Lens-Based Art – and No AI – at Annual South County Art Open-Juried Photography Exhibit

A chat with Jason Fong, exhibitions director, about the longstanding showcase


Situated in Kingston, the South County Art Association (SCAA) proudly operates as the second oldest 503(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization in Rhode Island, and for decades has served as a steadfast advocate for the pursuit of the visual arts. They aim to provide a platform for artists ranging from complete beginners to seasoned pros to hone their craft, showcase their talents, and push the boundaries of artistic expression.

One of their longstanding traditions is the annual Open Juried Photography exhibit, a celebration of the diverse range of results that can be achieved using a camera. “The photography annual exhibit has been an established part of the SCAA’s exhibits for more than 30 years,” exhibitions director Jason Fong proudly states. This year’s showcase, held on site at 2587 Kingstown Road, a few doors down from the University of Rhode Island entrance, opened March 15 and will run to April 13.

In a move to embrace the evolution of photography, the exhibit is open to all photography-based media. “We didn’t want to limit the show to only ‘traditional’ photographs,” Fong explains. “As long as the main impetus for the work was created using a camera, the work will be considered.”

“There are many artists/photographers experimenting and pushing the limits of the medium,” Fong continues. “Images may be altered through digital or physical manipulation and photographs can also be used as a basis for processes such as solar plate etching (a printmaking technique) or incorporated into mixed media pieces. Because of this, some prefer the term ‘lens-based art’ over photography.”

The Open Juried Photography Annual exhibit prides itself on showcasing a wide array of techniques and approaches. Fong anticipates landscapes, still lifes, figural, and abstract works, as well as experimental pieces utilizing techniques like Daguerreotype, infrared, drone, and X-ray photography. “Every year I feel like I’m seeing something new,” Fong shares, highlighting the ever-growing ways photographs can be manipulated and printed as well as the materials that they can be printed on.

“Our intent is to exhibit the work of our photography community in all its forms, both traditional and experimental,” Fong says. However, he mentions a notable exception: the exhibit won’t include AI-generated images, acknowledging the technology’s newness and controversial nature. Unlike some exclusive showcases, this exhibit is an open juried show, welcoming submissions from both SCAA members and non-members.

Fong sheds light on the importance of a themeless exhibit, stating, “Although the camera has many applications, the purpose of this exhibit is to showcase artistic expression.” The lack of a specific theme allows for a diverse exploration of subject matter, style, technique, and presentation, encapsulating the varied approaches to photography.

Fong expresses his hope that attendees will view the camera not merely as a recording device but as an instrument for experiencing the world in a unique way. “I always like to see the new work,” Fong adds, expressing his excitement for the upcoming exhibit. Facilitating the SCAA exhibits but not selecting the pieces himself, he shares in the anticipation alongside the artists of what is in store for each year’s exhibit, creating an atmosphere of collective discovery and appreciation. Learn more at SouthCountyArt.org



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