New Photographers Gallery

In 2019, Alan Kohut was walking down Beacon Street in Sidney. Unbeknownst to him, his life was about to change. 

While his wife shopped, Alan quietly strolled behind, looking into shop windows. He came to an empty shop and as he peered inside saw a space that seemed perfect for a gallery. He could imagine the walls lined with photographic works. The shop was close to other art-based shops: Island Blue Art and Framing, The Village Gallery and Frame Shop, and the Peninsula Gallery. The idea of a photo gallery seemed a natural extension of Sidney’s active arts community. Alan had never thought of owning a photography gallery, but one thing led to another: he inquired about the space, negotiated, and then agreed to the terms of a lease. 

As a photographer, Alan knew the barriers to showing photographic work, starting with the printing, framing, and commission costs. Further, many art galleries do not accept photography as art, and those who do often jury the work. He also knew how intimidating it can be to put one’s work on a wall for the world to see and maybe judge.

From the start, Alan’s vision was inclusive: no jurying, a financial model with reasonable exhibition fees and commissions, the lending of frames if needed. He would hold five-week exhibitions based on themes that would change with each show. His only stipulation was that the artists should abide by some professional display standards and a maximum of six works per show.

Over the past four years, Alan has curated more than 30 exhibits and has typically spent five days a week minding the New Photographers Gallery. He has met people from all walks of life, local and from afar. Some have been opinionated. Some have been modest and low key despite their own accomplishments as an award-winning cinematic director or exhibiting artist.

Alan has watched people and what makes them stop to look more closely. He’s listened to their commentary and feedback, and he has witnessed what moves people to make a purchase: personal resonance or connection with a scene or subject, an interesting perspective, or the quality and uniqueness of the work and its presentation. 

Over the past four years, Alan’s business survived COVID shut-downs and the closure of the Sidney-Anacortes ferry. Sadly, however, New Photographers Gallery will run its final group exhibition, “West Coast Stories,” from August 11 to September 15, 2023.  Alan is moving on to pursue other dreams.  

New Photographers Gallery was a welcome addition to Sidney’s main street and a go-to place for several members of the Victoria Camera Club. We will miss this venue for showing our works. And we wish Alan many new and exciting adventures.

This article is based on a conversation between Alan, Anne McCarthy, and Danielle Labonté

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