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I’m so square-format: Laura Glazer. Photo: Joe Putrock

An American in Vienna
Young Albany-based photographer lands a show abroad

By the time you read this, Laura Elise Glazer will have set eyes on Europe for the first time in her life. The Albany-based photographer’s work is included in an exhibition that opened last week in a gallery in Vienna, and she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to broaden her horizons by showing up.

A native of Virginia and 1999 graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Glazer has always welcomed the chance to travel—after a yearlong stint with Americorps in four Midwestern states and a period of living in Minneapolis, in 2001 she settled in Albany, where she lives downtown and works three-quarters-time at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

The Vienna show marks her first exposure abroad, and garnered Glazer a $485 Special Opportunity Stipend (SOS) Grant from the Arts Center of the Capital Region for packing and shipping the seven framed prints she chose to include. Titled inSTATES, the show features pictures taken around the United States by five photographers (four American and one Austrian), all of whom graduated from RIT between 1995 and 1999. There is a possibility the show will begin a tour of other European galleries after it comes down at the end of February, and Glazer says she’d be happy if it never came back but just kept touring.

She feels it has the potential to be of more than passing interest in Europe because “it doesn’t look like a survey of America. . . . It’s all just personal work.” In Glazer’s case, that can mean almost anything in terms of subject matter—a backyard BBQ or a casino—and the emotional range goes from a moody, angular portrait of a woman in a crowded suburban driveway to an almost-not-there study of straw hats hung on a wall.

The Vienna show happened by serendipity, but it’s hardly the first time fortune has smiled on the career of this 26-year-old. National attention has come Glazer’s way in the form of two College Photographer of the Year awards and through a now-defunct small-press publication out of San Francisco called Reflex that carried 15 of her square-format images in a 2002 issue. She also had a photo featured in the What They Were Thinking column in The New York Times Magazine in 1999.

Locally, Glazer is less well-known. Her only exhibition so far in the Capital Region was a solo in the showcases at the Albany Public Library’s main branch last summer. Installed under the auspices of the Albany Center Galleries, I wish you were here was an all-inclusive, self-described “mishmash,” but it provided viewers with an overview of Glazer’s work in both black-and-white and color, and included a number of images that were in Reflex and/or have been shipped to Vienna.

For the Vienna show, the young artist had to select work without the help of curatorial guidelines. “The way I picked [the photos] was they all made me feel the same way when I looked at them . . . they had a flow to them which I call ambiguity.”

Glazer settled on an organically related group of one black-and-white and six color prints, each about 6-1/2 inches square and presented in a 16-inch-by-20-inch frame. The selection underscores the personal nature of the work: It doesn’t try to tell a particular story, as in journalistic or documentary photography, nor does the group repeat a theme, as series so often do in art.

Rather, Glazer has captured a mood that represents her view of America—distilled, as though by an unavoidable process of osmosis, into seven photos taken in five states. The artist statement Glazer puts with this body of work reflects that sense of inevitability:

“When I see these pictures I feel like I’m not the one who took them. They’re stuck in time. They’re right where I left them. I took them and then they went back to the time and place they came from. I am visiting them forever.”

Tall and lanky, with black ‘50s-style glasses and short wavy hair, Glazer expresses her ideas with a sincerity and thoughtfulness that offset the almost-childlike pitch of her voice. It is easy to imagine her folded-up for hours in front of a pile of proofs, immersed in a world that is part-way between fantasy and reality, the transformed world that was once before her camera lens.

Glazer aims to challenge her sense of composition, resisting the temptation to plunk the subject down in the middle of the square; she also messes around with the focus, often choosing a shallow depth of field and selective plane of focus. In this way, a subject as simple as a spray of rainwater or a screen door can take on special presence.

Not to settle, Glazer has ambitious goals in mind. “I like the challenge of trying to make a picture that’s more than myself,” she says. “Because things can change—and a photograph that’s detached from the photographer but contains all the photographer’s passion and wonder about the subject can add something to the world—it can add beauty and it can change the world.”

—David Brickman 

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