Rhea Garen

BirthplaceOffenbach, Germany
CitizenshipUnited States
Cultural HeritageEuropean-American
Light Work RelationshipLight Work Grant, 1994
Light Work Grant, 2003
Light Work PublicationsContact Sheet 81




Rhea Garen - Ithaca, NY - Tompkins County

Rhea Garen makes photographs of neighborhood yards. Her work conveys the stillness found in the unpopulated scape while the distance of her voyeurism eludes to her lack of ease about trespassing in other peoples' spaces. The yards are not manicured or lived in, but neglected, overgrown, and filled with unfinished projects. A bike is barely visible in a bramble along a fence overtaken by vegetation. Drainage pipes, crumbling concrete, and discarded tools occupy another photograph. A pool, draped in plastic, looks forgotten and hidden by its winter wardrobe.

Garen shoots with a 4 x 5' camera and as she possesses 'other people's spaces' with her camera there is an inherent emptiness to this meeting ground. She will use this grant to begin work on multiple exposure images that draw from memory, family history, the knowledge of her parent's Holocaust experience, and her recent struggles with mental illness.

Amy Hufnagel (c) 1993

Founded in 1973, the Annual Light Work Grants in Photography competition is one of the longest-running photography fellowships in the United States. Each year, artists, critics, and photo-historians residing within a fifty-mile radius of Syracuse, NY are encouraged to apply for the grants, and as part of the submission process, applicants are asked to submit ten images for consideration along with their applications. Through programs such as the Annual Light Work Grants in Photography, it is Light Work’s goal to provide support and recognition to Central New York photographers and artists working in the field of contemporary photography. 

Recipients of the twenty-ninth Annual Light Work Grants in Photography are: John Dowling, Rhea Garen, and Wilka Roig. Each artist was awarded a grant of $1,000 to further production and research of their work.

John Dowling (Syracuse) collects and researches historical photography, and recently acquired a rare set of glass plate negatives. Dowling’s submitted prints were produced from these negatives, which he discovered were made circa 1882 by U.S. Naval officer Asa Mattice onboard the Juniata. The ship patrolled the seas of the West Indies during the Civil War and gained notoriety for capturing English ships trading with the Confederacy. She was decommissioned in 1876 only to be recommissioned in New York in 1882. It is here that Mattice began his journey onboard the Juniata, sailing around the world from the Strait of Gibraltar to Hong Kong, providing us with a glimpse of life in times gone by that would otherwise have been lost. 

Dowling was the recipient of a Graduate Studies Scholarship, and received a master’s degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University in 1999. He has won numerous awards for his photography, including the CASE Award for Best Cover Photograph and Photo Essay.

Rhea Garen’s (Ithaca) submitted work was comprised of a group of panoramas shot over various periods of time. They reflect her interest in color, shape, and attitude, as well as her desire to show changes in time and motion with still images. 

Garen received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Illinois School of Art and Design. She was the 2000-2001 Cornell University Council of the Arts Grant Award recipient, and her work has been displayed in numerous exhibitions. Garen previously won a Light Work Grant in 1994.

Wilka Roig (Ithaca) uses a spontaneous, low-tech approach to her photography in which she is the subject. Her self-portraits are documents of day-to-day confrontations with private life experiences. Of her work, Roig states, “I am looking to facilitate an intimate relationship between the photographs and their viewers, intensified and complemented by the multiple identities of the self I have recorded.” 

Roig is currently employed as a darkroom manager at the Cornell University Department of Art. Her work was on display earlier this year as part of a group show in the String Room Gallery at Wells College, as well as in the State of the Art Gallery 2003 Fourteenth Annual Juried Show held in Ithaca.


We extend our congratulations to this year’s grant winners, and would also like to thank our judges Deborah Jack, Julio Grinblatt, and Sunil Gupta. 

Deborah Jack is an artist and writer from the Caribbean island of St. Maartin (Dutch Antilles). She participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program in July of 2003, and currently resides in Buffalo, NY where she is a visiting professor at the University of Buffalo.

Julio Grinblatt is a founding member of the Focus Latin Stock Foundation, which formed the first library specializing in photography based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His vitae includes an extensive list of both solo and group exhibitions, and he has worked previously as an adjunct professor in the Visual Arts Department of SUNY College at Old Westbury from 2001-2002. He resides in New York City.

Born in New Delhi, India, Sunil Gupta is an artist, photographer, and curator now residing in London, UK. He graduated from the Royal College of Art, London in 1983 and has showcased his work in numerous publications and exhibitions around the world. 

Anisha Joseph