Christ Church Cathedral will participate in Houston’s biennial photography festival, FotoFest, with an extensive outdoor portrait exhibition mounted along the cathedral fences at 1117 Texas Ave.
The show, entitled “Faces of the Other: Encounters in the Midst of the City,” features the photography of Joe Aker and will remain on display through the end of May.
The opening celebration for this exhibit, scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, will be in the Bishop’s Courtyard (rain location is Reynolds Hall) and will include an artist talk, lawn games, a photo scavenger hunt and other activities for adults, children and families. Children will also have the opportunity to have their portraits taken onsite. Everyone who had a portrait taken for the “Faces” exhibition will be specially invited, and the celebration is open to everyone.
The idea for the outdoor portraits started with Robin Bullington, the volunteer head of the cathedral’s Cloister Gallery. Bullington was inspired by a photo display on a fence she saw in New York’s Lower East Side.
Once Bullington’s idea of putting life-size photographs of people from the cathedral neighborhood along the fence was approved by the cathedral, Bullington approached longtime gallery owner and cathedral parishioner Roni McMurtrey, who Bullington credits for helping to shape the vision of the show.
A key to the project’s success was the choice of photographer, Aker. Not only did Aker have 60 years’ experience, he had also done a show with the Cloister Gallery inside the cathedral last year as well as curated a show of photography from cathedral youth.
Aker is an internationally recognized architectural photographer and artist. A native of Oklahoma, he has lived and worked in Houston since 1976. His list of clients reads like a Forbes list of who’s who and his photography has appeared in all the major architectural magazines. In other words, Aker has the vision and experience to bring Bullington’s vision to reality.
“For him, this project was a labor of love,” Bullington said of Aker’s involvement.
Added Aker: “It is about inclusion rather than exclusion. I really appreciate the cathedral allowing me free reign in choosing who would be in it. The people include rich and poor, six different religions, gay, lesbian, non-binary, and probably 15 different racial and ethnic groups.
“It is to highlight the diversity and beauty of the Houston community,” Aker continued. “I wanted the images to be viewer-friendly so that people could relate to them.”
Out of 100 asks, Aker only got a no about five times. The only payment in most cases was a large photographic print for the subjects to keep.
“I found that approaching people directly and looking them in the eyes with a smile was the best way to ask them about taking their photo,” Aker said.
Bullington and McMurtrey had the difficult task of determining which photographs would be enlarged to 5X3 feet and printed on an aluminum material designed for outdoor use. The printing is of the same high quality as a print on paper for museum shows.
FotoFest, a cultural nonprofit organization based in Houston, organizes year-round shows as well as a biennial exhibition, which is taking place this year. FotoFest’s photo-based programs seek to illuminate social issues and present new, vital artwork.
Christ Church Cathedral is an Episcopal community in Downtown Houston and the oldest church in the city.
Details for the exhibit can be found at facesoftheother.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.