Capturing life on film at 51 Art Gallery

51 Art Gallery, Teresa Kruszewski’s retail photography studio, is tucked away at 13 Beach St. extension in Vineyard Haven. This fall she decided it was time to clear away many of her photos and leave room to start on new projects. “It’s time to refresh the wall space,” she says. Kruszewski discounted one entire wall of photos, on sale at 51 percent to match the name of her studio during the month of September. The name of the gallery came from the fact that 51 percent of the population is female, she explained.

Several years ago, she spent a week camping in Yellowstone National Park, where she shot rolls and rolls of photos. That’s one possible future project. Another is New York Harbor, where a big construction project that she has been photographing is ongoing. She has also moved into Vineyard photos, many of which she has taken during walks on West Chop.

Kruszewski’s work, shot with a 1967 Leica, is done almost exclusively in black-and-white, the medium she likes best. “I’ve always been drawn to it,” she says. She believes black-and-white photos catch the texture of the image, something that comes very naturally to her, and she likes the kind of light they reflect. The absence of color sharpens the perspective of her work. Alfred Eisenstaedt, who summered on the Vineyard, is one of her idols. “When I’m using the camera in black-and-white, I’m approaching the world the way I see it,” she says. A few of her photos do have touches of yellow, and she speculates about doing Vineyard photos with touches of purple or ocean blue. Two of her Vineyard photos depict children at play on the beach.

Kruszewski describes herself as a narrative photographer, and even photos like that of a motorcycle or several portraits of men at New York’s Gay Pride march seem to tell a story.  “I’m a storyteller. I’ve kind of made my own path,” she says. Her work is also on exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Bank in Edgartown.

Being situated near Five Corners makes for a very different environment from Main Street, and people who head to Beach St. extension are most apt to be heading to the Black Dog Restaurant. Nevertheless, Kruszewski, who subtitles her gallery the Shoppe with the Red Door, enjoys being surrounded by other small retail businesses. “I do like my little space,” she says. “I’m still relatively unknown, but people tell me my work is really nice.” Her job as visitor services manager at the M.V. Museum helps support the gallery.

The photographer visited the Island for the first time in the mid70s.  I really can’t remember how old. Her sister, Dona Kruszewski, co-owns Ben and Bill’s Emporium in Oak Bluffs, which she says inspired her to move here after a number of years living and working in New York City. A handsome book of architectural interiors she produced while in New York illustrates the kind of work she did there, an example of how photography has always been part of her world. While in New York, she served on the board of American Society of Media Photographers.

Unlike many galleries, Kruszewski’s is open year-round. “Vineyard Haven is a more year-round community,” she says. “Other businesses there are open year-round, so why not take advantage of that?” Her gallery has been open a year and a half, and she says, “It’s been a whirlwind, but in a good way.”

 

51 Art Gallery is open on Saturdays, 13 Beach St. extension, Vineyard Haven.