The Watchung Arts Center will present the Ross Wagner exhibition

Watchung Arts Center press release:

October 3, 2021

The Watchung Arts Center is presenting an inspiring Life In Photography exhibition by Ross Wagner during the month of October. This retrospective exhibition marks the release of his book “A Life In Photography”. The book details Mr. Wagner’s most memorable and renowned images since the 1950s and is a trip down memory lane rediscovering his unique creative style and talent that has marked his progress to this day. An artists reception on Sunday, October 17 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. will be a great opportunity to meet Ross Wagner. All internal events and programs will require vaccination and masking certification.

This exhibition is in conjunction with the release of the new photographic volume, “Ross Wagner, A Life in Photography”. The 163-page book contains over 74 high-quality images showcasing Ross’s work throughout his life as a photographer. He provides insights and biographical details that offer an in-depth understanding of his various photographic techniques.

Thanks to the generosity of Ross and Kathy Wagner, the profits from each volume sold will be donated to the Watchung Arts Center. Additionally, anyone purchasing a volume should feel free to make an additional donation beyond the cost of the book to help support Watchung Arts Center and its ongoing work in the arts. The books are available for sale for $ 150 each through the Watchung Arts Center office.

My photographic aspirations began at Hamilton Jr. High School where instructor Arthur Starks built a darkroom. It was in 1946.

One day Mr. Starks asked who would like to learn how to photograph. Along with two other students, I raised my hand and we were launched into the world of film Verichrome, developer Dektol, and basic cameras. Mr. Starks, a capable and talented photographer inspired us. We started to make decent pictures, learned to enlarge them, edit them and frame them. The teacher directed us to direct our efforts to the Scholastic Magazine National Photo Contest. The three of us have won prizes. A portrait of my father, “Exploring the World” won first place in the Portrait category and became the cover of the magazine. Life with my father has improved.

Photography continued until high school – Yearbook, sports photography. I even started photographing neighborhood children with a 35mm camera, black and white film and natural light in a “home” setting. I photographed the kids doing what the kids are doing, and the parents liked the results. The word has spread. I was busy.
I attended Cornell University, where I logged into the daily The Cornell Sun, and quickly found my specialty photographing faculty and visitors to campus, often classical musicians, dancers and other artists. well known.

A special assignment for this 19-year-old was to photograph an old Ralph Vaughn Williams, the British composer. He and his new wife Ursula Wood, the British poet, invited me to their apartment on short notice. One dreary March afternoon with Vaughan Williams sitting by a window, I improvised a shadow reflector with newspapers draped over a chair. I asked him if he took off his glasses and held them in his hands. He relaxed. I have exposed the four frameworks. The beautiful and charming poet Ursula Wood’s farewell words were that her husband had just returned from Canada where he had been photographed by Karsh of Ottawa, the famous international portrait painter of the time. I knew my effort was doomed. However, Ralph Vaughn Williams liked the photo more than Karsh of Ottawa’s effort and requested permission to use my photo as an advertising image. Granted instantly. RVW’s portrait of Ross Wagner appeared shortly after in The New York Times. I started to think about my life as a photographer.

In 1985 a brochure had arrived from the Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York, devoted to “awakening the best of the human spirit”. I had stayed at home to enjoy the spirituality of listening to classical music recorded through an elaborate music system. But my attention in that year’s Omega program was drawn to a description of Harry Mattison’s week-long photography program emphasizing Omega’s devotion to spirituality. Not your usual diaphragm and depth of field camera club diary.

I signed up. There were maybe 15 of us from all over North America …. Brooklyn, New York at a cattle ranch in Colorado and a few beyond Canada. Thanks to Harry’s enthusiasm and leadership skills, the group bonded. I found that part of myself that I had left behind twenty years earlier. I was photographing again. The following year Harry rehearsed at Omega, and I re-enrolled. No more coals on the fire. I was fully engaged in photography. Harry and I had become friends and built a relationship even though we lived 200 miles from each other.

Wishing to get in touch with other local photographers, I started attending the monthly “Camera Club” meetings. At that point Harry suggested that I establish what could be considered an alternative group. The Atelier Vision Unique was to be “dedicated to photographers seeking for themselves and for others the clearest expression of their deepest connection with the world”. Our group, now 21, continues its mission with monthly meetings reviewing each other’s recent work creating a “body of work”, discussing local and New York shows, sharing books of photographs (recent and historical ) and anything we deem relevant. and requiring attention.

Throughout these many years as host and curator of our annual exhibition seen by hundreds of people, I never fail to be stimulated and re-energized by my involvement in The Unique Vision Workshop.

Photography continues to flourish in my life. Every day, I “imagine” dozens of photographs as I hurry through my daily routine. Nowadays, a lot can be found on my iPhone. Some may be promising. And some of them can be turned into impressions. And some of them have found their place in this exhibition and this book for reasons that only I know of.

The Watchung Arts Center, located at 18 Stirling Road in Watchung on Watchung Circle, is a multidisciplinary arts center serving Watchung, surrounding communities and the Tri-State region. For more information on upcoming performances, classes and workshops, as well as monthly art exhibitions, please visit or call 908-753-0190.

This press release was produced by Watchung Arts Center. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

William E. Bennett

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