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A different point of view
Quirky photographs of friends, pets, loved ones and landscapes, even a bowl of his favorite soup, adorn the wall at the Baltimore Museum of Art as part of Matthew Porterfield's latest creative work, winner of the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize.
In recent years, Porterfield, who teaches in the Krieger School's Film and Media Studies program, has collected critical acclaim for his films Hamilton and Putty Hill, both set in Baltimore. But the prize-winning exhibit, titled "Days are Golden Afterparty," is a different type of artistic work, one assembled from dozens of photos that Porterfield had snapped over the past few years using the only camera he owns: his cell phone.
He describes his exhibit as "a way to celebrate the everyday."
Enlarged prints of 72 photos are arranged from floor to ceiling on the museum wall in a rectangular grid. On the opposite wall, a video screen plays a minute-long loop of his photos flashing by at the furious pace of 24 frames per second.
"I think of myself as a filmmaker, and I found my way to film through my love of photography and theater," Porterfield, 33, told an audience at the museum last month. "This time I wanted to challenge myself to push the boundaries of what I do. There was something personally powerful about these images."
The photo prints and "flicker film" impressed the judges and led them to award him this year's Sondheim Prize. The prize, now in its sixth year, is a $25,000 fellowship presented to a visual artist living and working in the Greater Baltimore region. It is awarded each July in conjunction with Artscape, the city's free festival of the arts.
"I was shocked. I was preparing to hear someone else's name," Porterfield says. "The first thing I thought about was a sense of validation. I took a risk and was competing with other artists whose work I respect. This win made me feel that I took some pictures that these people recognized as remarkable. That was very cool and affirming."
While Porterfield moves on to his next film, I Used to Be Darker, which will be shot in Baltimore and Ocean City, Md., this year, he is also preparing to enter his fifth year with the Johns Hopkins Film & Media Studies program, his first as a full-time instructor. He teaches courses in production, screenwriting and theory.
"We have an amazing group of majors in this program," Porterfield said. "I find that the Hopkins students who want to major in film or do a minor in it are phenomenal. They're very self-motivated and hard-working."
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