When you are a documentary photojournalist it’s easy to see empty space and envision it filled with art. On March 7th the first in a series of photography exhibits will debut during First Wednesday in downtown Salem, showcasing the work of local photographers exploring diverse Salem themes. Focus on Salem will support Salem’s vibrant downtown, contribute to our artistic community, and highlight the sober reality of multiple business closures due to our struggling economy.
Compelling photo essays will be on display on the windows of the buildings along Liberty Street that formerly housed Coffee House Café and Cherry Redd.
“There are a lot of things happening downtown, and there is a lot going on in the artistic community. At the same time we are seeing business closures,” said Phil Decker, Salem Photo League facilitator.
“We want to do something to help,” said Diane Beals, who co-created the event with Rebecca Maitland. “We want to lighten up vacant buildings just by being there. It’s about highlighting the potential our downtown has,” said Beals. For March, photo essays will include “Homeless in Salem” by Diane Beals, “Nothing To Do In Salem?” by Jennifer Carley, “The Happiest Place On Earth” by Joan Lockwood, “We Live Here” by Joel Zak, and “The Bush Park Crew” by Phil Decker. Salem Photo League photographers will be live on Liberty Street to show and discuss their work. Each photographer will create text for each photo to explain what they are trying to communicate through the essay. “We hope that it pulls photographers out of the woodwork, and you can imagine a First Wednesday street photo exhibit with many artists represented giving people a chance to reflect on the Salem Community.”
The Salem Photo League is a collection of local documentary photographers, professional and non-professional, who shed light on local issues, and who support individuals engaged in documentary photography projects. The group was formed in July 2011 after collaboration on the “Faces of Salem” diversity exhibit sponsored by the Salem Multicultural Institute.
Local photographers are encouraged to contact the Salem Photo League to enter photo essays to be considered for each month’s exhibit.
“We are always inviting new people to join us,” said Decker. “We have a Facebook page, ‘Salem Photo League,’ and are always looking for new photographers to join us. The main criteria are to be a documentary photographer, live in the area, and be interested in contributing to the community.”