By ROBERT BAXTER
Mount Laurel photographer Robert Chapell bought his first digital camera five months ago.
This afternoon, you can see one of his digital photographs exhibited in Photography 23, the annual show on view through Feb. 29 at the Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown.
Like many photographers, Chapell is capturing his images on computer chips, not film.
Digital photographs predominate in Perkins' show. For the first time, they outnumber photographs printed in traditional black-and-white and color processes.
"The digital camera has had a tremendous impact on photography," explains Chapell, who specializes in nature studies. His photograph of a bluejay feasting on the fruit of a crabapple tree was one of the 28 digital photos juried into Photography 23.
The digital camera allowed Chapell to capture a detailed and brilliantly colored image of the bird. Since he no longer has to buy film, Chapell can take more photographs.
"Digital technology has made enormous strides in recent years," notes Hope Proper, the curator of exhibitions at the Perkins Center.
"Photographers now have the freedom to manipulate images and colors. And if you process digital photographs with pigment inks on archival paper, you can make a print that will last 100 years. This is a revolution."
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The digital camera allows Philadelphia photographer David Lorenz Winston to capture the "surprise, mystery and playfulness" he values in a photograph. A pair of striking digital color prints by Winston convey both mystery and playfulness.
In "Man on Ludlow Street," Winston captures a haunting urban landscape, charged with danger. A red barrier and a car stand in front of a man disappearing into the shadows like an ominous figure from a film noir.
The photographer's sense of fun emerges in "Boardwalk Encounter." Rolling down the boardwalk on a motorized cart, an obese woman in white impassively confronts an imposing sculpture of a two-headed flamingo.
Winston was one of 10 prize winners in Photography 23. Also snaring prizes for their digital prints are Philadelphia photographers Bill Davis and David Slovic.
In "Anthroposophy 1, 2, 3," Davis photographed chalk marks on three blackboards. The small black-and-white photos invite viewers to peer into the pictures to savor the swirling chalk patterns embedded with trees, animals and a horse-drawn cart.
Slovic, an architect whose photographs have been featured in international exhibitions, creates riveting abstract photos with his digital camera. In "Silver," Slovic fashions a spare but powerful image full of arresting rhythms and tonal contrasts.
He takes multiple prints of a simple architectural detail and arranges them in overlapping rows. The repetition of the prints creates a dynamic and intense abstract image.
A few of the artists featured in Photography 23 combine traditional and digital processes.
In her dramatic still life of cheese, grapes and roses, Noel E. Jefferson employs an unusual 19th-century black-and-white technique and then adds a hint of color by delicately tinting the image in the digital print.
The photo began with what the photographer calls "a mental image" she created in her imagination.
"I wanted a dramatic feel, so I used a wet-plate collodion technique that makes a photograph resemble a painting," explains Jefferson, who lives in New York. "The process takes 48 hours."
After drying and polishing the photo plate, Jefferson scanned the image and added the subtle tint. For her work, she received a juror's award.
Other prize winners employ traditional techniques. In "Storm Over the Maineland," Santa Bannon-Shillea portrays a dramatic New England landscape during an electrical storm.
Under a dark sky illuminated by flashes of lightning, Bannon-Shillea depicts an eery summer storm. Spread over the tilted, narrow landscape are empty lawn chairs and houses bathed in flashes of light.
Bannon-Shillea studied photography at Camden County College, where she worked in the photography department for six years. She now lives in Bethlehem, Pa.
Diane Herder of Gibbstown also studied at Camden County College. Using a traditional, 35-millimeter camera, Herder captures two boys splashing in a spray of water gushing from a fire hydrant on a Philadelphia street.
"I was driving home from church when I saw the boys in the water," recalls Herder. "I pulled over and started to take photos."
"The Fire Hydrant" marks the second time in recent years one of Herder's photographs has been juried into South Jersey's most prestigious photo show.
Almost 400 photographers submitted more than 1,000 images for Photography 23. Juror Ruth Thorne-Thomsen selected 84 prints by 64 photographers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Virginia.
Thorne-Thomsen, an internationally recognized artist, has taught photography at Columbia College and the University of Colorado.
Three South Jerseyans - Amy Brian of Barrington, Donald Rogers of Columbus and Michael McManus of Sewell - were among 10 photographers Thorne-Thomsen selected for juror's awards.
Curators from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Art Collection will chose photos in the exhibit for their permanent collections.
Photography 23 features a wide range of subjects, from portraits and landscapes to still-lifes, abstracts and documentary works.
In a series of exquisitely detailed architectural photographs, Philadelphian Jeffrey Totaro documents industrial views at the Chester (Pa.) Power Station. Exploiting his engineering and artistic skills, Totaro turns his color prints of the machinery into works of art.
Samuel Worthington IV employs a rarely used 19th-century technique to fashion a pair of contrasting landscapes from the same negative. Mordencage allows a photographer to reverse a film negative to positive.
Using the painstaking process, Worthington bleaches the original image to produce prints that resemble the intense lines and bold patterns found in an etching.
The pair of untitled landscapes create contrasting moods that arrest the eye and add compelling interest to Perkins' outstanding exhibition.
IF YOU GO
Reach Robert Baxter at (856) 486-2436 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org