Between now and Sept. 25, visitors can take a nearly 2,000-year trip back in time through the lens of a talented artist. Photographer John Puffer’s “Pompeii: What Remains” is now on view at Athens Arts in the Fishero Featured Artist Gallery.
Puffer, photographer and art historian, currently resides in Vincennes, where he retired from a teaching career at Vincennes University. Puffer first studied art at the University of Iowa where he earned Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees. His distinguished photographic work has been shown and awarded prizes over the past two decades from coast to coast and in galleries from California to New England.
Despite all these achievements in his homeland, Puffer’s photographic muse has lead him abroad again and again, especially in search of ancient civilizations. During his teaching years, Puffer, in his roles as art historian and photographer, led student summer travel tours to Europe, mostly to Italy. There he found himself entirely riveted by the remains of Pompeii. As he says, it was “in Pompeii [that] my passion for both photography and art history came together.” During the 24 summers when he took students to Europe, he shot thousands and thousands of photos, but because of his professional capacity as lecturer, teacher and “people herder,” he was limited in the amount of time he could devote to his reflections on what he was seeing and on his own photography.
During the summers of 2017 and 2018, Puffer who was by then retired, was able to return to Pompeii on his own, and could concentrate on seeing the ancient city near Naples in the Campania region of Italy. As Wikipedia sums up, “Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area was buried under 13-20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Largely preserved under the ash, the excavated city offers a unique snapshot of Roman life, frozen at the moment it was buried.”
Puffer has turned that “snapshot of Roman life” into compelling photography. The results of these momentous journeys in his life as a photographer are collected (along with a few of those taken during 24 earlier trips) into a book of 66 images. The book is entitled Pompeii: What Remains. The book of striking photos is enhanced by an interpretive essay by Amy DeLap, co-owner of the ArtSpace Gallery in Vincennes.
Puffer’s show at Athens Arts features a selection of photos from the book. The community is cordially invited to meet Puffer and to take a virtual tour of Pompeii at 6 p.m. Friday in the Fishero Gallery when the Gallery will host a Facebook Live Artist’s Opening.
The Pompeii exhibit runs from Friday through Sept. 25. Athens Arts is currently open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and 1-5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. All health guidelines are being followed. Please wear a mask when you visit. The gallery is also open to small groups by appointment. Contact the director at Athens Arts (email@example.com) to visit at a special time. The free gallery is located at 113 N. Washington St.