“What the Eye Doesn’t See” Ron Tarver at the List Gallery

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This year’s Donald J. Gordon visiting artist and lecturer, Ron Tarver, delivered a lecture yesterday in LPAC, reviewing his work and discussing a few of his favorite pieces and experiences. A photojournalist who has worked with National Geographic and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as an acclaimed artist who has exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, Tarver’s pieces will be in the List until November 12.

“My true love is documenting” stated Tarver in his lecture. “That’s why I came to the Inquirer… it’s [about] telling stories.” As became quickly clear through Tarver’s comfortable, often humorous style of speaking, Ron Tarver is a master storyteller. In addition to photographing celebrities, animals, and news events on assignment, Tarver’s work often documents the unheard stories; his subjects have included the drug culture in North Philadelphia, black cowboys, and African American Veterans from World War II through the present.

The List exhibit of his pieces has been split into two parts: the outer room focusing on his older work and the inner room on newer pieces. “What unites the two,” explains Andrea Packard of the List Gallery, “is not the technique, but the vision.” While the older pieces are beautiful examples of how sensitively black and white photography can narrate, the newer pieces make use of digital technology to examine the possibility of universes within universes, creating remarkable depth and possibility.

“I really liked seeing the interplay of light and shadow and how that still captures the essence of the subject,” Michael Burdan ’09, remarked after viewing the show. Students seemed especially moved by Tarver’s latest works. Dianne Seo ’09 observed, “I thought it was remarkable that he was able to take such ordinary things, like shells, and transform them into the cosmos.” Throughout all of his works, the narrative power and sculpting of light is a constant, making the opportunity to look through Ron Tarver’s eyes a true gift of experience.

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