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Art Maker: Peter Schlessinger, photographer

  • — Image courtesy of Peter Schlessinger

  • — Image courtesy of Peter Schlessinger

  • Peter Schlessinger stands beside his photographs now showing at Oxbow Gallery. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Peter Schlessinger stands beside his photographs now showing at Oxbow Gallery. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Peter Schlessinger holds one of his photographs now showing at Oxbow Gallery. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Northampton psychotherapist and dream analyst Peter Schlessinger, 71, has been taking photographs for nearly 50 years — since his days as an Amherst College student. After graduation he worked for a photography publication in New York City and in 1970 founded Apeiron Workshops, a photography school in upstate New York where many noted photographers of that era taught.

Schlessinger, who came back to the Valley in 1996, says his work in photography deepened his curiosity about the meaning of images and the sources of that meaning, which led him in turn to study Jungian and depth psychology in Boston and California.

He’s had two previous exhibitions in this area: a retrospective at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery in 2000, and a show of new work at Forbes Library in 2012.

Hampshire Life: Describe the work you’re doing now. What will viewers experience?

Peter Schlessinger: In 50 years of photography, my deepest passion has always been images that originate in a place in me that is full of powerful symbolic language, or offers speechless witness to the wonder of the world. My work comes from the same place that dreams come from — and like them, it forms bridges between my internal and external landscapes.

H.L.: What is your creative process like?

P.S.: I use the camera as a sort of emotional divining rod that leads me to satisfying images. It’s an open, undirected process that has consistently proven to be the source of my strongest work, and of a range of psychological insights about myself.

Out in the field, I tend to shoot first and ask questions later, so as not to interrupt the trance-like state demanded by following feeling rather than leading with ideas. Later a very active curiosity about the content and import of the images I’ve made becomes the driver.

H.L.: How do you know when a work is done?

P.S.: When it stimulates again in me the feelings I had at the moment I first perceived it as a possible image. I know a body of work (or an exhibition) is complete when its contents and their arrangement describe an arc that feels true, not so much to how reality looks, but to how life and its mysteries feel.

H.L.:What did you do most recently that relates to your art?

P.S.: I became a member of the Oxbow Cooperative Gallery in Northampton — for the community of fellow artists there and the regular opportunities to exhibit it provides.

— Steve Pfarrer

Peter Schlessinger’s exhibit “Seeing Things” runs through May 28th at the Oxbow Gallery, 275 Pleasant Street in Northampton. Visiting hours are Thursday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m. There will be a gallery talk May 27th at 11 a.m. Visit www.oxbowgallery.org. for more information.