"Untitled" by Peter Gesierich
“Untitled” by Peter Gesierich

Have you ever seen those creepy, old, black-and-white photos of people long forgotten, but whose eyes seem to follow you as you move around the room? No matter where you stand, it’s as if they’re looking directly at you — wanting to reveal their deep, dark secrets … or just put you in the oven.

"Meatpacking District" by Mike Peters
“Meatpacking District” by Mike Peters

Hopefully none of the 23 subjects in “Stare-Down: A match between photo subject and viewer” — now on display at Revelry Boutique Gallery as part of the Louisville Photo Biennial — want to put anyone in an oven, let alone creep you out. According to the exhibit’s curator, photographer and artist Joey Harrison, the photos are meant to invite you in, not scare you away.

“Despite the deadpan looks, each one projects an enormous amount of personality,” Harrison tells Insider. “Who are these people? What are their stories? Are they happy? Are they lonely? Do they like french toast? Do they  go through red lights when no one’s around? They may be staring at you, but you can stare right back as long as you wish. Try that with the scary looking dude sitting across from you at Starbucks!”

Harrison, a Michigan transplant who has lived here eight years, came up with the idea for the show from being a longtime member of the photo-sharing site Flickr. He came across a “stare photo,” as he calls them, that truly blew him away.

"Ana" by Mariano del Valle
“Ana” by Mariano del Valle

“After that, I guess my antenna kind of got sensitized to them, and I started seeing more and more,” he says. “Soon after, I decided to start a (Flickr) group I called The Level Gaze.”

Harrison had a pool of more than 550 photos to choose from, and the 23 he picked showcase the work of 24 photographers from 11 countries. From the start, his goal was to put amazing photography in the hands of photo lovers for very little money — and introduce people to a group of artists who may not be as well known. Each step of the way, Harrison tried to keep costs down.

“This is a work of passion,” he says. “I put this show together without putting my hand in the till. All proceeds are split evenly between the photographers and the gallery that so kindly provided the wall space.”

Harrison also avoided shipping costs by having the photographers send him TIFF files that were printed at MPIX.com.

"The Eastwood Stare" by Johan Jehlbo
“The Eastwood Stare” by Johan Jehlbo

Although he won’t name a favorite in the exhibit, Harrison jokes that what he hopes each person takes away from this show is “a 20×24-inch print to hang in their living room.”

“Stare-Down” runs Sept. 18-Oct. 21 at Revelry Boutique Gallery, 742 E. Market St. An opening reception is planned for Friday, Sept. 18, from 7-10 p.m., and Harrison will conduct an informal curator’s talk on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."