PORT ANGELES — This town is not a perfect place. But when you look at the finer details, said high school sophomore Scarlett Fulton, you start seeing its beauty.
Those words sum up the photography exhibition — 39 pictures by local teenagers — open at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center: “The World on Pause: Youth Perspectives on a Generation-Defining Experience.”
Admission is free to the show at the fine arts center, 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd., where the Webster House gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The public also is invited to the free opening reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. next Tuesday.
Throughout the exhibition, which will stay on display through Feb. 27, people can visit a small display in the gallery where they can write or draw messages of solidarity to the artists.
“The World on Pause” has been many months in the making — starting with the grant-writing process, then moving forward with hours upon hours of Zoom classes, and finally the youngsters taking photos of their pandemic worlds.
Local photographer and teaching artist Amy McIntyre worked with fine arts center gallery and program director Sarah Jane, along with scores of students in both art and civics courses at Port Angeles High School.
The range of photo subjects impressed them both.
“Some are so intimate: scenes from home … Some looked to the outdoors for solace,” McIntyre said.
The students also wrote the short artist statements posted beside their photography, to illuminate what they were thinking about when working on the project.
“I was struck by the power of their voices,” McIntyre said.
Her own project, “Any Port in a Storm: Pandemic Sundays in Port Angeles, Washington,” provided the inspiration for this show in 2020 — and McIntyre posed its central question to her students: “Is Port Angeles a place worth documenting?”
The teenagers stepped up and answered the question, saying yes in 39 ways.
Jane, upon picking up the prints from Clear Image in Sequim, found herself overcome by the 11-by-17-inch works at last lining the walls.
“Seeing them together in the space, there’s just a kind of power that’s different in person than it is online. What’s fun for me,” she added, “is seeing the students’ stories overlap,” as their pictures, taking one common experience, express a variety of feelings.
Celeste Tucker, a 17-year-old senior, used her cellphone and timer to photograph herself with three friends in her picture titled “Spring Reunion.”
Taken last May, soon after “our school had finally allowed kids back on campus for the hybrid schedule,” she said, it felt like a perfect day.
“I could almost forget about the six-foot distance between us,” she writes of her friends, “as their company provided a refreshing awakening that life goes on, even if everything has changed.”
The photo moved McIntyre for reasons technical and emotional.
“I love the angle, how it’s looking up at these students. And there’s something about the sky,” she said.
The image is bathed in blue — “it’s bright and optimistic and also a bit haunting. We’ve become so accustomed to masks. It’s profound to see, on a bright sunny day, these students all masked up.”
In their series of Zoom workshops, Jane and McIntyre encouraged the teens to consider how their lives have changed amid the pandemic. They taught them how to use photography to communicate — and emphasized that the best camera is the one you have with you. No expensive equipment necessary.
McIntyre presented a slide show of her documentary work, including her 2020 photo of an empty Franklin Elementary School classroom, selected for the Library of Congress’ permanent American Experiences gallery.
Once the sessions with the students were over, she wondered how it would all turn out.
The students’ photography wowed her, as did the final prints made at Clear Image. Owner Damon Stamoolis was “absolutely fantastic to work with,” McIntyre said.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Washington State Arts Commission, “The World on Pause” marks the return of local teenagers to the gallery space after a years-long absence, Jane noted.
“I’m just over the moon to bring student artwork back,” she said. This is the next generation, Jane added, of creatives and visionaries.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]