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In the Galleries - Odell Mitchell Jr. Retrospective CLOSES September 3 at the SLAM 

Odell Mitchell, Jr. Linda and Aviva, 1984, chromogenic color print (type C), 18 x 12 inches, Copyright Odell Mitchell, Jr.

Odell Mitchell, Jr. Linda and Aviva, 1984, chromogenic color print (type C), 18 x 12 inches, Copyright Odell Mitchell, Jr.

This survey of photographs from the newsgathering career of Odell Mitchell Jr. excels at capturing a clear sense of humanity. A staff photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 24 years, the East St. Louis-born Mitchell chronicled a vast range of subjects in the St. Louis region — from jazz greats to Pope John Paul II's 1999 visit to neighborhood children to his own wife and kids. Michell's gaze seems most attuned to the emotive canvas that is the human face: the wide-open grin of a newly elected East St. Louis mayor, the thrown-back head and closed eyes of saxophonist Dexter Gordon, the mournful but stoic countenance of a mother holding a photograph of her deceased child, the agonized triumph of a sprinting Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the grimaces of counter-protesters at a Ku Klux Klan rally. Mitchell's is a classic analog vision poised to convey a story without words — a simple enough premise, but one often lost amid less-straightforward, manipulation-heavy contemporary photographic trends. While the exhibition is mostly a portrait of the local region, Mitchell's assignments included South Africa during the waning days of apartheid. The photographer's hallmark gaze persists, capturing a foreign culture as something nearer rather than farther and revealing the same empathetic expressions and intimate gestures displayed by his neighbors. Through September 1 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

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