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MCCC Photo Gallery Continues to Make Its Mark on Trenton Arts Scene

9/20/18


Photographer Kai McBride discusses his work during the opening reception of "Sky's Gone Out," his meditations on a post 9/11 NYC, on display through Oct. 4.

JKCG Director Michael Chovan-Dalton interviews photographer Ryann Casey for his podcast, Real Photo Show, before an audience of community guests and students in early Sept.

Trenton, N.J. – Those who haven’t had a chance to visit Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus Gallery (JKCG) in downtown Trenton are missing out on unique windows into our world.

Since it opened in March of 2017 with CJ Harker’s "Trenton Blacksmiths,” MCCC’s downtown gallery has hosted 11 photography exhibits that have enriched and sometimes challenged visitors’ perspectives. Some of the exhibits have focused close to home, as with Habiyb Ali Shu'Aib’s “Beloved Trenton,” while others have taken visitors to less familiar cultures and places in America and beyond.

According to JKCG Director and Curator Michael Chovan-Dalton, Coordinator of the MCCC Photography program, the exhibits have documented both historical and current events, often in provocative ways. Last season, Kathy Shorr’s “SHOT” featured victims of gun violence from across the nation. The opening reception included a panel discussion with families of victims. Other shows have included Wendel White’s "Schools for The Colored,” which depicted racially segregated schools and landscapes established at the southern boundaries of the northern United States, and Niko J. Kallianiotis’ “America In A Trance,” which chronicled the economic hardships facing small towns in Pennsylvania.

Chovan-Dalton says that while the gallery is still very young, he hopes that it will add to a vibrant arts culture in Trenton. “I see it as a destination for internationally renowned photographers from the region and afar as well as more community based photographers who are up and coming,” he said. “We have a lot of people in the community who appreciate the shows.”

There has been almost no down time in the gallery this year as Chovan-Dalton has barely paused in his exhibit schedule. In August, JKCG hosted Ryann Casey’s “Loss Event,” part of her on-going series of images from U.S. national parks. On Sept. 6, at the exhibit’s closing reception, Chovan-Dalton interviewed Casey for “REAL PHOTO SHOW,” a podcast about photographers and photography he created in 2015 that just released its 75th episode. (More at www.realphotoshow.com.) The broadcast was taped before a packed audience of students and community guests.

Just days later, JKCG’s current exhibit, “Sky’s Gone Out, by the Brooklyn-based photographer Kai McBride, opened as MCCC hosted its countywide tribute to the victims of 9/11. McBride’s show is a personal meditation on a post-9/11 New York City. His series of black and white silver-gelatin prints concentrate on two subjects that were profoundly altered for him following the traumatic events of 2001: The Empire State Building and commercial airplanes in the cityscape. The show continues through Oct. 4.

McBride’s show is followed by “Dirty Old Town,” a series of photos by Alaskan native Patrice Helmar on display on Oct. 16 through Nov. 13. A reception and artist talk take place Wednesday, Oct. 24, 5 to 7 p.m.

Chovan-Dalton has not shied away from exhibits that get people talking. “As almost any good gallery director would say, the hope is to inspire conversation, challenge pre-conceived ideas, explore social concerns, and have some fun while doing it,” he said.

Chovan-Dalton makes a distinction between photojournalism and the documentary exhibits that have been featured at JKCG. “Unlike straight photojournalism, documentary work is also commentary. It needs to have a strong point of view in order to be interesting,” he said. “But a point of view does not mean you have all the answers – it might mean you are intensely interested in the questions.”

JKCG is located in MCCC's Trenton Hall, 137 North Broad Street, across the street from the Kerney Building. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information about JKCG and upcoming shows is available on the JKCG website here.

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