A strong and select slate of photography exhibitions opens at New York galleries next week and in early February. They feature photographers who are known for pioneering specific techniques or who have gone beyond-sometimes way beyond-the kinds of commercial images they may be best known for. For these artists, pictures are far more than point-and-shoot.
“O. Winston Link: The Last Steam Railroad in America”
Robert Mann Gallery
210 11th Avenue
Feb. 3-March 26
O. Winston Link’s pictures offer a glimpse into the not-so-distant past when trains left billows of steam lingering above drive-in movie theaters, swimming holes and front porches. In 1955, the late photographer set out to shoot the country’s last steam engines on the Norfolk & Western Railway, with tracks spanning from Maryland through West Virginia to North Carolina. Along the way, he created a new kind of lighting system to brighten the dark skies he preferred to shoot under. The result is a series of eerie but stunning images that look ripped directly from the era’s noir films.
Hasted Kraeutler Gallery
537 West 24th Street
Feb. 3-March 26
Michael Benson’s photographs of planets, featured in an exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., last year, are both breathtaking and baffling. His detailed image of Saturn, for instance, boasts deep, earthy tones swirling around a smooth sphere. Mr. Benson digitally reprocesses photos from NASA’s unmanned satellites to create the striking views. Without context, a viewer might have trouble believing they’re looking at planets several hundred million miles from Earth.
529 West 20 Street
Feb. 17-April 2
What would result in a mess for most people adds up to bold images captured at precisely the right moment for Shinichi Maruyama. In his recent collection of work, titled Gardens, the Japanese photographer (who has lived in New York since 2003) tossed liquid in the air and photographed the resulting cascade of colors using high-speed strobe technology. His aim: to depict the feeling that washes over him when he visits Zen gardens. In an extended show, well-known Chelsea dealer Bruce Silverstein puts them on view through early April.
Soho Photo Gallery
15 White Street
Feb. 1-Feb. 26
The dozens of photographers who submitted work to this competition/show were given a task, a puzzle, even: to make small pictures as powerful as the larger ones currently in vogue in the field. Bigger isn’t always better, the veteran Soho Photo Gallery argued, and asked entrants for works measuring no more than 6 inches in any direction. Juror Richard Klein, the exhibitions director of the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Conn., sifted through more than 600 small images from 95 photographers, eventually settling on works by the 25 artists shown here.
255 Centre Street
Feb. 1-March 27
James and Karla Murray had considerable success with their 2009 exhibit “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York,” which also inspired a coffee-table book. The pair had spent a decade tromping around the city’s boroughs, shooting the mom-and-pop stores (grocery and butcher shops, bodegas) they worried were vanishing from the cityscape. Several of the businesses had closed by the time the book was published, and the elegiac images of them, and of our town’s vernacular architecture, struck a chord. In a show opening Feb. 1, they’re exhibiting the second edition of the series, but it’s a broader, more expansive view of the city and includes snaps of New York’s (hopefully un-endangered) landmarks.
Steven Kasher Gallery
521 West 23 Street
Jan. 27-Feb. 26
Celebrity photographer Mark Seliger is best known for images from his decade (1992-2002) as chief photographer of Rolling Stone magazine. But he shelves the band pictures and casts his lens on the ordinary for an exhibit at the Steve Kasher Gallery. In moody, large-scale black-and-white works, he captures both nudes and scenes of New York and makes they seem equally sensual.