big photo show

Duke Smith, clockwise, from top, Elma Andrews, Charles Opper, and Gay Opper hang photos for a previous Coastal Photographers Guild’s Big Photo Show at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on St. Simons Island. This year’s event will be a bit different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Coastal Photographer’s Guild know how to pull off a high quality exhibit — in fact, they have done so locally for more than a decade. What they are less familiar with, however, is doing that during a pandemic.

But that’s precisely what they are tasked with doing this year, says Jillisa Milner, guild president. Because of that, this year’s Big Photo Show will — understandably — look a little different this year.

“This is our 12th Annual Big Photo Show, but it’s the first ever to be planned and take place during a pandemic. So our main priorities were to ensure everyone’s health and safety as we celebrate the talent of guild members and share our work with the community,” Milner said.

“This led to two big changes. For the first time ever, the Big Photo Show will have an online sale component: all the photos hanging at Glynn Visual Arts will also be for sale on the GVA website.”

That way, she says, the public will be able to peruse the works from the comfort and safety of their home.

“This online sale will allow people to see and buy beautiful art for their homes, all while supporting local photographers and Glynn Visual Arts. And people don’t even have to leave their homes to enjoy the show. So that’s a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to or can’t venture out into public gatherings yet,” she said.

For those who do feel comfortable doing so, there will be an opening reception that will allow them to interact with the artists. It will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. July 9 at Glynn Visual Arts, 106 Island Dr., St. Simons Island. Milner says that, due to the COVID0-19 protocol, it will be a little different than it has been in years passed.

“Glynn Visual Arts has implemented new guidelines based on recommendations from the CDC to help keep everyone safe and healthy. So this year, it will be outdoors. All attendees will be required to wear masks both inside and outside the building,” she said.

“We’ll also limit the amount of people going into the building to ensure everyone inside can maintain social distancing while they enjoy the photos, and we’re changing procedures for voting on People’s Choice to reduce contact with shared materials. We won’t be serving food, but we’ll have the same fun and excitement as usual, including our awards ceremony for the top photos in each category.”

While its opening will be different this year, holding it is critically important to the guild’s members. They always look forward to sharing their work with the community and this year is no different. For Tom Sweeney, it opens an outlet for creativity and and avenue for communication.

“(It) allows others to see and enjoy the beautiful things I have been able to see,” Sweeney said.

Fellow member Phillip Mason agrees, adding that he also enjoys being able to view other members’ works.

“I thoroughly enjoy seeing the creative work of other guild members and having the opportunity to have my work seen by the public in an exhibit,” Mason said.

The idea of sharing one’s work in a public setting can be foreboding for some. When she first joined the guild, she was terrified at the idea of entering her work in a show. But slowly, she opened up to the idea, which has proven to be very rewarding.

“But with the encouragement of others in the guild, tips learned during meetings and a big push from family, I entered my first three. And in so doing, learned so much more than I would have if I’d stayed stubbornly in my comfort zone,” Kirkpatrick said.

“I do think it’s made me a better photographer. It opened me up to reach deeper and go beyond what I imagined for myself.”

For Milner, the Big Photo Show’s meaning runs deeper than simply providing a platform for pictures. It’s about sharing reflections of the remarkable in the ordinary. It also offers a means of escape during trying times.

“Art becomes even more important than ever during times of difficulty. Photos can do so much: they can remind us of the beauty that exists in the ordinary, they can offer respite and peace, they can challenge us, or they can open our hearts to other perspectives,” she said.

“Photos can take us on an adventure by showing us other parts of the world—that seems more important and valuable than ever in a time when travel is difficult or impossible. Plus, this is an opportunity for the community to support local artists as well as Glynn Visual Arts. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people.”

It will also be a time where photography members can enjoy a bit of normalcy — something that’s been lacking since they started canceling meetings in mid-March.

“The pandemic has changed so much for the guild this year. We had to cancel our meeting in March, and we shifted to virtual meetings using Zoom and posting videos on our blog every month since,” she said.

“So it’s been a long time since our group has been together in person. I think this year’s format will be a good balance to allow us to safely share some time with each other, and enjoy the magic of seeing our photos printed and hanging on the walls of a gallery.”

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