“Photography is an art of observation.  It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” -Elliott Erwitt

My first art history class at Washington and Lee was the History of Photography.  I signed up for the class on a whim hoping to ease my workload of math and science classes which were not my cup of tea. We studied all of the legendary icons…Alfred Steiglitz, Elliott Erwitt, Diane Arbus, and even had Sally Mann living in our own small town of Lexington, Virginia. Little did I know that this first brush with art history studying the art of observation would figure so prominently in my future career as an interior designer.

Tonight is the opening of the highly anticipated show “Kindred: Photographers Focus on Family” at SoCo Gallery. The gallery welcomes home one of Charlotte’s most talented art personalities to curate the show.  As a professional artist, curator, and mentor, nobody understands the imagination and creative mind more so than Brad Thomas. The exhibition is an opportunity for him to honor those artists who have directly influenced his creative journey.

February 3 – April 2, 2016

Opening Reception: February 3, 6 – 8 PM
SOCO Gallery is pleased to present the forthcoming exhibition KINDRED: Photographers Focus on Family. This project, guest curated by Brad Thomas, will feature works by artists whose creative inquiry examines a variety of life-affirming roles that include parent, grandparent, child, sibling, spouse and/or lover. Through their work, these accomplished artists delve into the complexities of intimate, familial relationships and, in the process, learn something about themselves.

Four of the featured artists are based in Charlotte. Three of these artists have over a century of combined established practice and advocacy for the advancement of fine art photography in this region. With strong ties to The Light Factory, Linda Foard Roberts, Carolyn DeMeritt, and Raymond Grubb have worked tirelessly in administrative and volunteer roles there to educate our community on the importance of photography as a medium for self-expression and aesthetic exploration.


Linda Foard Roberts watched her tiny daughter sleep in front of a television on Sept. 11, 2001, as the station ran and re-ran footage of planes hitting the World Trade Center towers. “It became very clear to me how helpless I was,” she says. “9/11” is a gelatin silver photograph, part of a series Roberts calls “Belongings,” “which to me represents that time with our loved ones is all that really truly belongs to us.” Copyright Linda Foard Roberts; courtesy of SOCO Gallery


Linda is a native of Charlotte and in her teens, she studied with Light Factory co-founder Byron Baldwin in his legendary program at Myers Park High School. From there she pursued photography at Arizona State University and later returned to Charlotte to serve as Director of The Light Factory in the early 90s. Soon after stepping down as an arts administrator, Linda devoted herself full-time to her growing family and in-turn, returned to her art as a way of capturing the experiences and fleeting youth of her son and daughter.

The Year of her Death_2000_2015

Carolyn DeMeritt wrote this about the 2000/2015 archival pigment photograph titled “My Mother: The Year of Her Death”: “She was strong enough at 25 to divorce, a stigma in the late 1940s. She was a ‘feminist’ before she even knew the word. She’s a model of self-reliance and independence that inspired me to step outside the bounds.” Copyright Carolyn DeMeritt; courtesy of SOCO Gallery


Carolyn is known for her provocative, narrative portraits. In the mid-1990s her creative focus turned to her granddaughter who was born to her younger son during his prolonged struggle with substance abuse. Carolyn’s pictures capture her granddaughter’s youthful innocence, which stands in sharp contrast with her need to grow up fast. Now in her early 20s, Kira continues to be both a subject in Carolyn’s work and a source of inspiration.


“Thomasville” is one of several portraits Raymond Grubb has made over the past 30 years of partner Tom Thoune, who had a stroke last year. Of this photograph, made in 2009, Grubb says: “It was a landscape I was familiar with… I took Tom there and asked him to (stand behind) the tree that was blooming… You only see a little bit of his face… And that’s how he feels now: that there’s only a part of him that really shows now. He’s improved incredibly in the past year but there’s still little missing pieces. He feels this portrait is even closer to what he feels like now, because there are some missing parts, or – not as clearly seen.” Copper plate photogravure, copyright Raymond Grubb; courtesy of SOCO Gallery


Photographer, Francophile, and master baker Raymond Grubb is a native of Morganton, NC. He is a graduate of Davidson College and one of Charlotte’s most recognizable cultural icons. For over 25 years, he has photographed his partner––the multi-media artist Tom Thoune. Raymond’s century-old platinum process imbues his images with a warmth, tenderness, and candor that is difficult to attain with modern techniques.


“Cody with Brendan” is one of Brittany Little’s photographs of her brothers, who are identical twins. She says she lived with them for about a year, and “Once I got behind the camera, I realized something about them that I didn’t quite know yet … how different the world can see them.” People were “captivated,” she says. “I just think it’s very strange that these people that I was taking for granted clearly were that interesting to other(s).” The 2015 photo is an archival inkjet print. Copyright Brittany Little; courtesy of SOCO Gallery


This emerging artist is a native of Charlotte and recently earned her BFA from UNC Charlotte’s Department of Art + Art History. During her senior year, a series of circumstances required her to live with her two identical twin brothers. Quickly realizing these two free spirits were captivating subjects in their own right, she took advantage of her unlimited and candid access––think Nan Goldin meets Harmony Korine. The resulting series entitled Asymmetrical, captures the three siblings living together (again) while they navigate the formative stages of independence and adulthood.


David Hilliard wrote of “Rock Bottom,” a 2008 C-print: “I wanted to represent the inevitable reality that I will, for better or worse, become my father … Try as I may, I can become certain things, control certain aspects of my life, yet at the same time there exists a predetermined element . . . I’m also hard-wired to become my dad, and that I cannot control.” Copyright David Hilliard; courtesy of SOCO Gallery


His signature, multi-panel panoramic images capture the intimate and complex dynamic of his relationships with those closest to him. In particular, a series of poignant portraits of his father, a Navy veteran and retired factory worker, depict an aging man who struggles to come to terms with the divorce from his wife of many years and his son’s sexual orientation.


Sally Mann wrote: “There are a number of things that set Southern artists apart from anyone else. Their obsession with place and their obsession with family. If I could be said to have any kind of aesthetic, it’s sort of a magpie aesthetic – I just go and pick up whatever is around. If you think about it, the children were there, so I took pictures of my children.” This is “Sempervirens ‘Stricta,’ ” a 1995 gelatin silver print. Copyright Sally Mann; courtesy of SOCO Gallery


Sally lives and works on her family’s farm in Virginia. She is one of the most recognizable figures in American photography working today. Her new memoir, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown & Company, 2015), documents in detail the criticism she endured in the early 1990s for explicit photographs of her children at play at their country home. As she has gone on to international acclaim, her works are among the most sought after in contemporary art.


Featured in SOCO Gallery’s bookshop will be a curated selection of artist’s books about family. In addition to the featured artists in KINDRED, titles by preeminent artists such as David Hilliard, Mitch Epstein, Sally Mann, Joanna Piotrowska, and Edward Weston will be available.


Brad Thomas is a native of Mount Airy, North Carolina. In the summer of 2015, he founded Thomas Contemporary at historic Vandalia Tower. Thomas Contemporary serves to promote Brad’s studio, curatorial, and collections advisory practice. In addition, on-site projects and limited-editions by emerging and established artists will be commissioned.

Brad has 25 years of experience as a professional artist, curator, and cultural leader. He has served in administrative capacities at The Light Factory, Davidson College, The Mint Museum, and McColl Center for Art + Innovation. In spring of 2015, Brad was honored with the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award from UNC Charlotte’s College of Art + Architecture.

KINDRED: Photographers Focus on Family is an opportunity for Brad to honor those artists who have directly influenced his creative journey. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to continue to serve the cultural development of North Carolina, his home state. It’s the place where his feet will always stick to the ground––the way a Tarheel should.


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