaky side of things it’s almost impossible to get a rise out of people anymore. Which says far more about us as a society, than it does about the people presented in these photos. You’re almost forced to think about the next step society takes. You can’t really go much farther than we already have, unless we’re going to spiral down into some sort of self centered bling-bling hell. Anybody up for some simple nice folks?

If so, you can find them right across the counter at Black & White. The owners Kit and Gary Putnam are two of the nicest folks you’ll find anywhere. For those of us who’ve haunted photo labs for decades, the sea change that digital photography has brought has been a mixed blessing. Vibrant sucessful businesses have litterally closed shop as people’s livelyhood has been made somewhat obsolete. It’s a nasty thing see happen to talented hard working people. And with that, it’s a relief to see that the Putnams have indeed changed with the times. In days gone by, this was the place in Northern VA to take your black and white photo work. It was the hard core traditional black and white wet lab. No more. They’ve expanded the range of servies offered, and are now doing digital scanning, file prep, retouching, restoration and digital printing. In fact virtually all of the photos in this show were shot on medium and large format film, scanned and printed digitally. Mind you, the Putnam’s still know how to run a top flight wet lab. It’s a relief to see. Once these sorts of people go away, there will be no one to replace them.


Artistic Opportunities————–

Fraser Gallery in Bethesda holds its ‘2007 Bethesda International Photography Competition’ from February 9 through March 3, 2007. Entry fee for up to three slide, or digital submissions on CD ROM, is $25. Additional slides may be submitted for an additional $5 per slide. Awards package is $950. Deadline for submissions is December 29. For complete details, and entry form, see or call (301) 718-9651.

Arlington Ellipse Art Center is holding ‘Photo 07: Photographs You Have Taken in the Last 75 Years’ Friday January 26 through Saturday March 10. Framed, ready to hang submissions for this juried show must be delivered on Wednesday January 10, 2007 between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. While most juried shows limit work accepted to art work done within the past two or three years, this show is a big exception to that rule. Last year they threw the doors open and basically said ‘hit us with your best work’. Anything within your oeuvre was fair game. Turns out, one of the winning shots last year came close to the 75 year cut off point, which put a smile on everyone’s face. Why mess with success? Better yet, let’s do it again! Entry fee for up to three photos is $20. Awards package of $1,500, in the form of three $500 juror’s choice awards. For complete details and entry form see, or call (703) 228-7710.

Here’s a photo show with no entry fee. ‘DCist Exposed’ photo show will run from March 9 through 16, at Warehouse in Washington DC. Deadline for online entries is January 21, 2007. This one is a tad complex so you’ll have to read through the details at  It’s a real show, and it’s free, but it’s only up for a week, and there is no prize package.