Poughkeepsie Journal article on Fovea's sustainability exhibit and panel

 Beacon art exhibit puts focus on sustainability


Humanitarian Issues Explored Through Fovea’s Lens

Exhibition space in Beacon is devoted to visual journalism

August 12, 2012

By Alison Rooney for the Philipstown Paper

Opening reception for Fovea's Gays in the Military: How America Thanked Me exhibit, 2012. Photo by Peter McGivney/Courtesy of Fovea Exhibitions

One of just a handful of exhibition spaces specializing in photojournalism, Fovea Exhibitions, now celebrating its fifth anniversary in Beacon, has a focused mission: to educate through visual journalism.

As a nonprofit, supported solely by private donors, grants and fundraisers, they are able to devote their energies to producing a range of education programs, panels and story-based exhibits without being impeded by the necessities of raising revenue through the sale of the work displayed.

Fovea, which refers to “a small depression in the retina, constituting the point where vision is most clear,” is entirely volunteer-run. It was begun in 2007 by Stephanie Heimann and Sabine Meyer, both photo editors with extensive professional backgrounds.

Heimann, who spent eight years living in Hong Kong and Moscow, worked as a photojournalist covering post-Soviet culture and the first war in Chechnya. Her freelance clients have included Newsweek, Fortune and Scientific American. Recently more focused on environmental issues, she was the photo editor for Al Gore’s book Our Choice.

Meyer has been a photo editor for the past 20 years, working for publications such as New York Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic Adventure, where for 10 years she was the director of photography. She has been teaching photo editing at the International Center of Photography (ICP) since 2004. Fovea’s advisory board contains members who work for the New York Times, Getty Images, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and the ICP.

Installation of Japan Now exhibit at Fovea Exhibitions. Courtesy of Fovea Exhibitions

Fovea’s donors are worldwide, with sources as disparate as individual gifts sent from Russia and Argentina, to locals offering money and volunteer hours in support of the endeavor.

Fovea began as a concept when Heimann, then living in Brooklyn, decided to form a nonprofit with the goal of publishing a small magazine. After meeting Meyer, they shifted the idea to opening a gallery instead. In whatever shape, the mission was always to educate through photography, promoting an understanding of news and social events through the medium of photojournalism. This work was an extension of what they did and do professionally.

Heimann says Fovea “allows this genre of photography another venue for outreach besides print; here it can live longer than it does in, say, print magazines.”

In choosing and mounting the exhibitions, which can feature a single photographer’s work or the work of many based around a theme, Fovea​ “tends not to editorialize,” says Heimann, adding, “We simply try to organize it in a three-dimensional space.” Being able to include detailed caption information, Fovea is able to conceptualize every photo within a larger framework than print media usually allows for.

Image of Lt. Don Bramer from Fovea's Gays in the Military: How America Thanked Me exhibit. Photo by Vincent Cianni courtesy of Vincent Cianni/Fovea Exhibitions

Exhibits are further enhanced by reading materials, panel discussions, and, often visits from the exhibiting photographer both at the space and also at schools. Topics of previous exhibitions include children in rural South Dakota; post-tsunami Japan; the Iraqi refugee crisis; faith in America; Bosnian diaries; and the rebuilding of a New Orleans neighborhood.

School groups often visit, which Heimann says is great, because “it allows students to interact with the journalists without the journalists being edited.” One exhibit, Behind Bars, by Andrew Lichtenstein, toured to regional schools, some of which included large populations of students who answered in the affirmative to the question, “Do you know someone in prison, or who works in a prison?” The students’ shared history with the subject and subjects of the exhibit allowed for them to experience the images on a very direct and personal level.

The work exhibited is nearly all from colleagues of Meyer and Heimann. “It’s a very small, tight industry — everybody knows everybody,” says Heimann. Fovea gets a lot of requests, but because of limitations of resources, there are a lot of criteria involved in selecting the shows, which tend to stay up in the space for a few months each. Above all, “[the work] has to fulfill the mission,” says Heimann. “It has to be about a current event or social issues and has to be a serious documentary exploration of that topic.”

As an example, Heimann cites a recent exhibit, Gays in the Military, which photographer Vincent Cianni spent three years documenting. “We were very happy to get to premiere it here, and it has gone on to galleries in Boston and Chicago.”

Most of the photographers whose work is shown work with writers, and much of their work is self-funded, according to Heimann. “People do it for very many reasons, including a sense of documenting history. If money isn’t available they’ll do it anyway. That passion, drive and commitment is something we get to showcase. The reason for our existence is to promote the work of these people.”

Panel discussion during Fovea's 2011 Iraq Refugees exhibit.

Fovea draws a mixed crowd of visitors and locals. The location, at the west end of Beacon’s Main Street, is handily the first gallery Dia Museum attendees hit when walking east. It is also a destination gallery in and of itself for those within certain circles. “For people working with NGOs, international humanitarian organizations, journalists — those people know who we are,” says Heimann.

Fovea’s current exhibit, which ends this Saturday night, is entitled Liberty and Justice (For All) and is a group tribute to the lives and work of photojournalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, who were killed in Libya in 2011. Each of the 65 invited photographers from around the world contributed an image from their archives on liberty or justice and wrote a text to accompany it. Heimann notes, “These first-​person witness essays illuminate more about the photos than just a caption; we love that here.”

Heimann describes Fovea’s next exhibit, One Earth, which opens on Aug. 19, as focused on “our planet’s conundrum: causes, consequences and traditions.” The exhibit is on view through Nov. 4, with a reception on Sept. 8.

Beginning this fall, Fovea will offer three photography classes, two for adults and one for middle-school-age students. Details on the classes, “The Art of the Photo Essay,” “Storytelling in Your Photographs” and “Beginning Traditional Photography” can be found at, which also includes virtual exhibitions of previous shows and videos of their panel discussions and much more. Fovea also has an in-house professional black-and-white darkroom available for rental. Fovea’s annual fundraiser will take place on Dec. 1 right across the street at Hudson Beach Glass.

Fovea is located at 143 Main St., Beacon, and summer hours are Friday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.; on Second Saturdays, including this Saturday, Aug. 11, the hours extend until 9 p.m.


Beacon exhibit honors photojournalists

Main themes are liberty and justice

10:55 AM, Jul 26, 2012
Written by Dave Aderson For the Poughkeepsie Journal

A great photograph not only captures a significant moment in time, but also represents an overlying message or emotion. Viewers draw from this emotion an understanding of the world.

On display at Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon is a thought-provoking display of photographs and narratives published in Alaska Quarterly Review’s 30th Anniversary Edition, titled “Liberty & Justice (For All): A Global Photo Mosaic.”

Fovea Exhibitions, a nonprofit organization that aims “to educate through visual journalism,” was “founded to create a space where today’s important humanitarian and social issues can be explored in depth through the medium of photojournalism,” according to the group’s website,

Incorporating the photos and narratives of 68 world-renowned photojournalists spanning 22 different countries, the exhibit, which opened in June and will be on display through Aug. 5, is a tribute to photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, both of whom were killed last year covering the Libyan civil war.

Photojournalists readily put themselves in harm’s way, walk the front lines and travel far from the beaten path to give those back home a glimpse of the unseen world, explained Benjamin Spatz, curator of the project and guest editor for Alaska Quarterly Review’s publication of the mosaic.

“To a certain extent, seeing is believing,” Spatz said.

“Photojournalists are the eyes of so many people around the world,” Spatz said.

“It’s an opportunity for the photographers to have their first-person voices heard in an unedited, uncontextualized manner,” said Stephanie Heimann, co-director of Fovea Exhibitions.

The exhibit offers the photojournalists’ perspective on what the concepts of liberty and justice mean to them.

Spatz asked contributors to choose one photo they felt signified liberty and justice and to write a narrative to accompany it.

“Each image is about a certain truth and how it relates to our most basic values,” Spatz said.

“This is a conversation that Tim and Chris often led,” Spatz said.

What came from Spatz’s request was a unique group of photos and narratives that spanned the range of human emotion.

From a woman lying face down next to her slain fiance’s grave at the Arlington National Cemetery to a young Sierra Leonean amputee raising her arm, imitating the Statue of Liberty in the backdrop or a young boy comforting his grieving father at a Sept. 11 memorial in New York City, the photographs document the highs and lows of humanity.

According to Spatz and Heimann, the photos reveal gross injustices and oppression while highlighting the tenacity of the human spirit.

“That’s the sign of a good photograph … that it evokes emotion in the viewer … it means that the photographer has gone someplace either physically or emotionally out of their comfort zone to bring back something … a moment, a story, somebody else’s personal circumstance,” Heimann said.

While each photograph serves as the visual component, the narratives are what give the mosaic personal resonance.

“What the collective vision does is increase awareness, and increase empathy,” said Ronald Spatz, founding editor of Alaska Quarterly Review. “The idea of ‘freedom and justice for all’ is the nature of what we’re about as a country.”

In this regard, the project acts as a proactive tribute to Hetherington and Hondros.

Their unrelenting pursuit of the truth and passion for curiosity and the exploration of the human condition continue to grow and live on, explained Ronald Spatz.

“Liberty & Justice (For All): A Global Photo Mosaic” is on display Fridays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m., or by appointment


“Are we concerned about the shifting sands — and it sounds like an oxymoron — of the new cliché?” asked Andrew Courtney, a photographer and filmmaker from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Mr. Courtney, it turned out, had a lengthy résumé that included an upcoming photo exhibit on African Palestinians, and films and photos from Cuba, apartheid South Africa, Iraq and post-Katrina New Orleans.

Fovea, the gallery said, refers to “a small depression in the retina, constituting the point where vision is most clear.” It seemed just about the right place to begin Beacon’s Second Saturday for July, in the sweltering summer of 2012, when clear vision is hard to find, the shifting sands (at beaches, at least) can be too hot to please and anyone with an Internet connection knows that the new cliché is just a tweet away.

Second Saturday, a monthly assortment of art shows, free wine and cheese, street music and people-watching, has become a favored institution in this old Hudson River industrial town, where Dia:Beacon, the giant modern art museum that opened in 2003, jump-started postindustrial life and made Beacon one of the Hudson Valley’s aspiring arty towns.


The days are too hot for the parade up and down the mile-long Main Street. But when the sun goes down, people meander until well into the night past the giant mural of the American Indian looming over the Hudson River; past the local band, the Costellos, flanked by tiki torches on the flat roof of Hudson Beach Glass; past the Hop craft beer and artisanal fare tasting room and the Artisan Wine Shop; past Foxy’s Beauty Salon and Sexy Nails; past the Masjid Ar-Rashid Islamic Teaching Center of Beacon and more than a dozen galleries until things peter out just past Feng Shui America and the high-end Roundhouse at Beacon Falls hotel, spa and restaurant taking shape across the street.

Second Saturday, like Beacon, seems to hang its hat on the idea that art, as muse, recreation, status signifier and economic development strategy is one of the few things that have a permanent growth market.

“When you get to a point in your life where you have a wall, paint on the wall and now you’re thinking of hanging art on the wall, you’re a little bit beyond just having mayonnaise sandwiches,” said Michael Sullivan, a personal trainer (his business card reads: “Hudson Valley Muscles”) from across the bridge in Newburgh. “If you want to talk to God, you better have a poet or an artist.”

Mr. Courtney’s second stop was the “Summer Blues” group exhibition featuring 14 artists, most from the Hudson Valley, at the Theo Ganz Studio, with the “Don’t be Frackin’ Crazy” sign in the window.

The show was not strictly about summer, though Margaret McDuffie’s blue Westport chair, a precursor to the Adirondack chair, sitting by the window, afforded perhaps the perfect perch for watching the passing parade. Instead it was full of diverse images, many with a dissonant buzz, like Elana Goren’s “Through Humans’ Scope,” a series of etchings with explosive dark fields reminiscent of gunshots depicting or hinting at violence to animals.

“I used to look forward to summer when I was a kid; it took forever to be summer again,” said Eleni Smolen, an artist and the gallery owner. “But it seems now summer has this unpredictable quality, it’s chaotic. So I didn’t want this to be purely celebratory because summer can be melancholy and sad, with climate change and erratic weather and this darker part that’s there.”

Beacon has its celebratory and melancholy vapors as well, and the long trek across Main feels a bit like walking across America. Its two ends, like the East and West Coasts, are destinations of energy and culture, where the cool people hang out. Much of the space between is frayed, barely hanging on or waiting for better days: an abandoned building bears painted faux storefronts of imaginary businesses like the Neighborhood Deli and Main Street Flowers.

Still, the trek has its rewards. At the DGAF Gallery (the letters have varying meanings, some printable), Catello Somma, a former graffiti artist from Brooklyn, and V’Nessa Tzavellas, a singer-songwriter and photographer from Queens, preside over a small, vivid space the size of a railroad car. There are skulls made from computer parts hanging from the ceiling and lots of photographs infused with Goth, salsa and punk sensibilities. Mr. Somma works as a security guard at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center to pay the bills.

Down the street at Barbara and Steven Riddle’s Marion Royael Gallery, there’s a D.J. playing techno music and a “directed art project” called Cheap Shot in which visitors finish canvases by shooting at them with a paintball rifle, to add color and texture, before the artist signs them.

Strangers and friends wander in and out or camp out on chairs on the sidewalk. But, for night owls, Brooklyn it’s not. Almost everything winds up by 11.

The stragglers meander back on Main, past the sporadic signs of life: the Edward Hopper glow of the Yankee Clipper Diner, the blues band at Joe’s Irish Pub, the woman improbably still cutting hair at one of the hair salons and jazz pouring out of the Chill Wine Bar. Achieving neo-Beacon has always been a few steps forward and a few steps back, but for this night at least, it feels as if the shifting sands are shifting in the right direction.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 24, 2012

 An article in some editions on Saturday about Second Saturday, a monthly assortment of art shows, free wine and cheese, and street music in Beacon, N.Y., gave an incomplete name for a gallery that participates in the event. It is Fovea Exhibitions, not Fovea photography gallery.

Summer Nights

Strolling Main Street Summer Rituals

This is the fourth in a series of articles exploring how people in the New York City area spend their summers after dark.


When prominent photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed last year by Libyan forces, the public became more aware of how truly intense, dangerous and essential this line of work is.

Written by Sommer Hixson For the Poughkeepsie Journal

On the occasion of its fifth anniversary, Fovea Exhibitions, one of the only exhibition spaces dedicated to photojournalism, will open a new show that honors the medium and how it brings us closer to news events and social issues around the world.

The exhibition, “Liberty and Justice (for All): A Global Photo Mosaic,” is presented by Fovea from a special portfolio published by “Alaska Quarterly Review.” The show chronicles personal and political conflicts, both nationally and internationally, through images that were selected by 68 photojournalists from 22 countries. The images, accompanied by commentary, range from the joy of voting for the first time to the effects of contaminated water; from tensions over immigration to the plight of war victims around the world.

The opening event for “Liberty and Justice (for All): A Global Photo Mosaic,” takes place Saturday. A panel discussion led by prominent photojournalists and editors from the exhibition will be held at 6 p.m. July 14.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of Fovea Exhibitions. The nonprofit educational organization and exhibition space’s mission is to promote public understanding of current events and social issues through photojournalism.

Stephanie Heimann Roland is co-director of Fovea with Sabine Meyer.

“There is a tremendous amount of support for the work we do on many levels, from the photojournalists who are committed to sharing the stories they cover to patrons who help support the costs of presenting these programs, to the volunteers who help us with every aspect of designing, installing and staffing the gallery,” Heimann Roland said.

The exhibition is a tribute to Hetherington and Hondros. “We opened in summer 2007 and exhibited very powerful photography from the Iraq war, with photographs by Hondros, Todd Heisler and Susanne Opton,” Heimann Roland said. “Chris (Hondros) was very close to our community. Tim Hetherington spent Thanksgiving the year before he died at our neighbor’s house. This is a beautifully conceived tribute to them, but also contextualizes the process and experiences that photojournalists encounter while making their work.”

Sommer Hixson is a Beacon resident whose day job is media relations director for a film and TV distribution company in New York City.

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