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Fascinating Photography Show at 1239 Congress Street

Precisely five months ago, I first went to 1239 Congress street, in the upper ninth ward, to review a gutted house that would host a play. I now write of a furnished house that is hosting a photography gallery. The 1239 crew laid floorboards, unified the double-shotgun into a single house, and put up walls where they had been beams. Perhaps every reconstructed house deserves a record. This one deserves note not only for being reconstituted into a living space, but into a multifaceted artistic space.

Photos, like this one by Andy Cook, will be on display.

The main room, where the Skin Horse production Sarah was played for Fringe Fest, is now a photography gallery. Contributing photographers are Durado Brooks, Christian Hardy, Michelle Kowalski and Andy Cook. Behind the gallery is a sound-proofed room to be used for recording. The plan is to allow musicians to record at the house in return for providing music lessons to local children. Indeed, the house is operated by labor exchange. The photographers provided recompense for their usage of the space by working on reconstruction of the house’s interior. I spoke with one of the photographers, Andy Cook, about his work.

Cook is concerned with the lessons photography may learn from painting. The contrast between his newer work, and his older work, both of which are on display, strikes the viewer as a indicative of a complete shift. The photographs of a year ago are stark representations of objects. They are as still-lifes. More recent photographs are abstracted from their subject. More precisely, the subject is not represented, but, perhaps expressed. As Cook described it, he has been seeking to access the feeling of a place, rather than the place itself. These photographs are less concerned with details and more concerned with “exuberance.” They aim to create a landscape within which the viewer can struggle or revel as his or her wont, but not parse into delimitable forms.

The raison d’etre of this concept, as I gleaned from Cook’s observations, is to develop a “diaristic” photography – a photography of documentation. The design of such a document ought not mimic the landscape shot, but replicate instead the emotional encounter with that landscape. To accomplish this, Cook superimposes 3-7 exposures upon each other, into a single image to be digitally manipulated. Landscape sinks under perception of landscape, or perhaps under the memory of a perception. This is to bring photography closer to painting.

Cook’s work, along with the work of the three other photographers, is now open to viewing Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 4 to 7 p.m., until 1 April (excluding Mardi Gras weekend). This coming Saturday, February 11, the exhibit will host its Second Saturday, with live music by Casual Baby and The Erin Demastes Trio. There will also be new art by Nick Gomez. The event will be 6 to 10 p.m., and there will be beverages and food. The following Friday, February 17, 1239 will see music by Andrew Duhon, The Tintypes, Thomas Kivi and Sarah Pray, and Zack Feinberg and David Shaw from the Revivalists.

For additional information on the exhibit, please check 1239 Congress’s facebook page at!/pages/1239-Congress/236344779726848 or email


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