A passion for photography blossoms from a myriad of motivations: to preserve a moment in time, to stretch the boundaries of the medium, to explore the effects of light and shadow, to capture a mood, to convey an emotion, to communicate a thought, to document an event.
For Fairfield native and professional photographer Charles Ruger, those motivations matter -- as does the desire to "create a link to an earlier time in America's history when there was more of a sense of optimism" -- especially in the late-19th and early-20th centuries when people, such as Rockefeller, Mellon and Carnegie, were creating the modern industrial age and a tradition of American philanthropy. That optimism also was prevalent in the years following World War II, with a burgeoning middle class and a renewal of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Ruger, a former Fairfielder and now a Manhattan resident, is the grandson of one of those vastly successful entrepreneurs: William B. Ruger.
It was the elder Ruger who, along with Alexander McCormick Sturm, founded a gun manufacturing firm in 1949 in a small rented machine shop in Fairfield's Southport section. That firm is now known as Sturm, Ruger & Co.
His solo show is the highlight of Images 2012; the fourth annual photography celebration also features a juried show in which 50 winners (chosen from a pool of about 800 entries) have been selected to exhibit in professional/serious amateur and student divisions.
An exhibit preview fundraiser for the museum, which is operated by the town's Historical Society, is slated for Thursday, May 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets range from $100 to $500 per person.
An artists' reception -- which is open to the public, free of charge -- will take place on Friday, May 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. The grand-prize winners in the Professional/Amateur Photographer and Student Photographer categories will be presented. The Professional/Serious Amateur winner will be given a 10-day exhibition at Southport Galleries at a date to be determined. The Student Grand Prize winner will receive a professional portfolio review with noted veteran professional photographers Bill Eppridge and Adrienne Aurichio.
In a recent telephone chat, Ruger -- who was born in Chitose, Japan, in 1967 -- said his show will feature 10 huge portraits (some life-sized) and about 24 all-new 16- by 20-inch narrative works. The photos range in date from 2004 to earlier this year.
"For as long as I can remember, I've loved photography," said Ruger, who is self-taught. Personalities, architecture and landscapes are among his favorite subjects.
He and his family moved to Connecticut when he was a youth; he attended Greens Farms Academy, in Westport, and The Kent School, and studied art history and international relations at Connecticut College, from which he received a bachelor of arts degree.
Ruger said that much of his portrait work -- which are non-commissioned art pieces -- reference historic paintings, especially the works of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), who was considered among the leading portrait painters of his generation, capturing Edwardian-era chic with panache.
"Many of my portraits are of descendants of Sargent subjects," he said, "so for me that's a nice link to a time when their ancestors were helping to shape America," he noted.
Ruger said he has embraced a tradition from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when it was common for artists to paint each other, as well as the writers, thespians and other personalities in their "cultural world."
"I'm fascinated" with that type of interaction, "of photographing subjects, who are descendents" of the rich, famous and brilliant, "who in their own way are beginning to shape our culture today," Ruger said.
Images 2012 is being sponsored by the Bank of Fairfield, Fairfield County Community Foundation, Morris Media Group, Southport Galleries and Fairfield University. Numerous coordinated programs will be offered throughout the run of the show, museum officials said they will update the entries regularly, with information available at www.fairfieldhistory.org.
Area photographers, among the 50 winners from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, are:
Fairfield winners in the Professional/Serious Amateur category are Peter Archer, "Turret Base 3"; Linda Brinckerhoff, "Chinese Garden Pond"; Jamie Hamilton, "Innocence"; Maura Stokes, "Times Square in Motion"; Ann Franzen, "Rusty Car With Greens"; and Jeremy Frost, "Manhattan in the Fog."
Fairfield student photographers are Morgan Beckwith, "Keep Your Hands in the Jeep"; Kate Mohr, "Untitled"; Derek Alexander, "Sunflowers"; Ian Foulk, "Lightning Strikes"; Laura Mullen, "Snowflake Flower"; Aidan Murphy, "Inside the Connecticut Section, WW2 Memorial"; and Cooper Winterson, "Spliced."
Others area winners include Takeshi Sergel, of Bridgeport, unnamed abstract; Karen Allen, of Milford, "Ads Lie"; Lisa Colberg, of Monroe, "Snowstorm"; Jay Misencik, of Monroe, "Albert"; Stephen Ellis, of Stratford, "Cabin Light, Smoky Mountains"; Alex Payson, of Trumbull, "Butterfly and Leaf"; and Lauren Squires, of Trumbull, "A Walk in the Park."
The municipalities of Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Stamford, Weston, Westport, Wilton and New Canaan also were represented by winning photographers.
Fairfield Museum, 370 Beach Road. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $5, $3 for senior citizens and students 6-22. http://www.fairfieldhistory.org; 203-259-1598.
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