M.F.A. photography students unveil show at UAF gallery

Jason Hersey/Sun Star Reporter
February 12, 2013

"Bethel Tank" by Alice Bailey is part of the Copperplate Photogravure series on display at the UAF Gallery through February 15, 2013. Photo provided by Alice Bailey.

“Bethel Tank” by Alice Bailey is part of the Copperplate Photogravure series on display at the UAF Gallery through February 15, 2013. Photo provided by Alice Bailey.

UAF Master of Fine Arts photography students Alice Bailey and Ryota “Kaji” Kajita are displaying a collection of more than 70 original photographs at the UAF Gallery, located in the Great Hall next to the Rasmussen Library through Feb. 15.

The show “Portraits: Places and People” features multiple serieses by each artist from Japanese and Alaskan locations. Although film photographers, Bailey and Kajita, told how they have mixed mediums to create the work displayed. With the exception of Bailey’s Copperplate Photogravure series of Bethel “object portraits,” the photographs were made by mixing film photography with digital editing and ink-jet printing.

The Copperplate Photogravure series by Bailey, is a 19th century photography method that involves around eleven tedious steps. Images are etched onto a copper plate and printed by press. The final print takes on a smoky appearance looking as if they were printed in the 19th century. The etched copper plates themselves are also on display while print “House with Tree” was selected for Fairbanks’ 2012 64th Parallel Exhibition.

Bailey and Kajita are photography instructors as part of their teaching assistantships while in the M.F.A program. Thankful for advisor and mentor Charles Mason, the Journalism Department Chair and photography professor, both were extremely excited to put their best work on the walls of the gallery. Although not a curriculum requirement, they created the show in order to receive valuable feedback which they apply to their M.F.A thesis projects next spring. Also, they intended to inspire students to include photography in their art and photojournalism curriculum. Knowing how difficult photography can be, Bailey encouraged students. “Being frustrated is part of the process,” Bailey said. “Keep going.”

Bailey, a South Dakotan native, received a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art at the University of Virginia in 2004. She continued with the Fifth Year Aunspaugh Fellowship, a Bachelor of Fine Arts equivalent focusing on photography, the following year. Interested in salmon fisheries, she came to Alaska eight years ago as a Brook’s Range river guide and has also has worked for The Department of Fish and Game during the summers. During winters she has kept busy studying at UAF and taking photographs for her portraiture project.

Bailey’s portraiture series attempts to capture “people in their spaces.” The series features friends dressed for and in their preferred environments, such as outdoor settings, barns or at their cabin. She also hopes to eventually incorporate Bethel friends and coworkers into her future work for the ongoing series. Her photographs “Perrin” and “Metta” have been selected to tour around the state for juried show, “Alaska Positve” in 2012 and 2013.

Kajita was born in Mizunami, Japan, and permanently moved to Fairbanks in 2005. Kajita first came to Alaska in 2002 where he spent three months in the western Alaskan village, Shishmaref. Inspired by photographer Michio Hoshino, he brought a digital video camera and a film camera to document his time in the village. Using the video content he created the documentary “Losing Ground,” which won the Cinema Committee Choice Award at the 2007 “Fairbanks Film Festival.” He commented that although he has talent for video editing, he prefers still photography. “With the aid of photography, I can connect to the world,” he said.

Kajita, who appreciates the outdoors from his countryside upbringing in Japan, noted it was like “treasure hunting,” while spending only two days photographing the “Ice Formations in Alaska” series, on the Tanana River. The series was featured in “Photo Technique” magazine and has been included in this year’s “Blue Sky’s Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers,” a public archive exhibit in Portland, Ore.

Kajita’s photographs have appeared in the “Japan Professional Photographer’s Society Exhibition,” “Alaska’s Rarefied Light” and “Aesthetica, the Art and Culture magazine.” Kajita attributed much of his success to Mason, who referred him to the M.F.A program and his girlfriend and UAF Computer Art associate professor Miho Aoki, for her “beautiful advice.”

Bailey and Kajita opened the show to a busy and enthusiastic public on Feb. 8 as the only two M.F.A. photography students UAF currently has, photography exhibits are rare to its gallery. Committed to putting photography on display as a fine art, not just a medium for photojournalists, artists Bailey and Kajita filled not only the gallery with work, but their pieces line the hallway clear to the art department.

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