From floating women in abandoned buildings to double-exposed portraits, photographs by Michele Bir evoke a second glance. Appearing as moments, the circumstance in Bir’s narrative ranges from dreamlike to the supernatural. While viewing Perceptions of Circumstance: Photographs by Michele Bir at Gallery 208, visitors may sense they have discovered something voyeuristically intentional; while other photographs evoke quite the opposite – we have interrupted something very private.

Whatever the intent of the artist, vulnerability is always present.

Bir’s background story as a photographer is unusual. She earned a Master’s in Public Administration and concentrated on Public Policy and Law and only became interested in photography when her husband was deployed in 2010. She purchased a 35mm Canon Rebel camera from eBay for

$50 and started to explore the urban environment as a hobby.

Since that relatively recent commitment, she doggedly researched the art of photography, photographers and Photoshop techniques. As recently as

2013 she decided to pursue photography as a career. Her talent, diligence and compassion were rewarded when she was able to work as a freelance photographer for the Fayetteville Observer and City View Magazine. Bir is presently employed as a photojournalist with the Sanford Herald in North Carolina.

Bir shared that she has been influenced by Surrealism and the idea of dream imagery.

Developed in the 1920s, Surrealism artists often utilizes the element of surprise with random objects and unpredictable juxtapositions that one might find in a dream. The irrational becomes the norm; it is a style that provides the freedom to convey feelings and thoughts.

For Bir, “It isn’t about capturing a moment in time or natural environments, but a way to recreate my dreams.” That can be a Surrealist approach, but which one? When I think about Bir’s images, I don’t think of Surrealist Salvador Dali and his famous melting clocks. Instead, I am reminded of a quote by Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico: ““Although the dream is a very strange phenomenon and an inexplicable mystery, far more inexplicable is the mystery and aspect our minds to confer on certain objects and aspects of life.”

Bir seems to be reflecting de Chirico’s “aspects of our mind confers on aspects of life” in her own way - creating an eerie mood, one that we might encounter in a dream. The artist combines multiple images taken at varying exposures, then merge them into a single image. The artist explained how an “image contains anywhere from six to12 different exposures and the incorporation of models allows for elevated storytelling.”

Bir shared that her “photographs are my dreams and my nightmares. My work is an attempt to convey my emotions without words. It inhabits the undefined space where my soul meets my body.”

For me, she is like many contemporary photographers and the photograph is a medium to evoke another way of seeing. All are backdrops for some kind of transformation or revelation located in places hidden from us, forgotten or abandoned.

The public is invited to attend the exhibit and the opening reception.

Perceptions of Circumstance: Photographs by Michele Bir opens on Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Everyone attending the reception will get a preview of the exhibit and meet the artist. Bir will speak at 6 p.m. to briefly talk about her work.

The exhibit will remain at Gallery 208 until mid-March 2017. Gallery is located at 208 West Rowan Street, Fayetteville. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For information, call Up and Coming Weekly at 484-6200.

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