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The Park Ave Armory is a neat old building

The Park Ave Armory is a neat old building

I’ve attended AIPAD every Spring for years and love every minute of it. There is no other place where I can see the entire history of photography under one roof in one afternoon besides AIPAD. Galleries of every stripe show up and showcase their strongest work to sell. That in itself is interesting because I get a snapshot of current market trends. I won’t say the collection is comprehensive but just about every base is covered by a gallery or other.

AIPAD is an ice cream parlor in the belly of the “Photo World’s” beast. Something sweet for everyone. Here are the galleries I like to visit. Clink on the links to see if you agree.

Charles Isaacs — an amazing collection of vintage photography from the 19th and 20th century. This is where I go to discover and be inspired.

Contemporary Works/ Vintage Works Gallery (Alex Novak) — I visit this gallery for the same reason.

Bonni Benrubi — She has a wonderful collection of contemporary photographers and artists.

Catherine Edelman — The work she represents is evocative, witty, and engaging. I’m a huge fan of Robert and Shana Park Harrison and had the pleasure of hearing them discuss their work and process at an SPE Northeast Conference.

Catherine Couturier — Love the selection of work she shows and the artists she represents. A great mix of old and new which clearly illustrate the history of photography and affirm the fact that great ideas and themes are timeless.

Staley Wise Gallery — This gallery has a real representation of commercial work that easily crosses over into fine art. I like seeing that. Their current exhibition of Bert Stern’s work is a wonderful example.

Paul Cava — Lots of different processes and a very smart collection of vintage and contemporary artists. I go to AIPAD to see work found in this gallery.

Etherton Gallery — My colleague David Emitt Adams is represented by this gallery. Once again, there is a nice mix.

PNDB (Photos Do Not Bend) Gallery — I bought my first Keith Carter prints from this gallery. Burt and Missy Finger are straight forward, kind, and excited about photography.

Its fun to make art and not think about money. However, if you plan to have any career in the arts that is based on the selling of said art, you better see what people are willing to pay for work that is similar to what you are making. That’s right, if you attend AIPAD, you’re going to bump into some work that looks a lot like yours. This is a necessary dose of humility which frees up some space for making better work. Knowing there is an audience for the work I create saves a lot of energy in the creative process.

I go to be inspired by the work of old masters and new “stars”. I get a better idea of what galleries are “right” for my images by seeing what they are showing in their booth. Websites don’t always accomplish this in the same way. It costs a lot more to ship actual photos to New York than it does to upload to a website. That kind of commitment to an artist speaks volumes.

At AIPAD, I get to talk to people who are just as interested in photography (gallery owners, artists, fellow collectors, curators) as I am. At AIPAD, I get to I introduce myself to the owner or artist, take their cards and get in touch later. Some call it speed dating, I call it a lovely way to meet people who share the same interests for the sake of meeting. It beats Facebook hands down.

After all is said and done about social networks and whatnot, making and collecting art comes down to old fashioned face to face relationships. I don’t go to AIPAD to have my suspicions and cynicism confirmed but to have them dispelled. It is nice to know there is a place at the “Photo Industry” table for just about anyone willing to do the work. Galleries play a very important part in promoting photography. The investment they make to participate at AIPAD is not a small one and should be respected.

Also, I like rubbing elbows with the big shots. I know, I’m shallow for thinking that way but it’s true. It is reassuring to see people I admire hustling as hard (if not harder) than me to get things going. You can’t leave the Park Ave. Armory without a profound respect for the work that is being done to get seen there. No one gets off easy in that regard.

Business woes aside, the main reason I go is to just be an audience member for my fellow photographers. I love being able to look at the photos and buy them. I collect photography because I need to be a good audience member in order to be a good photographer. I don’t have the time or budget to make every opening that I want to attend or collect every piece that inspires me. AIPAD allows me cover a lot of bases in an afternoon or two. Even if I leave empty handed, I’m encouraged by what I see and the people I meet. That’s worth the price of the ticket alone.