At least once each semester, a student in Visiting Assistant Professor Meggan Gould's introductory photography class apprehensively approaches her with a manual camera in hand and asks the question: "I see dust and scratches on my viewfinder. Are those going to show up in my final photos?"
Gould said she cannot count the number of times she has heard this question, and answered 'no.' But this concerned refrain was the inspiration for an innovative and intriguing series she began last summer that is now hanging in Space Gallery in Portland.
"This body of work is completely and utterly inspired by teaching at Bowdoin," said Gould. "This question the students were asking me led me to thinking that it's actually quite interesting that what you see through the viewfinder is not what is in your final product. Yet these things—scratches, hair, dust, manufacturer's markings—all mediate your vision as a photographer."
The images are mounted under plexiglass, which helps to simulate the experience of looking through a viewfinder as one looks at Gould’s photographs.
Twelve of Gould's viewfinder photographs are included in the show alongside work by Boston- and Brooklyn-based photographer Billie Mandle. The exhibit, "Blind Spots," opened its doors on Saturday.
The two artists decided to show their work together after Gould invited Mandle to talk to her Photography II class.
"As she was showing her brand-new work to the class, I began to think, 'Wow, that work would look really interesting next to mine,'" said Gould. "So, I brought her down to my studio and showed her my work and we began to talk about the similarities and differences, how the pieces could play off of each other really nicely."
Gould described her viewfinder photos as "monochromatic, black and white, but at the same time in color." Mandle's somber photographs capture parking garages, the signs and parking lines of which have been digitally removed.
"We're both looking at using the camera and constructed images to look more closely at things we overlook, or spaces we overlook or ways that our vision is shaped by factors that we often look beyond," said Gould. "We come at it from very different places. Hers is sort of more of a real-world scenario while mine is a much smaller moment, but we're both probing at the same idea of the nature of looking itself and the way that our visions are directed by external factors in the world."
"Blind Spots" will be on view at Space Gallery, located at 538 Congress St. in Portland, until May 25. A conversation with both Gould and Mandle will take place at the gallery on May 22 at 7 p.m.