'Alone Together'

The new Empire Seven Studios exhibit, 'Alone, Together,' explores loneliness in the city
Troy Holden JOHN DONNE GOT IT WRONG: The new Empire Seven Studios exhibit, 'Alone, Together,' explores loneliness in the big city. Photograph by Troy Holden

Photography is more than a way of life for the artists featured in Empire Seven Studios' upcoming exhibition, "Alone, Together."

"None of us go out of the house without a camera," says Joe Aguirre, one of the five photographers featured in the exhibit—a graphic study of isolation and separation. "Having our camera with us is like having our wallet or keys." All of the photos on display in the show are the result of a kind of spontaneity that could only be achieved by a team of photographers who are ready to start snapping at any moment.

Featuring photographs by Ben Molina, Emilio Banuelos, Mike Avina, Troy Holden and Aguirre, "Alone, Together" is a collection of images captured on the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Mexico. The show runs from April 10 to May 1.

Joe AguirrePhotograph by Joe Aguirre

The photos in "Alone, Together"—a mix of digital and film—are both unsettling and inviting, subdued yet confrontational—all presented with a certain black humor that ranges from the hilariously absurd to the stingingly poignant. The warm contrast in the black and white photos invites the viewer to look at the people and things that tend to blend into the background: the homeless, liquor stores, police and squalor.

Good street photography is both raw and unadulterated, Aguirre says. The images presented in "Alone Together" have the feel of documentary photography—but with a decidedly artistic bent.

Emilio BanuelosPhotograph by Emilio Banuelos

If there is a single theme that unites the five photographers of "Alone, Together" it is the loneliness inherent in the modern condition. With these images, Molina, Banuelos, Avina, Holden and Aguirre aim to highlight the myriad human islands floating along in the sea of humanity.

Street photography is meant to capture life in moments free from context or conceit, according to Aguirre. There is no hiding in theory, no fine arts pedigrees, just photography as a kind of found object, a fearless aesthetic and a willingness to accept any consequence.

Mike AvinaPhotograph by Mike Avina

The job of the street photographer—says Aguirre, who relocated to San Francisco from San Jose several years ago to pursue his craft—is to "observe, to be observers, to be out there with a wandering eye."

But ultimately, while Aguirre says he and the other photographers in this group show hope to illuminate difficult and often overlooked truths, he says he is equally attracted to street photography by how the process helps him relate to the world on a personal level. "I want to understand my surroundings and how I relate to my surroundings," he says.

Alone Together

April 10-May 1, Free

Empire Seven Studios

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