Driving through Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve with his longtime guide, photographer Rudy Atallah saw something in the distance he absolutely had to shoot.
“I saw this happening, and it was so fast I’m like, ‘Stop the Jeep!’” Atallah said. “He hits the brake, and I almost went flying out of the Jeep because of the open top — and I took the shot.” That shot, a photograph of a family of elephants making their way through the Kenyan plains with a thunderstorm raging in the background, ended up in a platinum palladium print and is now hanging just to the right of the entrance to the downtown gallery.
And though the gallery won’t be holding its usual reception this year for Palates and Palettes because of the pandemic, Atallah’s work will join Amr El-Shafei’s and that of gallery owner and photographer David Brookover’s.
For Brookover, that’s a change. Though he brought Gregory Essayan into the gallery for the 2019 Fall Arts Festival, he has filled and owned the gallery by himself for two or so decades. But doing that, he said, has gotten tough. So he brought Atallah and El-Shafei on as partners.
Atallah said the partnership has been going well so far: “We come from very unique backgrounds. And we work very well together. We kind of feed off of each other.”
Atallah, born in Lebanon and raised in Connecticut, had a 21-year career with the United States military. His Arabic skills helped him through the first Gulf War. He later worked in Somalia and was around during the Black Hawk Down and Maersk Alabama hostage rescue. He always carried a digital camera on his tours to snap photographs.
El-Shafei, born in Egypt, is a doctor in Arkansas, and when he’s not in surgery or handling critical care, Atallah said, he’s out shooting. Brookover, by contrast, is a lifelong photographer.
All three photographers shoot with medium-format cameras, but their styles differ. Brookover’s is the most traditional, working with archival prints. Atallah’s work is more contemporary.
For Atallah their new partnership is a way for all three of them to lean into their creative sides without any outside pressure. “It allows us more license to be creative and truly enjoy each other’s company with no hidden agendas or anything,” Atallah said.