Born in Washington DC and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Kathleen Robbins received her BA from Millsaps College and her MFA from the University of New Mexico. Her photographs have been exhibited in venues such as The Light Factory Museum of Contemporary Photography & Film, Rayko Gallery, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. She is represented by Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta. In 2011, she was the recipient of the PhotoNOLA Review Prize. She currently resides in Columbia, SC, where she is an associate professor of art, coordinator of the photography program and affiliate faculty of southern studies at the University of South Carolina.
When we were children, major news worthy events were filtered through dinner table conversations or the black box in the living room. And often we were left to interpret those events through our imaginations. Some of the most stunning images of the 20th Century were that of the atomic bomb, sending us to bed with the fear of our fragility. Los Angeles photographer, Clay Lipsky, was affected by those powerful photographs as a child and now explores our current world where looking horrific events have become a form of entertainment with his series, Atomic Overlook.
His photos have been exhibited in group shows across the country, including the Annenberg Space for Photography, MOPLA, Pink Art Fair Seoul,
PhotoPlace and Impossible Project NYC. He has been featured internationally in print and online in publications such as Fraction, Square,
Diffusion, F-Stop, PH and Shots Magazines. Recently, he was a featured “Ten” through Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, and North Light Press
will be publishing an edition of his Cuba photos through their 11+1
series. He is also an avid self-publisher with several titles that
exhibit as part of the Indie Photobook Library.
This series re-contextualizes a legacy of atomic tests in order to keep the reality of our post-atomic era fresh and omnipresent. It also speaks to the current state of the world and the voyeuristic culture we live in. Imagine if the advent of the atomic era occurred during today’s information age. Tourists would gather to view bomb tests, at the “safe” distances used in the 1950’s, and share the resulting cell phone photos online. Broadcast media would regurgitate such visual fodder ad nauseum, bringing new levels of desensitization.
The threat of atomic weapons is as great as ever, but it is a hidden specter. Nuclear proliferation has gained even more obscurity through the “rogue” factions that can now possess them. Meanwhile America’s stockpile of weapons continues to be modernized and will probably never cease to exist. I can only hope that mankind will never again suffer the wrath of such a destructive force, but it is clear that the world would not hesitate to watch.
Nearly every weekend, I drive an hour north of Albuquerque to a place just south of Santa Fe. My in-laws have owned this nearly 100 year-old house for about 38 years and it is where my wife was born. It is a place of great comfort and a place where I love to spend time. We spend enough time there to consider it our home away from home.
Kerry Mansfield is a success story on so many levels. Her commitment to her craft, her honesty and bravery in sharing personal challenges, and her continuing evolution as an artist all contribute to her her success as a photographer, plus she recently opened a solo exhibition of her new work, Grounded, at the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta that will run through May 12th, 2012. It’s wonderful to celebrate this joy-infused body of work that leaves the viewer soaring.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Kerry moved to Los Angeles when she was 16. She attended UC Berkeley, majoring in social theory and photography, and then studied Architecture at California College of the Arts. She returned to her photographic roots and for the last ten years has been working in the commercial photography business in San Francisco. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, her life took a new turn, but by sharing her visual diary she helped us to understand the journey and insights of being a cancer survivor. Her new series, Grounded, celebrates life with gusto.
GROUNDED: In the late summer of 2009, a long and severe depression took over my existence with no respite in sight. Neither medications nor well meaning friends and family could pull me up out of a growing world of darkness. Lost in my interior world and purposefully isolated from loved ones there was only one place that I could go and find relief from the familiar abyss. There, sheer cliffs perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean provided a natural refuge where I could lose myself completely awed by the immense views and my feeling of insignifance next to them. For the first time in my artistic career I brought my camera with me in an effort to understand my feelings of hopelessness and carry home a sense of serenity I always felt there.
“Grounded” is the culmination of that time and the impulses that brought me there. Settled now and truly stable in my daily existence, I finally felt safe approaching those images and sharing my experience through them. I began to revisit the way in which we inhabit the space at the boundaries of land, sea and sky. I kept returning to certain images that somehow felt like a balance between the unease and the peace I felt during the hours I spent at the edge of the ocean. Over time, the consistent thread in my work of capturing spaces, their boundaries and the concept of home began to weave its way into these images. The figures in these compositions represent less the individuals in the pictures but an unexplained attraction to the edges of our environment. We all seem drawn to a seashore, the crest of a tall hill, or even the sky, dangerously out of reach. When I find myself in these places, a sense of my own small place within the environment could easily elicit a sense of fear and unease, yet, inexplicably I find a peace not often found in the places over which I control.
Congratulations Kerry, on your new body of work and you exhibition at the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery! This work really represents so much more that just the image–it feels like you are ready to fly and soar and more forward. Tell us how the work came about?
When I started shooting I really had no intention of sharing the images or creating a series from them at all. I went through a very rough time in 2009 and struggled with a severe depression that almost propelled me to take my own life. It’s a bit ironic considering how hard I fought to stay alive when I had cancer years before but I had a very hard time reorienting my life after my illness and a string of very unsatisfying jobs and relationship issues made it hard to move forward. The place in these images has always been a refuge for me from my daily life in the city. In a painful turn of events (which are too private to share) I finally came out the other side and then decided to take photos just for my own mental health in 2010 because I felt this location played a huge part in saving my life. I owed it to the landscape in an odd way.
Grounded feels like a completely new way of working and seeing for you–it’s joyful, stripped down, and specific. Is this a new direction?
Absolutely. My Borderline series took almost 10 years to complete because I worked full time and did my artwork on evenings and weekends. The work is extremely complex and very visually “busy”. Then I released Aftermath which was a radical departure from my fine art work. At that time I was becoming a bit obsessed with the question “How little do you need to have in a picture to consider it a photograph?” One of my inspirations was Orit Raff who had the most stunning photo of a white dishcloth and nothing else. The simplicity and beauty seemed so perfectly done and the image almost felt “empty”. With Grounded I tried to create “canvases” of spatial compositions that were similar and painfully simple. The figures are the actual subjects of the images but they are almost imperceptible as well. Essentially, for me Grounded has fields of color that provide both calm and a sense of unease with their simplicity.
Is the series finished?
I haven’t decided to be honest. The lighting is best during September so I may head back out and try to make new images with the same thesis. I’ll keep you posted on that one . . .
A lot of your earlier work feels like it deals with introspection–what were your thoughts when making The Cabin and Borderline?
Honestly, I love the Cabin series. Again, due to it’s simplicity and the cabin is also where I shot my first Borderline image so they are intertwined in my mind. The images from the Cabin work were a study in everyday objects that took on a rich history of the people who occupied it over time. Essentially, the photos are formal portraits of objects. Even the walls themselves radiated the memories of time spent there by dozens of women over a 20 year span. The Cabin no longer exists so now the work has an aspect of anthropology and archeology as well.
Borderline started as a bizarre experiment when I saw a reflection outside the cabin window and also saw the inside at the same time. I had no idea what the film would actually record so when I got my contact sheets I was hooked on the odd separation of space. Since I have studied both architecture and interior design the work became a natural extension of my attraction to spatial compositions. Then I got, yet again, obsessed with hunting down the circumstances that create a Borderline image to find as many as possible. It took a long time and I edited out so many images along the way but at the end the final collection is a true overview of that 10 year period. The original image from the cabin is still in the series.
Aftermath is such a powerful series. It was an incredibly brave project. Can you speak about it, and also the result of sharing such a personal story?
Well, often people tell me that it was a brave thing to shoot and share but quite frankly, there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity and I feel like it was the latter. When I released Aftermath on the PDN “Photo of the Day” blog I honestly thought that only fellow photographers would see the work. I had no idea how far it would travel and how many people outside of our community would see it. That same day the team of people that I managed at work saw the series on Reddit and several other sites so everyone had seen me half naked. I went home a bit stunned and dazed but once it was out there was no going back. Today I feel so blessed with the awards the series has garnered. That said, I still haven’t had a solo show for the entire series. I’m holding out hope that there is a museum or gallery owner who has the courage to put it on the walls and stand by the decision. It’s hard work to look at but if art doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable every once and a while I don’t think it’s done it’s job.
Does having survived cancer change your outlook as a photographer?
It’s changed my outlook as a human being first. I have no fear of death. None. If I’m here for another year or another 30 I’m just trying to use the time to complete as many projects as I can conjure up. Sometimes I get a bit restless with my work and wish I was further along in my career because I had to spend over a year sick in bed and everyone else continued to move forward and prosper. I’m an obsessive compulsive person by nature so I suffer from never feeling satisfied with my work. On the one hand it makes me work harder than almost all of my friends but also can leave me constantly dissatisfied. For example, Grounded was accepted into Review Santa Fe last week but I got sad when I didn’t win one of the awards! Life is short and I’ve got a lot left to do so I just put more energy into my work and push forward.
What advice can you give emerging photographers, especially on presentation, on networking, on consistently producing excellent work?
Just don’t stop creating work because that’s the death of an artist. It doesn’t even have to be good but if you continue to shoot and hone your eye over time eventually you’ll make something that stuns people. My motto is the tried and true “Never, Never, Never, Never, Never give up.” by Winston Churchill.
What opportunity took your career to the next level?
Review Santa Fe in 2009. I took Borderline out from under my bed and jumped on a plane to New Mexico. The rest has tumbled out of those connections and my endless attempts to get my work out in front of the public. When you’re unknown you’re the only person who’s going to “sell” your work and yourself. I don’t take this lightly and probably spend 50% of my artistic time simply promoting.
How do you keep yourself creatively motivated?
It’s actually a compulsion. When I’m not making pictures I feel hollow inside. I took a year off in 2007 and the depression started creeping in. I learned the hard way that my work keeps me sane, on a good day.
And finally, what would be your perfect day?
Two hours of yoga. A long walk either on the coast or in the mountains with my fiancé and dog.Then, after a dinner at my favorite vegetarian restaurant, consuming at least two different dark chocolate desserts. Because hey, life is short.
Last summer, gallerist Jennifer Schwartz had an idea to challenge the traditional gallery model, and the result of her brainstorming was The Ten. “The Ten is not meant to replace the traditional gallery model. It is meant to supplement the gallery experience and bridge the gap between looking at art online and engaging in a local art community experience. Galleries need to tap into this energy and build relationships with potential collectors. We need to create an environment that is open, dynamic and fresh. We have to educate, cultivate and draw people in to the unique experience a gallery can offer.”
In addition to The Ten, Jennifer raised funds through Kickstarter to start an on-the-road Crusade for Collecting.
I am honored to be the tenth TEN, and am in the wonderful company of Tami Bone, Jeff Rich, Chloe Aftel, Heidi Lender, Mikael Kennedy, Elizabeth Flemming, Lori Vrba, Laura Griffin, and Rachel Barrett who have come before me. I created all new work for this Ten, challenging myself to rethink children’s play things. The prints are for sale individually, or if the entire collection is purchased, not only do the photographs come in a beautiful box, but you will receive an additional image! These images are exclusive to the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery and can be purchased through the gallery.
Child’s Play: As a photographer, visual anthropologist, and mother, I am very interested in artifacts designed for children that define who we are and who we should be. Armed with an adult perspective, I look at what has been presented to children as simply afternoon activities. These playthings often carry the suggestion of something more, through undertones of facial expression and dress, societal roles, and idealist perspectives.
Paper dolls and Barbie dolls informed my own childhood about fashion, femininity, status, and elegance. Dolls and doll dress changed in my daughter’s generation, bringing less sophistication and more sexuality to the experience, as little girls were emulating Britney Spears, rather than Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. But as these photographs reflect, sexuality was always in the picture, no matter the decade.
By examining paper dolls, especially those from the 1940’s-1970’s, I have discovered the subtext of characterizing ourselves through perfectionist role models and observed a generic sameness to what was and is offered up to our children for self definition. For The Ten, I have created new realities, new pairings, explored the sexual nature of the dolls, and had fun with time worn clichés. Investigating these templates for adulthood has made me acutely aware of how narrow the ideals of family and adulthood were, leaving no room for the celebration of race or alternative choices.
I think it’s important to take stock at the end of each year–to celebrate and be grateful for successes, to understand failures, and to set goals for the future. I feel particularly grateful this year. I was offered wonderful opportunities, got to travel to a variety of photo related events around the US and in China, and most importantly, am very appreciative that I can create work in a community that is incredibly supportive and communicative.
First, I want to thank the galleries and photographers that supported my curatorial efforts with the exhibitions Redefining Hollywood at the Factory Gallery and later at the Analog Salon in Los Angeles, and Summertime Exhibition at the Duncan Miller Projects in Santa Monica.
I am also appreciative for the opportunites to juror exhibitions and competitions: the Center for Fine Art Photography’s Dreams Exhibition, the Downtown: Incomplete LA exhibition at the Terrell Moore Gallery, Critical Mass 2011, and the upcoming Imagination exhibition at the A Smith Gallery in Texas and the I Spy:Camera Phone Photography at the Kiernan Gallery in Virginia. I am also thrilled to have attended Photolucida as an artist this year, and Review LA and Filter Photo Festival as a reviewer.
Thank you to the gallerists, directors, and editors for giving me the opportunity to share my work: Crista Dix from Wall Space Gallery, Valerie and Vicenc Boned from Galeria Tagomago, Jennifer Schwartz from the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, Elizabeth Barragan and Kathleen Mahoney-Cobb from Finch & Ada, Dan Miller from the Duncan Miller Gallery, Jason Landry from The Panoptican Gallery, Daniel Cooney from the Emerging Artist’s Auction, The Darkroom Gallery, The Soho Photo Gallery, Ann Jastrab the Rayko Photo Gallery, the Honor Fraser Gallery, Melanie and Michelle Craven from the Tilt Gallery, Elizabeth Houston from Hous Projects, Liz Gordon from The Loft at Liz’s, Julia Dean from the Julia Dean Gallery, Amber Terranova from PDN, and more.
Teaching is a big part of my life and I want to extend a huge thank you to my AMAZING students in Los Angeles that I have worked with at the Julia Dean Photo Workshops over the years, and to my students in the virtual world–they continue to enrich my life and I am so proud of their accomplishments. It was a pleasure teaching workshops in Chicago and Colorado this year, and I look forward to my first experience at the Santa Fe Workshops in March, where I am teaching The Big Picture.
And lastly, thank YOU, the wonderful Lenscratch readers who remain curious and excited about looking at all kinds of photography. There are some changes afoot with the blogzine, so keep an eye out.
It was an amazing year, one of those years where wonderful things happened when I was least expecting them. And I thought I’d have time lots of time to make new work…hmmm!
The cover of PDN and recognition for my workshop teaching…
Having my image on the cover, tickets, posters of the Photo Off Festival in Paris…this image was featured on the sides of buses and on posters around the city…
Traveling to China…
My continuing goal is to make more time to create work. In order to do that, it means less time down the rabbit hole of Facebook and Twitter and social media outlets.
I want to get a book or two out into the world.
I want to explore more conceptual work and push traditional boundaries a bit.
I would love to hear from you–things you would like to see on Lenscratch, subjects you would like to see explored, or any ideas you want to pass my way.
I wish you all a very very happy, healthly, prosperous, and productive 2012! Be sure to visit the Favorite Photographs of 2011 Lenscratch Exhibition tomorrow!
Thinking outside the box, Jennifer Schwartz of Atlanta’s Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, has come up with a unique idea for bringing fine art photography to collectors…she has just launced a Kickstarter campaign which will allow her to travel the country, bringing photographs to the people, rather than the people to the photographs…and you can help her to get started.
So in her words:
Its a crusade. A crusade for collecting.
Bringing art to the people.
Tell me about this crusade. . .
Culturally, we are in our prime. We have sophisticated tastes and crave unique experiences. We are on-trend, we are curious, we are seekers.
And yet, we dont buy art. roofing repairs . We dont patronize galleries and museums, and we dont support artists. Abstractly, we think art is interesting and to be valued, but we are not collectors.
I am on a crusade for collecting. For cultivating a new crop of art collectors. For making collecting cool.
Because it is cool. Falling in love with an original piece of art and buying it. That is collecting. It doesnt have to cost you thousands of dollars or even make a huge dent in your paycheck. Its about the connection. Its about looking at something and having an emotional response. Feeling something. Home Security Systems in San Fernando, CA . And then purchasing that piece and hanging it on your wall and living with it. Your home becomes personal. Your walls start to describe you, and everywhere you look you see something you love.
That is collecting. And that is beyond cool.
So what am I going to do about it?
Well, if were talking crusade, then Ive got to get out there. Not in a medieval military sort of way. All the passion without the violence and gore. A call to arms for art.
So I take this show on the road. I go on a 10 week, 10 city tour and do pop-up shows of photography from The Ten (a project I created to promote photography and collecting). I get a van and trick it out to have storage racks for framed art and flat files. Then I roll into town and show work right out of the van. Bringing art to the people. An art revival, tents and all.
Art is awesome. Heart art.
I want to talk about this far and wide and give people the opportunity to connect with photography and bring it home with them. A different photographer will travel with me on each leg of the trip. Well be talking photography, live blogging, creating podcasts and Blair Witch style video. You will be able to follow us from city to city, and I do hope youll visit.
I want to start a movement, spark a fire.
I just need the wheels.
Because Lenscratch is all about viewing work online, I thought I’d share Jennifer Schwartz’s terrific blog post from earlier this week, where she asked a variety of photographers, editors, and publishers for their perspective on the subject.
As an offshoot of this subject, I want to briefly post my thoughts on sharing work on Facebook as a “look-see” or “get feedback” activity. I have come to realize that outside of using an image to promote an event, exhibition, or work being featured in a publication or garnering an award, our photographs are in a very vulnerable and fragile state when offered up to the masses. My own example was recently when, in a moment of “what the hell”, I posted a new image I wanted to share. I wasn’t asking for feedback, just wanted to share something I was excited about. It got a lot of nice reactions, but I also received a Facebook message from a photographer who stated that it was “just too beautiful to leave alone” and he proceeded to download it, crop it, photoshop the heck out of it, and send it back to me as an “educator”, suggesting that his was the better version. Needless to say I was horrified on so many levels, but it was a signal to me, that it was my own fault for not protecting my work from unnecessary and unwanted feedback or exposure. Something to consider.
Viewing Photography Online: The Perspectives
Posted on July 26, 2011 by Jennifer Schwartz
The photograph and the Internet are a beautiful pairing. More than any other medium, photography is perfectly suited to be viewed online. Over the past ten years, and especially in the last three years, venues for viewing photography online have cropped up everywhere and have flourished. From blogs to online magazines to purchasing sites, the opportunity to get exposure to fine art photography on the internet has skyrocketed.
As a gallery owner and general photography lover and collector, I look at a lot of images both in print and online. From exhibitions to portfolio reviews to my daily trolling through websites and blogs, I see photographs all day long, but most of them are online. I often purchase photographs and select photographers for gallery shows without ever seeing a printed image. It’s easy and powerful and personal to sit in front of my large computer screen and get transfixed by an image.
Not that viewing photography online should replace the experience of seeing a beautiful image printed, framed and hung on a wall. To me it is a supplement. But I was curious to hear some other perspectives on this trend. How do photographers, bloggers, editors and curators experience photography online?
Laura Griffin, photographer
When I finished graduate school with an MFA in 2001, I left with big dreams. I was encouraged to want recognition, attention, a solo show – just to see my name in print somewhere. It feels great to be that ambitious, to acknowledge you want it, and have your mentors tell you to go for it. Except…the art world doesn’t always work that way.
Back then, the hope was to make a connection with someone important that may want to help you. There are a lucky few for which this worked. For me, sending out slides (!) was an ultimately fruitless endeavor. I wasn’t able to get my work in front of the right gallery at the right time. So, I continued to make work for myself. And that needed to be enough, or I would just quit altogether out of frustration.
Today there is an opportunity to view an endless frontier of photographs online from photographers working all over the world. The strict gallery model is no longer the sole goal for me and a lot of other artists. While it’s still important to be making connections, there is some freedom and possibility that wasn’t there a decade ago. There are countless shows and online forums to submit to, and the choice is really up to the artist whether to participate in that way.
Looking at images online and being a part of that dialogue is crucial today. And although the gallery model did not work for me right out of school, I was able to continue making work and ultimately have found an outlet for that work online. Showing my work online has given me a wider audience and has brought back all of the original ambition and excitement I had towards forging an artistic career.
David Bram, photographer and creator/editor of Fraction Magazine
Because Fraction is an exclusively online photography venue, the representation of a photograph on a screen is paramount to me. As important as a well-printed image is, if it cannot translate well online, I cannot feature it. Both online and printed material should match and be excellent.
That said, online media should just be an introduction to the work. The ultimate goal of a viewer should be to connect to work and want to explore it further, either in person at an exhibition or as a collector who purchases a photograph for themselves.
We are fortunate to be involved with a medium that can be exposed so widely online. The internet makes art generally and photography specifically so much more accessible. You don’t need to live in a major city with access to museums and galleries to love and appreciate photography and to see images from all over the world.
Amy Stein, photographer, teacher and blogger
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sharing My Work Online (posted 7/25 on her blog, reposted with permission)
Blake Andrew’s post about the unauthorized proliferation of Melanie Einzig‘s photograph of a man knitting on the subway highlights an all too familiar tension between content producers and content sharers in the age of social networks. The reality is that if you live and work as an artist on the web you are choosing to both exist in a constant grey area between copyright law and Fair Use and participate in a vast frontier of wobbly ethics that vacillate depending on the network, community or individual. Einzig’s desire to maintain full control over the use of her images is admirable, as is Blake’s call to the blogosphere to help remove all unauthorized uses of the photograph in question, but it does seem a bit like spitting into the social wind.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the proper attribution of images and have done so on my blog since day one. In the age of Google Image Search, there is absolutely no excuse for not crediting an artist. But, I’m also a realist and long ago I fully embraced the idea that my images will travel and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s mostly a very good thing. If someone is moved to share my work or inspired to use it to create something new, that’s kind of cool. I know the free flow of my images has certainly helped my career and I often tell my students to swim with the current and make their work as shareable as possible.
I have found my images in every nook of the Internet, mostly attributed and not altered in any way, but often unattributed, remixed, appropriated as paintings or drawings and cropped in ways that offend me to no end. Every time I come across my work presented like this, I cringe a little, but most of the efforts are benign and nobody is profiting off my intellectual property. When someone is profiting, I shut that shit down.
I understand the photographer’s desire to manage use of her images online, but that became damn near impossible once the web evolved from a destination medium to a networked medium. You can’t stop the flow of information. You basically have two options: don’t post your work online or do so with the knowledge that interesting images will inspire people to share and alter them in ways both good and bad.
I believe it’s important for the arts community to lead by ethical example on this issue, so to that end I solute Blake’s efforts. However, in the spirit of not clogging the flow and respecting the talents and value of artists, I propose a slight modification to Blake’s call to activism. Instead of stripping the images from the web, let’s reach out to the offending posters and ask them to credit Melanie Einzig as well as any and all works they include on their sites in the future. Let’s create a kind of attribution Neighborhood Watch where we confront site owners, editors and publishers that post images without crediting the artist and kindly ask them to get with the program. If we all have each others back on this our little photo community may be able to bring attention to the work of otherwise nameless artists and bring some ethical order to the wild frontier of the social web.
Lauren Henkin, photographer, bookmaker, founder of Photo Radio
Whether looking at photography online is a true or rewarding experience of viewing imagery is certainly a point up for debate. I think that for some photographers, their chosen medium for presentation is online or through some form of electronic distribution. Others photograph with an intent to show their work through traditional prints. Others still choose to show their photographs in book format.
I am writing this from a hotel after spending five straight days with printmaker Tyler Boley in Seattle who helped me print some large images for an upcoming show, and we talked about this topic at length. We both have felt for some time that the experience of viewing a printed photograph far surpasses that of a digital viewing experience for many reasons. I’ve never looked at an image on my monitor and been blown away by it. I remember seeing in person George Tice’s Petit’s Mobile Station, or a Harry Callahan Cape Cod, or a Caponigro Sunflower. Those were ‘a-ha’ moments. Never, have I felt that way looking at an image on screen. It was seeing these prints that made me want to become a photographer.
So, while I understand the necessity of showing images online, do I find it rewarding? No.
However, I do think it has had a huge impact on how photographers widen their audiences, and I would count myself included in that group. The wide influence of blogs, online publications, websites (which now are becoming obsolete), and of course, social media outlets like Facebook has afforded photographers a quick, easy, and inexpensive way of distributing their work to an eager and global audience.
While I am a fan of these new opportunities and have benefited from them, I also think there are downsides that are rarely acknowledged. I think there is more pressure to produce. The expectation for continually putting out new work in order to keep the attention of this newly gained audience which might include gallerists, dealers, and collectors has made five or even ten-year bodies of work more challenging. I think most artists would benefit from time away from looking at imagery and engaging in these outlets to gain perspective on their own work and the freedom to not be influenced by others.
Andy Adams, Editor, Producer, Publisher, FlakPhoto.com
A big part of my mission is to help artists get their work seen and my contributors are always updating me with news about exhibitions and publication opportunities that have come out of their pictures being discovered on the site. Web 2.0 technology has played a huge role in expanding Flak Photo’s reach and the site’s readers are web-savvy people who use social media on a daily basis, so that’s really inspired me to explore how those tools can encourage online audiences to communicate with each other about contemporary photography. In addition to the website, I publish a Facebook page and Twitter feed and I host the Flak Photo Network and Flak Photo Books, Facebook groups focused on photography discussions. I’m passionate about creative collaboration and am constantly energized by what’s happening in the photo community, so publishing the website and participating in these channels gives me an outlet to satisfy that craving.
Flak Photo provides unique opportunities, and it’s just a small part of a vibrant online photo ecosystem brimming with images and ideas. The Internet has changed the way we consider photography, so these are exciting times for image-makers wishing to publicly show their work. The photographer who understands how to be an online publisher can share his or her visual ideas with a worldwide audience and that is incredibly exciting. It’s hard to predict where the technology is heading, but it’s clear that more of us are connecting with each other in blogs and social networks and those connections are bound to provide new opportunities for collaboration and discovery.
Michael Kirchoff, photographer
“I know I’ve seen that picture somewhere before…..”
Anyone who has spent even a minute online looking at photography has noticed the flood of work to be seen from every corner of the planet. Truly, the shrinking of our world from the global online community that exists has given photographers a helping hand in reaching an audience that had been extremely difficult to reach before. What once took an airline flight or a FedEx delivery to share your work (both considerably more expensive, time consuming, and slow), can now be done with a few clicks of the mouse. Even my own social media marketing campaign (sounds so official, huh?) has put me in touch with a vast network of fellow photographers, gallerists, curators, and collectors, and has quickly become a very necessary part of my business. Clearly, the ultimate goal of any photographer in the business of selling prints or handcrafted photobooks would be to connect with the serious collector and turn all of those likes, views, and comments into tangible sales.
Another aspect of the accessibility of quality photography online is that, for me personally, it raises the bar as an artist when I see so much outstanding imagery. I’m constantly blown away at the techniques and ideas that others offer to the world, and it makes me want to be a better photographer because of it. The networking aspects of the online photography community are almost limitless. I regularly view work of other photographers online that I fall in love with and periodically add to my own collection of beautiful and thought provoking work from these talented individuals.
There does seem to be a bit of a downside to the access and ease of seeing work online however. The ability to view work that is enjoyed by a wide audience is wonderful, but it begins to seem as though many feel this is the end result of our efforts, instead of the finished print that could hang on your wall and be appreciated for a lifetime and beyond. It should be mentioned with certain regularity that viewing a photographer’s work online is merely a step to the experience of viewing the physical and tangible print in the gallery or museum setting, and knowing that that print in your own home is the most satisfying experience of all. These prints are indeed works of art that cannot merely be appreciated to the same level in an online aspect.
Aline Smithson, photographer, educator, publisher of Lenscratch
In thinking about how we view the bulk of the photography we experience today, I remembered that when I was a fashion editor, I was required to edit the hundreds of exposures from a photo shoot. In a dark room, I looked at work on a projector screen that went directly to print. There was never a physical photograph to hold and now I realize that it is not unlike looking for work to feature on Lenscratch. I look at thousands and thousands of online images each year, and ultimately, I am looking more for ideas and concepts than the quality of the image. Unlike online dating, when one is confronted with the reality of the digital image (from what I hear, daters are often shocked by the difference of the submitted photo and the real person), when I come across the work in person, I feel like I am meeting an old friend who is looking refreshed and at their best. More often than not, seeing the work in person is a far superior experience–nuances lost on computer screens, scale, and impact are only evident in the actual print–but as an image junkie, I’m happy to look at a photograph in any form.
Once in a while, as a juror or curator, I have been really disappointed in the physical print. The work doesn’t measure up to the small jpg, (due to poor printing skills) and that is a problem when you are juroring an exhibition online and bringing work into a gallery without having seen in it person ahead of time.
When I first started looking at contemporary photographs, it was mainly done by spending hours and hours looking at magazines or books. If you liked someone’s work, you sent them a postcard. Now we have the amazing ability to get our work under the eyes of the world and make connections that never would have happened without the online experience. We are an international community and that is truly remarkable.