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Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Talk Money With Photoville

After posting my first review of Photoville, and questioning their successful Kickstarter project, I received an email from Laura Roumanos inviting me to meet and talk.  I took her up on the invitation and went to the United Photo Industries gallery to meet with Laura and Sam Barzilay.

According to them, the Kickstarter pitch came after some of the partners who had committed money backed off.  They were reluctant until convinced to “get the community involved.” 

When I asked what would have happened if the Kickstarter pitch wasn’t successful, Laura said,
 “We had some back-up plans, but we were very hopeful that the photo and Brooklyn community plus our friends would rally around the project, and we are so grateful and humbled they did.”
The money was for many things, including renting the park, the containers, power, marketing, manpower, tents, etc.  It has cost just shy of $250,000 to make Photoville a reality.

As far as the cost of the containers, Laura said: 
“We worked with all of our partners to tailor a deal that works for them and us.  Every situation was different and we value each and every contribution both financial and in kind. We would like to state that no exhibitor was turned away because they didn't have enough money. In fact we actually turned down a few shows that came with major financial contributions because we did not feel comfortable about the quality of the work and did not want to compromise what we were trying to achieve.”

The aim of Photoville was to make it “accessible, free and fun.”  As for next year, it’s hard to say whether the same space will be available.

So there you have it, some transparency so that you know what is the what.  See you at Photoville again this weekend.  They'll be more great panels and work worth seeing.

 And stay tune for more posts.
 All photographs courtesy of Grayson Dantzic

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Monday, June 25, 2012

All Roads lead to PHOTOVILLE

I spent a much too hot Saturday at Photoville with Julie Grahame, as curious as to what it would be as to seeing particular people and talks.  It was a very long walk from DUMBO to Pier 3, and that could have been explained more clearly on the website.  When we got closer, we got to see the photography on the fence, and I was pleased that the work was varied and looked as good as it did.  I would have liked to see the photos larger, but I always want that.

When we finally got to the site it was time for Jennifer Schwartz talk about her “Crusade for Collecting,” and find out more about her ideas about presenting photography.  I should say here that I supported her Kickstarter project to raise money, and I consider Jennifer a friend.

As a gallery owner in Atlanta who represents 16 photographers, Jennifer is full of exciting and clever ideas on how to expand not only the reach of the photographers, but how to expand the market for collecting photography.  To that end, her planned dinners with photographers and collectors, the ”Crusade" which will travel to 10 cities starting in March, and her partnerships with museums and schools shows Jennifer to be a passionate supporter of photography.  I love her ideas, her energy and her humor. 

Photoville is set up with large metal containers full of photography, some food trucks and a covered tent for the speakers.  On a day when the heat must have been in the 90’s, there was no respite.  But I did see some wonderful work, and the presentation of it was well done for the most part.

Since I plan on going back next weekend to hear more speakers, I didn’t want to look at everything.  But I did look at “Cruel & Unusual,” a fantastic exhibit of photography done in prisons curated by Hester Keijser and Pete Brook, and presented by Noorderlicht (which needs your support).  Not only was there incredible variety to the work, but also much of it was new to me.  The panel moderated by Pete Brook, and featuring Lori Waselchuk, Deborah Luster and Yana Payusova was enlightening.  That it was a panel of women photographers was even better.

Yana Payusova combined her portraits of young prisoners in Russia with the colors and iconography of Russian to bring the prison culture and religion closer to the predominant culture of the country.  As a painter first, Payusova felt her photos needed more context to speak.

Lori Waselchuk spoke of "Grace before Dying," her incredible project featuring the hospice program of Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana.  Begun in 2007, this award-winning project continues to travel the country starting conversations about our prison system.  By collaborating to make quilts with the men in the hospice program who make funeral shrouds for prisoners, Waselchuk has added an easily accessible and unexpected aspect to the project and the larger issue of who we imprison and how we feel about them.

Deborah Luster comes to this kind of photography from a very personal place—a contract killer murdered her mother when she was young.  Photography became a way for her to work through her feelings.  While hired to shoot a story about poverty in Louisiana she went up and knocked on the door of a prison and was allowed in to shoot the inmates.

Seeing that there were several dress-up holidays in the woman’s prison, Luster began shooting small photographs she gave away to her subjects.  Overall, Luster has given away about 25,000 images, taken in both men and women’s prisons. 

This made Luster realize, “the power of the personal photo in peoples’ lives.”  Some people had been in prison so long they had no idea what they looked like.  Others sent the photos to family members.  Luster told the story of one woman with 19 children who had been in prison for many years and had no contact with her family.  After sending the photos to them, three of the children came to visit.

I am looking forward to next weekend and the talks offered, and will look at the balance of the exhibits then.  I do have questions about Photoville, especially what was the money raised on Kickstarter going to be used for?  None of the speakers I asked were paid to come, none had their airfare paid, and many came from the west coast.  So what is the money for?  If Photoville was happening before the Kickstarter campaign began, I’d like some transparency to know where the more than $30,000 is to be used.

And really, if you plan on hosting this again next year, why not in April or May, when the weather won’t be so oppressive?

Fence photos courtesy of Sari Goodfriend.  Panel photo courtesy of Julie Grahame. 

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

FlashForward Festival in Boston

I’ve been to photo festivals all over the place in the past few years, and they all have different value.  Some are mostly portfolio reviews, some add exhibits and talks to their roster, and some, like the one in New York seem to have no value at all.   So what makes a successful festival, and more importantly, should you go?

Having just returned from Boston and the FlashForward festival, I think I can answer that.  Just four hours away by train, the FlashForward festival offers great value to photographers.  Not only is there interesting work exhibited (juried selections geared towards emerging photographers in the US, Canada and the UK), but a fantastic line-up of speakers and panels.

I should say here that I was invited to be an emcee for the festival, and was taken wonderful care of by both the Magenta Foundation who produces the festival, and the fantastic hotel that hosts the festival (the Fairmont Battery Wharf).

I may have been the emcee for various speakers, but I was also excited to hear from John Knight of the iPad photojournalism magazine, ONCE, Tina Ahrens, the founder of crowdfunding site, Alan Taylor who produces The Atlantic photography blog, In Focus, Alan Murabayashi of PhotoShelter, and Maurus Fraser of Winkreative, just to name a few. 

These festivals are a chance to see and be seen.  FlashForward offers a stunning line-up where you not only learn about possible venues for your work, but you get to ask questions, meet and begin relationships with important photo world people. And that’s what it’s about—cultivating relationships to get information and a chance to make a personal connection with someone who might further your career.

So the question remains: Why weren’t there more photographers from New York at this festival?  If you weren’t going to LOOK3, why didn’t you go to Boston?  If your own city doesn’t have anything worthwhile to attend, why not hop the train and hear some fantastic speakers, see interesting work, and hang out with other photographers?

It’s important to put a lot of effort into growing and sustaining a career, and smart photographers will take any opportunity they can to learn, to pick up tips, to meet others and to ask questions of those in the know.  FlashForward was a great opportunity to do all those things.  For those of us who love photography it was a wonderful four days.

I will be blogging more about the talks and panels I attended at FlashForward, and since they were streamed, as soon as I know they’ve been archived on the Magenta Foundation site, I’ll post about that.

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