Looking through the tourist info about Charleston I saw an article about a gallery that had just opened and decided this was the one place I didn’t want to miss -- and boy was I glad. I knew nothing about Ben Hamm until I read the article.
Everything about the gallery space is simple and elemental. Scrubbed brick walls and gray fabric backdrops are nothing new in the gallery world. But here, each backdrop was mounted on richly stained 4x4 columns that complemented the color of the olive wood frames used throughout. The images on display were all large prints in sepia or black and white. Hamm, like Ansel Adams, uses an 8x10 view camera, and develops his negatives in the darkroom. But he then scans the negative and prints it digitally, allowing him to make huge prints up to 74 inches wide on fine art papers that show the detail and drama in ways that Ansel Adams could not do. These images took my breath away. The composition, the way he sees line, texture and form in the natural world is one that I aspire to. It was exhilarating!
Ham's work is only sold as numbered, framed fine art pieces that start at $1800 so the only thing I could consider was his $75 book. After hemming and hawing, I left without it, but inspired nonetheless.
The next morning while I was out wandering around Charleston, I thought about going back to buy it, but went back to the hotel instead. There sitting on the bed was a beautifully wrapped copy of Ham’s book. David went back to the gallery and bought the book for me as a birthday present, making the curator promise not to sell me a copy if I should return on my own.
A wonderful epilog indeed.