image by Aline Smithson
I've been on the road since September, visiting photo festivals across the country and I've been thinking a lot about the experiences and the photographers I have met and wanted to share some thoughts. I have to say, it's an amazing community, filled with good will, curiosity, passion, and really, really good people. I think there is something special about those who use a visual language, who are reinterpreting the world close-up and far away. I left each event filled up with friendships, with images, with experiences that make this journey a richer one.
I have always told my students that it is equally important to meet fellow photographers at these events, and not to solely focus on meeting with people that they think might change one's career. Sometimes at photo events, photographers can be a bit myopic and self-focused, trying to tug on the sleeve of important reviewers. They don't realize that those who don't make it all about themselves, benefit the most--and often times, it will be a peer that makes something happen in their career. More has come to me, and to my career, from my relationships with other photographers than from anywhere else--the evidence of this statement seems profoundly evident after my recent travels--just looking at this fall, almost every invitation came from a relationship with a photographer.
I truly marvel at how many photographers are changing the photographic landscape by giving their time and energies to promote work that is not their own. Photographer Scott B. Davis created the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego this September, photographer Sarah Hadley created the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago, I went to the SW Regional SPE conference, all run by photographers. I attended Fotoweek DC started by Theo Adamstein (a photographer) and was invited to teach at the event by photographer E. Brady Robinson who I had traveled with in China. Photographers Jennifer Shaw, Millie Fuller, and Lori Waselchuk, privotal players at PhotoNola, not only invited me to teach a workshop and review, but Jen helped me secure a gallery in New Orleans.
As I sat in the portfolio reviewing room at Photo Nola, I looked over at Blue Mitchell, a fellow photographer who started Diffusion Magazine, a publication that features historical and non-traditional ways of approaching photography, then I looked at photographer Gordon Stettinius who has not only become a publisher, but opened Candela Gallery and is working on creating a significant collection of photographs for gallery. I looked at photographer Bryan Formhals who champions the online community (especially Flickr) and has celebrated many image makers in his terrific LPV Magazine.
At the Medium Festival photographer Susan Burnstine found work to celebrate in her articles for Black and White Magazine (UK), photographer David Bram reviewed as editor of Fraction Magazine and in Chicago, photographer Kevin Miyazaki looked for new work for his amazing Collect.Give program and photographer Christy Karpinski reviewed for her long time publication, F Stop Magazine. Photographer Russell Joslin also reviewed for his labor of love, SHOTS Magazine which he has edited for years, photographer Bill Schwab shared his sage insights from years behind the lens and as a workshop educator and photographer Kyohei Abe reviewed for the Detroit Center of Photography where he is now the director. And there are more that I am sure I am forgetting.
I am not diminishing all the amazing curators, editors, and gallerists that make up our photography community, but I wanted to recognize the tremendous support that photographers lend to each other, often without recognition or financial compensation of any sort.
So next time you are at a photo or review event, remember that the person sitting next to you clutching their portfolio box, just might change your life one day.