By Sharon Gittleman
FERNDALE – When Courteney Payeur, 21, learned the Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery had chosen her photographs for their first student show, she didn’t hold back.
“I was so excited I called my grandma – even thought it was midnight,” said the Adrian College student.
Payeur’s grandmother was thrilled – and so were the people who packed the gallery inside Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center March 10 eager to glimpse more than a dozen photographs shot by LGBT and LGBT-friendly students.
Three women’s work lined the gallery walls, including photos by Payeur, Amanda Shellnut, who studies at Northern Michigan University, and shots by Western Michigan University student Nicole Watkins.
Payeur said she tries to catch the drama of the moment in her photographs.
She shot one photo by setting a timer and then leaping into a bathtub. Viewers saw a mysterious soft-focus image of Payeur’s head and forehead next to a faucet in the photo.
“I’m really drawn to the surprise element,” she said. “There’s a two-second time release, so I don’t know what I will get.”
Payeur’s friend Daniel Hinds, 36, from Seattle, said he admired the spontaneous quality of her work.
“I like the dark edgy feel to it,” he said. “It gives you the sense there’s a story going on that you see part of and you fill in the rest in your head.”
Ferndale resident Sara DeVore, 29, visited the show on the spur of the moment, drawn by street signs during an evening stroll with her fiancee Tiffany Vorhies, 28, from Ferndale.
DeVore admired Watkins’ photograph of a woman standing in front of a church with the words “open hearts,” “open minds” and “open doors” spelled out next to a cross in the glass-encased marquis sign.
“It’s expressive,” she said. “It’s a strong statement that someone felt there’s something wrong with the world.”
Vorhies was drawn to one of Shellnut’s photos, a black and white shot of an abandoned train car that had seen better days.
Shellnut, 20, said she photographed the car on Presque Isle, near her home in Marquette.
“That train ran through the whole Midwest. It used to look so beautiful. Now it just sits there abandoned. Everyone has forgotten about it,” she said. “A lot of things we see are taken for granted.”
Shellnut said she’d like to shoot photographs of musicians when she graduates from college.
Singer/actress Dorothy Dandridge, who blazed trails for African-American women in Hollywood in the 1930s-50s, would have been her top choice for a subject, in honor of Dandridge’s struggles against racism.
“For me, being Native American and a lesbian, I face a similar background,” she said.
Organizers discovered the three students’ work from responses to a mass mailing to colleges and high schools. The student art show was the first of its kind at the gallery.
“I think they’re all really talented,” said Deanna Tocco, Affirmation’s program director. “I’m impressed.”
The show will be displayed at the Gallery through April 28.