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A Mysterious Transmission: Jamestown Native Photographer Explains Work During Private Reception

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Mysterious Transmission: Jamestown Native Photographer Explains Work During Private Reception By Dusten Rader in The Post-Journal. More at

Although technology provides many conveniences, there are some things that are just better in real life.

As a journalist, I get the opportunity to meet a great number of interesting people, and forms of communication such as phone and email have simplified that process. With the press of a few buttons, or clicks of a mouse, the information I need to create an educational and entertaining piece can be obtained. However, I feel that when I have the opportunity to meet one of my interviewees in person, the work I create reaches a whole new level.

Last week I received an invitation on the behalf of Anthony Bannon, director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, to attend a private reception. The event was intended to unveil the work of the center's first artist-in-residency, Janelle Lynch, a Jamestown native photographer, who was charged with furthering the understanding of the life and work of watercolorist Charles Burchfield, while also furthering her own work.

After two long phone conversations with Lynch, both of which resulted in weekend features published by The Post-Journal, I felt that I could not bring myself to continue writing about such an incredibly talented woman without making eye contact. So, I asked our editor, John Whittaker, for permission to cover the event, to which he was willing to oblige.

My fiancee, Allysa Dupont, was willing to join me on the short expedition to Buffalo. I picked her up in Fredonia because she had spent the day with her sister and nephew at the Chautauqua County Fair in Dunkirk. While she was intrigued with the idea of meeting Lynch, her day at the fair had focused her interest on obtaining some kids, or pygmy goats, which made for entertaining conversation on the way to Elmwood Avenue.

I arrived just as the event was starting, and was impressed as each attendee who entered the board room was greeted with a handshake by Lynch herself. As I took Lynch's hand, our eyes met, and I was reminded of the words I had written following our first phone conversation: "The lens of a camera is akin to that of the eye, capturing moments one at a time, so that they may be immortalized and enjoyed by those who dare to look." I dared to look, and what I found was the soul of a woman ensnared by a reverence for the natural world.

"My process is highly intuitive," said Lynch. "I don't, for example, begin with an idea and attempt to illustrate it through photography, rather I make images of what I viscerally respond to. I begin by establishing a relationship with the place, the landscape. I go into it without my camera, which is something I learned from Wendell Berry, another important influence, who in his essay called 'The Unforseen Wilderness' he urged the landscape photographer to respect nature by going into it and getting to know it before taking pictures of it. So that's what I do, I get to know not just what it looks like but its scents, sounds, textures and myself in relation to it."

"Then my vision begins to shift - it becomes more nuanced, heightened and more photographic," Lynch continued. "That's when I get my camera, which is modeled after the 19th-century design that uses film.

"It demands a meditative approach, which suits my intuitive process," continued Lynch. "To see through the ground-glass viewfinder I have to cover my head and the camera. Doing so I create a dark, very intimate space that blocks out peripheral vision and sound to some degree, where I can connect to my subject. In the process of composing the picture, which can take up to an hour, a mysterious transmission occurs between the subject that comes through the lens onto the ground-glass and myself and all that I bring to that present moment."

I also found a man, Bannon, whose respect for Lynch and her work was reminiscent of that of a proud father.

"Janelle is our first artist-in-residence, and we are so happy with the relationship we've enjoyed - we thought it selfish of us not to share at this halfway mark," said Bannon. "The accomplishments of her spirit have produced extraordinary work linked to the vision and spirit of Charles Burchfield, and we're so pleased that it's been discovered within Western New York."

"It would be deeply meaningful to have this work here because of the important kinship that I feel with Burchfield," said Lynch. "It would perhaps be the most meaningful show because of that relationship I have with him, and because of my relationship with the community."

Lynch's work can also be found in a number of other public and private collections including: George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, Brooklyn Museum, Newark Museum, Fundacion in Vila Casas, Barcelona, and Museo de Arte Contempor'neo in Salta, Argentina. Her new book, "Janelle Lynch: Barcelona," will be published by Radius Books this fall. For more information, visit or

Not only was the trip my first time meeting Lynch, but it was also my first time entering the Burchfield Penney Art Center, which I had the opportunity to explore with Allysa following the event. The center featured contemporary, relevant pieces, as well as those with historical significance. But, I was particularly impressed with the organization's willingness to feature local artists. My favorite was the Let There Be Light installation by Buffalo native Shasti O'Leary Soudant, and a close second was Beijing-based Song Dong's "Broken Mirror." Although I'm not much of a fan of blondes, Marilyn Monroe's exhibit was also well-done.

Allysa and I concluded the evening with a fantastic raw dinner at Merge, a restaurant that encourages "healthier habits for a healthier planet." For more information visit