Uncluttered, photographs by Dan Neuberger, through July 16 | Image City Photography Gallery 722 University Avenue | Gallery hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday noon-4 p.m. | Free | Artist talk on Thursday, July 13, at 7 p.m. | Also showing photographs by the Syracuse Camera Club and Photographs by Image City Photography Gallery Partners. For more info call 271-2540 or visit online at www.imagecityphotographygallery.com.
The concept of an amateur in our culture has taken on a negative connotation. Often it implies someone lacking professional skill or performing a particular action without the ease of one who has done something over and over again. But the word amateur designates something more. It describes a person who does something as a pastime rather than a profession. It also designates one who does something not for money but for the love of just doing it. Indeed, the word amateur comes from the Latin amator, which means lover.
Dan Neuberger, whose photographs are currently on view at Image City Photography Gallery, is a real amateur in the true sense of the word. Neuberger, who left his native Yugoslavia for New York City when he was 11 years old, became enamored with photography by the time he was 16. But his academic studies took him in a slightly different direction, having received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Rochester, and he became a research scientist for Kodak.
Kodak and photography --- need we say more? The synergy of science and art allowed Neuberger to have a profession that he loved as well as a pastime that he has passionately pursued to the present. Now retired from Kodak, he spends much of his time with things photographic.
The photographs on view, representing different bodies of work throughout a lifetime of "fixing an image," reveal his love for both the aesthetic as well as the scientific. Neuberger is not one to shy away from technology. While many of the older photographs use more traditional media (i.e., gelatin silver or chromogenic prints) and could be called "straight" photography, his current work is dominated by the digital print. Here, Neuberger manipulates, enhances, and plays with images, fully utilizing modern-day computer image manipulation software. But he never does this just for the sake of showing off or tricking the viewer.
In the series "Neglected Flowers (a.k.a. weeds)," he uses high contrast to bring out the graphic quality of the weeds against a simple white background, then reverses the ground to change the effect and mood of the images. The composition is a respectful nod to Harry Callahan who, in the 1940s through the 1960s, photographed weeds in the snow and then developed and printed the photographs in such a manner as to create graphic and expressionistic images.
Neuberger's color work reveals his use of nature's colors as his inspiration, such as in "Elliptical Cloud," while in a triptych of barns he manipulates color not unlike the multiple registers of an Andy Warhol screen print. Neuberger also has a sense of humor: in his wall texts, he writes that if something does not work, then you "make it red" or if all else fails, you "make it nude." In the case of the latter, the nude is actually two different views of a sculptural work by super-realist sculptor John DeAndrea.
Neuberger could have become a professional photographer, but maybe what would have been lost is the love of things photographic. For Neuberger's love of photography goes beyond his own work; he lives and breathes the medium, supporting and inspiring others to love what he loves. If it were just a job, he probably would have left his work at the office.