I’m back from Fotofest. It was a very intense few days. Like Hedley Lamarr, “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.”
First, the other photographers that I met and connected with.
Keith Taylor is a photographer and platinum printer. I’m a real admirer of his work and business. We are Facebook friends and it’s fun to connect personally.
Beth Dow. She is Keith’s wife and a very talented photographer as well. I’ve been following both their work for a while now. Getting to meet personally was fun.
Sal Lopes. He is one of the best platinum printers around and even though he lives up near Boston, I don’t have the time to just “pop” in whenever I want. I always appreciate his take on the art world and art making. I’m honored to consider him a friend and mentor.
Mara Trachtenberg from Rhode Island. Our kids go to the same school and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to her class at the University Of Rhode Island.
Maggie Meiners, a Chicago based photographer with a real wit.
Roger Eberhard is a Swiss photographer. His spare landscapes and buildings are pretty incredible. Don’t take my word for it, visit his website.
Susan Goldstein I met her while I was waiting to show Hamidah Glasgow my prints. Susan has a wide variety of images focused on the landscape. To be honest, I just started looking at it and I like what I see.
Who were my reviewers? Here is the list (in order) with some links to their information. You might want to look them up yourself. I’m not going to bore you with the sordid details of each visit but give a quick thumbnail sketch for your reference.
Ed Carey: Owns Gallery 291 in California. He was my first reviewer and my first choice. So, I didn’t have a lot of my mojo working but we had a nice chat and he liked my work. I’m reminded that this is just the start of a conversation. It seems that to have a viable gallery, you need to have a wider offering of services. We talked about workshops and other processes.
Jean Caslin and Diane Gregory: These two women were very helpful and encouraging. They took notes and gave some great advice on presentation. Jean kept on wondering why she thought she knew me.
Katherine Hart : What really impressed me was how she had researched me before our meeting. She liked the work I showed and made some suggestions on how to present my editorial work as art. She mentioned specific projects and everything.
Fabian Gonclaves Borrega : He was great because we just got to look at the work and have a conversation about it with little or no “angle”. It’s refreshing to just share stuff with someone without expectation. He liked it. Who knows what will happen.
Katrin Weber : Current director of Gallery 5.6 in Munich. She was one of my favorites because she was so blunt and free form in her review. While she admired the work that went into my portfolio, she didn’t really think it was that interesting. However, her feedback was some of the best because she hit on some points that I have been thinking about too. She moved my prints all over the place on the table, talked while she looked and let me have it with both barrels. I admire someone who can do that with work that doesn’t really interest them. We might never have a professional relationship, but I’d sure be blue if we couldn’t be friends. I like the cut of her jib.
Karen Sinsheimer : She had some great insight and questions about my process now and going forward. I learned a little bit about the museum world that I didn’t know.
James Maloney : He collects portraits and I showed him landscapes. That’s okay because we got to talk about platinum printing and the meaning for my titles. It was a bit freewheeling and I liked the way he thought about things.
Roy Flukinger : He really took the time to look at each print carefully. His feedback was spot on and encouraging. He said my work has some real moments of originality but also there was a lot of reference to pictorialism that didn’t need to be included. That’s interesting feedback because what he was uncovering was the voice underneath the style. So, his session (which ended five minutes early) was very helpful to me going forward.
Paula Tongarelli : Full disclosure, I knew her before I came out. Still, I wanted to meet with her to sort out some stuff for upcoming projects and to get her take on some things. It’s good to have people you know at these sessions so you can get past all the pleasantries. She gave some great advice about some of the reviewers I’m seeing and echoed some of my thoughts as well.
Rod Slemmons : Rod was looked at my work and made some interesting connections for me. We talked about teaching and presenting work. I mentioned that I was a member of SPE. I don’t know what the outcome of this meeting will be, but it was a good session and I have made a friend.
Barbara Tannenbaum : This meeting really was a classic introduction. I didn’t have anything she was interested in right now but she was curious about where I was going with my work. We talked about the creative process and the art world. Because of her position, she has an interesting perspective about collecting photography. I used this meeting to get a better idea as to what my best fit would be. I agreed with some of her suggestions and took the rest on board.
Del Zogg This was a good meeting because I felt he understood the process and we could just talk about where I was and where I am going with the work. One of the great things about Fotofest is the way my thinking improved with each meeting. Granted, I’ve thought a lot about my work but I never had such a concentrated amount of feedback regarding it. So, with each meeting, I got a better perspective. We talked about swapping prints.
Dennis Keil : I admit it, I used the University of Cincinnati connection. I wanted to shoot the breeze a little bit and see what happened. He liked my work and the images that he liked more than others was in keeping with what other people were saying.
Nela Eggenberger : She was a reviewer that I was assigned to and so we had a nice time just looking at prints and she gave some great advice for shows I could enter in Europe. Sometimes it is the people that you least expect to be helpful that are helpful. I knew we could be friends after she asked if I had ever been to “Paris Photo” as opposed to “Par-ree Photo”. It is very interesting that the person who actually lives in Europe calls it that while every American uses the latter form. What does it all mean? I don’t know.
Burt Finger : I’ve known Burt since 1998 when I bought my first (and every other) Keith Carter print from him. I’m an admirer of his business sense and integrity. I wanted to show him my work to get an honest perspective on where I am and what I can do with it. I was not disappointed.
Katlin Booher : This was another meeting to get a fresh perspective on my work. I also just wanted to introduce myself to her and start a conversation about creativity. Both of those things happened. While the work I make and the work she likes to curate are two different things, we had a productive conversation.
Dragana Vujanovic : It’s interesting. As a representative of the Hasselblad Foundation, she had nothing for me but as a person, she liked the work I showed. That’s what is so interesting about these portfolio reviews. I wanted her to look at them without the professional lens and we had a nice time talking about photography. It is important to remember that reviewers are people too. What they are looking for professionally and what they like personally are sometimes two different things. I wouldn’t have found that out if I just went by the description on her profile.
Alison Pappas : She was my last reviewer for the session and I picked her because she went to Brown and thought we could talk about Rhode Island for a second or two. That happened. I found the questions she asked to be very good. She was really very curious to learn more about me, the artist as well as the work. She responded well to the prints. Since she was the last, it was a great summation of the review sessions. My brain was also pretty much mush by that time. It happens.
Now, the bigger issue is what to do with all this feedback now that I’m home? What did I want to have happen and what did happen? I wanted an honest take on the work I made and also direction for moving forward as an artist. I wasn’t looking for sales or representation, I was looking for guidance and I got it.
Some other things that happened, which I didn’t know I needed but received, was the permission to not pick up right where I left off. I no longer need to prove to the world that I’m a good platinum printer or defend why I use the process in my work. Having those questions answered creates space for new thoughts and ideas. My process for working has been validated: staying out of the way of the work and listening to a persistent and clear voice.
I had some great Mexican food right down the street at a place called Guadalajara. I also had Waffles and Chicken at The Breakfast Klub…twice!
In short, I had a great time and learned a ton. The good news is I don’t need to figure it all out right now. The only advice I could share to anyone attending would be to just share your enthusiasm for the work you do and see what happens. Have a right sized agenda and low expectations. Often times, the noise of what I want can overpower the sound of what’s actually happening. That’s deep. I think I’ll stop right there.