Opening dialogue: A Downtown space explores all things photography

The gallery at eLearning Media
Photo: Fred Sigman

The temptation to take an iPhone photo of an antique 8x10 Kodak view camera and its accordion-like bellows is a burning one. It’s what we do. Snap a picture of everything momentarily interesting and let it disappear into the vast archives of our smartphones.

And in a world flooded with the immediacy of digital photography, this antiquated picture-maker in the gallery at Downtown’s eLearning Media is oddity enough for that.

But it’s another relic that lifelong photographers Fred Sigman and Kathleen Dillon Nathan have returned to in their shared space on Industrial Road that solidifies the throwback: the darkroom. Though both switched to digital years ago (with Nathan believing she wouldn’t go back), each of them missed it and there just happened to be room for one in the nearly 1,600-square-foot space where Sigman houses the production studio for his web-based video education business.

While not the centerpiece of the recently opened gallery/studio/workshop in Downtown Spaces, the lab plays a huge role in their mission to engage with all aspects of image capturing. Additionally, displayed in the gallery at eLearning Media is Alternative Photography, an educational exhibit in which old, new and alternative converse. Amid Van Dyke and wetplate collodion prints, Nathan’s cyanotypes hang near Tom Holder’s Polaroid transfer landscapes, Wayne Cody’s platinum/palladium prints and Christopher Tsouras’ digital inkjets on mixed-media panels.

“The current show is about the comparative merits of digital and film,” Sigman says. “Digital has its syntax. Film has its syntax. They share things in common. They’re uniquely different, and it’s good when someone can recognize that and cultivate the uniqueness.”

Earlier this month at a gallery talk in conjunction with the exhibit, Sigman discussed historical processes in photography and their aesthetic uses. There are more talks to come. The goal is to connect the community through lectures, exhibits and workshops.

“It’s about writers and artists coming together to collaborate,” Nathan says. “We want to have a place where people can come learn and talk.”

Nathan and Sigman both have experience in creating that kind of exchange. They were among the group of artists and teachers who founded the Contemporary Arts Collective (now the Contemporary Arts Center) more than two decades ago. Sigman wrote the organization’s mission statement at Four Kegs bar on Maryland Parkway. Since then, each has left and returned to Las Vegas multiple times (Nathan was in the first graduating class for UNLV’s MFA program in 1991). They’ve had other galleries—Nathan owned Smallworks with Jim Stanford, Sigman the Water Street Gallery—both served on the board for the Goldwell Open Air Museum and have built solid portfolios.

As for the 8x10 Kodak, it’s not just a prop.

Alternative Photography Through late June; call for hours. eLearning Media, 1800 Industrial Road #200 B, 702-580-3733.

Photo of Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson

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