Just a moment: Hunt and Shurtleff stop the clock

Billy Hunt, "Butterfly Person."
Billy Hunt, "Butterfly Person."

One minute you're on your horse, and the next you're in the dirt. One minute your son is an infant; the next he's a kindergartner. Life changes in a flash–- literally, for photographers. The question is how to capture a moment before it passes? Billy Hunt and Andrew Shurtleff present two different approaches at Caf© Cubano.

A Daily Camera photojournalist, Shurtleff pursues "the decisive moment," a term photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson coined for the split second when a scene's elements come together to tell a story in a single frame. Shurtleff's skill at capturing such moments has won him numerous journalism awards, something he notes several times in his exhibition statement, and–- just in case viewers miss it–- he mentions again in the text accompanying each image. There's no question Shurtleff's work is "good," but many of his pictures look like news photos you've seen before; their surprises are predictable surprises.

Nevertheless, Shurtleff does occasionally achieve magic, most notably in a shot of a 250-pound black bear plummeting from a tree in a shower of yellow leaves, a tranquilizer dart stuck in its furry side. The photograph is a compositional marvel, with horizontal electrical lines in the background providing geometric structure, and twin red-striped metal bands around the tree's trunk echoing the red flare of the tiny dart.

Billy Hunt, on the other hand, brings an artistic rather than a journalistic eye to conveying a moment. His  "Baby Landscapes," on view in Caf© Cubano's front room, spring from a time when Hunt regularly drove his wakeful young son around town in the early morning in order to let his wife sleep. Doing what all photographers do, Hunt made pictures, shooting the tot in empty parking lots, on the side of the road, sitting on a football field, etc.

Wanting to convey not only a child's helpless vulnerability, but also the wonder and newness of the world at that age, Hunt overlays these sometimes mundane photographs with his son's colorful drawings. The technique takes the images into the realm of fantasy, where a crayon dinosaur looms over the tiny boy on a country road in one, and a spidery figure sidles up to the toddler, whose eyes are closed as he stands on a pile of mulch, in another.

Hunt and Shurtleff may come at photography from different angles, but they both know how to make the most of a moment.

Billy Hunt's "Baby Landscapes"and Andrew Shurtleff's award-winning photographs are on view through June at Caf© Cubano, 112 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall (in York Place). 971-8743.

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