Photographic Society of Chattanooga exhibit is in an unusual gallery, Auto Dealership

Russell Robards always finds exotic images as he explores Chattanooga, especially by night. Here, the Hunter Museum of American Art strikes a surreal but lovely resemblance to the giant "Close Encounters" mothership landing on a mountain.


Blackwell Gallery, 71 Eastgate Loop, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-noon Saturday. Photographic Society of Chattanooga membership is $25 per year. Visitors are welcome to attend a meeting, held at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. The guest on July 23 is North Carolina's Digital After Dark blogger Kevin Adams, nicknamed the MacGyver of Photography for his resourcefulness in getting impossible shots. Visit for more information.

photo This neon-splattered, eerie vision of the Chattanooga Choo Choo looks like the perfect hangout for the hardboiled private eyes created by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Mickey Rountree says he heightened the tension between darkness and neon light to get this film-noir effect.

Chattanooga is a jewel box filled with Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts, Neo-Classicism, Georgian Revival and Art Deco architectural gems. Several of those beauties have been captured by the Photographic Society of Chattanooga in its new quarterly exhibition.

The exhibit is housed in the Blackwell Gallery tucked inside Blackwell Automotive, owned by Richmond Blackwell with his father Richard. It may seem an odd but it's worked well for 10 years.

The building's unusual layout has partitions carving out quiet waiting rooms. The men wanted to offer customers a special amenity in addition to free Wi-Fi and a shuttle service to local shops, and the gallery was the perfect fit. Blackwell even bought elegant hangars for the framed photos when he noticed that nail holes in the walls made it looked as if Al Capone had been in a gunfight there.

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Help Us Launch a New Architectural History FeatureWhen you drive, walk or bike this area, is there a mysterious architectural grace note that always catches your eye? Send us a photo or even a selfie of it. We’re looking for beautiful abandoned buildings, lovely rusted gates, decorative details like carved stone faces, leaves and strange designs adorning some historic building. Send a photo of your favorite to and we’ll get the story about its history.

"Our customers love the gallery and buy the art fairly often; we also draw lots of visitors who come in just to look at the art," Blackwell says. "I've bought several nature photos I spotted in an exhibition."

Russell Robard often travels to Haiti for his job at a nonprofit, but he says he finds exotic images strolling through Chattanooga. like his unearthly night photo of the Hunter Museum of American Art, glowing atop Bluff View much like a giant spaceship.

Mickey Rountree's haunting photo of dawn breaking over the Walnut Street Bridge water cannons took patience.

"I walked to Walnut Bridge every morning for almost a week and never saw a decent sunrise," Rountree says ruefully.

In his photo, dawn is a subtle pink distant glow rather than an explosion of magenta and gold. But that pale glow heightens the sense of loneliness and unpredictability the image now exudes.,

Bill Mueller's photo of the Pickle Barrel makes that corner of Market Street look like a Paris boulevard. Bare black tree branches are pressed against a lumious blue sky. The weathered shingles and glittreing windows take on a wintry glow. The skinny curved building looks like the prow of a boat setting off on a romantic quest.

"I moved here from South Florida where everything is new and shiny and there's nothing like the Pickle Barrel," Mueller said. "It's the first Chattanooga restaurant I ate in. It has so much character. I love exploring Chattanooga. Even the ruins are an adventure."

Contact Lynda Edwards at or 423-757-6391.