Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

I Love Rock ‘n Roll… Chester Simpson, Photographer

Debbie Harry Blondie, Photo Credit © Chester Simpson

Photography is one of those skill sets that every once in a while deliver great generic photographers, such as the great Lida Moser, who are able to just about point the camera at anything and seemingly make magic happen.

The magic that happens when a talented photographer can find a special niche is also quite warming to the solar plexus of the mind. The exhibition of great classic Rock and Roll photos at Jeffrey Winter Gallery (here in Old Town at 110 A South Columbus Street) has work by Chester Simpson, which is a perfect example of what I am talking about – the breathtaking magic that can be delivered by a photographer armed with a camera and facing the talent in front of his lenses.

Most musicians are by nature “posers.” I mean that in a positive sense, not in the pejorative sense of the word. Part of their genetic make-up (with rare exceptions) is to react when they see a camera, by posing.

Robbie Robertson, Photo Credit © Chester Simpson

Posing can sometimes be a fatal enemy to a photographer, especially if the aim is to capture a fleeting moment that also manages to snag something personal about the subject. And it is precisely Simpson’s almost routine ability to capture his subjects, not as a pose but as an insight into their craft, or person, or personna, that makes his photographs remarkable and somewhat unique in the field of Rock & Roll photography.

But he goes beyond that; even when the subjects stop and look into the camera, when they split time to hold a breath or a pose awaiting for the click of the button, there is something loose and trusting in the event. There is Joan Jett looking somewhat longingly at Chester from a mirror reflection – her look is simple and open, and yet full of that feral ferocity that made her music so striking – Simpson has managed to record that even in a soft, tired pose.

Joan Jett backstage in SF, CA 1981, Photo Credit © Chester Simpson

Other Artsy News

Capitol Arts Network, the Washington area’s fastest-growing organization for professional and emerging artists, had for its February show DMV artist Pam Rogers, whose work focused on the relationship between people and nature.

The organization’s monthly exhibition, which was titled “Tokens and Sentiments” was set to coincide with the Valentines season, and it also included several theme-related offerings by artists from across the National Capital region in a show that was billed as “a unique, real-world take on love and romance that is not necessarily the greeting-card version of the story,” according to Capitol Arts Network Executive Director Judith HeartSong. “

I like it when visual arts organizations step outside the box to make things work. John Pancake, the last Arts Editor of the Washington Post, once told me that running an art gallery was a “heroic act” and he wasn’t too far from the truth. In February, those artists were encouraged to “think outside the box with florals, designs, poetry and more to offer their real-life version of a Valentine in this modern age.”

My kudos.

Finally, the application process for the 2014 Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards is now open. This competition, produced by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District, awards one of the largest cash prizes given to a visual artist, with a top prize of $10,000. The competition’s founder, the amazing Carol Trawick (we all wish we had another dozen folks like her around the DMV), is committed to annually honoring visual artists with this award. The deadline to apply is April 7.

The awards are as follows:
Best in Show – $10,000
Second Place – $2,000
Third Place – $1,000
Young Artists* – $1,000
*Young Artist whose birthday is after April 7, 1984 may be awarded this prize.

Artists who are 18 years of age or older and permanent, full-time residents of Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C., are eligible to submit an application. For additional eligibility requirements and to access the application please visit their website at

The jury will select up to 10 finalists who will be invited to display their work in a group exhibition at Gallery B in downtown Bethesda in September 2014.

The three judge panel includes: Tom Ashcraft, visual artist, founding member of Workingman Collective and Associate Professor and the head of Sculpture in the School of Art at George Mason University, Laure Drogoul, interdisciplinary artist, Director of The 14Karat Cabaret and Co-organizer and Curator of the Transmodern Festivaland Jeremy Drummond, media artist and Assistant Professor of Art in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Richmond.

Written by: F. Lennox Campello

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