Look at the blocky letter "L" that starts this sentence: two perpendicular bars capped at each end, almost resembling a body sitting upright, feet in front of it, head held high, toes pointed up. Now bring the page close to your face, the body of the letter directly in front of you, just about to the point where your eyes are crossed while you look at it. Now bring it closer, enough so that maybe the feet and the head of the letter start to tremble. Now bring it closer, so that the trembling body retains its shape but loses its features in a blur. Can blurriness be a feature? Bring it closer.
Personal space issues? Andy Acquaro’s latest photography show is all about exploring the fuzzy textures discovered when the camera lens gets a bit too close. Pictured: “Rachel’s Profile.”
There’s nothing dishonest about a blurred picture, really; it’s a glimpse of reality’s rush, trapped in a moment before your lens or your eyes can catch up. But the blurred pictures we’re used to are usually the impatient shots of an amateur with a point-and-shoot, the kind of person that snaps photos from a moving car to watch headlights melt into neon streams.
Andy Acquaro’s photos, however, don’t capture big movements. Instead, they bring subtle, private movements closer. Too close.
“The idea came from my relationship,” says Acquaro, whose most recent exhibit, “Intimate Portraits,” opens at The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative on Friday. “From looking at my girlfriend so close, my eyes were fuzzy, but things still looked nice.”
Acquaro moved to Nelson County from New Jersey with his family in 1990, and came to Charlottesville in 1997; his earliest photos were landscape shots, including a few of a river that ran through his backyard in Nelson.
“Everything looked so big to me,” says Acquaro of living in Nelson, then adds that moving to Virginia made him “more laid back” and exposed him to Southern hospitality.
Then Acquaro began to move closer, to take advantage of the size of his subjects as well as their accessibility. He rehearsed his portrait skills through shooting concerts by the Hackensaw Boys and Devon Sproule. (You can see one of Acquaro’s photos on the back of Sproule’s latest record, Keep Your Silver Shined.) He began shooting a series of night portraits in 2003 and completed his collection of nocturnal shots a few years later, but didn’t exhibit the pictures until last June in a month-long show at the Gallery at Fifth and Water called “Night Impressions.”
And as Acquaro got closer, many of his subjects became obscured; a model turns her shoulder and looks away from the camera, or buries her gaze beneath strands of her hair. In one of Acquaro’s most striking photos, “Woman in Tree,” a woman reclines along the mottled white branch of a birch. Her balance is delicate, her face turned upwards and just slightly away; her body is a near-perfect line, like the base of our letter “L,” while the branches that surround her and the blanket that covers her spiral together in a heavy mesh of dim lighting.
Acquaro’s “Intimate Portraits” achieves the same effects, but to different ends. They are both minimal and maximal, simple black and white portraits in which the subject momentarily overwhelms the camera’s ability to capture it. Acquaro shows me a profile shot of his girlfriend, Rachel, so close that her hair becomes an unrecognizable texture—an eroded mountainside, or a peeling birch branch, so close that a few tendrils seem to reach through the lens to tickle our eyes.
“That’s what’s cool about film cameras,” says Acquaro. “You can feel what you’re getting.”
Grandson of Bill?
Word from the Sons of Bill camp is that lead guitarist Sam Wilson completed his first solo record, news he confirmed during a phone call last week: “I finished the basic tracks last summer, before we went overseas [to tour].”
Now, “Golden God” Wilson—what? That’s what we call him around the office!—is the perfect six-stringed chaser to your truly kick-ass rock ’n’ roll shot. Recently, he’s dropped his guitar chops into the mix for a bunch of locals, from a ripping last-minute duo performance with Paul Curreri to an upcoming gig with Carleigh Nesbit at Gravity Lounge. (Wilson and Six Day Bender’s Luke Nuttig chipped in on Nesbit’s new album, due near the end of September.)
Sons of Bill lead guitarist Sam Wilson (second from right) readies his first solo disc with a gang of local stars. Stay gold, Sammy boy!
But Wilson’s record promises to be a concoction all his own, with contributions from Darrell “Ace of Bass” Muller, SoB drummer Brian Caputo and Wells Hanley, who worked with Wilson on the upcoming album from Shannon Worrell. What’s more, violinist Ann Marie Calhoun, a vet of Dave Matthews Band’s Stand Up album, and Young Divorcees gunslinger Charlie Bell throw in a few guest spots.
Watch the Feedback music blog for more from Wilson—not to mention a few more Feedback Session videos—in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we raise our shot glasses to Wilson for his efforts and eagerly await his album. To paraphrase Almost Famous: You are a golden god.