From Jan. 9 through Feb. 8, renowned photographer Andrea Modica presents a decade of work in The Episcopal Academy's Crawford Campus Center Gallery. The show, titled January 1 was made possible by support from The Christian Humann Foundation, and features portraits from a storied 116-year Philadelphia tradition, The Mummers Parade.
For the past 10 years, Modica has taken to the streets of South Philadelphia in the bitter cold of New Year's Day to uncover the richness beyond the surface of these men. Under an enormous dark cloth with a large format camera, she has photographed the South Philadelphia Wenches Comic Brigrade, whose dresses can be decades old, often passed down from one generation to the next.
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Modica visited an Upper School Honors Photography class where she shared some of the stories behind January 1 and taught the students a bit about the function of light and contrast in her work. "Not only are we so fortunate to have an exhibit from such a prolific artist and Drexel University professor, but to have the opportunity to be immersed in her work and hear directly from her about her process is such a huge opportunity for our students," said Visual Arts Department Chair David Sigel, Hon. Modica continued to take questions from students, faculty, parents, and alumni in the reception that followed in the Crawford Campus Center Gallery.
Senior Honors Photography student Ivan Puskovitch was inspired by her visit, sharing, "I really enjoy how she plays with focus; it makes for such a powerful photograph." He also enjoyed hearing what life is like for a professional photographer. "In class she shared with us how she gets to meet people from all walks of life, from rappers to politicians. It is really cool to see how being a photographer can take you so many places."
When Modica began photographing the Mummers in 2008, there was a lot about the men that she didn't understand. "But over time," she says, "the edges have softened." Specifically, she told the story of her photograph of a father, wearing a dress, with a shaved head displaying a bullseye tattoo, who is scowling at the camera as he hugs his son. At first, Modica was watching the young boy, shivering in the cold. "It was such a cold day, my shutter was freezing shut," she explained to the group. "This little boy was shaking violently. In comes Motorcycle Bob. By the way he spoke and looked, I had a certain impression of him, but as he moved in to warm his son, my perception changed. It was the most gentle and beautiful gesture, and it sincerely moved me."
This complexity in her subjects is what prompted Modica to keep photographing the Mummers for a longitudinal series. She explained why she kept going for 10 years. "Do you know that feeling when you're done with a project, and you know you're going to get an A, but you go beyond?" she asked. "It is in that place that there's no stress. You really can just explore your creativity, put everything into it, and return the joy to your work."
"This was an amazing educational opportunity for our students; to have access to the type of artist that Andrea Modica is. This is what makes the EA experience so special," said Jen Fifer, Director of Institutional Advancement. "The Christian Humann Foundation has helped to nurture the creative spark that is inside all of our students. This exhibit would not have been possible without their generous support."
Andrea Modica lives in Philadelphia where she works as a photographer and teaches at Drexel University and the International Center of Photography. Her work is exhibited internationally in many prominent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, and the recipient of a Knight Award.