October 14, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Paul Tick '75 and Agnes Zellin '82; Photography Students Meet, Marry - Decades Later, Their Joint Show Finally on Exhibit in Troy

Paul Tick '75 and Agnes Zellin ‘82. Photo/Provided by Paul Tick
Paul Tick '75 and Agnes Zellin ‘82. Photo/Provided by Paul Tick

Two idealistic photography students, who met while studying at SUNY Empire State College’s Manhattan location nearly four decades ago, planned a show that didn’t materialize, then fell in love and married. They will finally see their work exhibited this month at the Photo Center of the Capital District, 404 River St., Troy, N.Y. The show opens Friday, Oct. 30, with a reception and book signing, from 5-9 p.m.

Paul Tick '75 and his wife, Agnes Zellin ’82, met through their mutual mentor at SUNY Empire, Mel Rosenthal, a published and award-winning photographer, who was profiled by The New York Times soon after he retired in 2011.

Tick and Zellin were documenting New York City in the ‘70s, a project that continued into the ‘80s. Both had attended other colleges before SUNY Empire, which weren’t good fits. Their compelling story now is published in a book and a show spotlighting their images. The exhibit will feature about 30 photos by each Tick and Zellin, as well as their write-ups discussing the college and Rosenthal. The backstory also will be revealed: Rosenthal introducing the couple and asking them to be the first to open his photo gallery at the college; the show falling through, with Tick and Zellin each blaming the other; their slowly getting to know each other over a period of years; dates, love and marriage in 1987.

Thirty-five years after that ill-fated work was tucked away, the couple’s son’s photography mentor – gallery owner and public relations professional Mark Joseph Kelly -- rediscovered it and has undertaken to create the book and mount "the show that almost wasn't," explains Tick, now the clinical director of a substance abuse clinic and founder and manager of the Delmar Farmers Market. “Our personal story, however, does not overshadow the meaning of photography to us, as emphasized at Empire State College. We highlight the use of photography to address social issues, such as homelessness and addiction, on one hand, and culture and community on the other.”

It happened this way: Tick’s and Zellin’s son, Daniel, had photographed poverty in Mexico while still in high school and Kelly had hung some of his photos. Tick dropped by one day with some of his old work and talked to Kelly about the story of how he had met his wife and Kelly asked to see her work too, as well as hanging both of theirs and creating the concept for the show.

“Then the recession hit and the plans were shelved,” recalls Tick, but, recently, Kelly said, “There is no expiration date on good photography” and resuscitated the idea and project. The show features photography documenting the late 1970s and early ’80s, including Zellin’s portrayal of the Queens community and Tick’s of the Bowery.

Zellin, now a teacher, has work in the permanent collection of the Museum of the City of New York. Tick’s images have been published hundreds of times in the United States and in Israel, but this is the couple’s first joint show of work that has “essentially been hidden away for decades,” Tick notes.

The gallery is open free to the public Thursdays and Fridays, 5-9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, noon-6 p.m.

For more information about the book, email tick.paul@gmail.com

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