What is Frame 37? Lehigh Valley photography group is named after lucky last film frame

Tim Higgins

Frame 37 photography advocacy group includes local photographers Luke Wynne (left), Theo Anderson, Chris Karfakis and Ed Eckstein, with Thomas the dog. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Special to The Morning Call

Luke Wynne, Ed Eckstein, Theo Anderson and Chris Karfakis are nationally recognized photographers living and working in the Lehigh Valley. But like most artists, they see a need for improved dialogue for new ideas and creativity. So last year they started a group they call Frame 37. They chose their name as a tongue-in-cheek, yet optimistic, riff on old school photography. Back in the day, there were 36 prints on a standard roll of 35 millimeter camera film, but sometimes you got lucky, and got 37.

Frame 37 members are inspired by Magnum, the famed international cooperative of photographers established in 1947 that has offices in New York, Paris, London and Tokyo.

“The conversation in photography in the Lehigh Valley was lacking,” Anderson says. “We are looking for experimentation, gaining strength from each other. We’re a collective but we’re individuals. And we act as individuals.

“I think Frame 37 allowed us to be comfortable with each other.”

As part of its mission, Frame 37 is organizing discussions with — and about — other photographers.

On March 15, Frame 37 presents the second discussion — “A Dangerous Dialogue between Four Guys, Five Women and You.” Five female photographers — Judith RossSusan BankLydia PanasTracie Van Auken and Sharon Wohlmuth — will join Frame 37 in a conversation.

Photography is “much more than a selfie,” Anderson says. “We are offering a dialogue with the audience. Our goal is to present you with nine extraordinary photographers — photography but also life experiences.”

This series coincides with the Allentown Art Museum exhibition “Women of Vision,” which features award-winning work by 11 photojournalists for National Geographic magazine.

“The immediacy of photography means it is an art form for everyone,” says Elaine Mehalakes, vice president of curatorial affairs at the museum. “Photography is a powerful way to explore contemporary issues, and the Allentown Art Museum is a catalyst for conversations.”

The museum is uniquely situated to help further the goals of Frame 37. The Lehigh Valley has the third largest concentration of people in the state, and the area is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the country.

The ongoing revitalization of downtown Allentown, as well as development in Bethlehem and Easton, has led to something of a cultural renaissance, with artists of all stripes coming to live and work in the region. Among those artists, photographers have made one of the largest impacts on Lehigh Valley culture.

Since 2009, ArtsQuest and Olympus have hosted the InVision photography festival, drawing big names and photography buffs. InVision was created by the late Janice Lipzin, ArtsQuest's former visual arts coordinator and a one-time photo editor for Magnum.

InVision was organized in tandem with Lehigh Valley Photography Month, an annual extravaganza of exhibits at dozens of museums and galleries.

Photography clearly is thriving in the Lehigh Valley.

The Allentown Art Museum is in the midst of its Year of Photography, which it launched in November with an exhibit of works by Marilyn Bridges, a pilot known for her aerial images.

The Frame 37 photographers have impressive credentials. Wynne is an accomplished celebrity portrait photographer as well as an author, publisher and filmmaker living in Easton.

Anderson is an award-winning fine art photographer living in Allentown who has published several books on photography and is included in numerous major collections.

Eckstein is a recognized photojournalist and fine art photographer and publisher of several books who recently exhibited at the Michener Museum in Doylestown.

And Karfakis is a well-known photographer and historian who has published several books on the medium. Eckstein and Karfakis live in Easton.

It was originality that brought the men together when they participated in “Allentown X7,” a show that Wynne organized and curated in 2016 at the Allentown Art Museum as part of Lehigh Valley Photography Month.

“When we get together, we challenge each other,” says Wynne, who in 2015 produced the book “Artists in Residence,” a collection of 70 portraits taken by Wynne of local artists in their studios.

“We explore visual rhetoric and dialogue,” Wynne says. “Photography is the base but it’s also about expanding how people look at things.” The intent, he adds, is “to share experiences as photographers. This is not a camera club.”

“What we’re talking about with ‘visual rhetoric’ is very important,” Anderson says. “Most photographers are doing the same thing. We’re interested in originality.”

“All of us could sit and rest on our own laurels,” Anderson says. “But there’s a vitality that we have together. We feed off each other.”

“What I’m most concerned with is being challenged and discovering new experiences,” Wynne says.

But Frame 37 is also about raising awareness about the world around us. And not just through the lens finder of a camera.

“We’re thinking much larger than the Lehigh Valley,” says Anderson, again citing the group’s goal of “visual rhetoric.”

Anderson promises a dialogue about photography “like you have never heard before.”

“It’s becoming a little more cohesive as to where we want to take it,” Wynne says. “Frame 37 is an ongoing exploration of possibilities.”

Tim Higgins is a freelance writer.