Art exhibit will feature photographs by East English teacher
By Jessica Steger, Current Staff
Anthony Shafer’s classroom looks as if an actual photo bomb was let loose.
Shafer, an East English teacher, shows his passion for photography in the pictures that canvas his walls and reveal his great talent. This talent has not gone unnoticed, especially by Gallery 224, an art gallery in Port Washington where some of Shafer’s photographs will be included in an exhibit. The exhibit, “Letters to Sassnitz,” opens Friday and will run until April 29 in Port Washington. This summer the exhibit will travel to Sassnitz, Germany. Shafer is undecided as to whether or not he will travel with his artwork.
Jane Suddendorf, the director of Gallery 224, discovered Shafer through an artist friend who follows Shafer on Instagram.
“I love how candid his photos appear, and yet the formal quality of his compositions are quite lovely,” Suddendorf said.
The show is based on the link Port Washington has with the city of Sassnitz, through the Sister City program.
“The theme of the show is ‘Port Washington is home.’ So all of the photos connect somehow to the concept of what Port Washington is like,” Shafer said.
Shafer’s own work for the show focuses mainly on the people of Port Washington, in a form of photography known as street art.
“The photos in the show feature, for example, a person watching the geese from the bluffs, or a person reading in the coffee shop, or a lady smiling at her dog,” Shafer said. “I’m trying to take pictures that show people at their most holy and natural. In other words, when they are not posing for a camera.”
Shafer broke away from this impromptu style for one his pictures, in order to capture a deeper sense of just how much Port Washington is his home. So early on a Sunday morning, without an audience, Shafer sat in the middle of the street and took a self-portrait.
“I was trying to conceptualize the idea of the city as home, and the way that public spaces can become private, if you will,” Shafer said. “I meant to communicate this is my home, this is where I sit in a chair and read. You can feel at home even in the most public places.”
Shafer originally became interested in photography about seven years ago.
“I was struggling to transcend words,” Shafer said. “In other words, I’m an English teacher, and I work with words all the time. I wanted to create art that wasn’t necessarily focused on words.”
Once Shafer discovered photography, he became hooked.
“If I don’t take photos every few days, I will lose my mind,” he said. “I’m a habitual, relentless photographer. Just about every weekend I get in the car, and I put on music and I get coffee, and I drive around sticking my camera out the window.”
“I work with words all the time. I wanted to create art that wasn’t necessarily focused on words.”
– Anthony Shafer, English teacher
Despite the quality of Shafer’s work, he was never trained in photography. Starting out with a Nikon Coolpix camera, he taught himself and began posting his pictures on Instagram, where he began to get noticed.
“Now people ask to buy them and people ask for copies, it’s unbelievably flattering,” Shafer said. “But really for me it’s therapy.”
Although Shafer is interested in entering more shows, he has no desire to reap monetary benefits from his photography.
“There’s part of me that never wants to sell them,” Shafer said. “I didn’t get in this for money. I’m not necessarily interested in turning a profit, or taking pictures of weddings for money.”
Instead, Shafer values the meditative qualities of the art form and the positive effects his photographs have on others.
“When someone tells you your photo helped get them through the day, or caused them to stop and consider the world in a slightly different way, that makes me happy,” Shafer said.
(Photographs courtesy of Anthony Shafer.)