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2007 In the Media

Jim Kevlin / The Freeman’s Journal

Lady Ostapeck sits for a portrait with a sampling of her portraits on the front lawn of her Fly Creek Valley home, where she’s lived and pursued her art since 1960.

Lady of the Valley

Celebrated Local Photographer, a Young 89, Will Be Featured in Capitol District Exhibit

By Jim Kevlin

First published: July 13, 2007


She was given a Lady Ostapeck sitting as a high-school graduation present.

The young woman arrived in blue jeans, hair all over her head; a teenager like many others. No picture of aristocracy here.

But after several hours with the Otsego Lake region’s most idiosyncratic and irresistible photographer, a different personality was captured on film.

Sitting serenely in front of an ornate clock, wearing elbow length white gloves and jewel-studded tiara and choker, this young lady is certainly a noble lady, perhaps a princess, maybe even a queen.

The most common teenage expression is surly. This one’s is, well, haughty. “I ask them to look arrogant,” said Lady Ostapeck the other day, reviewing poster-size portraits that will be displayed, perhaps as many as 100, at “Somewhere in Time,” an exhibit that opens at 5 p.m., Friday, July 20, at The Photography Center of the Capital District.

The following evening at 7, the photographer will deliver a talk on her work; reception and lecture are free and open to the public. The exhibit will continue until Friday, Aug. 31, when a closing reception will coincide with Troy Night Out.

It’s Lady Ostapeck’s belief that many of her sitters come to her with self-doubt, but as she develops their personae, they flower in the realization they are the stuff of queens and kings, sea captains, gypsies, Native American princes, swashbucklers, famous beauties, explorers and intellectuals – fearless, resolute, eyes searching the far horizons.

They leave her studio, a tiny, much-used, much-loved Greek revival cottage in the Fly Creek Valley – packed like the storage room at a Hollywood studio — to self-confidently test their talents against the world.

Lady’s Photos Reveal Inner Royalty

Some of the portraits you may recognize. There’s John Ramsay of Cooperstown, a dashing Charles II. There’s a lovely image of Jane Forbes Clark.

Whether you recognize them matters not. There’s “Son of the Wolf.” There’s the Cossack. There, the Austrian count. There, Eleanor of Aquitaine, that adventurous noblewoman who went on a Crusade, may have dallied with Saladin, and kept her ancestral lands even as her marriages – first, to the King of France; then, to the King of England — fell apart.

Eleanor is Lady Ostapeck’s favorite historical personality.

As she tells it, Lady Ostapeck’s life has drama to match her unflagging flair.

The daughter of Finnish immigrants, she was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and named for her mother — “a sad name, that I don’t use” — who died when her baby daughter was five days old.

An aunt came down from Brooklyn, Conn., in that state’s northeast corner, and took her home to the Finnish farming community there, by happenstance or fate, she was narrowly saved from tragedy.
In 1919, when Baby Ostapeck was barely a year old, a farmer named Koski emerged from his barn with a hatchet and turned left down Appel Road, where he methodically butchered a half-dozen of his neighbors before hanging himself in a barn at the far end.

If he had turned right, he would have found the baby girl asleep in the Mission-style Morris chair she still relaxes in today.

According to her publicity material, “I wanted to be an artist when I was a little girl. I used to live in the Metropolitan Museum and pretend it was my own.”

She pursued a career as a photo-negative retoucher in New York City, and intended to practice her craft from afar when she moved to peaceable Otsego County in 1960, but when a packet of photos from her key client got lost in the mails, her business began to go south.

New in town, lonely, she would go on long horseback rides in the woods. One day, her fortunes at an ebb, she discovered a Corona 4 by 5 camera wrapped in velvet in a rosewood box at the Salvation Army store in Utica, and her new career began. She still uses the lens from that Corona, although on a different body.

A sitting with Lady Ostapeck goes for hours, and can go all day, as she seeks the hidden personality of her subjects.

Her home is packed with props. There’s a viking helmet. There’s a chinoise jacket. There, a cigarette holder.

By the end of the sitting, her customers are in true character, and captured on celluloid.

Lady Ostapeck vigorously pursued her calling until six years ago, when her son died. Since then, she hasn’t made a print, although she has dozens, perhaps hundreds, on back-order.

She continues to show, however, and has made quite a splash in her native Finland in recent years; she had a showing there in May 2006, and another scheduled in May 2008.

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Changing Images

Photo Regional returns to Troy; held at two venues

By Karen Bjornland
For The Daily Gazette

First published: May 25, 2007

The Photography Regional is a curious animal. A few years ago, it was on the endangered list. Then it was rescued by Fulton Street Gallery. Now, the annual exhibit is a chameleon, changing its stripes as it shifts from Fulton Street in Troy to Albany Center Galleries to the Opalka Gallery at the Sage Colleges.

This year, it’s back in Troy and, for the first time, the annual exhibit has a co-host, the new Photography Center of the Capital District. Through June 2, the 97 images selected by Ariel Shanberg, executive director of the Center for Photography at Woodstock, are hanging in the two places, but it’s an easy walk from Fulton Street Gallery to the PhotoCenter, at 404 River St., just north of the Green Island Bridge. Forty-three photographers are represented in the show.

Remember the questions raised by last year’s exhibit at the Opalka? Instead of the traditional juried event with awards and prizes, it was an invitational, a spectacular show by 18 of the region’s best photographers. In 2005, when it took its turn at the Albany Center Galleries, there was no salon.

Room for More

As it turns out, this year’s Photo Regional is the biggest in recent years, with 150 photographers (the same number as in 2005) submitting 745 works. Because there were two venues, photographers could submit up to 10 entries, instead of the usual five images. And for the first time, artists could submit short video works. Several were entered, but none were accepted for the show.

Then there was the one-week salon, the wildly popular showcase of entries that precedes the official exhibit. The salon reception, on April 27, was especially festive, as it was held during Troy Night Out, the city’s monthly arts walk.

“There were so many people, you couldn’t walk through the gallery,” says Jacqueline Vincent, a volunteer at Fulton Street Gallery.” The whole idea of the salon is getting more people to see more work,” says Nicholas Reinert, director of the PhotoCenter. “The thing that I like most about this show is that we have images by students hanging next to images by professionals. It’s exciting to see that.”

Troy Night Out has also introduced many downtown visitors, especially college students, to the PhotoCenter, which is in the same area as Jose Malone’s Mexican Irish Restaurant, the Troy Brew Pub and Revolution Hall.” We’re thrilled. We’re getting a lot of new faces,” says Reinert, a 2003 graduate of The College of Saint Rose’s art program.

Housed in a handsome three-story red brick building, the PhotoCenter opened in February with a mission to help amateur and professional photographers develop their skills. Owned and founded by Nicholas Argyros, the PhotoCenter has a gallery, a consignment shop for used equipment, computer workstations, do-it-yourself mounting and copying equipment and a camera museum.

“We don’t want people to feel intimidated; we don’t like the stuffy gallery notion,” says Reinert, who describes it as a “hands-on community center” for its 100 members.

In their first-floor gallery, the PhotoCenter is exhibiting the black-and-white images in the Photo Regional, while the Fulton Street Gallery is showing the color photographs. Although the images are contemporary, there is a pleasing antique atmosphere with all those black-and-whites arranged under the pressed tin ceiling, not far from Argyros’ collection of old cameras.

Gail Nadeau, one of the photographers in the 2006 invitational, offers “September,” a moody image of a pregnant woman, her expression stoic as she holds the hand of a young boy, and goddess-like in a flowing dress that reveals her fecund form.

Shannon Phinney won second place for a triptych that plays with light, shadow and movement, as it depicts the ghostly figure of a nude woman.           

Building Revamped

It’s difficult to imagine this building as it was before Argyros bought it.” It was a mess,” says Reinert. “We worked on the building for over a year,” adds assistant director Theresa Hovich. On the first floor, a drop ceiling was removed and new walls were installed and painted.

The narrow winding staircase to second-floor classroom space has been refinished and, on the third floor, there’s a cozy parlor with couches and a grandfather clock next to the stacks of books and periodicals that Argyros moved from his house.

“There are thousands, and this isn’t even all of them,” says Hovich. At the Fulton Street Gallery, you’ll see photographs by four others who were in the invitational: David Brickman, Martin Benjamin, Chris DeMarco and Ray Felix.

Shanberg picked three works by Felix, big portraits tacked up with pushpins, including “Aztec Mask,” in which a man’s face is covered with crackly green cosmetic gook. We can’t help but stare at his brilliant blue eyes, spiky hairdo and bath towel draped around his shoulders like a superhero’s cape. Brickman’s “Neighborhood” series lives on, with three minimalist images — “Grey Shape, Elk Street,” “Mustard Yellow” and “Composition in Red and Green” — in which he focuses so intently on color and pattern that the actual building is unidentifiable.

In “Man” and “The Herd,” Crystal Walters creates abstracted scenes that remind one of Momix dancers or National Geographic illustrations, as primitive human-like figures creep and crawl.

Suzanne Kawola provides comic relief with two very large, unabashed views of someone’s “big fat wedding.” In “Mother of Groom,” mama cavorts on the dance floor, while “Father of the Groom” shows papa in his cups, wearing an expression of pure pleasure.

Karen Schlesinger won an honorable mention award for “Meditation,” a rich, painterly expanse of desert and sky.

Cellphone Entries

Photos from a cellphone? In another first for the Photo Regional, there are 49 of them, mounted on small wood blocks and joined by lengths of metal chain.

“I can’t always have my camera, but I have my cellphone,” says Vincent, who happened to be in the gallery when The Gazette made a visit. There are shots of New York City and the Adirondacks, young men posing in bizarre costumes, and other scenes that Vincent snapped as she chronicled six months of her life .

Some images, like a close-up of a big, flesh-colored orb are hard to figure out. (That’s the pregnant belly of a friend who was in labor, taken in Vincent’s car, en route to the hospital.)

“My life is very hectic,” says a smiling Vincent, a mother of three who studied 10 years to earn her bachelor of arts degree from the University at Albany.

Next year, the Photo Regional moves to the Albany Center Gallery for a first visit to ACG’s new digs on Columbia Street, and there won’t be a salon. In 2009, when it goes to the Opalka, the exhibit will be an invitational again, but with a guest curator.

Will Fulton Street and the PhotoCenter join forces again in 2010? Reinert sounds hopeful, but isn’t giving a definite answer.” It’s something we tried. We’d like to have it again in the future,” he says.

Regional Winners

The winners of the Photography Regional 2007 are:

• First place, Jeff Lansing. • Second place, Shannon Phinney. • Third place, Alee Corbalis. • Fourth place, Martin Benjamin • Honorable mention: Stacy Millburn, Angela Rappoccio, Karen Schlesinger, Crystal Walters, Sara Salamone, Katie McDonough, Ray Felix, and Suzanne Kawola. • Digital Award: Stacy Millburn.     • Digital Award special mention: Jane Olivia Greenwood-Barry.

Copyright 2007 The Daily Gazette Co., Schenectady, NY

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Photographers develop a space for the art

By Joseph Dalton
Special to the Times Union
First published: Sunday, January 21, 2007

A couple of guys named Nick are starting a place in Troy for all things photographic. Nicholas Argyros, 63, and Nicholas Reinert, 25, are partners in the Photography Center of the Capital District, a project more than a year in the making that will launch with a grand opening from 1 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 9.

Conceived as a membership organization for professionals and amateurs alike, the Photography Center is located at 404 River St. in a historic three-story building just north of downtown Troy and across from Revolution Hall. The space will house a variety of offerings for the public and services for members, including:

  • An exhibition space for photo shows
  • A photography museum with more than 100 vintage cameras from the 19th and 20th centuries
  • A library of 3,000 photography books and periodicals and an archive of countless images
  • Workstations with computers, scanners, printers and other equipment
  • Workshops on photography techniques and classes in new technology
  • A retail space with photography film and supplies, plus a selection of secondhand cameras

Argyros says the top goal is that the center be a place for community, “where photographers from all avenues — journalists, academics, commercial, fine art, or hobbyists — can participate and feel welcome.”

The scope and ambition of the center are sometimes difficult to convey, says Reinert, but that's only until he gives a tour. After people see the facilities and their potential, “We get a lot of ‘Wows’,” he says.

A painter and photographer, Reinert has been a regular presence in regional art activist groups like Albany Underground Artists and helped produce the now-defunct magazine 200 Proof. He serves as the center's director and also keeps an apartment in the building.

Argyros, the center’s founder, is a self-taught photographer who is consumed with the art form. “From childhood, I was fascinated by reading images and the way cameras transform reality,” he says. “Many people think of photography as depicting reality, but a photo becomes its own thing.”

Almost all of the center’s inventories come from Argyros’ many years of collecting. “My wife was happy to have all the junk carted out of the house,” he says. Likewise, the center's start-up costs have been covered by his retirement funds after a career in the state Department of Education.

Although Argyros has long carried in his mind the vision of the Photography Center, he says it will come into focus through the participation of members. “They will help shape what it's going to be and do,” he says.

Annual membership dues range from $35 to $100. More than 60 local photographers have already joined. Among them is Gail Nadeau, a full-time artist who regularly exhibits her photos.

“Nick (Argyros) is one of those people you don’t forget ... There’s a kindness about him that lingers,” says Nadeau. “He approached me at some point (about the center) and I thought it was fantastic. I became a member on the spot.”

She adds that Photography Center’s emphasis on education brings to mind the Maine Workshops, an illustrious summer academy of the photographic arts founded in 1973.

Another charter member is Ken Deitcher, a retired Albany pediatrician and avid camera buff. Like many photographers currently working in the digital realm, Deitcher grows frustrated with the need for new high-priced equipment and sees the center as a welcome resource. “You have the whole process right there, complete in one place,” he says.

The nexus for creativity is in the center's large main room, which houses both exhibition space and digital workstations. “It will be a living, breathing gallery, where folks can come in and see the art and also see artists working,” says Reinert. “It promotes the dialogue of artists and public and that’s a beautiful thing.”

For more information on the Photography Center of the Capital Region, call 273-0100 or visit

Joseph Dalton is a local freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Times Union.

Copyright 2007, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, NY

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