Plastic is not normally a product heralded in our culture. But Beep Beep Gallery's Plastic Makes Perfect exhibition gives that most modest, superficial and manufactured of materials its day in the sun.
Almost all of the participating photographers use plastic cameras or lenses to make their work. The cameras – many of them initially intended as toys – vary from that photographer's creaky fetish item, the Holga, to an underwater camera and a vintage Brownie.
The 12 photographers offer both hot and cold work. Much of it feels tossed off. But the show itself is instructive. Despite those instances of weak or unengaging work, the show is an apt one for the month when Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
With so much of photography either a rich person's art – full of gargantuan prints expensive to make and more expensive to frame – or still clinging to the pristine rigor of classical black-and-white, it's a relief to see a bit of sloppiness and play.
Plastic Makes Perfect shows the virtue in happy accidents.
The imperfectionist's beloved, the cheapo Chinese toy camera, the Holga, has a special reputation for glorying in flaws. That tendency to embrace the goof is evident in an abundance of photos that revel in light flares, vignetting and fuzziness. But the blurry images work their own magic; an ability to evoke the character of hazy summer days or fond memories. Of all the photographers present, it is Otto Kitchens whose work best illustrates the Holga's ability to confer a melancholy dreaminess, as in an image of yellow flowers lazily swooning on a bright blue day. Gordon Gyor achieves a similar effect in his ode to a summer day's quiet passage, where a molten sun sinks behind a sandy beach at day's end.
In addition to the formal embrace of the toy camera's technical snafus, Plastic Makes Perfect also offers pleasingly scintillating work.
Chris Carder's "Rural State," for example, is a Gummon-esque tale in three acts. Using the Russian-made LOMO Lubitel, Carder's grainy images sum up the not so nostalgic, less than wholesome character of country livin'. In a nutshell: nuclear reactors, all-terrain vehicles, dead sunflowers. Got it.