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Staten Island Photographer Aims to Show Beauty in Ugly Subjects

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 8, 2013 8:19am
 Sean Sweeney's "Shooting Ugly" exhibit will run from Nov. 24 in Livingston.
"Shooting Ugly" by Sean Sweeney
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LIVINGSTON — A Staten Island photographer hopes to show the beauty in the uglier side of life.

Sean Sweeney's "Shooting Ugly" exhibit at the Creative Photographers' Guild Gallery on Staten Island will show 23 photos taken when Sweeney trained his camera on subjects and locations usually avoided.

"They're not flowers, they're not pretty dresses or happy moments," Sweeney said.

"As photographers we sometimes see things that other people don't see, we find beauty in things that aren't necessarily beautiful, and in addition to that bring attention to things that other people might not look at."

Sweeney chose abandoned buildings, torn down structures and homeless people who live in his neighborhood as subjects for the exhibit. He shot them all with only natural light.

The exhibit started when CPG asked Sweeney, who's not a member of the group, to be a guest at their gallery and asked him to choose a theme.

Sweeney said he was always interested in deteriorating subjects, and was influenced by Nick Ut's iconic "napalm girl" photo for the theme.

"It's not a beautiful image, it's an ugly reality," he said of the photo. "Through this photo we're forced to realize this is going on and this is actual reality."

Other CPG photographers were also challenged to shoot uglier scenes for the gallery, which includes a shot of the Staten Island's "boat graveyard."

Sweeney said that he hopes viewers of the gallery come away seeing the world a little differently afterwards.

"Shooting ugly doesn't necessarily mean those items are ugly," he said. "The one thing that the entire exhibit has taught me is things aren't ugly, behavior is."

"Shooting Ugly" will run to Nov. 24 at the CPG Gallery, 814 Richmond Terrace. The gallery's open Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.