CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Personal views: Photographers' choices telling

The past few days I've been trying to think objectively about my subjectivity when viewing friends art. The bottom line is– believe it or not– I tend to remain aggravatingly detached, criticisms gurgling in my gut despite my will to like their work. Since my mothers rule, If you cant say something nice, dont say anything at all, constantly echoes in my head (bad advice for a critic, incidentally), I usually move on to review something else.

But sometimes I do have something nice to say, which is the case with Jen Fariellos contributions to Picture This, a photography exhibition that also features images by Rob Garland and Anne and Bill Holland, currently on view at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
So before discussing the show, I offer this disclaimer: Jen Fariello is a friend– weve worked together at the Hook; I frequently hired her when I was editor of Blue Ridge Outdoors; and I danced at her wedding. Nevertheless, I thought of none of that when I considered the work in Picture This.

Fariello, Garland, and the Hollands are all professional photographers known locally for their individual work documenting weddings. The images in Picture This, however, represent subjects that move them personally as artists.

Garland displays color prints of travel locations and exotic wildlife. Although the work is undeniably competent, it screams National Geographic– not necessarily a bad thing, but the images seem stock, offering few new insights. His close-up of an orange lava lizard perched atop the Godzilla-like head of an iguana is, admittedly, winning, but its not as fresh as his semi-abstract shot of the arcing toothy spines of an iguanas back.

The Hollands, in contrast, seek to convey atmosphere in their black-and-white and color images of New Orleans. A photograph of discarded Mardi Gras beads glittering on a nighttime street, After the Parade, exudes melancholy and nostalgia. But their work retains an illustrative quality that, like Garlands, calls to mind magazine photography. I almost felt like I was flipping through the gourmet travel publication Saveur.

Of the three collections, Fariellos black-and-white portraits stand apart for their artistry. She draws forth an engaging intimacy from her subjects, who often seem to look directly into viewers eyes. Taking refreshing risks in her compositions, Fariello adeptly manipulates shadow and negative space. Particularly noteworthy are her three images of musicians, especially Elizabeth, a surprisingly sensual portrait of a woman and her cello.

Picture This, featuring photographs by Jen Fariello, Rob Garland, and Anne and Bill Holland, is on view through June 1 in the V. Earl Dickinson Building at Piedmont Virginia Community College. 961-5381.