Answer the Call: Turning the Lens on Jack Sharkey

Lauren Wolfer, Associate Curator of Special Collections & Archives

The National: Best Contemporary Photography is a hybrid invitational and juried exhibition, anchored by photography standouts Melanie Walker, Raymond Thompson Jr., Morgan Barrie, Jack Sharkey, Karen Klinedinst, Ian van Coller, and Jeanette May. The call for entry, now live, is turning the lens toward the photographers, looking for talented artists from across the country who are pushing the boundaries of the medium with adventurous techniques and original subject matter. In terms of aesthetic quality, technical innovation, and cultural relevance, contemporary photography has increasingly proven its dominance as a 21st century art form.

With submissions for juried entries now open, we wanted to introduce our invited artists! Leading up to the submission deadline, June 19th, 2022, we’ll turn the lens on these photographers. Next up: Jack Sharkey!

A black-and-white photograph of a leafless tree standing alone in quickly moving rapids.
Jack Sharkey, American, b. 1955. Survival “The Faye Tree”. Archival inkjet print on metallic paper, 2019. Museum purchase with funds provided by the June E. Enoch Collection Fund, 2019.229. Image courtesy of Jack Sharkey.

It’s always fun to experiment and try something new, but sometimes you can’t beat a classic. Jack Sharkey creates beautiful black-and-white photographs that have a glistening atmosphere and sense of movement. Sharkey’s photographs featured in The National have an ominous undertone, depicting a flooded scene and an overgrown landscape. The works have a “glittery” surface from the metallic paper they are printed on, feeling like they shift as you walk around them. In Survival “The Faye Tree,” (shown above) the water looks to be softly rolling down the hill; in actuality, it’s a dangerous and fast-moving scenario. Sharkey uses a long(er) exposure, meaning instead of capturing a split second the camera records an image from a set amount of time. Ever see pictures of the stars at night where the stars look like lines circling above? Or maybe a photograph of a cell phone screen that captures the line it creates moving it around? These would be examples of long exposure. Photographers will use this method to create light tones in an otherwise dark scene, like in The Stand (pictured below). Using only the glow of the moon, Sharkey creates the highlights on the twigs and branches, when in reality, it was probably pitch-black outside. Using a tripod is crucial, any movement while the shutter is open can ruin a picture!

A black-and-white photo of a grove of trees with a discernable path to the left-hand side that disappears further into the grove. The cloudy sky is just visible through the bare branches.
Jack Sharkey. American, b. 1955. The Stand. Archival inkjet print on metallic paper, 2018. Museum purchase with funds provided by the June E. Enoch Collection Fund, 2019.230. Image courtesy of Jack Sharkey.

Jack Sharkey says about his work, “As a photographer I am so fortunate to live in the Midcoast section of Maine. With access to several Lighthouses, several Lobstering communities, harbors that do not freeze over in the winter and miles and miles of pristine shoreline it is a photographer’s dream. I also love to backpack up in northern Maine, mostly in Baxter State Park, which is another dream location and sparsely populated by humans. Between the wildlife, mountains, ponds, lakes, and rivers it’s pure heaven for me, especially in the fall. Traveling is great fun but when Maine is your backyard it is hard to leave! I live in Topsham, Maine with my wife Diane and we have two cats Bogey and Birdie. Yes, I golf a lot too!”

We are now accepting entries! Open through June 19th, 2022, submit your photo(s) now for the chance to have them displayed at the Museum alongside Jack Sharkey’s work! The National will be on display September 17th, 2022-January 8th, 2023.

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