“Down State #2” By Christopher Schneberger                                             Submitted image

Perspective Fine Art Photography Gallery and Cooperative at 1310½ B Chicago Ave. is celebrating its fifth anniversary next month. Started by friends who met in photography classes at the Evanston Art Center, it quickly came into focus. Within six months they had found a cozy space on Chicago Avenue that was convenient to the Dempster Street consortium of retail businesses.

Today Perspective has the open-yet-intimate feel of gallery spaces in SoHo or Chelsea in New York. The space is narrow but deep and the walls spare and white, accentuating the varied photographic pieces on display. Facing the front door is a single glass table, where visitors are greeted by a curator/manager/sales attendant/co-op member ready to share information.

Cooperative members run the gallery, both artistically and in terms of its financial and practical concerns. They do everything from creating and exhibiting to organization and sales. Beyond exhibiting its members’ work every other month, the co-op sponsors gala openings, competitions and a professional lecture series. Current exhibitors are Doug Haight, Christopher Schneberger, Bob Tanner, and Suzanne Metzel, whose small pieces focus on shape, such as the whimsical and graceful shadows cast by her Italian Greyhound.

Special shows include the Annual Invitational, LENS, and the high school competition. For the Invitational, Perspective members discuss and then reach out to artists who may have a similar focus or style the gallery would like to feature. The upcoming show, in January, called “Re:Place,” will display the works of Barbara Diener, Jay Wolke, Jane Fulton Alt and Nate Matthews, who are all from the Chicago area. LENS, a juried exhibition taking place in March, draws photographic submissions from around the world. This year’s judge will be Juli Lowe, manager of the prestigious Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago. Ms. Lowe will make selections from hundreds of submissions, then choose the winners who get an exhibit and monetary prize.

Ms. Metzel and fellow co-op member Donna Spencer say their favorite event of the year is the High School show. Originally a homegrown effort to engage Evanston teens and their teachers in the potential artistry of picture-taking, it has matured into a large-scale show that receives hundreds of submissions from Chicago and suburbs. Last year 17 high schools participated. The judge and show curator was Peter Fitzpatrick, the chair of Columbia College’s Photography department. Mr. Fitzpatrick was amazed at the quality of the work by the teen photographers. The experience gave the selected students an opportunity to discuss their art and artistic goals with a professional. Frame Warehouse on Dempster generously funds the yearly prize.

Current co-op member photographers range in age from 26 to 90, and a third are Evanston residents. They work with film in a traditional darkroom process as well as in digital formats. Photos on display might be representational or abstract and experimental. Though not every artist member has a professional background in photography – some have come upon their passion later in life – all have a devotion to the art form that has led them to invest time, energy and financial resources to sustain and grow a gallery following.

Ms. Metzel and Ms. Spencer say they look forward to increasing membership and adding exhibit space. They would also like to be able to conduct portfolio reviews and offer photography classes. To that end they are planning a “Friends of the Gallery” fund drive, to coincide with gallery’s anniversary celebration. They say they have only started to draw attention to their artistic mission of becoming “a community space for area photographers,” a place to share and exchange ideas.

Their annual Speaker Series will present Canadian contemporary photographer Laura Letinski on Dec. 13.