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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Photographic Legacy

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   Milwaukee's rich heritage of fine art photography continues this week when the Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA), a new network of artists in the city, opens their "Second Annual Juried Exhibition" at Walker's Point Center for the Arts on Sept. 12. With sixty images in the show representing four states, CoPA strives to continually promote Milwaukee as a focal point for fine art photography.

  The 42 participating artists produced more than 140 intriguing entries juried by George Slade, artistic director of the Minnesota Center for Photography and contributor to numerous photography publications. Slade hosts a gallery talk on Oct. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m., to discuss his own ideas regarding the conception and direction of contemporary photography.

  Jurors also recognize Best in Show, first and second place, and a People's Choice Award to complete the agenda for this distinguished exhibition. These awards draw attention to CoPA's efforts to increase awareness and provide insight into modern photographic art.

  The idea of CoPA was first conceived by co-founders Larry D'Attilio and Mary Krimer in the summer of 2004. They began by inviting a few creative cohorts to the Soup's On restaurant on Water Street once a month. Nicknamed "Smoozes," these events at the small eatery soon overflowed with photographers and in 2005, with approximately 45 charter members, CoPA formally decided to attain non-profit status.

  Now boasting more than 200 members from Wisconsin and Illinois, including students, the current meetings offer professional critiques of artwork and speakers. Sonja Thomsen recently relinquished the first presidency of CoPA to Rob Quinn, who now oversees the organization's agenda. Energized by this enthusiastic response D'Attilio will open Luma Gallery this fall in the Historic Third Ward. This artist's collective of ten more "emergent" Milwaukee photographers joins VP Gallery of Fine Photography and the Underwood Foundation in the P. H. Dye Building, which is becoming a photography center for the city.

  D'Attilio traces the city's legacy of fine art photography to the work of world-renowned photographer Edward Steichen, who grew up in Milwaukee. Steichen apprenticed with a Milwaukee lithographer and became the first president of the Milwaukee Art Student's League he organized in 1900. Along with revolutionizing fashion and portrait photography he went on to become the director of photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art from 1947 to1962. This exceptional tradition provides inspiration for Milwaukee photographers as well as anyone attending the exhibition. D'Attilio claims the exhibit and gallery talks "give the city an opportunity to celebrate the community of photographers along with the fine art of photography." The reception takes place on Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.