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Afterimage Gallery closes its doors after nearly 50 years

Owner and founder Ben Breard now operates online from his home office in Richardson.

After nearly half a century in Dallas, Afterimage Gallery has permanently closed its doors. The owner and founder, Ben Breard, brought this photography gallery to life in 1971.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, a looming lease renewal in the building where the gallery was housed going on sale, and a closure in late April because of Breard’s recovery from surgery, the owner decided it was time to switch to an all-online platform.

Breard had surgery in late March to remove a small tumor from his upper left lung. “It was discovered fairly early, and they got it out,” Breard says. “Now I’m just having follow-up treatments on the surrounding lymph nodes.”

Breard didn’t get the chance to bid adieu to his beloved gallery in the way he would have wanted to. “I was going to stay open through the summer,” Breard says. “Till the lease ran out, and have a big ending party.”

The gallery officially closed in early May.

Afterimage Gallery moved to the second floor of its building on Fairmount Street in 2018. Owner Ben Breard first relocated to the downstairs portion of the building in 2016.
Afterimage Gallery moved to the second floor of its building on Fairmount Street in 2018. Owner Ben Breard first relocated to the downstairs portion of the building in 2016.(Courtesy of Ben Breard)

Uptown had been Afterimage’s home since the gallery’s founding. Originally located in the Quadrangle, it moved two blocks down to Fairmount Street in 2016.

Over the years, featured photographers have included Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams, whom Breard and the gallery represented back in the ’70s. Breard also worked with local photographers, such as Norm Diamond, Nikola Olić and Gary Bishop.

Diamond says he met Breard around 2015. Two of his photography projects were shown at Afterimage Gallery: The first was a series of images from hundreds of estate sales he visited (the project, What is Left Behind: Stories from Estates Sales, also turned into a book). “That was in May of 2017, when he had a show for me there,” Diamond says.

Recently, Diamond showed a series of photographs centered on Doug’s Gym, an iconic gym in downtown Dallas for over half a century that closed in 2018. The show debuted Feb. 28 and was supposed to last until April 30, but was cut short.

“We had a lot of people. Ben said it was one of the most successful opening receptions he ever had. It was a lot of fun,” Diamond says. “If it were a week or two later, it would have been canceled because of the virus. We were lucky that it was that early.”

Ben Breard (from left), Doug Eidd of Doug's Gym and Norm Diamond attended the opening reception of Diamond's show featuring photographs of Doug's Gym on Feb. 28.
Ben Breard (from left), Doug Eidd of Doug's Gym and Norm Diamond attended the opening reception of Diamond's show featuring photographs of Doug's Gym on Feb. 28.(Laura Diamond / Courtesy of Norm Diamond)

Olić showed his first solo exhibition at Afterimage Gallery earlier this year. The photos were part of his project titled Structure Photography, a series of “abstract architectural photography,” as Olić describes it, that he started seven years ago and continues to add to today.

Olić‘s photos had been shown at Afterimage Gallery prior to his solo show — he and Breard had been collaborating for about two years.

“I pitched my photographs to Ben, and he got back to me very quickly,” Olić says. “And that’s part of the wonderful dialogue. I have visited his gallery over the years and always appreciated what kind of intellectual, photographic, philosophical space he had. It’s exactly the relationship with photography that I thought would also go well with the way that I think about photography.”

Bishop, a longtime Dallas-based photographer, met Breard in the ’70s. He showed a series of black-and-white photos taken in the ’70s at Afterimage Gallery eight years ago. The images include the likes of Jessie Jackson, George Bush and Richard Nixon, who was the U.S. president at the time Bishop took his photo.

“He stayed open forever against all odds because of his passion for the medium,” Bishop says. “And to me, Ben not being there ... it’s one of those patches like in a patchwork quilt. The Afterimage is one of those patches of my life’s quilt.”

Breard’s clients over the years ranged from Dallasites to Hollywood celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman and Charlton Heston.

The gallery hosted educational classes. High school- to college-level photography classes at Afterimage would draw students from all over Dallas-Fort Worth and even some from farther away. “We used to have lots of classes come through,” Breard says. “We let little kids come in to see art, to be exposed to art galleries.”

Although Breard now has the opportunity to work as a private dealer, he says he’ll miss organizing prints in the gallery and interacting with guests.

“Setting up prints to the best advantage in terms of viewing when people come in,” he says. “Art dealers take pleasure in that worldwide: a clean, well-lit space. And then there’s the people that come in. There’s regulars, then there’s other people that pop in.”

While some might call the closure of Afterimage Gallery a loss, Olić describes it as a transformation.

“Ben has done a wonderful job for almost 50 years and has built the gallery into something great,” he says. “This is a natural progression of things. The gallery is still present in a sense that Ben is still in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

Breard now works from his home office in Richardson, where he says he enjoys the nature views from his window. He represents about 40 photographers and works with consignments, too.

And despite no longer having his space in Uptown, Breard says he’s not worried about local sales declining. He remains positive about serving the Dallas community and plans to keep those local connections.

“Most of them are on my mailing list,” he says. “Plus, I can make deliveries, take things to someone’s house and show them. I’m not limited. As long as I wear a mask.”

Lisa Salinas

Arts & Life

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