Photography in motion at the Playhouse


Robin Gottesman clearly has an eclectic eye for color, light, motion — and subject matter. Her solo exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse is a delightful mix that reflects her impressive talent.

Gottesman began as a sports photographer, and while she does shoot other genres, she is still active in this field. But what we see at the Playhouse is described in her show’s title: “This and That: Favorite Photos of Martha’s Vineyard and Other Places.”

We start with a stunning photograph of four zebras, perfectly synchronized as they simultaneously drink from the edge of a watering hole. Our eye travels over their gorgeous striped patterns that flow from back to front, ending at their snouts straight into their reverse reflection in the slightly rippling water. Taken on a trip to Africa, Gottesman converted this large, impressive piece into black and white, which emphasizes the rhythm of the shapes filling the composition.

Three more animal photographs hang together just a little ways off. One shows her puppy carrying a newspaper that is close to his own size, adorably titled “In the News.” There is an egret, wings aloft, flying over the slightly rippling water with green marsh grass behind, providing a lush, vertically patterned background. Finally, there is a tender piece of a mare and her one-week-old foal in a perfectly synchronized gallop. Caught mid-stride, you get a sense of movement that is reminiscent of Gottesman’s sports photography.

The following foursome are of figures, three of which depict people in motion. There is a wonderful one of a young dancer jumping off a jetty into the water just as the sun rises on the horizon. She bends backward, arms arching back as she bends her knees and points her toes upward to create a reverse C. It is a photo of pure grace. Beneath it is an intriguing black-and-white image of a ballet dancer in Grand Central Station using the handrail on a ramp as a ballet barre. Lifting her leg, arm extended over it on an exact diagonal, our gaze shoots directly to her shadow that is replicated, tutu and all, on the wall in front of her, thereby mysteriously creating an eerie doppelgänger with her shadow.

Among Gottesman’s sweeping landscapes is one of the Aquinnah Cliffs in all their magnificence. It was taken by drone, providing a perspective that you can never get from the ground. In “Quinnie,” we see the modest vessel with this name. The rowboat sits center stage on the glassy surface of Sengekontacket Pond. The surrounding resplendent sunrise shoots toward us in breathtaking beauty both in the sky and in its reflection on the still water. There is close to an angelic air about the composition, which exudes quietude. So, too, do the magnificent sunset blues and purples that silhouette the Edgartown lighthouse in the distance.

The drone shot of “Sailors Delight: Red Sky Over Gay Headlight” captures the roiling clouds that seem to explode from the strong electric orange-red sky that sits just above the horizon line. It is only from this high perspective that you can see the extent of the sky, land, and water all at the same time and be on the same level with the lighthouse lantern, giving us a unique view of an iconic landmark.

There is a sense of play in her work “Smoky Trees,” taken when visiting a national park in Tennessee. Gottesman laid on the ground, looking through the camera lens straight up through tall thin trees that completely surrounded her in a dizzying circle, creating a sense of vertigo, or a swooshing up to the heavens.

Gottesman ends the show with two amusing photographs of floats in the Macy’s Thanksgiving  Day Parade. She shoots Snoopy coming toward us from on high, the handler’s below marching in perfect order, and the crowd and other parade participants seen going back for endless streets. With “Spiderman,” Gottesman shoots the huge red-and-blue float from street level so that it looms over us like some gigantic fantasy in a dream. The dynamism of the composition evokes the roaring of the crowd.

Thinking about the exhibition as a whole, Gottesman feels it is important, as she says, “That I am not pigeonholed into just one type of photography, and also that I like to use motion with nature whenever possible. But mostly I just want people to enjoy it.”

“This and That: Favorite Photos of Martha’s Vineyard and Other Places” is on view at the Playhouse Art Space Gallery through Dec. 29. Open from 12 until 3 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more information about Robin Gottesman, visit



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