HomeEntertainment‘The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando’ coming to Bucks

‘The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando’ coming to Bucks

The exhibition features 40-plus portraits from her project photographing the residents of the small New Jersey town in the late ‘70s

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Bucks County Community College announced the opening of The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando at Hicks Art Center Gallery at the college’s Newtown Campus, 275 Swamp Road, on Wednesday, May 22.

The exhibition features more than 40 portraits from Orlando’s project photographing the residents of the small New Jersey town in the late 1970s. Roosevelt, New Jersey, began in the 1930s as Jersey Homesteads, a planned community to help Jewish garment workers escape poverty and the city. Although the social experiment failed when the factory closed a few years later, the town soon became a rural mecca for artists such as Ben Shahn, Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Gregorio Prestopino and Jacob Landau.

Orlando intended to create a portrait of the town by photographing the people who lived there, several of whom were original residents. She photographed for two years, in black and white with 35mm and medium format cameras. During that time, she received recognition and support for the project from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, exhibited at the New Jersey State Museum, and had a solo exhibition of the work in progress at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie. The project was put on hold when she left New Jersey to attend graduate school in Philadelphia.

During the intervening years, Orlando established a photography business in Philadelphia, worked in various museums as an educator and exhibition planner, and served as director of exhibitions and Artmobile at Bucks County Community College for 35 years. She currently works as assistant editor at The Photo Review, a critical photography journal of international scope and readership. 

“Much has changed in the 45-plus years since I started this project,” said Orlando. “Neither the town nor photography are the same. The elders that I photographed are gone; the children are grown. My original gelatin silver prints are considered ‘vintage.’ Moreover, the project has taken on a historical significance that I never considered when I began.

“After all these years, I didn’t feel like I could return to the darkroom and begin literally where I had left off. My life has been spent teaching and learning and I couldn’t deny the changes in myself either. I needed to leave my original gelatin silver prints in the past to bring my work to the present, so I scanned the original negatives and printed the work digitally with my current sensibilities.” 

All are welcome to the opening reception on May 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Hicks Art Center Gallery. The exhibition will remain on view through July 3. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m.

The Roosevelt Project: Photographs by Fran Orlando is presented in conjunction with (re)FOCUS, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts/1974, a citywide festival recognizing women artists. 

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