The 5 Days at JMU

©2013 Phillip D. Nesmith

©2013 Phillip D. Nesmith

If you follow this blog or my Facebook page you know that over the past couple of months I have been working up to the exhibit Line of Sight: Views from The Age of Surveillance which is currently on view at James Madison University(JMU).  I spent a total of five days at JMU and am happy to report that I had a wonderful time with  all aspects of the visit. My days on campus were filled with the install of my work, the opening and associated gallery talk, individual studio visits with grad students, two visiting artist talks presented to classes of photography students, and live image making demos which resulted in a pair of fun plates.

I chose this exhibit, the first of 2013 and the first of new work which I started back in June of last year to experiment with the method in which I display my photographic plates.  Over the year my framing methods have evolved with each exhibit in an attempt to better convey to the viewer that what is in front of them is not a paper print, or one mounted to plexi.  So, this time I chose to do without the framing totally, letting the plates be what they are, pieces of glass carrying their own weight.  As can be seen in the image above I fabricated ledges to support the plates as they leaned ever so slightly on the wall.  The sense of vulnerability with this is pretty intense and I love it!  I had no idea how the installation was going to look and how the ledges would work out, but as soon as a few of them were up I knew that I liked the direction.  It is with great anticipation that I wonder about future refinements to this solution.

©2013 Phillip D. Nesmith

©2013 Phillip D. Nesmith

The students at JMU were a lot of fun and many of them were motivated which always helps things move along well.  As with the Virginia Intermont visit last year, the weather was crap.  So much so I sat the darkbox up indoors which I did not really want to do, but I did have the camera set up outdoors behind the building.  The cool plate above is one of two that we made together and I think that everyone had a pretty good time.  The young ladies on the water surrounded drain above volunteered to wade through the cold water to become a part of the image which was fun.

©2013 Phillip D. Nesmith

©2013 Phillip D. Nesmith

This extended time at JMU was as good if not better for me than the students.  It really helps me to think about the questions that people have about my work, through that process I learn more about what I am attempting to accomplish.  Better yet, maybe I am afforded the opportunity to explore better ways of explaining it.  This visit was very important for me and I feel that based on some of the comments listed below that some of the students feel the same way.

We were just talking about how much we enjoyed your art work and the demo. Thank youuuu and COME VISIT US AGAIN!! 🙂


Just wanted to say thank you so much for the visit! I loved the gallery talk and the demo. It was awesome being so inspired about photography again. Thank you!


Thank you so much for coming to see us and sharing your work and process with us. It was really exciting to get to see you working and learn more about all the work from your perspective. Your stories were all really interesting and amusing. The whole experience was really inspiring for me and, I hope you don’t mind but that whole week, and even still a little bit now, I’ve been raving about how awesome you were and telling pretty much anyone who will listen to me for more than five seconds how great it was to meet you. So thank you again so much for coming and working with us. LIFE CHANGING!


Thank you for visiting JMU and sharing your inspiring work!  I was really excited to learn about the wet plate process, especially after having learned about it during a History of Photo class this past summer.  The demo was really interesting to watch and I loved learning about your experiences photographing in the desert!

– Victoria

 Phil, thanks much for stopping in on us at JMU and teaching us a thing or two about getting out of our comfort zone. You kinda inspired me to go on my own little venture to the middle of nowhere for my own photography project (& to continue growing out my sideburns). Hope you have many more successes in all of your future endeavors.


I would like to say that in the future I plan to continue work along these lines and that your visit only further instilled that within me. Hopefully one day I will be able to meet up with you again but as a fellow worker rather than a pearl-eyed student starving to participate.


I need to publicly thank a couple of people.  First off JMU photography professor and New Image Gallery Director Rebecca Silberman for her excitement about my work and for reaching out to me with the idea of the exhibition and visit.  It is always very fulfilling when someone connects with what you are trying to accomplish!  Although I let them know personally…a few times, I still want to thank yet again JMU grad students Jen Creef and Nolan Fedorow for their assistance with the exhibition setup!  I hope that sometime in the future I get the opportunity to return to JMU for more photographic fun.

See more work on my website and connect with me on Facebook!


~ by Phil Nesmith on January 23, 2013.

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