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Photographer centers camera on Sheldon Museum's vintage textiles

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Posted on April 13, 2017 |
By Elsie Lynn Parini



Coastal Ruffles by Paul Gamba.jpg
COASTAL RUFFLES by Paul Gamba

MIDDLEBURY — Photographer Paul Gamba found delight in the vintage clothing collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History as he searched for subjects to capture for the exhibit “Focus on the Sheldon: A Five Point Perspective,” on view through May 13.

After receiving his first camera at the age of 15, Gamba immersed himself in photography, starting in his high school darkroom before beginning his studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. With an interest in fashion, marrying the two arts became natural for Gamba as he enjoyed a career in fashion and commercial photography in the early 1990s Manhattan.

When Gamba moved to Vermont in 1998, he became better known on the processing and educational side of photography with his work in Middlebury at the local lab Lightning Photo. Gamba has become a successful portrait and wedding photographer in New England. Merging a clean and classic studio look with a documentary story-telling style.?

The vintage clothing collection at the Sheldon Museum features many fashion ensembles. Rather than concentrating on the ensemble of “all parts together,” Gamba zeroed in a single part of a fashion fabric, often that was stitched by hand by its creator. Fascinated by artistry done by hand, Gamba admits “it can be personally awkward to admire the parts closely.”

He centered his camera on “antique garments created with black and white fabrics and ornaments and has chosen monochromatic prints to showcase the simple, yet elegant parts.” Gamba provides engrossing titles for his monochromatic prints which hint at his cosmopolitan, often humorous, interpretations.

A portion of a white, formal tuxedo shirt front, featuring one button hole absent a jeweled stud, is titled “Coastal Ruffles” for its resemblance to a rippled canvas created by the tides on a sandy ocean beach. While “Simply Small” zeros in on the four metal buttons bordered by narrow trim of a gentleman’s black waistcoat, “Breaking Lace” features delicate neck ware of white lace sewn to a black velvet band, signifying the variation in color and material. A miniature portion found on a lady’s black sequined, sophisticated jacket is called “March Sequins,” alluding perhaps to soldiers parading in a military column, or the repetitious laying of the sequins.

Gamba’s final two photographs feature intricate designs with ruffles and flourishes ? “Lacing Web” hints at a complex weaved spider’s web and “Gentle Cloche,” a milliner’s fancy patterning of ribbons and sisal found on of a fashionable woman’s 1920s hat.

Six of Gamba’s seven photographs, each measuring a petit 4- by 6-inches are hung together, providing the museum visitor with a symphony of black and white fabric “parts,” while nearby can be viewed the “whole” tuxedo shirt, waistcoat, and sequined lady’s jacket. The juxtaposition of object and photograph allow greater appreciation and understanding of the creativity inherent in couture and photography, and here presented without the alluring, but often distracting, skinny runway models.

Gamba joins four other photographers ? Kate Gridley, Suki Fredericks, Kirsten Hoving and Eric Nelson ? in the “Focus on the Sheldon” exhibit.

The Henry Sheldon Museum is located at 1 Park Street in Middlebury. Admission to the museum is $5 adults; $3 youth (6-18); $4.50 seniors; $12 family; $5 research center. For more info visit (802) 388-2117 or visit www.HenrySheldonMuseum.org.

Editor’s note: This story was provided by the Sheldon Museum staff. It is the second in a series featuring all five exhibiting photographers.

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