Two Photographers at Monkdogz Urban Art

By Maurice Pinzon
Brett F. Whysel picked up a camera as a boy picks up a rifle in gun country and never stopped shooting. Five of his photographs are part of the photography exhibition, Look! which is currently featured at the Monkdogz Urban Art gallery in Chelsea….In sharp contrast to Mr. Whysel’s photographs, Ella Manor’s photography decisively pivots around herself. Another artist with work in the Look! exhibition, Israeli-born Ms. Manor uses her own vision, body and camera to create her work. In each of her five very different photographs, her image is hard to recognize, but her deep self-examination is embedded.

In sharp contrast to Mr. Whysel’s photographs, Ella Manor’s photography decisively pivots around herself. Another artist with work in the “Look!” exhibition, Israeli-born Ms. Manor uses her own vision, body and camera to create her work. In each of her five very different photographs, her image is hard to recognize, but her deep self-examination is embedded.

“I find it to be the most natural, easy even, way to express what I’m feeling,” Ms. Manor said on the opening night of the exhibition. Although Ms. Manor indicated that she works intuitively, her self-portraits also give her maximum technical and creative flexibility in her dual role of both photographer and subject. She takes her time experimenting with the technical aspects of the photography while manipulating her body to the photographic machine.

This interplay between Ella Manor’s body and camera allows the viewer a glimpse of her world. But Ms. Manor will not say exactly what it is she is trying to express. She believes that would ruin the artistic experience for the audience.

Her photographs, she said, “Evoke whatever it evokes in the person, which hopefully is some identification, some association.”

She does not travel to particular locations to photograph events or scenes. Rather, she uses her life as the material for her work.

In “Untitled 1 (Bride to Be),” Ms. Manor recounted how on the weekend before her wedding she went to her roof and took a picture of herself. She is on the ledge of the building where she lives, wearing her wedding dress.

“I’m kind of exploring the idea of being a bride,” she said. Looking at the photograph, it is not clear if she is celebrating her upcoming wedding or is on the verge of jumping.

She insists that an artist must take the risk of being interpreted and even misinterpreted with the hope that there is at least some human connection or recognition between the viewer and the work that the photographer has created.

Her “Untitled 12 (Waiting to Inhale)” shows us Ella in a bath of milk and cream. Ms. Manor said she shot that picture herself and it took some tinkering to get the image she wanted. Near her hair there are white waves. Or could that be smoke coming out of her head? It is also not clear if she is emerging from the liquid or drowning in it.

“I just felt like I needed to go into a bath that’s milk,” Ms. Manor said. ”It means different things to different people. That’s kind of like the point.”

You can see Mr. Whysel’s and Ms. Manor’s photographs at the Monkdogz Urban Art gallery, along with the work of François Burgun, Ruth Butler, Sam Chadwick, Kathy Slamen and Junichi Takahashi. All are featured in the “Look!” exhibition.

The “Look!” exhibition runs through July 12, 2008. Monkdogz Urban Art Monkdogz Urban Art gallery is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 11 am – 6 pm in Chelsea at 547 West 27th Street.

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