The Eye of Toby Kamps at Front Gallery

"New York" by Toby Kamps
"New York" by Toby Kamps

If you're curious what captures Toby Kamps's eye, look no further than Front Gallery. The Montrose spot has a photography exhibition up featuring work not selected by the Menil curator, but taken by him.

"99 Cent Dreams" features 14 recent photographs by Kamps, who, after moving to Houston in 2007, started taking classes with photographer Amy Blakemore at the Glassell School of Art. Blakemore is known for her black-and-white street photographs of the late 1980s, and Kamps seems to have taken a page from Blakemore's book. His mostly black-and-white gelatin silver prints show candid outdoor moments -- ones that seem to have been captured spontaneously with only seconds to spare. There are even several taken from a car, the side-view mirror visible in the frame, further giving the impression of fleeting moments that have caught Kamps's eye.

Most of them are of the street variety. There's a shot of a New York storefront that provides the inspiration for the show title. In what's one of the best photos compositionally, a man stands in front of a window of what looks like a party supply store that has the words "99¢ Dreams" all lit up in what presumably is neon. Moving on, there's a funny shot of a man in Tel Aviv curiously putting parts of a mannequin into the trunk of a car. One of the few color photographs is a vibrant shot of a lime-green scooter against a watermelon-pink wall in Austin. If you look closely, Kamps himself is in the works, too, obscured by his camera in the reflection of a side-view mirror or an Austin hippie's sunglasses.

Travel is a major component of these works, and the show feels very much like a travel diary. The photographs are also named after their locales -- New Delhi, Venice, New York, Kassel, Tel Aviv and Munich, as well as Houston and Austin -- further emphasizing this theme. Some of these souvenirs are better than others, though all have a spontaneous feel that can only come from diligently having a camera strapped around your neck and keeping your eyes open, waiting for something to catch your eye.

"Toby Kamps: 99 Cent Dreams" at Front Gallery, 1412 Bonnie Brae, runs now through April 6. For more information, call 713-298-4750 or visit frontgallery.com.


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