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Polaroid film used to document a hardware's store closing

Polaroid film used to document a hardware's store closing

January 01, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

FREDERICK, Md. - When artist Deborah Winram noticed a business liquidation sign in the window of her Frederick neighborhood hardware store, it struck a nerve.

Signs announcing the closing of a business have became a part of the current economic decline, but Winram had been a regular customer of Mays Trustworthy Hardware. She says she enjoyed running to the store to pick up supplies and chat with people. Mays' closing hit home.

"It really upset me," she says in a telephone interview from her Frederick home.

Winram says she wanted to capture those last days of the hardware store on film - specifically on Polaroid 600 film. The result is a collection of photographs that shows the store's final days. The photos will be displayed at The Artists' Gallery in an exhibit called "nexttoknowing." An opening reception will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3. The show will continue through Sunday, Feb. 1.


The show features fellow artist Steven Dobbin's sculpture and mixed media pieces. This is the first time Winram has exhibited with him. "I really like the way he thinks," she says.

In a way, it's fitting of Winram to use Polaroid to capture the closing of a landmark. Polaroid announced earlier this year that it has discontinued production of the 600 film. That also posed a problem for Winram, who was buying as much of the cartridge-loaded film as she could.

Throughout her visits, she says she learned what worked and what didn't work with the film. Things such as shutter speed or light exposure can't be adjusted on the camera, and, because it wasn't inside a studio, lighting was difficult to control.

Although she had been exhibiting photography and mixed media since the late 1980s, Winram says this was a new experience for her.

"My other work has really more of a narrative thread," she says.

Working in a place where she couldn't control the elements posed some new experiences. "This was much more challenging because it was about people," she says.

Winram started on Nov. 19 and visited the hardware store three times a week. What resulted was more than 100 Polaroid shots that she says she needed to edit down for the exhibit. The photos will be paired with text.

Winram says she is grateful for owner Karl Zimmerman and store manager Roger Davis who allowed her to document the closing. Through her interaction with them, she learned stories about the store including a toaster that sat on a shelf. It had been a wedding gift from the original owner to an employee. "All these little things in the store really meant a lot," she says.

A few weeks before the exhibit, Winram says she visited Mays. Most of the items inside were gone.

"It was like a carcass that had been picked clean. It was sad," she says.

Winram says she doesn't want to tell others what they should get from her work.

"Art should communicate what's going on - whatever that means," she says.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Nexttoknowing" - photos by Deborah Winram and sculpture by Steven Dobbin

WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Friday, Jan. 2 to Sunday, Feb. 1. Opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3.

WHERE: The Artists' Gallery, 4 E. Church St., Frederick, Md.

COST: Free.

MORE: For more information call The Artists Gallery at 301-696-8187 or go to

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