By Julie Shapiro
TRIBECA — When it comes to photos, bigger isn’t always better.
That’s the thinking behind the exhibit opening Wednesday at Soho Photo Gallery, which focuses exclusively on work that is no more than 6 inches wide and 6 inches tall.
Dwight Primiano, a member of the gallery, said smaller photos draw viewers in in a way that larger photos don't.
"The very first thing [viewers] do is get up close to it," said Primiano, who has a set of abstract Polaroids, called "Spectrum Series," on display at the White Street gallery. "The goal is to slow them down, so they spend more time with the work."
In addition to several individual shows such as Primiano’s, the gallery is displaying the winners of its first Small Works National Competition.
Ninety-five people from around the country submitted 600 photos, and juror Richard Klein, exhibitions director at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut, chose 50 works from 25 artists to display.
The photos were produced with a wide range of camera types, printing methods and subject matter, but all of them are small enough to fit into a shoebox.
First-prize winner Sue Jenkins, from Scranton, Pa., received recognition for her ethereal portrait titled "It is only in still water that we can see," which shows fragmented images of a person floating.
Larry Davis, a member of the gallery, said small photos used to be the only size it was possible to create. In the late 19th century, before enlargers were invented, prints could only be as big as the original negatives, Davis said.
More recently, though, the trend has been toward larger photos, with galleries often displaying prints measured in feet, not inches.
Davis, whose collection "Welcome — No Photos" is showing at SoHo Photo, only produces pictures that are 3 inches tall and wide. His current series captures the shadows cast by objects and visitors in museums, which form subtle and evocative portraits.
"There’s an intimate feeling that’s created," Davis said of small photos. "Only one person at a time can look at the pictures. I like the one-to-one relationship between the viewer and the pictures."
Primiano sees the size of the work as a way to catch people’s attention.
"With our culture, with all this electronic multitasking, people aren’t present anymore," Primiano said. "This is a way to engage them on a different level."
Soho Photo Gallery, 15 White St., is showing the small works Wednesday to Sunday 1 to 6 p.m. through Feb. 26. The gallery is holding an opening reception for the small works competition Feb. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m.