Sunday, April 14, 2024

All Florida Artists Up Close: Melanie Hurwitz

One of a handful of hometown Boca artists selected for this year’s All Florida exhibition and competition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Melanie

Hurwitz has a unique background. A South African native, she honed her photographic chops on nature photography in her home country, snapping photos of animals in game parks, before emigrating to the United States in 1989.

She and her husband Mervyn, also a photographer, have left their mark on the South Florida art scene by running the Coral Springs Camera Club and studying, over a two-year period, with renowned photography instructor Jack Wild at Old School Square.

Hurwitz’s selection at the Boca Museum is titled “Grand Central,” and it offers a haunting, ethereal image of the iconic, bustling train station, one in which the space itself overtakes the people drifting through it. It’s one of a series of Grand Central-shot images Hurwitz is currently working on.

One of the things I like about “Grand Central” is that the spaces that we take for granted seem to be the main focus of the image, and people just happen to be walking through it. It’s almost contrary to what most commercial photographers would show us.

There is a mystical feel to this picture. People are always passing through our lives and most never stop or take the time to even see what is around them as they go by. People are peripheral shadows in our lives that merely whisk by without us ever making a mark on our existence. By leaving space for my subjects I give them a choice of stopping or just to continue on their journey. To me, the suitcase says that either someone is stopping or leaving, but never standing still. But really, I want my viewers to make up their own minds about what they see. As long as I can make my audience stop and look, and can invoke some kind of emotion, I feel I have achieved my aim. Above all, I want to be different and not like any other photographer.

What do you want this photograph to “say” about Grand Central Station?

Grand Central Station is a wonderful place for photography. The quality of light gives pictures an old world look. Everything turns to a rich golden brown color. The shiny floors allow for marvelous reflections. There is constant activity. In every direction there is a story – someone running for train, two lovers embracing upon meeting, people dragging suitcases across the concourse and always people with a phone attached to an ear. I guess I am a voyeur, watching and recording. I always aim to record the constant movement in the station. The frenetic activity is so appealing to my eye. The light and shadows cast in the building are intriguing. If I can capture something that tells a story, I believe I am recording extraordinary images.

Is there a kind of alienation in the fact that we only see the travelers from the waist down, if that? It’s as if we’re looking at headless ghosts hovering around a human waystation.

If I can make you stop and wonder what you are looking at, I’m really cool with that. In order for a good story to be told, we need to leave something to the imagination. The human image is a given. Viewers can easily fill in the missing parts and create their own unique story. The ghosting just adds to the mystery and conveys the constant movement in Grand Central.

How do works like this differ from the nature photography you once specialized in?

I am no longer defined by what is real and true, but prefer a more abstract interpretation of my subject matter.

How did you become president of the Coral Springs Camera Club?

My husband, Mervyn, is also an avid photographer. We are immigrants from South Africa. Photography is a passion for us both. As a way to meet other photographers, and learn about photography in America, we joined the Coral Springs Camera Club. You know about the 80/20 rule when it comes to organizations. Well, Florida is a little worse. Most people who retire here have a “been there, done that” attitude when it comes to taking charge of anything. Pretty soon, the members of the club realized that we both had the administrative skills required to be on the board. The rest is history. Between us, we have presided over the club, with a few breaks for the last 18 years. My term will be over at the end of this year, and I am more than ready to hand the reigns over to someone else.

Why do birds make fascinating photographic subjects?

This kind of photography combines my love of photography with a great interest in nature. Being out early in the morning is invigorating and beautiful. Birds are a constant challenge, especially when they are flying. Getting a beautiful bird in flight is just so satisfying.

What is the best advice you took from Jack Wild in your two years studying with him?

Jack has taught me to be adventurous. Anything is worth photographing, if it appeals to my eye. Photographs do not have to record pretty, brightly colored subjects. I now have a more mature feeling for texture, shape and form. I also have a much better appreciation of black and white images as a way of expressing myself.

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