Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jon Strymish branches out with “TURN: Spring Leaves” photo exhibit

Photographs by Jon Strymish

AVIARY Gallery & Art Boutique
48 South Street 
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”
- Albert Schweitzer

Long before he famously put together “These Are From Negatives In My Car,” a rock and folk photography exhibit printed from negatives salvaged from a vehicle so filthy that plants had spontaneously grown around his strips of film, there was no question that Jon Strymish has an uniquely organic approach to photography. For decades, he’s been best known for his grainy, black and white, iconic images of musicians from Boston and beyond, always shot with film, frequently in the darkest conditions possible. Respectful of roots and obsessed with origins, Strymish once told Tommy Ramone that punk rock began with Bob Dylan. To those who know Strymish’s work, his new photography exhibit, “TURN: Spring Leaves,” may seem like a radical departure. To those who know him intimately, it’s an organic extension of his music photography and a natural progression.

An ability to draw light out of the darkest shadows is, stylistically, what he’s known for. Across the years, his work has appeared on albums by Peter Wolf, Mission of Burma, countless folk musicians and rockers and on the walls of folk and rock haunts including Club Passim and CBGB.  Despite the drastically different subject matter between his images of musicians and leaves, the stylistic similarities are strong and unmistakably the work of the same photographer.

His decision to finally photograph the leaves after decades of thinking about the series was triggered by some turbulent changes in his life during the past two years. Around the time that he and his family decided to sell The New England Mobile Book Fair, the bookstore his father founded over 50 years earlier,  Strymish was diagnosed with a heart condition.

With its inherent theme of rebirth, it’s appropriate that the exhibit’s September run coincides with the opening of the Portsmouth Book and Bar, a bookstore and cafe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that Strymish is launching with two of his closest friends, David Lovelace and John Petrovato, both bookselling veterans he has known since college.

From leaving an old bookstore to opening a new one. From crouching at the front of stages in dark, loud, cramped music clubs to standing before branches sprouting signs of new life in dimly-lit paths through silent woods. Always searching for light in the darkest of shadows, only Jon Strymish would spend decades embedded in rock, folk, books and blues to find a new muse in the first leaves of spring.