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CHARLES A. LOWE @ CAPE ANN MUSEUM

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CHARLES A. LOWE @ CAPE ANN MUSEUM

By Kate Laurel Burgess

Most “Year in the Life of…” exhibitions focus on a person and their discoveries, triumphs and events of a single calendar cycle. Charles A. Lowe: Gloucester 1975, however, focuses on a “Year in the Life of” an entire city, the city of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Lowe’s work as a photographer for the Gloucester Daily Times sheds light on the beauty, humor and wit in the everyday.

Displayed chronologically, the exhibition brings the viewer through the year 1975, starting in January with “Ann Joy Cahill at St. Mel’s School,” a doe-eyed young girl full of hope, and ending in December with “Patrolman Robert Bolcome lends a hand, as he and Mike Vestal help Jerry Klinow get his car up the snowy incline at Tally’s Corner,” a relatable and comedic image of two men pushing a car up a snow-covered roadway. The images are not titled as artworks would be, but are identified with one-liners and quips, giving the viewer their original context as headline accompanying documentation.

The best of a year in the life of Gloucester is apparent, with the Fiesta celebration and horribles of the Horribles 4th of July parade making appearances. Uncle Sam, mimes and Mayor Nate Ross are all visible in Lowe’s frames, with their situations reflecting a universal image of Gloucester, not merely the chosen year of review.

Although taken as images to document newsworthy events throughout the city, Charles A. Lowe’s photographs bridge the boundary between documentation and fine art. Each image has a unique viewpoint, one that embraces the beauty in the everyday. Ultimately, Lowe utilizes said beauty to frame each subject, resulting in images that transcend Gloucester, transcend 1975, and eclipse into the sphere of timeless moments.

His images are not ones that one would say accompany the event, but are images that capture each event, telling the story visually. Fred Buck, Photo Archivist for the Cape Ann Museum, summed up Lowe’s photographs in the exhibition, stating in his opening essay that accompanies the exhibition “[f]reed from the newspaper’s need to illustrate a story and fit available column space, the frames show time and again that Charlie Lowe composed through the lens of his Nikon. He shot his scenes with the eye of a true artist and with the timing of a born dancer.”

Over 100 images have been digitally printed for the exhibition, using contemporary tools that are similar to those that Lowe would have employed in his darkroom. Buck explains “…I’ve been scrupulous in preparing the images for the exhibit…[b]urning, dodging, spotting, and contrast filters are a whole different kettle of fish thanks to digital editing software, but I’ve tried to hold the level of control over the final image to the standard of the old days.”

Charles A. Lowe spent his entire life in Gloucester, except for the 8 years he served in the Navy. His interest in photography was sparked at a young age, prompting Lowe to build a darkroom in his basement as a young boy. Lowe obtained additional education in photography during his time in the Navy, as he earned his GED and became a photographer’s 2nd mate.

In 2004, the Cape Ann Museum received over 40,000 of Lowe’s negatives from his time working at the Gloucester Daily Times, captured between 1957 and 1981. Fred Buck and former editor of the Times, Peter Watson, chose 1975 as the exhibition’s sub-theme and focus as it was one of the “most complete years” in the Lowe archive.

For the young, Charles A. Lowe: Gloucester 1975 is an opportunity to relive the past through the lens of a small town, and through the eyes of one who lived with and within it, capturing its daily breath. For the young at heart, Lowe’s photographs speak of a time that is not contained to the single year of 1975, but to a moment of beauty, wit and humor still present in the everyday. Charles A. Lowe: Gloucester 1975 is on view at the Cape Ann Museum through May 31, 2009.


Cape Ann Museum

"Charles A. Lowe Photos: Gloucester 1975 " is on view until May 31st, at the Cape Ann Museum, located at 27 Pleasant St., in Gloucester, MA.

All images are courtesy of the the Cape Ann Museum.


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