The golden age of photojournalism ended with the final weekly edition of Life magazine in 1972, a casualty of the revolution in newsgathering ushered in by the television age.
As a result today, when most people get their picture of the world from the tube rather than from the printed page, the romantic figure of the intrepid, globe-trotting photojournalist armed only with a Leica and a couple of lenses is fast receding into myth. Meanwhile, what's left of the practice of photojournalism has been transformed into a species of art photography.
There's no turning back the clock, but here and there a few brave souls still soldier on in the honored tradition. Grace Taylor, whose photographs of Tibet and China are on view at Gomez Gallery through March 10, carries on the rich legacy of Western photographers in the East pioneered by such masters of the miniature camera as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Werner Bischoff and Marc Riboud.
Like her predecessors, Taylor employs the simplest of materials and techniques: black-and-white film, a 35 mm Leica camera with fast, wide-angle lens, and an alert, sympathetic eye.
Her pictures of everyday life among the rugged, self-reliant rural people who make their living far from China's busy metropolises offer a window on a way of life most Westerners rarely see, a world still steeped in ancient tradition even as it wrestles with contemporary political uncertainty and the inexorable encroachments of modernity.
Taylor has a wonderful sense of light and shadow and a natural empathy for people that allows her to suggest something of her subjects' personalities through the smallest gestures and most fleeting expressions.
This work, like a previous collection of pictures Taylor photographed in rural Mexico, was created on the photographer's own initiative rather than on assignment for a news magazine. It's a reminder of the old saw that a photojournalist's best work is often, alas, done for himself or herself, and that the distinction between professional and amateur has, throughout the history of photography, a negligible relationship to the aesthetic quality of the results achieved.
Also on view at Gomez are abstract paintings by Betsey Heuisler and drawings by Elzbieta Sikorska. The gallery is at 3600 Clipper Mill Road. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 410-662-9510.
Matsumi Kanemitsu was a Baltimore painter who, in the 1940s, moved to New York and became active among the circle of artists who developed the style that became known as abstract expressionism.
In New York, Kanemitsu met and was influenced by Jackson Pollock, who shared an interest in Asian brush painting and calligraphic line as an expression of spiritual kinship with nature.
A selection of Kanemitsu's exuberant ink and watercolor works on paper are on display at C. Grimaldis Gallery through Feb. 24. These works have a spontaneous freedom and visual animation that seem to belie their austere formal rigor. In Kanemitsu's art, the outward appearance of organic forms and interior structures of the psyche are brought into a deeply intuitive unity.
Kanemitsu was born in 1922 in Baltimore of immigrant Japanese parents, but spent part of his childhood in Japan before returning to the United States as a young man. During World War II his parents were interned by the government on the West Coast; Kanemitsu enlisted in the U.S. Army and fought in Italy and the Pacific.
After the war, Kanemitsu returned to Baltimore, but soon left again for New York, where he lived and worked throughout the 1950s and '60s. He left New York in the early 1970s to settle in California, where he continued painting until his death in 1992.
Of Kanemitsu's seminal relationship with Pollock during the years in which abstract expressionism emerged as the leading art movement of the era, Helen A. Harrison of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center has written, "both were artists who simultaneously looked outward to nature and inward toward the unconscious in their search for synthesis and transcendence."
Also at Grimaldis are small oil paintings of cityscapes by John Ferry. The gallery is at 523 N. Charles St. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and by appointment. Call 410-539-1080.
A touch of Maryland
At first and second glance, Paul Hotvedt's diminutive oil paintings, on view at Galerie Francoise et ses freres through March 1, seem like natural descendants of the Dutch and Flemish landscapists who created the genre in the 17th century.
There are the same huge skies that seem to dwarf everything on the ground, be it plant, animal or human, and the same verdant harmonies of blue, yellow and ocher that evoke a timeless atmosphere of shimmering, vegetative growth.
Hotvedt, a graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art and a former director of the city's School 33 art gallery, creates these magical scenes in his spare time in rural Kansas, where he now lives and works as a commercial typesetter. But there is nothing of the amateur about these pictures.
On the contrary, there is something very familiar about them, as if Hotvedt had injected more than a hint of Maryland air into his flat, prairie landscapes. We get the feeling that though the locales depicted may be far away in terms of miles, the heart that knows them remains close to home.
Galerie Francoise is in Greenspring Station, 2630 W. Joppa Road in Lutherville. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Call 410-337-ARTS.