“A Lost Lens,” the photography exhibit now underway at Red Bank Frameworks, is modest in scale just 11 pictures and completely lacking in star power, given that the images on display were taken by unknown photographers and found in trash bins and at rummage sales.
They’re not even particularly good from a technical standpoint, says Steve McMillion, owner of the six-month old framing shop at the corner of Monmouth and West Streets. But as so-called vernacular art, the monochrome prints “capture the feeling and soul of a moment lost in time,” he says.
What’s perhaps most compelling about the show though, is that it is the inaugural exhibit for what McMillion has dubbed the Frameworks Gallery within his shop, and what that may portend for an intersection best known for a Mexican restaurant, a vacuum-cleaner store and a vacant lot that’s been a magnet for failed development plans.
McMillion says the show is essentially a debugging exercise for what he envisions as a continuing series of art exhibits that will help draw interest and creative vibrancy to a neighborhood that, while it sits in the shadow of the Two River Theater and Arts & Antiques district, could use a direct infusion of attention.
The framer says he’s planning on changing the exhibits every five weeks, and like “A Lost Lens,” each will have an “unusual or esoteric” slant. For example, for an autumn display, he’s lining up woodcut prints by an artist who created her images as part of the Works Progress Administration effort in the 1930s. He’s also planning to feature local artists.
The current show, featuring images from the first half of the twentieth century, reflects his own tastes, McMillion says.
“I’ve always been drawn to the mysterious and atmospheric images,” he says. Rather than having a viewer think how nice a particular image would go with decor, “I like to have people learn something, or walk away with an interesting thought or question.”
McMillion, whose résumé includes a stint as the owner of a gallery/antiques business in Chicago, says he’s been collecting old images for some 25 years, scooping them up at flea markets and garages sales.
Each of the photos is displayed twice, in original, small size and a “found” frame and large size.
The prints, and of course the frames, are for sale, “but we’re not really pushing this as a retail thing,” McMillion says. “We don’t just want to be a storefront saying ‘buy something from us.'”
“A Lost Lens” runs through June 19. FrameWorks Gallery is located at 160 Monmouth Street and hours are 10 to 7p, Tuesday through Friday. For more information, call 732.219.6688 or email here.