This article was originally published in the September 2017 Trenton Downtowner.
Mercer County Community College’s Gallery at the James Kerney Campus in downtown Trenton is hosting photographer Aubrey J. Kauffman’s exhibition “It’s Not About The Game,” opening with a reception on Wednesday, September 6, from 5 to 8 p.m., and on view through Friday, September 29.
Kauffman has been a longtime artistic presence in Trenton and central New Jersey. For the Trenton exhibition, Kauffman says, “urban studies have long been a major part of my photographic practice. My work extends from abandoned urban structures and shopping malls to building facades, parks, and ball fields. In this series I have created images of several sites including basketball courts, stadiums, and soccer and lacrosse fields. In all cases they are devoid of activity and human interaction. I am drawn to these unoccupied spaces because of the architecture and the visual interaction with the surrounding landscape. I am also intrigued by the vision that takes shape in my viewfinder. My interest lies not in the portrayal of teams, sports, or players but in the visual elements of where play takes place. For me, ‘It’s not about the game.’”
In addition to exhibiting at Rider University, the New Jersey State Museum, Allentown Art Museum, Newark Museum, and 7th Street Gallery in New York City, Kauffman was a longtime photojournalist for New Jersey Network and gallery manager for Mason Gross School of the Arts Gallery in New Brunswick. He is also a contributing writer for U.S. 1 newspaper.
As president for the Trenton Artists Workshop Association, he coordinated the regionally important Trenton City Museum exhibition and publication “Trenton Takes: 24 Hours in the City.” For that project Kauffman coordinated a team of photographers to capture a simple day of life in the capital city.
Born in Princeton, Kauffman grew up in Lawrence. His father worked at U.S. Steel, and his mother was a clerical worker. He graduated from Lawrence High School in 1971, took classes at Mercer County Community College, and received a degree in broadcast production from Jersey City State College.
He says that it was the broadcast curriculum that connected him to the art form for which he is known. “Photography was required, and it was a way to express myself. I had never taken any art. It was a new experience.”
Kauffman credits Mercer County Community College instructor and veteran photographer William Barksdale for opening a world to him. “He had a great influence. He was like one of the old masters. He had been teaching for years so he knew how to get a student to understand what good photography was.”
Asked to define “a good photograph,” Kauffman, in his well-known soft voice, says, “It’s a (technically) well executed print, with a well rounded idea, one that helps you see your feelings and ideas and intuitions come across in what you’re trying to portray. You can look at a certain artist’s work and know it’s by that artist.”
Kauffman says that after graduating from Jersey City he attended Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts, and met Ron Walker, the eventual chairman of the photo/film department.
“He introduced me to the work of others who had accomplished what I was trying to do. In a sense, he helped me find my voice. I consider Ron my biggest influence as both a friend and teacher. We’ve kept in touch over the years. He’s now a vice president at Rider. One of my photographs is hanging in his office.”
For years Kauffman — who lives in Ewing with his wife, Michele, and has a studio in Trenton — labored to create crisp black-and-white images that frequently celebrate structures found along New Jersey highways and roads. Recently he has carefully introduced color into his arrangement and — through the use of a Nikon D800 and its ability to capture large files — he is experimenting with print scale.
“When I came (to Mason Gross) I had access to printers 40 inches by 60 inches. You almost feel like you’re walking into the photograph. It brings out the visual elements that I emphasize: a sense of architecture, straight line, and minimalist.”
Gallery at the James Kerney Campus, Trenton Hall, 137 North Broad Street, opening Wednesday, September 6, 5 to 8 p.m., and on view through September 29. Free. For more information, visit mccc.edu.