New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Thomas Roma
Pictures for Books: Photographs by Thomas Roma
Reviewer #1

This is an expansive retrospective of with almost 100 prints by the Brooklyn born and reared photographer Thomas Roma. Pride of place in this show, which is a display of the prints in a recent book of Roma’s photographs curated by Susan Kismaric, goes to Roma’s pictures of Brooklyn. Lovers of that heady, outer-borough mixture of ersatz classicism and K-Mart exoticism, the mixture of cyclone fencing and unbridled nature, and most of all the benign, but penetrating Brooklyn sunlight, will find much to enjoy here. The influence of Lee Friedlander is pervasive and acknowledged, but while Friedlander is always witty, cool and reserved, Roma’s pictures are much earthier – we know we will soon be involved with the people who live in his pictures, even when there are none to be seen.

The emotional texture of life in Brooklyn is the theme of the second standout section of this show, images from Roma’s book Come Sunday, an exploration of the ceremonies, practices and participants at several dozen black churches and temples of a wide range of denominations. The people in these pictures are central, although one cannot help but notice the rich, multilayered environments they occupy. These are people who take religion seriously, and Roma treats them with respect.

The final two sections of the show are disappointing, one is a collection of pictures of Brooklyn synagogues. The Brooklyn sun is still doing it’s magic, but the images are soulless, Roma here is literally on the outside, and the result is little more than a real-estate guide. The same might be said of the last section, photos taken in rural Sicily. Although Roma is going back to the ancestral homeland, he seems an outsider. The photos are competent and ‘scenic’, but somehow ‘Scenic Sicily’ does not have quite the pungency of ‘Scenic Brooklyn’.

Thomas Roma
Pictures for Books: Photographs by Thomas Roma


Wallach Art Gallery / Columbia University
1190 Amsterdam Ave. 8th Fl
UWS & Uptown         Map

212 854 2877
columbia.edu/cu/wallach

Wednesday, January 20 to
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Hours: Wed-Sat, 1 to 5
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