The results of his experiment are found in the "10 Cameras Project" group exhibition, on display at Art Space at Optima Camelview Village. Since the show was an experiment in intrinsic value, it's easy to observe the developed photographs and make assumptions about what constitutes the "best" art.
The brilliant turquoise and muted greens of Matt Garcia's images paint a vibrant picture of our desert home, while Missouri native Kelsey Wiskirchen's street life photos -- taken on rainy grey days -- present the far less appealing bland browns of strip malls and dust storms. Benjamin Rodgers' grainy action figure mock-ups of the horror flick Saw are amusing and cleverly shot. Dan Collins' pictures, on the other hand, have the random look of family album pics (complete with bad red-eye).
Not exactly another Mapplethorpe in the making.
Bartered submissions were equally diverse. One family exchanged a night of hula-hooping and games, while contributor Robbie McCarthy shot an amusing video of Mill Avenue's eclectic population that included a crazy tattooed chick doing splits on the sidewalk. To drive home just how subjective the value of each camera's contents was, artist Jen Urso bartered a personal photo album with Halloween and beer bong shots.
Ah, special memories.
If we're talking actual value versus perceived value of the contents of an undeveloped camera, then ASU MFA candidate Laurie Minnick got ripped off. Her barter contribution was a soft, rounded wood sculpture made to resemble her sleeping infant son, Charlie. Resting on a fluffy pillow, the gleaming wood spoke to the beauty of motherhood.
In contrast, her "camera creative" partner Nathan Lewis (an ASU MFA graduate) presented 24 days in the life of a father via the most visually unappealing method possible: photos of nasty, soiled diapers ripe with congealed yellow-brown baby poop.
By itself, the collection of photos could easily be dismissed as... well, crap. But paired together, male cameraman and female barterer create a balanced picture of parenthood.
Minnick and Lewis weren't the only two paired partners that seemed to be in the same stage of life. It was eerie how well the photo displays melded with their bartered counterparts. Megan Hildebrandt's paintings depicting a bald woman astride a deer and a blonde figure losing her hair like autumn leaves were a nod to the cancer both she and partnered camera creative Tania Katan survived.
Hung Q. Tu's stark image of a blossoming tree branch against a dusky lavender-grey background was an ideal compliment for his partner's graphic video.
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The similarities in style between partners is the most remarkable part of the show, considering Christenson swears that the barterers didn't know what they'd find on the cameras. "Although the 'bartering creative' had no prior knowledge of the photos, the connection between photographer and barterer derived from a deeper, researched personal connection," he says. "This was really exciting for me to witness."
"10 Cameras Project" is on display through April 10 at 7177 E. Rancho Vista Dr. in Scottsdale, after which it will move to Phoenix's Regular Gallery on April 15. Admission is free.