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MCLA Gallery 51: Reflections - Photographs by Thomas Mikelson

For several years, Thomas Mikelson has been working with images containing reflections in water (lakes, ponds, oceans, rivers, even puddles), glass, shiny metal, and even glossy paint. Reflections come in many kinds-single reflections and reflections mingled, creating appearances of layers and multiple exposures. "Once I began looking for reflections, I saw that daily experience is filled with reflections that I had passed over quickly as if they were less real than the actual objects reflected. It's startling when reflections are taken into account. Looking for reflections has taught me to see experience in greater detail and more intimately interconnected-layers upon layers of things seen and interrelated in new ways. The challenge for photographers is how to organize and frame the actual objects and reflections within the limits of a photograph."


Each image in this exhibit is a single exposure, one click of the shutter just as the camera saw it. There have been no alterations of their content. Treatment of images is limited to adjustments of light and color.


Thomas Mikelson has been an amateur photographer for much of his life beginning in his late teens. He is now retired and living in North Adams since the summer of 2006. His primary career has been religious leadership and teaching. He holds two masters degrees from the University of Chicago in theology, and a doctor of theology degree from Harvard. From 1989 to 2006, he was Parish Minister of The First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist. During most of those years he was also a visiting lecturer at Harvard Divinity School. Like many other photographers, he changed from film to digital photography nearly a decade ago. Though he still has his favorite film cameras, he rarely uses them and keeps them mostly for sentimental reasons.


For Thomas, there is a connection between photography and spirituality that has to do with being keenly focused in the present and seeing its possibilities. "I'm not a photographer because I see more; I see more because I am a photographer. Photography for me, as for many, has been a journey, an exploration that never ends. For those who may be interested in that vision of photography, there is a sermon available in the gallery that Thomas wrote entitled, "The Zen of the Lens." "It is that spiritual quality of photography, like the quality of most art at its best, which is alive, bidding us to see more and be born again."


"Photography is also an experience in community where teachers are important. Peter Laytin, longtime Chairman in Photography at Fitchburg State, taught me the magic of color and light in the dark room. Ted Dillard, free lance photography consultant and author in Boston, has been my guru in Photoshop. Three outstanding women photographers, Elizabeth Opalenik of San Francisco, Karen Rosenthal of Watertown, and Connie Imboden of Baltimore, all of them widely known, have been my sages with the camera, especially leading me into the realm of layered images. Their influence is very much apparent in many of the images in this exhibit. In North Adams, I have discovered the treasure of Howie Levitt, owner of TGL Photo formerly of Williamstown and now in North Adams. Howie is a wizard, a constant source of wisdom that every photographer needs in those moments when we hit a wall. Cole Bellamy too is a commercial photographer in Boston and a key staff person at E. P. Levine, one of the best known photography stores in the Boston area. Cole is a passionate photographer and a constant source of reliable information from years of tracking and exploring new photographic technology. And Patricia Sheppard, my 'best friend,' supporter, and astute critic, has an uncommonly keen eye and a very large heart. To her, this exhibit, which has been growing for several years, is dedicated. Robert Frost once said of his wife, 'She is half of all that I have written.' I understand that well.


Finally, to Jonathan Secor, Ven Voisey, and the staff at MCLA Gallery 51, I am both grateful personally for this opportunity to exhibit my work and impressed at the large measure of their contribution to the world of art and the quality of community in North Adams."
 





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