Craig Semetko is as at home behind the lens as anyone who has ever picked up a camera. But his latest job for Open Shutter Gallery took him far out of his comfort zone.
I dont like judging anyone, Semetko said earlier this week from a friends home in Chicago.
Open Shutter owner Margy Dudley invited Semetko, a Los Angeles-based professional photographer and writer, to serve as juror for the gallerys third annual juried exhibition Exposure. Semetko had hoped to attend tonights opening, but he hit a deer with his car in North Dakota last week and has been stranded in the Windy City since. The accident also interrupted his work on America: E Pluribus Unum, a photo and book project that has sent Semetko coast-to-coast for the last year and a half. His Ford Escape hybrid had logged more than 4,000 miles on the trip before he hit the deer.
Like all Americans, I felt the country was polarized, and I want to get back to what that motto means from many, one, he said.
Im a man with a camera driving around the U.S.A. trying to recapture history with slice-of-life photographs, and I hope when its finished to show that were all still one country.
Durango is a favorite getaway for Semetko, who has shown his work at Open Shutter for several years and also held a book release party at the gallery in 2010 for his collection UNPOSED. For Exposure, Dudley and gallery manager Brandon Donahue sent a global call and received more than 300 submissions from all over the U.S. and from India, Israel, Canada and other countries. An Open Shutter committee narrowed those to 50 finalists. Semetko chose the award-winners:
Best of Show: Elephant Trainer by James Cammack (Bayfield)
Best of Color: Approaching Storm by Branson Reynolds (Durango)
Best of Black & White: Jasper National Park by Gabor Fur (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
You Distract Him, Ill Go for the Camera by Alexander Judkins (South Pasadena, Calif.)
Sunday Morning, Notre Dame by Bob Soltys (Cleveland, Ohio)
Cattle Egret by Douglas Herr (Orangevale, Calif.)
Two by Samuel Newton (Durango)
Bamboo Raft, Li River, China by Michael Flicek (Casper, Wyo.)
Fall Reflects by MaryAnne Nelson (Durango)
Its all clichés, but I really did like them all and theyre all winners, Semetko said. Ive done it before, too. They say it feels good just to be nominated and they are winners they got accepted into the show. Hopefully, I looked at it with some objectivity but I have opinions, and Im sure others do, too.
Donahue said he was happy to see Semetko choose a few local winners. The images were sent to Semetko electronically so there was no conspiracy to make that happen. The juror had no way of knowing whose photos came from where.
Im always impressed at the talent here in Durango, Donahue said. When I saw (James Cammacks winning photo) I was surprised to see that he lives in Bayfield. Thats so cool.