THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS:
KEW GARDENS AS SEEN BY A NEW
GENERATION OF PHOTOGRAPHERS
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by DIANA SHAMAN

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Among the most compelling photographs at a group show that opened January 14 at the Q Gardens Gallery on Lefferts Boulevard are three of young girls who look out at their world very much from a child's point of view. Not surprisingly. Of the three photographers, the oldest is only eight and the youngest is five.

Inviting very young children from the community to participate in a photography show was the brainchild of Carol Lacks, a member of the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, and Kew Gardens Council on Recreation and the Arts. In all, fourteen children, ranging in age from four to nine, joined in, with several families represented by siblings.

When Ms. Lacks asked Ron Marzlock, the gallery owner, whether he would provide space for the show, his reaction was, "Let's do it! Immediately."

It took some months to put it all together, but a new generation of photographers appears to have been born, judging by the enthusiasm of the children as a large crowd on opening night came to view their work. "Knowing their pictures were going to be part of a show was very much an incentive," said Miriam Block, the mother of seven-year-old Shayna, whose imaginative photograph of a construction site viewed through a sewer pipe that probably was only large enough for a small child to crawl into, is one of the hits of the show.

But it is the three portraits that capture the spirit of children taking pictures of children that most embody the essence of this show.

Cairo Giardina, 5, caught his sister, Maya, aged eight and also one of the show's participants, in a pensive mood. Her eyes, shadowed by her hat, look intently at the camera, which captures only a fraction of her face, adding to the mystery of her mood.

A golden dandelion held out by another young girl matches the pattern of a gold heart on her blouse. Her delight in the flower is reflected by her wide smile, which dominates the untitled picture. The photographer, six-year-old Devon Groppe, chose not to show her subject's face above that smile, leaving her full portrait up to the viewer's imagination, adding to the power of the image.

In another untitled portrait, a young girl, fingers held high in a V-sign, looks confident and self-assured as she poses for Megan Groppe, aged eight. On her lips is a half smile. What is she thinking? We would very much like to know.

What is so surprising about this show is the unexpectedly sophisticated eye of the very young when given the chance to explore with their cameras.

Aidan Irigoyen, aged only four, has a compelling portrait of his mother hurrying down the street that he calls Mommy on the Run. One can almost hear her gasping as she tries to keep up with the demands of the day. In a quieter mood, Jessica DeGennaro, 8, captures her mother and her sister, enveloped protectively by umbrellas, walking down the street, calling her photograph, Road Walk.

Even the mundane becomes magical to these photographers. Anna LaMacchia, 7, discovered beauty in a puddle of water in a photograph she calls The Puddle that is Shape, and Maya Giardina discovered it in the different hues and patterns of a tree trunk in a photograph she calls The Blood of the Tree.

Several of the photographs were shot in local parks. In one, also by Maya, that she calls A Made Memory, a boy strolls through a grove of trees with a ray of sunlight seeming to point the way. In a different mood, Rain Clouds, taken by Abby G. Harris, aged five, shows brooding tree limbs framing an ominous sky.

A fence in the foreground of a snow-swept landscape frames feathery trees in the distance. Entitled Beautiful Trees, it is the work of Kristina Lian, aged six. By also focusing on the chain links of a fence in the foreground, Alek Stojakovic, 5, turns what might have been a mundane photograph of a passing train, into a dynamic portrait of power in motion. A fence also plays a pivotal role in a photograph by Emily DeGennaro, 6, of a house that seems to hide behind the security of its decorative front.

The children also proved you don't have to stray far from home to capture the moment. Leah Amalia Harris, aged seven, pointed her camera out of her window, capturing My Backyard at Night in a burst of colors and swirls. Risa A. Harris, aged nine, put together a still life with dried flowers and a world globe in a photograph that she calls Globe.

Some of the financial support for the show came from a New Yorkers for Better Neighborhoods grant that was awarded to the Kew Gardens Improvement Association by the Citizens Committee for New York City. The Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts signed on as a co-sponsor.

"One of the things I felt Kew Gardens lacked was things families could do together," said Ms. Lacks, the show's coordinator. "I felt this would become a parent-child project because the children were so young." She said she hopes other communities will pick up the idea.

Viewing the large crowd on opening night, Saleen Shah, Associate Director, Neighborhood Resources Citizens Committee for New York City, said he was thrilled to see how the show fostered so much community interest, adding, "We are showing these children their stuff has value and that we all love you and appreciate you."

The show will run through February 5. The gallery's hours are Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m; its phone number is 347-494-5704.

Earlier Articles:
  •   Spirits come alive in "Spirits Alive" at Maple Grove Cemetery
  •   Killer storm hits Kew Gardens
  •   Jazz at Maple Grove Cemetery
  •   The Blizzard of 2009
  •   Filming in Kew Gardens
  •   The 95th Annual Meeting of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, Inc.
  •   Let It Snow - Scenes from Forest Park
  •   A Community Discovers Its Village Roots
  •   Spirits Alive! (2007) at Maple Grove Cemetery
  •   Day of Remembrance at Maple Grove Honors the Dead with a Celebration of Life
  •   Summer in the City
  •   Concerns Over P.S.99, Post Office, And Impact Of Potential Landmarking Draw Large Crowd To Town Hall Meeting
  •   Kew Gardens Community Day (2007)
  •   A Parking Lot Becomes a Flea Market
  •   A Touch of Soho on Austin Street
  •   Kew Gardens Merchants - The Bliss Café
  •   Kew Gardens Lights Up for the Holidays
  •   Queens Borough Hall Garage in Kew Gardens
  •   The House on 116th Street
  •   New Development in Kew Gardens
  •   Autumn Scenes in Kew Gardens
  •   Lantern Festival at Maple Grove Cemetery (2006)
  •   They Lift Up their Voices Every Friday