The Laureate Way

ArtWednesday, August 1

Each year, the City of Tampa commissions "The Big Picture" photographer laureate program, selecting a fine art or documentary photographer — or one who combines the best of both worlds — to capture the city's spirit in a portfolio of images. Inspired by the Burgert Brothers' archive of historical Tampa photographs and the legacy of Farm Security Administration photographers like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, the project aims to preserve local history-in-the-making. Tampa's Steven S. Gregory is the latest to take up the mantle and his style is unlike any of the three artists (all women) who came before him. In Gregory's slightly surreal compositions, reality takes a backseat to dramatic impact; through a combination of unusual lighting set-ups (using flash and daylight) and digital manipulation in Photoshop, the artist portrays the city's landscape as a place where past and future meet in a dream-like state of flux. In this time of municipal belt-tightening, the photographs are not only luminous examples of the possibilities of digital media but also a reminder of the value of public art. The Big Picture: 2006 Photographer Laureate Steven Gregory, through Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., Tampa Museum of Art, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, $8 adults/$6 seniors/$3 students, children and military personnel, 813-274-8130, tampamuseum.com.