Quad-Cities Photographers Bring Special Vision to New Bettendorf Exhibit, United Way Campaign
Saturday In The Arts offers an in-depth look at a local person, trend or event of interest in the Quad-Cities. It runs weekly on your free local media for arts and entertainment, QuadCities.com.
Joe Maciejko has been shooting beautiful photos for far longer than Paige Magistrelli has been alive, but both passionate Bettendorf residents are among 23 area artists who will have their photography on display in February at the Bereskin Gallery and Art Academy, 2967
State St., Bettendorf.
Five other Q-C photographers are part of a new ongoing campaign to promote the work and purpose of United Way Quad Cities.
While gallery owner Pat Bereskin has featured photography for sale since she first opened the Bettendorf venue in 2017, this is her first full exhibit of photos. The Photographic Exploration Project – featuring 43 works – will be on display Feb. 3 – Feb. 26, with a free opening reception with the photographers on Feb. 5, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“They range from very talented hobbyists to those that are professional,” Bereskin said recently. “For our first call to entry for photography, we are quite pleased with the quality of the results.”
The Riverbend Photo and Video Club worked with her to get the word out and encourage their members to participate.
“I have long admired the photography of our local artists,” Bereskin said. “Watching them record the eagles on the water on the most bitter cold day, or capture the workmen at the I-74 Bridge site on the hottest of days. How wonderful for all of us to be able to reflect on the beauty of the world during these challenging times.”
All styles and techniques were welcome for the open call, including experimental, documentary, portrait, travel, cityscapes or any other approaches to photography.
“We look forward to discovering new visions of photography through the artist’s most personal approaches to image making as they capture what they are most passionate about,” Bereskin said in the call.
Maciejko, 78, a retired psychologist and longtime photographer for Ballet Quad Cities, submitted both a stunning dance image and a more recent shot (from this past November) of the new I-74 bridge at sunset for the exhibit.
“We’ve been following it, in its various phases of construction,” he said Friday. “It’s a fun project to keep going back and see the changes. The arch form, it kind of grows on you. It will grow on you and be well-known architecturally. It’s really fun from a photographer’s standpoint to see the old versus the new,
“The arches are actually much higher than you think they were,” Maciejko said of the new bridge. “There’s a very pleasing gracefulness to the arches and suspension cables. It’s really kind of moving.”
He’s vice president of the Riverbend photo club (with about 80 members), which started two and a half years ago. “Our mission is to focus on artistry,” Maciejko said. “Don’t just buy expensive stuff and call yourself a photographer. You have to learn to see. We work on sharing our work, enjoying it. We’re not just after scores and ribbons.”
“There is amazing talent, and our job is to cultivate that – whether you’re an advanced photographer or beginner with an iPhone,” he said. “There are things to enjoy and learn. One of the other things we emphasize is giving back to the community.”
Paige is a Bettendorf High senior, who’s been studying art with Bereskin since 2012 and has interned in her gallery the past 18 months.
“To be honest, I am honestly more a painter. I got into photography my freshman year in high school,” she said Friday, noting she’s studied drawing and painting with “Mrs. B.” “I took a photography class; I had to take photos for the class and I really enjoyed it.”
Through art, “her passion and love of color and design made it the perfect way for her to express herself,” Paige wrote in her bio. In the new exhibit, she is displaying a sunset in her Bettendorf neighbor and a crystalline sea scene in Cinque Terre, Italy from a summer 2019 art trip with Bereskin and other students.
“I’m really excited — to be honest, I wasn’t planning on submitting anything,” Paige said of her photos, noting Bereskin encouraged her. “I just feel like really proud; I was really stoked when I heard the news. I am just very thankful for Mrs. B, letting me have this opportunity. I get to show my artwork for people who come to the gallery.”
The participating artists were chosen by a jury of photographers and curators, headed by photographers Heidi Brandt and Barry Sharp, both close friends of Bereskin.
“I love taking and looking at photos. The photos that capture my attention are those that give me a glimpse inside the mind or heart of the artist,” Brandt said recently. “Through their use of composition, color, light, viewpoint, subject matter, etc., the artist elicited an emotional response from me. The photos that I selected made me pause to wonder, admire, question, laugh and be inspired. It’s what I aspire to when I press the shutter.”
“When a look at any photograph, including my own, I ask “Does it generate any emotions in me? Does it make me think? Does it tell a story?” Sharp asked.
“There’s a lot of photographers out there who don’t have the chance, don’t have the confidence to exhibit their work,” he said. “We wanted to bring people out of their homes, to actually present their work to the public. It was really an open call, no category for it.
“We got a pretty diverse group, both in quality and subject,” Sharp said. “There’s a few young photographers, it’s very encouraging to see.”
“It could be a fabulous photograph technically, but if I have seen the same shot a hundred times, from the same location, it doesn’t generate any emotions in me. The photograph should offer something new, or a unique perspective from the artist,” he said. “A simple test I always give myself when I see other artists work, do I say, ‘I wish I had taken that photograph.’”
“It’s got to be good. Beyond that, is it a picture you’ve seen 1,000 times?” Sharp said. “Something as basic as the Bettendorf-Moline bridge, people have seen it their whole lives. Can you present it literally in a different light, and from a different angle?”
Bereskin – who showed Sharp in a solo 2016 exhibit at her former Bucktown gallery in downtown Davenport – has at least 15 of his photos for sale in the current gallery. “They’re like taking a vacation when you look at his work,” she said. “We have Heidi Brandt; Heidi’s been with me since day one.”
“We’ve shown photography, but we’ve not done a call for entries before,” Bereskin, a painter and longtime teacher, said. “Part of the catalyst on this has been, we’re an educational facility as well as a gallery.
“This is part of our mission during Covid — people are out there rediscovering their talents and hobbies,” she said. “They want to get better.
What’s a better way to do that than meet others that do the same thing? The Riverbend photography group, that’s one of their core missions.
“It’s in order to bring up that next generation and to encourage,” Bereskin said of amateur photogs. “I challenge anybody to come and see. I think it’s beautiful. I’m not a photographer, but I know what I like. Heidi and Barry, I think they chose wisely.”
“Pat is a teacher at heart,” Sharp said. “Quite honestly, I would have never done a show if she had not encouraged me.”
“Those classes are really the heart of that gallery. I think she didn’t want to just round up a bunch of work from professional photographers, but encourage young photographers to pursue this art.”
Transcendent meeting of art forms
After earning his doctoral degree in psychology from SUNY at Buffalo in New York, Maciejko moved to the Q-C in 1974 with his wife and infant twin daughters where he began his professional career as a clinical psychologist.
He practiced in both Iowa and Illinois and served on the governing boards of both the Iowa and Illinois Psychological Associations, including a term as the president of the Illinois Psychological Association. At his retirement in 2013, he was assistant director of Genesis Psychology Associates in Davenport.
In 1997, he got hooked on ballet when casual photos at “Ballet Under the Stars” led to his becoming the resident photographer for Ballet Quad Cities ever since.
Maciejko is fascinated with their ability to portray in dance everything from the drama of classic tales, to the interpretation of human experiences and emotions in their performances.
In his ballet photography, he doesn’t pose the dancers, but in actual rehearsals and live performances works to capture moments in these dynamic productions that display the energy, emotion, mystery, power and grace of the dancers of the company.
In August of 2019, he had a solo photography exhibition in Clinton, Iowa, called “The Ballet Photography of Joseph Maciejko: One Art Reflecting Another.”
“In retirement, I have added nature and wildlife stuff,” he said Friday. “They’re complementary – I’ve always regarded the dance, ballet as poetry in motion. The nature stuff is very quiet, meditative, contemplative photography. Sometimes, it’s going out and making pictures in my mind without a camera. It’s a whole different kind of feeling. It’s emotional in a different sort of sense.”
“Since I started with them, I’ve been totally impressed with the dedication that goes into it,” Maciejko said of the professional ballet company, especially in the challenging past year, where they’ve performed outside and inside Davenport’s Outing Club. “I’m surprised they’ve done as well as they have, given the limitations they have. They do it, they’re troupers. I am just thoroughly impressed.”
“To watch them work, to keep fit and sharp, it’s just amazing,” he said of the dancers. “I do have a deep appreciation of music. When you combine that with the dance, photography, it’s a blending of arts.”
Joedy Cook, executive director of Ballet Quad Cities, is equally as impressed with his art. She’s known Maciejko 30-plus years.
“We have always felt that Joe’s photography is art,” she said Friday. “That’s his art. He loves our art. I’ve said to him so many times, a picture is worth 1,000 words. His photos help to move this company forward. He has followed our ballet company all over. He just quietly shows up, sets up his camera and starts clicking.”
“And how quickly he turns those around,” Cook said of his thousands of photos for a single production. “He gets home very late, he will have photos ready for the press the next day. He does all of this as a volunteer. He has never accepted a dime. He is a gem.”
When BQC did its holiday-season fundraiser “Nutcracker in a Box,” everyone got one of his ballet photos (which also are displayed all over the ballet studio, at the Adler Theatre, and online). “Those photos are all over,” Cook said. “So many people purchased Nutcracker in a Box and they have an original photograph of his.”
“His photos really represent our organization really well,” she said.
When Maciejko ultimately retires from being the company photographer, he aspires to play a grandfatherly role onstage with BQC.
Reflecting beauty from Hawaii to Italy
Paige Magistrelli not only has been artistically inspired by Pat Bereskin, but by being able to take photos in picturesque Hawaii and Italy. In summer 2016, she accompanied her father (who’s head football coach at St. Ambrose) when he led a football camp in Hawaii for a week.
In summer 2019, she was one of eight art students of Mrs. B to go with her to Italy for two weeks. That included mainly drawing and
watercolor painting, and she took her own photos.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” Paige said Friday. “It was eye opening and the buildings were so artistically built. It was just beautiful to be honest.” The water off the coast of Italy is astoundingly clear, she said.
From Bereskin, she has become a better artist by learning about highlights and shadows, and expanded into oil painting.
“My love for painting, it’s different. Every painting I do, I try to make it a part of me,” Paige said. “I will put colors I like; I will do drawings I enjoy. With photography, I don’t know how to explain it. I love taking photos. I’ve never sold any of my photography — that would be also cool to get into.”
A majority of the photos in the Bereskin exhibit will be for sale.
“She’s been working for me, and we have been encouraging her photography,” Bereskin said of Paige. “She has done many photos for the
website, she’s grown so much. She’s learned from the best. And now that she’s gotten so good, that’s part of why we want these internships to work as well. These kids, when they leave me, they know more than most of the graduating seniors from college.”
Learning to appreciate photos in scenic settings
Both Sharp and Brandt learned to appreciate the art in some spectacular settings.
Sharp has focused on creating arresting images even more since early 2014, when he retired from a 30-year career working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A resident of Solon, Iowa, he last was CEO of the VA Medical Center in Iowa City.
Sharp worked for VA centers all over the country, and after retiring, he went to photography school at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Mont., in summer 2014, and went back later to study filmmaking for documentaries.
At the summer intensive, “you’re living and breathing photography for 11 straight weeks,” he said. “There were people from Britain, the Bahamas, Australia — all over the world, literally. They’re from different cultures, and they look at the world differently.”
What he gained most at RMSP was, “Get it right in the camera. Don’t be dependent on editing programs to fix what you didn’t get right in the first place,” Sharp said.
“I thought I was pretty good photographer, but I went up there, and discovered how much I didn’t know,” he said of the Montana program. “The physical surroundings, it’s just beautiful country. It’s called Big Sky for a reason. The beauty of it is, they had people from all over the U.S. and several foreign countries in the program.”
There’s a big difference between shooting pictures and being a photographer, Sharp said.
“You can get a good shot with an iPhone, with most cameras, but what do you do when lighting conditions aren’t ideal? You have to adjust your equipment; you don’t get that with a point and shoot,” he said.
“Because camera phones are so ubiquitous, there are literally millions of photographs floating around. They do a pretty good job,” Sharp said. “If you want to get creative, apps on an iPhone are becoming more and more technical, you can do lot of things right on your phone, can do editing programs.”
“Whatever camera you’ve got, once you master the equipment, it’s composition,” he said. “You have to have the ability to compose a scene. One of the downfalls, or criticisms I would have of phone cameras, everybody’s quick to pull their phone out and take a picture. With a camera, you’re forced to look technically at the scene before you take the picture.”
“I encourage anybody if they want to improve their skills, whether it’s a photography club or taking photos, get out and shoot, ask lots of
questions,” Sharp said. “The beauty of digital is, you can always take another one. Digital is a far better learning tool and far more forgiving than film ever was.”
Brandt moved to Iowa City in 2018 after co-owning Boho Chic at Bucktown Center for the Arts for 12 years. She specializes in nature photography.
“What I look for at first is, something catches your eye – and I like a strong composition in a photo, but I like a photo that stops and makes you think, for whatever reason,” she said Friday. “It elicits a feeling from you — whether that’s happy, sad, causes you to pause, appreciate it. It just inspires you somehow. It’s also, photography for me, it’s interesting to me know what the artist is feeling or thinking.”
“You can stand back and watch people interact with your work, if they are seeing the same thing you do,” Brandt said. “They come with different experiences.”
She loves taking photos in Door County, Wis., and in 2006, Brandt studied photography at The Clearing Folk School there, in Ellison Bay. After coming back to the Q-C, that’s when she started her Bucktown gallery.
With the pandemic, a lot of people have spent more time outdoors, and nature photography is a great way to relieve stress, Brandt said.
“You’re not thinking about the pandemic. You’re using a different part of your brain and mind,” she said. “It’s relaxing and therapeutic.”
A close-up photo of a daffodil at Davenport’s Vander Veer Conservatory is her entry in a new contest to raise money for Hope Blooms – a Cedar Rapids fundraiser that not only denotes both a sense of hope and resilience to our community, but directly supports local cancer patients and their families. Donors purchase daffodil bunches, daffodil arrangements, and potted daffodils as well as an annual mascot for individual display or as a gift of hope which are then delivered to cancer patients undergoing treatment.
The photo winner will have their image used to create note cards sold in their gift shop, Brandt said, noting voting goes through Feb. 8.
“Pat likes to reach out to the community and involve the community” she said of the new Bettendorf exhibit. “Every artist needs a jumping-off point or starting point. It’s great to have the hobbyist and the novice be in the company of the professional artist. Their photography is usually better than they think it is. And it’s nice to hear somebody established in the business, their thoughts on your work.”
The Bereskin exhibit is mostly professionals, with about one-quarter hobbyists.
Those to be displayed include Sarah McVey, Jay Brooks, Kristel Saxton, Laura Mullens, Jen Hunt, Odin McDonald, Paula Scherbroeck, Kent Marcek, Darcy Rostenbach, Naidine D’Angelo, Greg Boll, Tim Bradenburg, Connie Nagel, Michael Fitzgerald, Pamela Crouch, Dan Lee, Tina
Dominicus, Ines Romero, Ravindra Sudhindra, Ken Urban, and Cari Henson.
The hours at Bereskin Gallery are Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit bereskinartgallery.com.
United Way promotes local photographers
Five other Q-C photographers were chosen by United Way Quad Cities last fall to participate in its new “Stronger Together” campaign.
“From Covid-19 to facing the challenges of inequity, #UnitedWayQC is rallying to do more,” its first post said, with the first shot from
Davenport’s Jessica Sheridan. “That’s why we’re launching a photo series designed to document how Quad Citizens are coming together during this global pandemic. We’re capturing the ways we’re working together – and are STRONGER TOGETHER. We’re keeping our gratitude front and center through images that capture what’s it like in this moment in time.”
Since then, United Way has created photo galleries on its website, and have continued to share photos and tag the photogs on social media. They’ve also done photographer profiles, which the organization has highlighted along with photos in their e-newsletter — sent to thousands of donors, volunteers, corporate partners and others who have opted in for email updates from UWQC.
“We are grateful to our photographers and everyone involved with this project,” said Kevin Smith, communications manager for UWQC. “We’re continuing to spotlight our partners in the community as they relate to our shared causes and initiatives.”
“Through the lenses of five talented local photographers, United Way’s Stronger Together project documents Quad Citizens coming
together to celebrate each other — and the simple acts of kindness — that inspire us during these unpredictable times,” according to www.unitedwayqc.org/strongertogether.
It’s similar in intent to UWQC’s 2019 musical “Amplify Quad Cities: The Soundtrack” campaign, which partnered with local songwriters to create a new song that told the story of how the nonprofit transformed the lives of everyday people, UWQC president/CEO Rene Gellerman said Friday.
“We partnered with five local photographers, asked them to capture people living in the midst of this once-in-a-generation crisis,” she said. “We’re using those to tell the story of what is in our community, seeing the challenges, seeing the inspiration.”
The quintet of shutterbugs, as described by United Way, are:
- For Darryl Cross of Coach Cross Photography, having a camera is kind of like owning a time machine.
“Photographs help people maintain a sense of normalcy. It’s proof that you didn’t just exist, but that you lived,” he said. “That’s especially important in a time like the one we’re living in at the moment. The strength and resiliency of folks needs to be documented. The time that we’re living
in right now – it should be documented.”
- For many Quad Citizens, Jaawan Arrington is known as the man behind the fascinating The 100 Series. In it, he interviews strangers – all in the pursuit to spread positivity. When he found out about UWQC’s effort to document Quad Citizens during these challenging times, he was immediately on board.
“In many aspects it’s similar to what I’ve been doing with the 100 Series,” he said. “It’s all about showing off all the amazing people who live here. My photography is all about celebrating people and making them look larger than life.”
- Jessica Sheridan of Shared Light Photographyjumped at the opportunity to photograph people during the 2020 pandemic. The Quad-City native took a unique approach to the project, deciding to focus on “makers” who work behind the scenes and are particularly impacted by Covid –like local stage hands, a stylist, a midwife and a restaurant owner.
“So often we don’t recognize these people and the work they do, and I thought this was a great way to celebrate them,” she said. “As an artist it’s a particularly rewarding feeling to give back and benefit the communities we live in.”
- As the creative force behind The Underground Economy in Davenport, Josh Graves knows about the power of connecting people.
“I’ve lived in the Quad Cities since I was a kid, and I know United Way is a well-respected organization that works with a lot of different groups to build a stronger Quad Cities. I am proud to be able to contribute to that effort.”
- Juan Valtierra stumbled into photography through his work as a dancer and musician and is known for his “album cover” photographs. Above all, he’s a Quad Citizen who wants to serve others so we can all become Stronger Together.
“I really want to do my best to serve my community while I’m here. I believe in what United Way is doing and it’s very cool the way they go about helping others.”
After serving as the inaugural executive director at Lead(h)er and connecting over 300 women with mentors, she yearned to use her skills to make something of her own, something capable of empowering women, the post says. That “something” became The Beautifull Project.
What started as love letter to her teenage daughter about loving and accepting her body soon grew into a blog, podcast and photo gallery, all focused on inviting women back to their bodies. Her podcast amplifies women’s voices, bringing them together to share their stories of survival, creating a “chorus of courage” among women, and helping them change the way they see and
While The Beautifull Project focuses on communicating a body-positive message, Sarah is quick to connect women’s obsession with shrinking their bodies with all of the other ways women shrink themselves in the world, and even quicker to offer them an alternative:
“Instead of shrinking,” she says, “why don’t we just take up space?”
Stevens was chosen as one of 12 women across the nation awarded a $10,000 Nation of Neighbors award by Royal Neighbors of America. With her award, Sarah plans to continue to share her message by writing a book with the hopes that, one day, all women will accept their bodies — both big and small — exactly as they are, making space for women to live the best, biggest life possible.
When asked what “stronger together” means to her, Stevens said, “’Stronger together’ is a vital reminder that we are not alone, and if there’s ever been a year during which it is important to be reminded of our connectedness, it is this year. ‘Stronger together’ reminds me that I don’t need to have all the answers because I am surrounded by a community who has my back. And there are few things more important than that.”
To see more photos from the gallery, check out our Google showcase here.