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In Profile


by Sarah Schmerler

When first-time visitors walk up the stairs and into Terry Etherton’s second-floor gallery in downtown Tucson, they are never prepared for what they find — a vast, museum-quality space that seems anomalous with the 101-degree heat outside: shiny, hardwood floors that go on forever (the building was a former ballroom), 16-foot-high walls, modern wood benches, and cabinet-of-curiosity style wooden vitrines filled with ephemera and art objects, the better to complement the vintage and 20th-century photo works that have been Etherton’s specialty for three decades. “I design the shows myself, often a year in advance,” says the 63-year-old dealer from his office lined with 5,500 photo books. “I care about the first impression we make, the themes uniting the work. Part of the challenge for me here is getting people in the door — we don’t have any street presence, save for a small sign. We’re a destination spot, so people come up the stairs with a purpose, and I love that.” 

Etherton had the foresight to open Tucson’s only commercial photography gallery 33 years ago, thanks to a sense of determination and a love for the medium itself. Born and raised in the small town of Carbondale, Illinois, Etherton passed what he describes as a happy childhood until he was drafted straight out of high school in 1969. Luckily, his tour of duty sent him not to Vietnam, but to Germany and locations stateside, and by the age of 20 he returned to attend Southern Illinois University on the GI bill. A superb history of photography class with professor Charles Swedlund found him changing his major — and his life. “I never thought of photography as anything but unrelated pictures, but after that class a light went off,” he says. “I learned how images work in sequence together.”

 Etherton moved to San Francisco in 1973 and earned his living for the next eight years as a cinematographer for Magus films. He frequented galleries like Grapestake, Simon Lowinsky, Focus, and Fraenkel; he met many of the artists he so venerated as a student — Danny Lyon, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Ansel Adams, and Wynn Bullock. Whenever he could, he would visit Tucson’s Center for Creative Photography. One day a for-rent sign in a Tucson window (for a whopping $235 a month) caught his eye, and he never looked back. He opened the gallery in 1981, focusing on the work he knew he loved, and by his second show, a Danny Lyon retrospective, was already making his mark. He forged contacts with museum curators across the country; and when AIPAD introduced the annual Photography Show, he began bringing his wares to New York. Over time, his dedication paid off. The Internet came along, and more midwestern snowbirds have second homes in Tucson, expanding his devoted client base. His personal vision and stellar reputation well make up for that small sign on the street. “I don’t just show photography in straight group or solo shows,” he says, “but in two and three solo shows together; I also make a point that one component is a regional artist who does painting or sculpture. Photography should be seen in the greater artistic context it deserves.”

archives

2014

September - October 2014
Terry Etherton

July - August 2014
Corinne Tapia

May - June 2014
Laurence Miller

March - April 2014
Rachel Smith

January - February 2014
Peter Fetterman

2013

November - December 2013
Margy Dudley

September - October 2013
Howard Greenberg

July - August 2013
Keith de Lellis

May - June 2013
Paul Kopeikin

March - April 2013
L. Parker Stephenson

January - February 2013
Scott Nichols

2012

November - December 2012
Martin Weinstein

September - October 2012
Steven Kasher

July - August 2012
Joseph Carroll

May - June 2012
Robert Anderson

March - April 2012
Andrea Meislin

January - February 2012
Etheleen Staley and Takouhy (“Taki”) Wise

2011

November - December 2011
Bryce Wolkowitz

September - October 2011
Julie Saul

July - August 2011
Mary Virginia Swanson

May - June 2011
Gus Kayafas

March - April 2011
Peter MacGill

January - February 2011
David Moore

2010

November - December 2010
Bonni Benrubi

September - October 2010
Rick Wester

July - August 2010
Jay and Rose Deutsch

May - June 2010
Robert Mann

March - April 2010
Catherine Edelman

January - February 2010
Pamela Schoenberg

2009

January - February 2009
Karen Jenkins-Johnson

March - April 2009
Deborah Bell

May - June 2009
Jeffrey Fraenkel

July - August 2009
Mark Pinsukanjana, Bryan Yedinak

September - October 2009
Yancey Richardson

November - December 2009
Hans P. Kraus, Jr.

2008

March - April 2008
Nailya Alexander

May - June 2008
Stephen Bulger

July - August 2008
Sidney Monroe

September - October 2008
Amy Miller

November - December 2008
Sasha Wolf

2007

November - December 2007
Bruce Silverstein

September - October 2007
Candace Dwan

July - August 2007
Ariel Shanberg

March - April 2007
Ellen Harris

January - February 2007
Paul Amador

2006

January - February 2006
Martin McNamara

March - April 2006
Michael Foley

May - June 2006
Dan Cooney

July - August 2006
Wilson Scanlan

September - October 2006
Daniel Power

November - December 2006
Sharon Tanenbaum

2005

January - February 2005
Tom Gitterman

March - April 2005
Yossi Milo

May - June 2005
Arlette Kayafas

September - October 2005
Brian Clamp

November - December 2005
Sarah Hasted

2004

September - October 2004
Ariel Meyerowitz

November - December 2004
Anna Walker Skillman