Passing briefly through the mutable lineup of spectacular shows at Sulfur Studios this fall, "Rule of Four" brings together for the first time a group of photographers with vastly different perspectives, but equally remarkable talent.
Professional photographer Geoff L Johnson, whose work has appeared multiple times in Do Savannah and the Savannah Morning News, had a group exhibition at Sulfur two years ago that went well. Hoping to repeat that, he and Laura Pleasants began discussing a joint venture. They added Insley Smullen and Tim Foster to the lineup and began shaping it together.
Pleasants is more widely known as the guitarist and vocalist for one of Savannah’s more popular heavy metal exports, Kylesa. Smullen, a poet, and Foster, a rope access technician, are similar in that their primary work is not in photography.
“I approached Emily [Earl] and Jennifer [Moss] at Sulfur with the idea,” Johnson said. “I knew Laura was a photographer, but not everyone else knew her as a photographer. Insley was the same sort of way. Laura said she had all this stuff, and I had seen it, and it was good. I had a couple of shows recently and a group show two years ago. It was fun and well received. Tim is also active in Savannah scene, but not known as a photographer. He climbs buildings like Spiderman and takes his camera along.”
The four sat down and began looking at their work in the context of presenting it together. For the display, they worked with Earl, who runs her own print business out of Sulfur, Prismatic Prints, along with being a co-founder and owner of the space.
“We tried to not have any rules,” Johnson said. “We had some ideas. Emily Earl from Prismatic has helped all of us in image prep and printing and mounting. We all know her and she’s a friend. Through the editing process, we came together and looked at our work and saw it all coming together. It’s not a themed show.”
“It’s a super loose thing,” Pleasants added. “Essentially, we all just wanted to show some work. For me personally, I have so much content that it was really hard to whittle it down to something."
Smullen added that “The ‘binding denominator’ used when choosing photographs for this project was the concept that even without a given motif, a theme or multiple themes will emerge on behalf of the viewer purely by the photos being in proximity to each other. All of our works are at once different and yet similar, and ‘Rule of Four,’ which is based on the four color theorem in mathematics, was born out of respect for that.”
For each photographer, and the work they’ll share in this exhibit, inspiration stems from different and unique places.
“I'm inspired by all aspects of nature — flowers, leaves, birds, bugs, feathers, stones,” Smullen said. “I'm also a big fan of photography, which uses a shallow depth of field. I spent a lot of time crawling around on the ground looking at plants and animals closely as both an extremely nearsighted and curious child, and I think that's partially why now in my photography, I'm so keen on showing details that might otherwise get overlooked.”
“My individual aesthetics have been most affected by Savannah and its growth as a city over the last 10 years,” Foster said. “I love nature and I have a great appreciation for the older architecture of Savannah. I am interested in how the city attempts to integrate more modern building practices alongside buildings that are aging and in various stages of renovation.”
“It’s very much about the act,” Pleasants said. “I have such a large archive. It’s very important for me to document things visually. It jogs my memory as to where I was at a certain point and time. Part of it is it’s just a visual narrative of what I’ve been doing. I always feel I need to have my camera on me; whatever that camera is, I need some ability to shoot. I’ve done less composed shoots in recent years, than when I was school, when I was doing more studio work. I’ve just been shooting what I observe.
"It’s interesting being a musician as well because I think music and photography are very similar. With music, you’re shaping sound and with photography, you’re shaping light.”
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” Johnson added. “The act of shooting is its own inspiration. It’s not about what I am shooting or what camera or equipment I am using. It should become instinctual. The technical aspect should disappear, and the creativity should be up front. That would be ideal.”
IF YOU GO
What: "Rule of Four"
When: Oct. 4-6; reception 6 p.m. Oct. 5
Where: Sulfur Studios, 2301 Bull St.
Cost: Free; artwork for sale