From WPA to Facebook Wall: Images of Hancock Shaker Village
Caps: Objects like these net caps and wooden box were photographed to capture the unique Shaker design aesthetic for the Index of American Design. Photograph by Noel Vicentini 1936.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘Tis the gift to be free.
So goes the Shaker song. What could be a better influence for young photographers today (with all their newfangled digital thingamabobs) than the almost modernisticially austere photographs by Noel Vicentini, on display at the Hancock Shaker Village exhibition, A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA, running now through October 2013? How about a photography contest for teenagers, using Hancock Shaker Village as a springboard for the imagination.
Vicentini created his photographs in 1935-36 for the Index of American Design, one of a multitude of remarkable arts initiatives by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, started during another time of national economic crisis. Unseen since the early 1940s, the photographs were found collecting dust in the archives by Village curator Lesley Herzberg, three years ago.
The Round Stone Barn at Hancock Shaker Village. Photograph by Noel Vicentini 1936.
The confluence of Shaker design and the WPA’s hiring of Vicentini to document it — part of a cataloguing project that in and of itself was a form of cultural archaeology way ahead of its time — is surely a great way to train the eye (and fill in some of the blanks) of today’s teenagers while at the same time engaging them in an activity they enjoy — the snapping of photos. As result, the Village is holding a summer-long photography contest for entrants between the ages of 13 and 17, who will take photographs of Hancock Shaker Village’s landscape, buildings or interiors on their favored equipment — a smart phone or digital camera — with winning entries to be displayed on the Village’s Facebook page and website.
“We hope the contest will inspire teens to really look at photographers’ images and to regard the Village in new ways,” Herzberg says, “because there’s so much to see here. We thought we’d take something teens do already and encourage them to focus their lenses and their eyes upon American design.”
Simple wooden patterns in the Machine Shop represent Shaker ingenuity and innovation. Photograph by Noel Vicentini 1936.
Herzberg hopes her sense of discovery, in unearthing Vicentini’s images, is one that teenagers will feel when they train their modern lenses on the Village. The exhibition, A Promising Venture, offers the chance to see Shakers and their legacy through Vicentini’s eyes. Soon enough, you’ll have access to some as-yet undiscovered visions: Hancock Shaker Village as seen through fresh (young) ones.
Entries may be submitted through the end of August and winners will be announced at the Village’s Country Fair, September 29th. Along with Village curator Herzberg, Berkshire Eagle photographers Ben Garver and Susan Geller will serve as judges for the contest. The first place winner will be awarded a slot in Ben Garver’s 2013 Photographing the City of Peace workshop.
—Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser
Youth Digital Photography Contest
At Hancock Shaker Village
Open to teenage participants aged 13-17
Parental permission required
Deadline: September 1, 2012