The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando at BCCC

Friday, April 26, 2024 at 10:45 AM

Photographs by Fran Orlando
Exhibit opens Wednesday, May 22
Last updated: Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 12:49 PM

Bucks County Community College is pleased to announce the opening of The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando at Hicks Art Center Gallery at the College’s Newtown Campus on Wednesday, May 22.

The exhibition features more than 40 portraits from Orlando’s project photographing the residents of the small New Jersey town in the late 1970s. Roosevelt, New Jersey, began in the 1930s as Jersey Homesteads, a planned community to help Jewish garment workers escape poverty and the city. Although the social experiment failed when the factory closed a few years later, the town soon became a rural mecca for artists such as Ben Shahn, Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Gregorio Prestopino, and Jacob Landau.

Orlando intended to create a portrait of the town by photographing the people who lived there, several of whom were original residents. She photographed for two years, in black and white with 35mm and medium format cameras. During that time, she received recognition and support for the project from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, exhibited at the New Jersey State Museum, and had a solo exhibition of the work in progress at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie. The project was put on hold when she left New Jersey to attend graduate school in Philadelphia.

During the intervening years, Orlando established a photography business in Philadelphia, worked in various museums as an educator and exhibition planner, and served as Director of Exhibitions and Artmobile at Bucks County Community College for 35 years. She currently works as assistant editor at The Photo Review, a critical photography journal of international scope and readership.

Orlando notes, “Much has changed in the 45+ years since I started this project. Neither the town nor photography are the same. The elders that I photographed are gone; the children are grown. My original gelatin silver prints are considered ‘vintage.’ Moreover, the project has taken on a historical significance that I never considered when I began.

“After all these years, I didn’t feel like I could return to the darkroom and begin literally where I had left off. My life has been spent teaching and learning and I couldn’t deny the changes in myself either. I needed to leave my original gelatin silver prints in the past to bring my work to the present, so I scanned the original negatives and printed the work digitally with my current sensibilities.”

All are welcome to the opening reception on Wednesday, May 22 from 4–7 p.m. at the Hicks Art Center Gallery, Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, Newtown, PA 18940. The exhibition will remain on view through July 3. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon – 4 p.m.

The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando is presented in conjunction with (re)FOCUS, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts/1974, a citywide festival recognizing women artists. With over 150 exhibitions, panels, lectures, workshops, and demonstrations, it was one of the first large-scale surveys of the work of contemporary American women artists, signaling the inception of the American Feminist Art Movement. (re)FOCUS 2024 is also a Philadelphia citywide festival showing how women-identified and BIPOC artists have moved from the periphery to the center of the art world. Like its 1974 predecessor, (re)FOCUS is a collaboration among Philadelphia's large, small, and diverse visual arts institutions.

This exhibition is funded in part by the Bucks County Community College Committee on Cultural Affairs and the Bucks County Community College Foundation.

Photography: Jonathan Shahn with bust of Peri Prestopino, 1980/2023, archival pigment print Marilyn and Peter, 1978/2023, archival pigment print.

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