Joshua White Megan MettĂŠ Rebecca Drolen Jonathan Pozniak Heather Evans Smith Robert Alexander Williams Christopher Cappozellio
Issue 2 Spring 2014
Don't Take Pictures Issue 2 – Sping 2014
Culture of Hair Rebecca Drolen’s Hair Pieces Robert Alexander Williams A Studio Visit The Cinematic Storyteller The Photographs of Heather Evans Smith Expired Fictitious Expiration Dates and the Pressure to Produce Art
2 Shane Godfrey 8 Shannon Mohrman 14 Aline Smithson 22 Kat Kiernan
Icebergs and the End of “Efforting” The Photographs of Jonathan Pozniak
24 Roger Thomson
A Photographic Survey of the American Yard A Conversation with Joshua White
32 Christa Bowden
Book Review: The Distance Between Us Christopher Capozziello Looking Up and Looking In Megan Metté
36 Amanda Hite 40 Eliza Lamb
Forging Relationships Finding a Career
46 Jennifer Shwartz
Founder/Editor-in-Chief Senior Editor Designer
Kat Kiernan Roger Thompson Union Jack Creative
Publisher: The Kiernan Gallery, 23B W. Washington St., Lexington, VA 24450
elcome to Issue 2 of Don’t Take Pictures. As with any new venture, Don’t Take Pictures continues to grow and evolve. These past six months have witnessed some substantial changes for this magazine. Whether you are reading this on a screen or in print, we will continue to bring you great work by photographers who are on the rise. After the launch of Issue 1 and the tremendously positive response we received, requests came streaming in for more writing on topics and ideas that were too time-sensitive for our biannual publication schedule to handle. You spoke, we listened, and have expanded our discussion of emerging photographers and the photographic industry.
the goings-on in the photography world with thoughtful writing and wonderfully curated images. Our serial columns highlight photographic trends, the relationship between design and photography, and artists who value a hands-on approach. As our audience grows, we know that people will be interested in discovering the work of artists from past issues. Our redesigned website puts the featured artists’ work online for a full six months, and the limited edition prints will remain available for four issues, or until they sell out. Staying true to our mission, the full dollar amount of each print sold will continue to go to the artist. We believe in the power of affordable art, and we believe in helping artists sustain their careers.
The past six months have been full of exciting exhibitions, art fairs, portfolio reviews, lectures, and great books. In January we re-launched our website to include more regular content for these timely events in the photographic community. While I write this letter from our main office in Virginia, our contributing writers bring you their thoughts and experiences from all regions of the States, allowing for area-specific reviews and discovery of new artists that reflect the geographic diversity of our readers.
Issue 2 takes us on a journey from sparse interiors, to the arctic oceans, to a backyard full of natural wonders. It shows that antiquarian methods are alive and well, and celebrates women who defy conformity through self-portraiture. As always, some words of advice for business and artistic practices from industry experts are sprinkled throughout, and we review the release of a new independently-published monograph.
Publishing multiple times each weak online, we strive to encourage dialogue about the photographs presented, the state of the industry, and
I hope that the second issue of Don’t Take Pictures introduces you to new artists and ideas, and inspires your creative endeavors. —Kat Kiernan
Rebecca Drolen's Culture of Hair Shane Godfrey
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Ear Hair 2011 Near Right
Extra Volume 2012
Chest Hair 2012 Bottom Right
Escape Attempt #5 2009
ebecca Drolen’s work has allure. Her minimalist palette, subtle humor, and surrealist approach help invite viewers into a world that could only be created by her camera. In her series Particular Histories, a project she created while acquiring her masters degree at Indiana University, Drolen approaches the subject of the extraordinary, landing somewhere between photographers such as Cig Harvey and Robert & Shauna ParkeHarrison in their fantastical elements and approach to image making (although she doesn’t cite these artists as her inspiration). The fantastical is brought to the forefront as Drolen presents tears in reality to explore narrative, allowing the viewer to bring his/her own experience to the work. In Drolen’s latest series, Hair Pieces, she explores a similar fantastical approach when thinking about human hair, examining hu-
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man’s relationship to hair and the trappings of grooming. In our society of cleanliness and neatness, where does the line between beauty and disgust lie? Drolen sets out to discover where precisely that line between disgust and repulsion is drawn: “In my work, Hair Pieces, I am interested in exploring the fickle relationship most have with their body hair. We consider some hair very desirable and grow and groom it with care, while we treat other hair as shameful and cover or remove it. Once hair has become disconnected from our bodies, we treat it with disgust, yet it has an archival, lasting presence that outlives the body and defies death and decay.” Drolen continues a long-standing tradition of self-portraiture, figuring herself as the protagonist throughout the series. While she is mostly tackling the feminine side of
hair care, Drolen does delve into the idea of male sexuality with pieces such as “Hair Tie”, in which she takes her own freshly cut hair and braids it in such a way that it resembles a tie. It calls into question several things about the subject. Is she cutting off her hair to fit in with her male counterparts and to be more like a man? Or is she mocking men for their forced adornments which society requires them to wear? This particular photograph also speaks to the humor and playfulness of the series. The exaggeration helps make the concept clear, and with humor and play working in virtually all the images, she explores the many possibilities on the discourse of hair and femininity, expertly handling the line between the beautiful and the grotesque. Drolen’s photographs are well-manicured and styled, calling into question how she intends her audience to interpret them. These images could easily be picked up by an ad agency and used to sell a product in a certain time, suggesting that Drolen, to further drive home the juxtaposition between the beautiful and the grotesque, is tapping into a slicker visual language tied with commercial photography. Her minimalistic style and flat palette add to the strangeness of her work, and the drama of each image does not come from the presence of light, but the absurdities of her fictions. Admittedly, most of the work is made in Drolen’s house, usually against a grey wall. The absence of other human life or an environmental context takes the viewer out of the camera’s typical subject matter within the “real world” and into a place where physical fact is questioned. What the viewer is left with is a residual psychological effect. The work seems to ebb and flow from a strange, otherworldly occurrence to a wellarranged, scientific view of a concept.
contrast. It’s refreshing to engage in pushing the frame and medium without the embellishment of color or digital manipulation, without reducing photography to photo collage. Even so, Drolen’s examination of hair extends beyond traditional photography. A three channel video piece presses her ideas further. The top frame of the three videos presents the back of a head, presumably Drolen’s, and from it hair slowly starts to grow and fall, extending downward to the lowest frame, where it continues to lengthen as it bunches on a surface. The piece challenges the viewer’s patience by showing a surrealist story of disembodied growth—a faceless woman’s hair gradually descending through the frames. This brings Rapunzel to mind not only in this work, but throughout the series. Haircut is a horizontal triptych where Drolen, on the left-most panel, holds an archaic pair of gardening shears to the stem of a long ponytail which stretches across the neighboring two frames. The furthest frame shows a set of hands pulling at the opposite end of the ponytail. This being the only piece with panels, it visually represents in panorama the physical and metaphorical length of time it takes to grow hair. Where the work stands out the most is in the depth of the project and in the exploration of the concept throughout all the images. Not only are there twelve photo-
The black and white medium situates the images in some sense of time and helps place these scenes in Drolen’s fictional world. There are no Photoshop tricks here: all of Drolen’s images are shot on film with no digital manipulation past exposure and
graphs and the video, but it also includes Mourning Jewelry which descend from jewelry craft made popular by Queen Victoria, who publicly mourned her husband for years. Mourning Jewelry often held a photo of a loved one and a locket of hair in remembrance of the deceased. Drolen’s Mourning Jewelry, of course, are not traditional; instead, they play with how hair can be presented within the small space inside a locket. Each locket is displayed in a scientific manner and resembles a specimen rather than a piece of art. The juxtaposition of the photograph with the piece of hair is a device from the invention of photography. Here, Drolen plays with this idea, often placing objects around the photographs to further inform the concept. Some standouts include “Chest Hair”, “Tweezings”, and “Extra Volume.” All of the Mourning Jewelry takes the idea of the locket and pushes it beyond its basic form by questioning social concern around hair. Each also speaks more to the core ideas of disgust and archival-ness that Drolen highlights throughout the project. She states, “The lockets are found objects that I have inserted both the hair and the imagery into. With them, I hope to tell stories of mourning hair that is lost and may otherwise have been seen as objectionable, possibly pointing towards how we value some hair as very beautiful and other hair as disgusting. Can we have the same kind of affection enough to create a sentimental object for this kind of hair?” The project has a scientific approach based off of real conventions, but it is exaggerated in a fantastical manner, and the idea of the scientist/artist comes to the foreground. Science requires extremely technical practice, but artistry lies within the nuance of arrangement and execution. Many photographers, including Drolen, seem to approach their work similarly to the scientific method: they have a concept and begin testing different ways of making work within parameters of the method, working both visually and conceptually in a clinical, detailed, and meticulous way. Still, Drolen moves beyond that, press-
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The Wet Look 2011
Hair Tie 2011 Right
Longer Lashes 2011
ing viewers to challenge their own conceptions of the body even while she masters some semblance of science. Drolen displays the work in a way that mirrors her process. The photographs and the Mourning Jewelry are often displayed together, each locket informing the scene in the photographs they are closest to. This exploration into not only photographs, but objects, suggests an objective presentation aimed at challenging our habits regarding our appearance. In pieces such as “Longer Lashes”, “Ear Hair”, and “The Wet Look”, Drolen points at the absurdity of our obsession with how we groom our hair and the power that our outward appearance has over each of us. While Drolen tackles primarily feminine tropes, the work might challenge viewers further if it included a cross section of both male and female appearance issues. Further,
the work focuses primarily on hair found on the head, excluding the Mourning Jewelry, and photographs of leg, pubic, and armpit hair would significantly broaden her message—surely using hair from the top of the head limits the amount of repulsion she can create. Her work, however, aims less for visceral reaction and more for cerebral engagement, hoping for an effect that lingers after initial exposure. These are not criticisms of the work, as it is indeed challenging and compelling, but as Drolen pursues her project, it has room to grow. As Drolen’s first body of work after Particular Histories, she is establishing herself as an artist who will elucidate and challenge some of our most profound, if virtually invisible, sociological trappings. The truth is, we only stand to gain by her doing so. Shane Godfrey is a photographer based in Boston, MA.
A Studio Visit With Robert Alexander Williams Shannon Mohrman
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Each image exemplifies the quiet spirit of the countryside and the looming presence of Jump Mountain.
s small-town Virginia slowly transitions to rural countryside, the paved roads and modern cars are the only things keeping my journey grounded in the 21st-century. Robert Alexander Williams works in wet-plate collodion, a 19th-century photographic process, and the journey to his secluded home and studio feels like a trip into the past. Soon the pavement gives way to a bumpy, one-lane dirt road surrounded by pastureland and pristine forest. Having met Williams before only briefly, I was not entirely sure what to expect. The sky was a depressing flat grey, and the usually majestic façade of Jump Mountain that watches over this corner of the Shenandoah Valley was completely hidden behind low-hanging clouds. Though the temperature was surprisingly chilly, Williams greeted me wearing only a tee shirt, comfortably worn jeans, and well-loved Converse sneakers with no socks. Here was the photographer whose work had drawn me into the countryside. Williams’ interest in photography started in a medically-oriented graduate program in Michigan where he took case photographs for autopsies. Growing weary of this subject, he decided to move on, soon enrolling in a series of photography classes at a nearby community college. These classes allowed him to explore different cameras and styles, from 35mm to large format studio work. His interests initially veered toward the modern and contemporary: “I hated older photography. I had no interest in older photography.”
Black Walnut and Jump 2012 Right
Robert Alexander Williams in his Darkroom Kat Kiernan
Wet-plate photography, ambrotypes and tintypes, are different than most photographic processes in that the black glass plate or piece of aluminum that will eventually bear the image is coated with collodion and silver nitrate before being loaded into the camera and exposed to light. When put through the developing process, the image appears directly on the glass or metal, resulting a one-of-a-kind photograph (or negative, if you continue the development process with clear glass). Because the process shortens the amount of time between releasing the shutter and the final product, this type of photography became popular after it was invented in the 19th century. The process is experiencing a revival in alternative process circles partially due to its portability. By eliminating the need to print from a negative, many steps requiring a darkroom are eliminated, thus making the whole wetplate process something that a skilled artist can do in any space big enough to develop the plate behind a few blackout curtains. This portability is one of the reasons that Williams began to work with this method. Eventually, he made a small studio for himself in the back of his Honda Element.
After moving to Virginia, Williams spent long hours in Washington & Lee University’s expansive photography collection, pouring over its images. Despite his previous distaste for “older photography,” he took a deep interest in 19th-century expeditionary photography. He acquired a large format camera and began making landscapes. Encouraged by his progress, Williams began taking workshops from Mark and France Sully Osterman, two of the foremost experts in wet-plate collodion photography. He soon found himself working primarily in the wet-plate processes.
The Element was the start of my tour. He had purchased it soon after he began to work with the wet-plate process and says that he bought it “with photography in mind.” Parked slightly askance with the back doors flung open, the Element looked like it was being featured in commercial. In fact, the jaunty angle at which Williams had randomly placed it against the line of trees was so visually striking that I’m not sure an ad agency could replicate it, much less do better. Williams has removed the back seats and replaced them with a built-in wooden frame with a small shelf across the front. A bit of carpeting stretches across the floor, and a small collapsible plastic table, on which he
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organizes his chemicals, is squeezed into the cabin. Williams also keeps a batterypowered fan to circulate the air when he is crouched in the back coating plates with the curtains drawn. Red Plexiglas has replaced the back windows to provide Williams with light without exposing the coated plates, and a light-blocking curtain hangs across the back. He is pleased with the current outfit, declaring, “I really do like the red Plexiglas. If I’m in there, when I’m out in a cow field, or if I’m climbing a fence into a cow field, I can see where the camera tripod is, and if the cows are getting too curious I can run out there, or if I’m in a city and someone is stealing the camera. Not really a concern in Rockbridge County.”
After showing me the Honda Element, we moved to his portrait studio with his invitation: “Do you have time to sit for a portrait?” Intrigued to see the actual wet plate process, Williams led me through his manicured garden, to the basement studio in his customdesigned house. Williams had had a studio opening a few weeks prior, and several of his pieces still hung on the walls of the staircase. At the bottom, a small, well-lit hallway leads to the darkroom and his studio space. The wall is draped with white backdrop, flanked on both sides by bookshelves and worktables. Williams had set up a giant strobe light in the middle of the room, with his 12x12 view camera next to it, both facing a wooden stool.
Thistles 2013 Right
Before the Derecho 2012
Dogwood in the Mist 2012
I sat on the stool, and Williams explains a thin metal contraption behind me was essentially a homemade 21st-century version of a 19thcentury device used to help a subject hold still during the long exposures required for the process. Even with modern strobes, it is tremendously helpful for portraiture, because “if you’re making the focus and putting the film holder in the camera, the person can move just a little bit” and ruin the entire image. As he adjusts the focus of his camera to prepared for the shot, I study the camera itself, which was a foot or two away from my face. The camera is from the 1970s, but the lens is
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from the 1860s. “I’m kind of surprised,” he comments, “for a 19th-century lens, it has a very 20th-century feel.” The strobe, only inches from my face, dwarfs me. Knowing what such a light is capable of, I have a brief, irrational moment of apprehension, fearing for my retinas. Williams works quickly, and once the focus is set, he leads me into the darkroom where he begins to coat the plate. As with most experienced artists, he makes the process look easy, effortlessly rolling the collodion around the plate and testing its viscosity with his thumb. We chat idly about his landscape work versus
Receding Fog, Jump Mountain Road 2012 Bottom
Behind the Scenes in Robert Alexander William’s Studio Kat Kiernan
Shannon Mohrman 2013
his portraiture, which is still somewhat new to him. “It’s a fun new challenge,” he tells me. It’s useful as a break from landscapes, though he doesn’t have a preference between the two: “I’m ready to either get out and cover some ground or find some new space with the landscapes.” He nonetheless views the portraits evolving into their own interesting body of work. Though must of his current portraits are commissioned, he hopes to make his portraiture more personal. “I really want to do some portraits for my own projects, where it’s for me.”
plate turns white when bathed in developer, but the image quickly emerges after a rinse and an immersion in fixer.
Williams places the plate in a light-tight box with silver nitrate and sets a timer. He takes me back into the studio, and I resume my place on the stool while he makes some last minute adjustments. This time I remain posed as the timer calls him back to the darkroom. He powers the strobe and minimizes the ambient light, blanketing the room in darkness. He asks me if I am ready, and then, gently, “Close your eyes.”
“Now the whiter areas on the sides, it’s a thicker collodion. That’s where you’ll get the blue if you don’t rinse it off well enough. It’s like a cyanotype. Similar process,” Williams explains. I can see why he fell in love with this process. It’s fun to watch, and his passion pours out of him as he discusses his work. My plate still needs to be varnished to protect it once it’s dry, so Williams leads me back upstairs. I linger over his landscapes images. Each is a perfect marriage of process and subject, with textures and flaws in the chemistry meshing with the misty fields and earthy terrain in his images. Eerie and still, Williams’ ambrotypes contain both the solitude of his surroundings and his familiarity with each shift in the land. Although the compositions often lack a formal subject, each image exemplifies the quiet spirit of the countryside and the looming presence of Jump Mountain.
I could hear him carefully load the plate, which was housed in a film carrier, into his camera. When he says “okay,” I open my eyes to a brilliant flash of white light. Williams closes the film carrier, and we immediately head into the darkroom to develop my portrait. The
Shannon Mohrman is a freelance writer from Houston, Texas. Her writings have been included in various publications. She is also a classically trained operatic soprano and an avid knitter.
Heather Evans Smith
The Cinematic Storyteller Aline Smithson
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xploring the photographs of Heather Evans Smith feels as if I am at a banquet of visual riches, standing in front of a groaning table filled with images that are at once beautiful, compelling, and full of storytelling, pathos, and whimsy. It’s hard to take a seat at that bountiful table, as the greedy visual consumer in me wants to look at more and more before I settle on a specific image. But once I fill my plate and settle down, I begin to see the complexity and layers in Heather’s work, not only because of her technical prowess, but because of the thought and emotion behind her projects.
demand my attention. Her cinematic and surreal photographs have their own language, personal to her, yet universal to the rest of us. Though much of her work is preconceived, some of it emerges on its own, and whether created from the conscious or the subconscious, it examines the psychological world of womanhood. When I saw “You and Me”, I knew immediately what she was saying. The frilly green underpants signal a lace-waving statement of “Yes, I’m a mother, and isn’t my baby cute, but I’m still here too, lookin’ fine.” I appreciate her irreverence and her use of a playful wit to make a statement.
Each time I come across her images, her photographs arrest me. The quality of her light, the metaphors she articulates so well, the color of her palette, and her sensibilities that represent so many of our stories
We have to start at the beginning to understand where this work comes from. Heather was born in Kinston, North Carolina. As an only child, she lived in a rural area that, as she states, “had nothing going on.” It’s my
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The Heart and the Heavy 2011 Right
The Unraveling 2012
belief that creativity blossoms from boredom, and in her desire to create a world other than that of her hometown, she found herself exploring different art forms. The seeds of her conceptual approach to photography were born when she dressed her cats in costumes and photographed them. Those creative childhood leanings led her to attend Peace College in Raleigh, NC, where she studied Visual Communications, a program of study that included graphic design, drawing, painting, and photography. After college, Heather worked as a graphic designer for over a decade, and during that period she returned to her first love of photography. Her postings on Flickr were an immediate sensation, and she decided to take the leap into fine art photography full time.
That decision has allowed her to begin creating her remarkable work. Each photograph is a short story, reflecting the emotions of being a woman, wife, mother, or simply just being human. Her images are a form of selfportraiture, whether she appears in them or not. â€œI started out exclusively shooting self-portraits. It was the most efficient way for me to shoot my images. I was always available to model when a creative moment hit me. During my recent series, The Heart and The Heavy, certain images proved too difficult to model. Walking back and forth with a heavy rope dress or submerged in water was not practical. I began using others and found gratification from seeing the story play out in front of my eyes. However, I canâ€™t see myself completely moving away from being in front of the camera. Those images are the most personal for me.â€?
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Let My Machine Talk to Me SPRING 2014 2012
Heather spends a significant amount of time imagining the work before she shoots it. Her process is deliberate, and she knows the stories she wants to tell. That preparation allows her to create specific images, but it also allows her room for experimentation. “The majority of my images and their meanings are planned out in advance. I usually know exactly what I want to shoot. I have a limited time to shoot so I use my time wisely, leaving room for ‘play’ after the initial idea has been shot. Interesting things can come out of that experimental period, sometimes better than what was planned.” Heather’s early work was a personal take on domestic life, created with a sense of humor, whimsy, and a strong sense of color that speaks to the universal emotions of being a woman. The work is interior, created in kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms, grounding the images in what is familiar.
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Daily routines of living are examined with irreverent tableaus of emotional housekeeping. Heather’s latest project, The Heart and The Heavy, examines her foray into motherhood. The psychological transformation of self, which occurs not only with a woman’s physique, but also with the recognition that being a parent carries a weight of responsibility and commitment. In turn, life as she knew it was forever altered. The constriction of time, the diminishment of freedom combined with the aching joy of having a child, are all addressed in the visual stew of her images. As she states, “My life is beautiful and complicated and bittersweet and hard.” Exploring the terrain of parenthood shifted Heather’s perspective: “The first image in the series The Heart and The Heavy expressed the conflict between burden and love. I wanted it to create a dialogue with
Stranger on the Earth 2013 Right
An Apple a Day (doesn’t always cut it) 2008
You and Me 2010
the audience about the ups and downs of motherhood. Many viewers expressed relief to see this played out in an image, and I felt relief that I was not alone. Shooting these images made me realize just how different I have become since motherhood. I look at the world differently. My personal time is limited, but these constraints have actually made for a more creative and driven life.” Because of her gift of story telling, Heather’s work was selected for Project Imaginat10n, the brainchild of director Ron Howard, where images inspire film. In the fall of 2013, her photograph was selected by actor Jamie Foxx for his short film and brought to life in another short film, Chucked, by director Jared Nelson. The experience was heady and surprising and taught her about expectations and ideas of success. It also reinforced the idea that her photographs are like film stills, in which the viewer is left wanting to know what happens next.
images, and this time the photographs will include her daughter. I have no doubt that this talented photographer will have a long legacy of storytelling with spectacular visual interpretations that will transport and transform the way we see ourselves.
Aline Smithson is the Editor and Founder of Lenscratch, an online resource for photography. She lives in Los Angeles where she works as a photographer and educator.
Heather has already begun creating her next series, sketching out ideas for new
rtworks must have been completed within the last two years.” This sentence arises amidst other requirements for exhibition proposals, juried competitions, publications, and other venues for showing ones art. It seems harmless enough, maybe even helpful, encouraging artists to continue producing work during their busy lives. And yet I have recently begun to view this requirement as one piece in a larger problem: an expiration date on art. While generating new work is unquestionably important, the implication is that older work, work that is over two years old, has expired and is no longer of interest to these particular venues. In an effort to stay relevant, artists are pressured to release new work on a swifter timetable.
waiting in the wings for when the dust begins to settle on the first. After completing a portfolio there should be time to enjoy the work, to reflect on it, and to nurture it through promotion and exhibition. The internet is perhaps the most harmful proponent of constant production. There are weeks when I will see a particular body of work appear regularly across the blogosphere. Exposure is generally good for artists, and the broad audience that the internet provides undoubtedly has its benefits. Unfortunately, the frenetic pace of the digital world often means that last week’s feature of an artist’s new project m u s t be
The two-year requirement pushes artists to produce new work with more frequency rather than better quality. It perpetuates the idea that photographers need to have a body of work out in the world and another
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Too often, the resulting body of work is pushed out of the nest before it is ready. Portfolios that are not fully resolved are published on the artists’ websites and submitted to contests, publications, and galleries. In order to develop mature concepts, write a great statement, and give a portfolio the attention it deserves, each new project must be allowed to have its own evolution before being released into the world. This evolution is all too often rushed and incomplete as artists release new projects in an attempt to retain the limelight.
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pushed aside for this week’s “next big thing.” A body of work that may have taken years to complete is set aside all too soon. Artists spending time on the internet are aware of this phenomenon and feel pressured to churn out work at a rapid pace. Artists fear that if presented years after its internet blitz, some critics will dub their work “old hat” out of disinterest for a series they have seen before.
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The pressure to turn out work can come at the expense of artistic growth. Exhibition deadlines can deter an artist from embarking on new directions and newly minted portfolios and books can come off as extensions of existing work. Exploration— not just in ideas, but in techniques and materials—can come with a steep learning curve, requiring time for trial and error.
In truth, not many people have had the opportunity to experience the “old work.” In an era in which we are inundated with images, it takes time to sift through the abundance of photographs and discover something great. We make art to be timeless, to be bigger than the moment in which it was created. Thousands of museumgoers pay admission to view works by photographic legends. These artists are not making any new work. The photographs on view have been seen and studied, discussed and critiqued for decades. Yet we continue to enjoy them and find them relevant. These photographers prove that artwork does not expire. Bodies of work that have been carefully cultivated and fleshed out are worth the time it takes to produce them. I whole-heartedly support artists who strive to create and who push their own boundaries, but I also believe that most fully realized portfolios take time. The idea behind the two-year time limit is to ensure that exhibitions and contests are showing art that is fresh. There are other exhibition restrictions that some venues
impose which better reflect this mission. Some exclude work that has been previously published or exhibited at the venue, or artists who have had a solo museum exhibition. Under such restrictions, photographers can submit their strongest images regardless of when they were made or what blog they have been featured on. Endeavoring to continuously produce art is admirable. It is equally important for an artist to take some time away from producing and to focus on other elements of their career. Promotion and exhibition, or taking time to recharge and put some distance between the most recent series and the next, are important parts of the creative process. If the new series takes the academic 14-week calendar to complete, then full steam ahead. But if it takes 14 months or 14 years, that is okay too. Photographers, unlike many other artists, work in a unique medium that allows for reproduction. Printing in editions makes it feasible to have a series shown consecutively in multiple venues. Photographers can and should continue to exhibit their works until the edition sells out. This calls for an end to the “two-year sentence” that so many photographers face. While new work is being created, older work should be promoted and exhibited to both introduce new viewers to the art and because good photographs will not become irrelevant as time goes on. Unless the photographer in question is well known, chances are that their earlier work has yet to be experienced by most of the world. If the work was good when it was new, then it will continue to be good three, five, or fifty years down the line. Kat Kiernan is the Owner and Director of The Kiernan Gallery in Lexington, Virginia.
Jonathan Pozniak Icebergs and the End of “Efforting” Roger Thompson
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Iceberg #9K 2013
thirty-foot sea is the price you pay for photographing icebergs. One of them, anyway. There’s also the accompanying seasickness, the cramped quarters, and the sense of isolation that, at times seems liberating and at other times seems crushing. The interminable thin line between the horizon and the sea, between the boundless sky and the unfathomable depths, somehow presses inward and highlights the color of heart. It forces something of the inner landscape of the soul to surface by emphasizing contrasts, complementary if also clearly demarcated. One gets the sense viewing Jonathan Pozniak’s series, Icebergs, that his journey to frozen seas and ancient glaciers is as much an exploration of inner demarcations as it is of the external environment. The images
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glow with life, and the ice, in all of its frozen blue, illuminates the landscape around it. The contrasts in many of the images between the dark sea or the neutral sky and the luminescence of the ice suggest that Pozniak’s arctic and Antarctic icebergs are the vision of a mind that sees life where others see desolation. Pozniak is explicit in his belief that the world around us has energy. The isolation and silence in extreme landscapes provides him with an opportunity to see and hear the world and the self in new ways. “Being remote in nature,” he says speaking of his trips to the polar regions, “was where my mind could be still and I could listen. I could listen to my intuition, I could listen to nature, and I could be open to what it was telling me and what it was showing me.” That openness has guided his recent work, and it
Iceberg #A404 2011 Opposite
Iceberg #G354 2012
has emphasized what has surely become a kind of philosophy for him: the end of “efforting.” Pozniak has devoted himself to the “law of least effort,” a worldview that should not be equated with less work. Indeed, he works incessantly on both his art and himself, and he has dedicated himself to the idea that when one has a clear sense of who one is, the world opens with opportunities. A sense of meaning animates one’s life, and work transforms into purpose. By contrast, forcing a path for exploration, whether professionally or personally, is pushing against an internal compass that is attempting to point the way. It is “efforting,” and for Pozniak, that leads to not only lost opportunity, but a lost sense of self. This sense of being open to possibilities
emerges even in his every day shoots. Instead of framing an image in advance or instead of attempting to control a subject or scene without experiencing it, Pozniak leans instead into instinct, the first response to a scene, and he lets that guide not only his images, but his personal journeys. This is not to say that he does not prepare. He is careful in his planning, thoughtful in his selection of images, and meticulous in his finishing. His work illustrates a studious devotion to the art of photography, and his career demonstrates a remarkable work ethic. From early on, Pozniak wanted to be a fashion photographer, and he has found success in that world with clients around the globe. He began as a studio assistant for Martha Stewart after a stint at the Art Institute of Boston, and he traveled to Paris to launch his career. Now shooting commercially
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for what he calls the “beauty” industry, he maintains a considerable client list, including Este Lauder, Maybelline, and Kiehls. His contracts extend internationally, as well, from the UK’s Luxx Magazine, to Southeast Asia’s equivalent to GQ, August Man Magazine, to Sony Music-France and U.S. heavy weights Random House and Real Simple. Pozniak’s commercial photography has provided him with a foundation on which to build new bodies of work. Indeed, he insists that “commercial and fine art in the scope of one’s career as a whole need to talk to each other, they need to help each other out, and they need to learn from each other.” Balance is central to his vision personally and professionally, and that balance appears in subtle ways throughout his series on icebergs, most notably in his diptychs and triptychs. The breaking apart of an image into two or three images is fitting for an exploration of ice; the fractured nature of the diptych reflects the severing of giant icebergs from glaciers. The heart of the diptych, however, is its ability to unite the separate pieces, and to do that, Pozniak relies not on metaphor or imagery in the way a medieval altar piece might, but instead on line and light. If the images are fragmented physically, they are connected by an illuminated bridge of white and blue. In “Iceberg #9K”, the pure frozen
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water of the iceberg contrasts starkly with a background of dark land and ominous clouds, and the curve of the ice as it reaches out over water seems virtually unbroken despite the separation of the two parts of the diptych. In another series, the splitting of the iceberg is unsettlingly prescient of the future crumbling of the ice. The clean diptych break that Pozniak creates runs nearly perfectly perpendicular to the flat top surface of the iceberg, as though an earthquake has cracked a mesa in two. Yet, it holds together for the viewer, floating as one image that gestures toward impermanence, if not also immanence. In “Iceberg #1A”, a great table of ice has collapsed from another berg, and the split image of the diptych parallels the fissure and the fate of the drifting ice. Higher on an outcropping is a second crack, a great mass threatening to fall and tilt and turn into the sea. Many of the diptychs and triptychs take as their subject the entirety of a free-floating iceberg, but Pozniak shows remarkable control of light and energy in some of his more detailed studies of the ice. The scale of “Iceberg #A404” is nearly impossible to discern, but it glows with hues of impossible blue. Ripples in the ice make it appear as though a heaving wave was frozen in place, blending a light blue amethyst with deep lapis lazuli. The image radiates a soft, but cer-
tain, energy, and one gets the sense that the ice is a kind of life itself. To say the images have life is not to say that they are warm. Instead, Pozniak accomplishes a powerful inversion, somehow making the desolate cold of the polar landscape come alive with light. Those used to traveling the hinterlands will undoubtedly recognize the contrasts and the odd glow of the sky and water, but those who have not will find in the images a gem-like quality that derives not so much from the ice itself, but from the iridescence that Pozniak highlights in his photographs. He sees the life in the shoot, and he attempts, without alteration, to bring that life to the viewer. Avoiding the use of Photoshop or other digital tools to manipulate his vision, he instead aims to act as a kind of medium, conveying to the viewer as purely and cleanly as possible a journey he has taken and feels compelled to share. He lets the image, as taken, speak, and he helps us to understand that the rippled dark lines of the sea have meaning only against the crystalline light of ice.
Roger Thompson is an art critic and Professor at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York.
Iceberg #A143 2011 Opposite
Iceberg #1A 2011
A photographic Survey of the American yard
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A conversation with Joshua white by christa bowden
All images are from 2012-2013 and titled numerically in the order they were made
t the heart of the construction of a still life photograph exists the ability of the artist to isolate a subject from its original environment. By this method, the photographer is able to control the perspective and context in which the viewer observes the subject. Joshua White employs this method with an elegant minimalism in his project A Photographic Survey of the American Yard. Each natural object, carefully chosen, is isolated on a light-toned background, with a centralized composition and large surrounding area in the frame, bringing uncontested attention to the subject itself. The project reads as a survey of specimens, with the connection between the objects being immediately drawn from the project title. The monochromatic specimens are rich with texture and tone, and it might come as a surprise to the viewer that these images are all photographed with the artist’s iPhone. However, this seems an appropriate connection to the immediacy and intimacy of a photographic survey collected from one’s own immediate surroundings. The work is presented online as an ongoing blog (joshuawhitephotography.tumblr.com), as a grid of specimens. The presentation of the images, all with a similar background, compositional arrangement, and square format, begins to allow the viewer to observe the small details of each individual subject. The warm-toned specimens hover, as if suspended in space and time, above a non-contextualized surface of offwhite with no notion of horizon or ground. A vignette further emphasizes each subject, giving the feeling that one is examining it through a lens or perhaps even a microscope. Organized by month, one begins to observe the blog in a seasonal way, pondering the types of specimens that the artist might collect in the summer versus the winter, spring versus fall. This ongoing life/death cycle seemingly connects back to the artist’s rumination on mortality, a theme that runs consistently through his work. With these observations in mind, I had the opportunity to ask Joshua White some questions about the project and to elaborate further on his process and intentions.
In your artist statement, you describe a connection between this project and childhood memories. Can you please elaborate on this, and how you seek a connection between a tangible visual subject and the intangible idea of memory? Memory is the subject of much of my work and a topic that I find endlessly fascinating. When I first started working on this series, I didn’t see that connection at all, but as I continued, I realized these objects are some of my strongest memories of being a kid, along with a feeling a fascination with the natural world around me. We would play in the cornfields around our house in southeastern Indiana, catching caterpillars and grasshoppers, filling our little blue plastic swimming
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pool with painted turtles from the nearby gravel pit. Somehow I got separated from that love of nature in the intervening years, but never from my love of science and exploration. This series has become a way for me to revisit those memories while at the same time formally explore my rediscovered love of all those complex natural forms. I want the series to be as much a catalyst for people to access those kinds of memories as it is a formal study. How do you go about selecting the objects that you photograph? Is it more about how the subject appears visually, or what the thing actually is, and that connection to memory? I approach it from both angles. I have sort of
a mental list of things I want to photograph because of their connection to my past. I still need to find some turtles to photograph, for instance, as well as ground hornets. I was so happy to finally find a praying mantis; that was a big one I wanted to photograph. A lot of the objects I find will trigger memories that have been dormant for a long time. And then there are specimens that are just formally intriguing to me, especially weeds. Thistle and milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace are just beautiful, amazing little things to turn over in your hands—to look at all the different parts, thinking of how and why they have evolved that way over time. Do you work entirely from your own yard or also the yards of others? If you “collect” from the yards of others, is
it important to you where the object came from? Are the yards that you collect from somehow significant to you personally? The project started in my yard, but it has expanded from there. Sometimes stricter rules are a great way to get a project started, but as soon as I feel the rule restricting me in a negative way, I break it. I started finding really amazing objects while we were walking the dog, or playing in the park, or at a friend’s house, and I just couldn’t leave them alone. I do try to find things that are growing where I am; I don’t have friends send me exotic plants from the desert, or order things from a greenhouse. I think there are plenty of things left for me to find without branching into orchids or plants and bugs found in the rainforest. It’s not important to me that the yards are personally significant, although a vast majority of the subjects are found in my yard or the yards of family members. You use an iPhone to photograph and edit this project, start to finish. As a formally trained photographer, what led you to choose this working method for this project? Can you describe your process? How does this way of working differ from the other methods of photography that you use? I started this whole project by accident. I saw a picture of tree helicopters on a friend’s Instagram and thought, “wow, that’s a nice form.” The next day, I saw some of the same helicopters on our trashcan. As soon as I made that first image, I fell in love with the simplicity of the process and the aesthetic. Our trash can was purple, and when I converted to black and white I was able to turn that hue into pure white, which made the seeds just float and removed any distraction from the form. The process is a little more complicated now, but still very straightforward. I collect things until I have a small pile and then head to either my front porch or back porch, depending on where the shade falls at that time of day. I use white foam core, into which I insert either a sew-
ing needle or a knitting needle to elevate the subject off of the background, removing all shadows. I take several images of each object, changing angles, removing stray leaves, etc. And hair; I don’t know why, but there’s always a hair on everything. I have also recently taken to dissecting the objects, with some really stunning results. I love being able to get multiple, distinct images from the same subject. After I have made the images, I take them into iPhoto on the iPhone and decide which to work with. I use the crop tool to remove all the excess background and then export to Snapseed to convert to black and white and adjust sharpness and contrast. Then I open the image in iPhoto again to dodge, making the background pure white. I export to Squaready to add white space around the object and then finally into Instagram, where I apply the Earlybird filter and share the image. It is a really formulaic, simple process that allows me to get repeatable results. This process stands in pretty stark contrast to the rest of my work, which involves a great deal of experimentation and very little repetition. The constraints allow a kind of freedom from trying to hang to much concept on it, and allow me to just focus on making work. How are these images formalized for exhibition? What is the ideal way for your audience to view this work? Is the blog the finished presentation, or is there something beyond this? I like the idea of having multiple different ways to view the series. Because of the nature of the process, I think that showing it on the blog is a very strong component and a logical step in the progression from the capture method to presentation. I have several plans for showing the work in galleries, which I have not done as a series. The images are printed 4” square; I have tried lots of sizes and that one just feels right. I am torn between the desire to show them in a very traditional manner, matted and framed in a straight line on the wall, or as a kind of installation. The installation would have all the images about a foot off the ground on long
shelves, with grass on the gallery floor and all the prints unframed so that viewers can hold and rearrange them, reflecting the process of discovery and the playfulness I feel from the series. I can also see groups of images as the series continues; I sometimes photograph many of the same kinds of objects, like money plants and milkweeds. I think it could be interesting to break up the more traditional, linear presentation with smaller typological grids. Many of your photographic projects have connecting themes of mortality and the fragility of life. Do you approach this concept in a direct way, or is it something that emerges fluidly as your projects develop? How does the “Survey of the American Yard” connect to these themes in the scope of your larger body of work? I think what you said about cycles at the beginning was very beautiful and something that had not fully occurred to me until you said it. I love to allow the ideas to develop fluidly, but sometimes it is like driving a car with no steering wheel. I just have to trust that what led me to this type of image making has something to do with what has led me in the past, and that they are somehow connected. I also wonder a lot if that connection is necessary for successful work, but I think that is mostly fear that they don’t connect, rather than disillusionment with whether or not they need to. When I first started the series I thought it had nothing at all to do with the other work—that it was just a short diversion from what I was working on—and I would get back to the stuff dealing with life and death later. But it all comes from the same place, and learning to trust that part of the process has been one the hardest challenges for me.
Christa Bowden is an Associate Professor of Art at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Her own work explores the use of a flatbed scanner as a camera, and encaustics in photography. www.christabowden.com
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s in any unspeakably difficult situation, one begins to question life’s fairness. Cerebral palsy, as portrayed in the photographs by Christopher Capozziello, takes hold of the body in ways that are simply unjust. It leaves the person directly affected by the disease contorted, exhausted, and practically lifeless, both literally and figuratively. And for Capozziello, the question for why this has happened is followed by why it has not happened to him. Thirteen years ago Christopher Capozziello began photographing Nick, his twin brother who suffers from cerebral palsy, as a way to explore his feelings of guilt as the healthy twin, using photography as a type of therapy. What began as private photographs for personal viewing, later became a moving documentary series. The Distance Between Us, a 200+ page hardcover book, shares the Capozziellos’ personal battle with this disease, one that afflicts so many others. The beginning of the book deals with the jolt from normalcy one second to the debilitating cramps and seizures that plague the next. The grainy black and white film enhances the stark reality of the struggle that Nick endures physically and mentally. What makes this book stand out is that there are two protagonists; it is the photographer’s struggle as well as Nick’s. Christo-
pher explains that these pictures, for him, began merely as an outlet in which he could bring to light the issues he had with faith, fate, and equality. He explores the sadness of the medical emergencies, surgeries, doctor appointments, and treatments that his brother has to endure. At the same time, his photographs bring hope for a cure, hope for the future, and hope to one day bypass the hardships that occur from this illness. Although Nick suffers from the symptoms daily, Christopher somehow finds ways to show the peaceful and playful side of his brother. Nick’s outer shell is tragically torn by disease, but the Nick inside finds some path toward growth. He even ventures to say that without this disease he would not be who he is today, and for that he is, incredibly, grateful. As the book progresses, Christopher finds answers to his own questions, and he realizes that his appreciation for life is a direct result of his brother’s disease. In the final pages of the book, the two brothers journey across the United States, both making pictures, both finding adventure along the way, and both undergoing their own emotional journeys. Color photographs are introduced, and fittingly the mood lightens. It becomes a story less about the physical struggles of cerebral palsy and more about
the love that two brothers share regardless of the ruthlessness disease. Accompanying the photographs, the text of the book contains stories by the author about past events and memories, which coincide with the narrative. As the pages turn, the reader’s mind joins with the voice of the author, forcing the reader to share in Christopher’s most intimate questions about why Nick’s life is a struggle: “Is it fate or is it chance or is it just bad luck?” The Distance Between Us is an eye-opening look at the private struggle that comes with a lifelong illness. As the title suggests, it documents how these twin brothers come to close the distance between them as they both unflinchingly face Nick’s cerebral palsy and confront Christopher’s emotional struggle with why he was born healthy. The true beauty of this book and with the life it encourages is both its fearless look at living the struggle and with its leaning into hope. The Distance Between Us is published by Edition Lammerhuber and is available from ChrisCappy.com. Amanda Hite is a freelance photographer and writer, and an intern at The Kiernan Gallery. She is fluent in Spanish and travels the world.
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megan metté: Looking Up and Looking in Eliza Lamb
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Emptiness. Quiet. Solitude. The mind wanders. We’ve all had that moment, lying on our beds, couches or floors staring at the ceiling—a ceiling we know, a ceiling we seldom visit, or a ceiling that is all together new to us. No matter our surroundings, it seems our greatest consistency may be above our heads. We use this blank slate to let our mind wander: to travel to new places, create stories, and imagine ourselves in different realities. As a child having little say over our environments or schedules, we are blessed and plagued with time to fill and limited resources to fill them. We search for avenues of escape and control to alter or expand on the reality we are handed. This is a human phenomenon that is never more true than in the experience of childhood, before our life scripts are really our own, when the histories we write must be created from the ingredients we are handed from others.
Photographer Megan Metté captures these unspoken moments in her most recent series [ ]. As a timid child who suffered from bouts of anxiety, Metté found she didn’t spend much of her time or energy interacting with others. Instead, she turned inward to escape, and what better place than the refuge of the ever-present empty canvas above her. She writes in her artist statement, “I remember walking on ceilings when I was a kid. I’d lie down on my mother’s cream, tightly-woven twill cushion, stretch my freckled legs in the air, and squint. I’d imagine being teleported into someone else’s household. In this new house, everything was white and clean and glistened with all the colors of the sun.”
These were her moments of refuge from a reality that seemed far from perfect. Metté remembers cherishing the ideal families and environments she created in her mind, even though she found they only made reentry into reality that much colder. She writes, “In these images of houses, I find myself returning to a child’s world of endless possibilities, but I come with the understanding that even in dreaming, we can’t escape our past.” It seemed the emptiness of her reality was always stronger than her imagination could be. The darkness she felt would eventually be projected into any environment she entered, no matter how much she wished otherwise. Her own personal sadness had become both toxic and portable. Metté takes inspiration from this emotional cycle and strives to create work that is both beautiful and uncomfortable. She walks a line between the ideal worlds of her imagination and the darkness that always awaited her in reality. These abstractions rely heavily on the experience of disorientation. As the viewer, we find ourselves looking out, up, and in all at once. The first moments are spent trying to get our bearings and make sense of the shapes that we see. There is a shift in perspective that removes us from what we think we know and provides us with what Metté describes as a feeling of discomfort and strangeness. Minimal compositions provoke questioning from the viewer. The lack of information seems to make each
element that is present all the more important, and the placement of shadows, details, and textures of walls creates a palpable tension. Her images are filled with vibrant colors, often drawing from monotone or limited color palettes. Kandinsky often remarked on the power of color to evoke a spiritual experience, and Metté seems to be putting this concept into action. Inspired by great painters like Mark Rothko, Metté believes deeply in the power of color to stir the soul. In fact, she remarks that “sometimes the color is too much,” and she has to walk away from her own large prints before being swept into an emotional whirlwind.
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The work evokes the quiet impression of solitude. Although we feel that we are alone, in many pieces we still find traces of life. A string dangling, an unrepaired crack, peeling wallpaper, uneven spackle, and many lifetimes of paint convey a layered and complicated story of what has come before. They are indications of environments that have been forgotten, damages that have gone unseen, and half-hearted attempts to fix or mask what has long been broken. Metté’s interest in architecture and architectural history are recognizable in these images. Her own extensive study of the American dream and what a home repre-
Untitled 2011 Right
sents to an American family inform her images. The intentions and hopes in new construction can stand in harsh contrast with the true experiences that they may eventually contain. The physical space of a home holds both great expectations and harsh realities for Metté, and in her work we see that the same space can provide both escape and confinement simultaneously. In these images, Metté is able to provide us with a body of work that is quiet and introspective. She takes her very personal experience and presents it in a way that is accessible to almost any viewer for interpretation. Her title, [ ], asks the viewer to be a participant in the work, to fill in the story based on his or her own background or experience. It remarks on the need for
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context in understanding something outside of ourselves—context that we are often denied.
After viewing this work, I am left with a longing to reconnect to a time when I could sit with my own thoughts. For me these images serve as quiet reminders of the power of our own imaginations and the ability to exist completely in a time and space without the luxury or distraction of choice. No matter what may await us on the other side, in that time we are just as we want to be, and in that space great things can blossom. Rarely has emptiness felt so full. Eliza Lamb is a photographer, curator and educator based in New York City.
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Forging relationships, Finding a career Jennifer Schwartz
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he art world has been turned on its head, and no one quite knows what to do about it. Long-time gallerists tell stories of mythic proportions about the days when they could not keep art on the walls. With more and more people buying art online and in alternative venues, many traditional galleries cannot keep their doors open. Career photographers talk about the days when career photographers existed—when a person could support him/herself on his/her art and a photographer valued his/her work and would not dare give it away for the glory of a photo credit. Up-and-coming photographers lament the digital era where everyone with an SLR (or better yet, an iPhone) calls themselves a photographer and layers and filters can turn the dullest images into something… special. Nostalgia is easier than change. Routine is more comfortable than innovation. And yet, the truth is that we have the tools to take this upside-down art world and own it. The internet has leveled the playing field for everyone and may the best photographers and galleries win. We can take things into our own hands, and we can create our careers. Gone are the days of sending slides to galleries and waiting for the call that would signal the start of something. Anyone with talent, creativity and ambition can start their own fire, from the bottom up.
We have the tools to take this upsidedown art world and own it.
So rise up. Take your career by the reigns and thoughtfully and purposefully develop a plan to get you where you want to go. Tighten your work, develop your brand, strategically launch your project, and identify and attract your target collectors. Make your mark on the world.
but many of us have a very difficult time communicating those thoughts to others. As an artist you need to be able to talk about your work. You are the best advocate for your photography, so make sure you do the images justice. The process of writing a statement, while considered painful by most photographers, is a great exercise in organizing your thoughts and making sure the ideas you are trying to express are actually represented in the work. Being able to confidently and succinctly write and speak about your work is no easy feat, but it is as important as having strong images. If you cannot sell yourself and your work to a gallerist, how is that gallerist going to sell it to a collector? People want to feel your passion and hear your thoughtfulness. They want to be moved. Practice as much as you possibly can, and then practice more. Speak out loud about your work—to yourself, to your peers, to anyone who will listen. You must be comfortable talking about your work, and you must be able to explain it in a compelling way. Most people’s photography is so close to their hearts and minds that it is incredibly difficult to step back and explain it to fresh eyes. It is deeply personal, and just showing the images can make a photographer feel vulnerable and exposed. Still, you have to be able to sell it. Practice. It is the only way. Once you can succinctly tell someone what your work is about, use that information to develop your brand. Creating consistent branding across your website, social media, and marketing materials raises your level of professionalism and sends a strong message that you are thoughtful and dedicated about your work. In this field, as in all things in life, the way you present yourself both in person and otherwise impacts whether or not people want to work with you and to what extent.
defining your work After you have made the work, you need to be able to get the swirl of elusive ideas and concepts that make sense in your own head out and organized in a concrete, meaningful way. We all know what we are trying to say with our images,
identifying your audience Every artist has a unique path. Every body of work has a unique path. The path is determined both by your vision/goals for your work and
would resonate with the people who regularly walk the halls.
Image Credits (left to right)
Not all work is easily salable. While the plastic bag typology you have created with all of your heart and soul speaks to you on every level, a lot of commercial galleries may find the images hard to sell to collectors. That is not to say there is not an audience for this work—that audience just may not be best reached through a commercial gallery. The same holds true for most subjects. It may also be the case that your photography is not at the level—technical, sophistication, subject—that commercial galleries are seeking. Again, that does not mean there are not people who would really connect with your images and want to become collectors of your work. It just means the gallery system may not be the best fit for you right now.
Again, think about the person who would most respond to your work. Does your art have an environmental bent? Is it feminine or issue-oriented? Now, think about an organization or nonprofit in your community whose membership would respond to your work and consider partnering up to hold an event, exhibition, or fundraiser. For example, if your work deals with the landscape of a certain geographical area, partner with a conservation group to hold a fundraiser that features your work. You could offer to raffle a photograph and give a percentage of sales to the group. They will work with you to plan the event and get their membership to attend, giving you the opportunity to get your work in front of a roomful of your target collectors. The goodwill you will generate will build loyalty, and the altruism will generate sales.
GRAIN Images (Lexey Swall, Tristan Spinski, Greg Kahn)
Be honest with yourself and try to look at your work with some perspective. If you feel that your work is a bit more challenging or less commercial than most galleries would be interested in exhibiting, your best bet may be to seek out non-commercial venues. Typical non-commercial venues include non-profit galleries or photography centers, museums, and university galleries. Depending on your subject, you may find a great fit at a non-profit organization building or university department building where the art
Examples of groups to partner with, depending on the type of work you make, include conservation groups (environmental), Junior League/ women’s business organizations (feminine), garden club/botanical garden/nature center (nature photography), children’s non-profit/PTA (family themes), medical charity or cause (figure work). There is a way to connect most bodies of work to a group of target collectors, it is just a matter of digging deep and working out the most effective, creative, and meaningful angle.
the target audience for the photography. Who is most likely to appreciate your images? How can you best reach this person? What are your obstacles to connecting with this audience?
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Maggie Meiners Hannele Lahti Heather Evans Smith Nick Shephard
If your photography has commercial appeal, there may be exhibition opportunities at commercial galleries. The galleries will expect your images to look impeccable and your presentation to be professional. Cheap frames are unacceptable and do nothing to elevate your work or your brand. Cutting corners may save money in the short term, but artists who prepare for longterm success are more likely to achieve it.
All artists want to know what they can do to sell more work. Here is the answer: keep in touch with the people who already support you. Cultivating the relationships you already have is the easiest and most important thing you can do to grow your audience. As a collector, you can have one of two experiences: you can buy an image and hang it on the wall, or you can buy an image, hang it on the wall, and know that you have helped support the artist that created it and have an ongoing relationship with him or her. If you were the collector, which would you prefer? Which artist would you be more likely to buy work from again? Which artist would you want to continue to support and introduce to others? Artists should be reaching out to their collectors and supporters at least twice per year, and it should be in a personal way. While email newsletters are important to keep a wider audience up to date on your work and successes, your
core supporters should also receive a handwritten note, a very small print or postcard with your newest image, or even a (gasp!) phone call. Do not underestimate the power of the personal connection. After all, it’s what drew these people to your work in the first place—they saw your image and felt a personal connection to it and, by extension, to you. You have the opportunity to build the relationship beyond being merely transactional. Collectors are not just a bank account—they are people who appreciate and are interested in what you have to say with your work. That initial connection through the work can be the start of a meaningful collectorartist relationship.
conclusion Know how to talk about your work and with whom you should be talking to about it. Being able to pitch your images to the people who will most appreciate them and developing meaningful, ongoing relationships with them is the foundation for a successful life in art. If you can talk about your work in a way that really connects someone to the photographs you have made, keep that connection working for you and watch the chain reaction.
Jennifer Schwartz is the creator and director of Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help artists create demand for their work.
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announcing tHe tHiRteentH fine PRess title fRoM HoRse & Buggy PRess
TesTify A Visual Love Letter to Appalachia PHoToGRAPHS By RoGER MAy
Testify volume one
p h o t o g r a p h s b y r o g e r m ay Foreword by Silas House
excerpt from Roger’s introduction . . .
Testify is a visual love letter to Appalachia, the land of my blood. This is my testimony of how I came to see the importance of home and my connection to place. After moving away as a teenager, I’ve struggled to return, to latch on to something from my memory. These images are a vignette into my working through the problem of the construction of memory versus reality. My work embraces the raw beauty of the mountains while keeping at arms length the stereotypical images that have tried to define Appalachia for decades.
is an Appalachian American photographer currently based
in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was born in the Tug River Valley, located on the West Virginia and Kentucky state line, in the heart of Hatfield and McCoy country. An active photographer, writer, and speaker, Roger shares his work on his website, rogermayphotography.com, and at his blog, walkyourcamera.com. Roger’s work explores the intersection of the visual history of Appalachia and issues of representation throughout the region. Since 1996,
HoRse & Buggy PRess
books have won regional and
national awards for their design, production, and content. Many titles have found their way to special collections and rare libraries across the globe. The press collaborates with established story tellers (Allan Gurganus), prolific poets and essayists (John Lane, Jeffery Beam), award-winning illustrators (Ippy Patterson), photographers (Rob McDonald) and many other talented artists, writers, scientists, and historians creating important work and addressing issues of our day. These tactile books, often hand-bound and printed with hand-fed, hand-cranked letterpress equipment, connect us intimately to the words and images housed within. Produced with a loving attention to detail from design through what is Testify is a limited edition, two volume set of books featuring fifty images (black and
often a mix of production processes, these fine press titles show what is possible
white, as well as full color), an introduction by photographer Roger May, and a fore-
by integrating old and new technologies to create books which become true origi-
word by Silas House. Each book is 8 by 10 inches and contains 36 pages. Interior
nal artifacts. Each book reminds us of the importance of beauty and show swhat
pages were printed on a high-end Indigo press using 100lb Mohawk Superfine egg-
we are capable of when we do things the slow way—from the heart and with our
shell finish text paper. The covers were hand-printed on a hand-cranked, hand-fed letterpress on an olive green printmaking grade paper, and each book is handsewn with linen thread. The limited edition of 300 copies is signed and numbered
own hands. The work is given a strong and proper stage, ensuring the work will be treasured for generations to come.
by Roger, and the two volumes are presented together with a full-bleed printed bellyband wrapping around the pair of books. Also included is a bookmark as well
fine press books and more . . . for the Jet Age and beyond
as a photographic print (suitable for framing) housed in a translucent envelope. $65. to order visit rogermayphotography.com or horseandbuggypress.com. Testify will be on display as part of Roger’s photography exhibit at H&B during March and April. Open Studios & Reception Nights: Friday, March 21 and Friday, April 18 from 6–9pm.
Durham, North CaroliNa
Untitled Robert Alexander Williams 2012
Published on Mar 8, 2014
Don’t Take Pictures is a biannual print, online & tablet-ready magazine that celebrates the creativity involved with the making of photograp...