Before Me

James B. AbbottSpring Tide at Newcomb Hollow Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore, James B. Abbott

The Landscape Before Me: Cape Cod

The Photography of James B. Abbott is Always in Season

Currently on view through February 6, 2015, St. Joseph’s University Gallery, Merion Station, Pennsylvania.

Public Reception on Thursday January 22, 6:00 – 8:00pm

In his largest exhibition of this work to date, James B. Abbott presents a timely meditation on Cape Cod across time. Large scale, multi-image panoramas display the drama of shifting tides, dunes and seasons while more intimate prints examine the subtleties of the moors and marshes. Taken over 15 years, this collection of images moves audiences into a contemplative space where time, place and scale are in constant flux.

The Landscape Before Me, is on display at St. Joseph’s University Gallery through Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. A reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, Jan. 22, from 5-7 p.m.

“The space of the Outer Cape has an inherent ambiguity of scale with little reference to familiar things, which makes it very malleable from a photographic and optical perspective,” remarks Abbott of his work with this landscape. “The dunes, tides, light, and water are never the same and they combine in so many different ways that I continually find new and interesting approaches to recording them.”

The cross section of images presented in The Landscape Before Me is from an ongoing body of work started in 2000 in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts while the artist was vacationing with his family. The work took on full commitment after he was accepted the Outer Cape Artist-in-Residence Consortium, managed by the Peaked Hill Trust. Through volunteers, the organization facilitates artists spending two weeks in a primitive dune shack with no electricity or no running water. The shelter was 400 feet from the ocean, isolated in the Peaked Hill dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and provided unparalleled concentration and immersion in the landscape. This opportunity placed Abbott in the epicenter of an extraordinary environment, gave him the solitude to think, and came with a mandate to create. With this increased knowledge and appreciation of the place, his work took a new direction with increased momentum in the years following the first residency. Abbott has returned independently over 20 times since the May 2003 residency and in the summer of 2007, was awarded a three week C-Scape Dune Shack Artist Residency. This second residency was situated in a shack in the dunes of Race Point, for an intense three week period, and provided another unique time and situation to produce work.

The images are taken mostly in the Outer Cape region of the Cape Cod National Seashore in all four seasons. Abbott works with polaroid positive/negative multi-image panoramic and single wide-angle images printed and toned in a darkroom on conventional silver gelatin paper. Working in black and white allows the artist to approach the landscape without obvious tourist references, focusing instead on structure and nuance as he attempts to record a changing landscape. The ever-shifting sand dunes act as a three dimensional model as they record the primary forces and rhythm of nature. The sandscape seems to capture everything from the most minute shift of wind and tide to events of catastrophic force. The vocabulary of this landscape reflects permanence and mutability: where sea meets sky and land, where human intervention imprints the environment, and where the sky, sea and land often blend and/or mirror each other. The effects of currents of air are as evident as those of the sea in this place. At the most basic level, Abbott makes two dimensional photographic interpretations of these highly transitory three-dimensional records of natural and inflicted change.

Abbott’s goal is that the work will deal not only with how one perceives a place or thing but how one thinks of that place after encountering a visual representation of it. With emphasis on simultaneous micro and macro views or layer of information, the artist exploits the inherent descriptive nature of the photographic medium. He works on long term projects in one location and usually towards complex and diverse interpretations of a subject.  In many ways, his collected works form a comprehensive and sincere portrait of a place. The artist learns and builds from each trip, so that as it grows, each body of work takes on a life of its own.

The work in Cape Cod is one of four long term, photo-based investigations of specific locations; he has also worked extensively in Berlin, Germany, on and around the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and currently in Florence and Venice, Italy.

James B. AbbottPeaked Hill Dunes in Winter, Cape Cod National Seashore, James B. Abbott

James B. Abbott is a photographer who has maintained a studio in Philadelphia on North Third Street since 1983 and is a resident of Ardmore,Pa.  Abbott earned a degree in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art, interned at the Light Gallery in New York, New York and completed an apprenticeship with renowned American photographer Burk Uzzle. Abbott has served as photographer for the Stieglitz Center at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Gallery Director of the Burden Gallery at Aperture Foundation in New York City. Abbott has held faculty appointments at Penland School of Crafts, Moore College of Art and Design, the University of the Arts, Philadelphia University, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, and currently teaching in Italy for East Carolina University.

Over the course of the past twenty-five years Abbott has received many residencies and commissions; exhibited regularly; curated notable exhibitions and has built a successful international freelance photography and fine art practice. He has been a visiting artist and lecturer at Cranbrook Academy, a resident artist at the Cape Cod National Sea Shore, and lectured at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Massachusetts. Abbott has been commissioned to create photographs for many projects and organizations including the Fairmount Park Art Association for their New.Land.Marks project, Rutgers University and NJN Public Television, and the Marriott Hotel. Abbott’s extensive exhibition history includes solo exhibitions at Harvard University, the Wellfleet Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Lishui International Photo Festival in Lishui, China. Significant group exhibitions include the Atwater Kent Museum for the Museo Bardini in Florence, Italy, State Museum of Pennsylvania, The Print Center, and the National Constitution Center.

Abbott’s work is included in many public and private collections including the Federal Reserve Bank, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Abbott’s curatorial endeavors brought outstanding and stimulating work to Philadelphia through his gallery/exhibition space Exhibit 231. He put together exhibitions by Carl Toth, John Geard, Joel Katz, Geanna Merola and Sandy Sorlien.

Abbott has also received a number of grants and awards for his work: he is the recipient of three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Individual Artist Awards, a SOS grant, and an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts.

A solo exhibition of select images from this body of work will be on view at The Saint Joseph’s University Gallery featuring work from nearly two decades of working on Cape Cod. The Landscape Before Me will be on view from Monday December 22, 2014 through Friday February 6, 2015. There is a public artist reception on Thursday, January 22 from 6-8 pm. Saint Joseph’s University Gallery is located in Merion Hall on the James J. Maguire ’58 Campus at 355 N. Latches Lane in Merion Station, PA. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.  More at or by calling 610-660-1845.

Thank You to Ann Peltz at for this press release.

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