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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Operation Art: Connecting the Military Community

Operation Art: Connecting the Military Community is proposed by Stephanie Shively

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

I first became aware of Crusade for Art through Society for Photographic Education. The website and past submissions motivated me to submit a proposal for the Crusade Engagement Grant. I was particularly inspired by the language - “…to create unique approachable programs that bring new audiences to photography and allow them to engage with art in a meaningful way.” As a military spouse of five years and an artist for most of my life, I have noticed the need and potential demand for art within the military community. Military installations, particularly army bases, are often located in remote areas where hubs of art and culture are not readily accessible. The military lifestyle can be isolating, frustrating, and stressful at times. I have found that creating and viewing art related to this experience can be therapeutic and cathartic.

How did you come up with the idea for your project?

I developed the concept for Operation Art from the isolation I’ve experienced as both an army wife and an artist. I felt caught between two very different and disconnected worlds. My MFA thesis exhibition, All Requisite Parts, explored this experience and communicated my struggle to balance the roles and expectations of a mother, army wife, and artist. Through showing this work, I learned that even though military life is relatively unfamiliar to most people, it is not completely beyond comprehension. Universal feelings and sentiments connect us all, regardless of occupation or lifestyle. I hope that by bringing photographic art that explores the human condition onto military bases, a connection will be fostered between visual artists, the military community, and the general public.  

How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?

I think education about art is extremely important. Intention, detail, and the overall experience of art is lost in translation when solely viewed on a computer screen. It is our responsibility as artists to share our work and explain why and how we make it. We must bring our art and information about art to communities who would benefit from it. Whether it is a workshop or class, open studio event, panel discussion, lecture, anything, to engage the community, cultivate connections and spread awareness.  

Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?

Things that are unfamiliar are often intimidating. I think many people find art intimidating because it may not be readily accessible to them. Perhaps they feel ill-equipped to judge or understand something that is uncommon to them. I think transparency and education are key in lowering the perceptual barriers of art collection. Having a website, marketing oneself online, and exhibiting at galleries and traditional venues is great, but to broaden our audience and gain potential collectors we need to think past the norm. Art is still shrouded in mystery, especially for people who are very much removed from the art world. Programming in non traditional venues like schools, community centers, military bases, rehabilitation centers, etc. would deconstruct barriers. The programming, such as artist talks, panel discussions, and workshops could focus on development of ideas, the process of art making, and the role and responsibility of art/artists. These events could foster personal connection, enabling art collection to become more of a transaction and interaction between artist and audience rather than the exclusive, pressure filled environments of auctions or gallery openings. 

Like this idea? Vote here for your favorite and the winner receives $1,000!

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FOCAL POINT Group Interview: Role-Play, Introspection, and Photography

The FOCAL POINT Q2.16 photographers Rocio de Alba, Carla Jay Harris, and Hannah Cooper McCauley are artists who use photography as a means to examine themselves introspectively. We decided we wanted to get more personal with these mysterious women and had a little chat about their lives beyond the camera.

 

Can you provide us with some background information on your artistic career? How did you get to where you are right now and what influenced your decision to be an artist? 

Rocio: My father was a large-scale portrait painter and a graphic designer in our country, El Salvador. He was a tremendous influence on me as far as pursuing an artistic career. But, it was my mother's work ethic and dedication that drives me to work as hard as I do. I think I've only scratched the surface of where I am going or where I want to be as an artist. I am extremely active in the art community and attend as many exhibitions as I can. I have also educated myself in photography by attending lectures, workshops, and retreats, like with the Flash Powder Projects.  

Carla: I've always had an interest in artistry. My parents are both artists, so art, museums and material culture were always a part of our home. I started working in photography about ten years ago commercially and then later as a documentary artist. My fine art practice developed slowly as both of my earlier pursuits started to become less fulfilling.  

Hannah: When I was 17 after a routine trip to the eye doctor I learned that I have a degenerative, hereditary eye condition called optic nerve head drusen. My eyes are unable to dispose of waste properly and that waste builds up in the form of calcium deposits that embed themselves in my optic nerve which cause gradual visual field loss and sometimes blindness. Because of this, my parents bought me my first camera—a small, digital point and shoot. For the first time I was beginning to see the world differently, and I discovered a new kind of voice way more powerful than any words my quiet lips could form. In undergrad, I began to pursue photography seriously and after graduating I made the choice to get my MFA in photography along with my husband. Now, I’m at the end of the experience and preparing to graduate. 

 

How does your personal identity inform the work that you make? 

Carla: My work is inspired by or derived from my personal experience.  As the child of a military officer, I spent my childhood in flux – moving every 2-3 years for the first half of my life. This pattern of transience continued into adulthood due to familial obligations, financial restrictions and indoctrinated habit. Through my work, I connect to each new physical, economic, and emotional landscape by exploring its impact on the lives of its inhabitants. My identity and personal history informs my understanding of space but I do not take either alone as a point of departure.                   

Hannah: My personal identity fully informs the work I make. Every decision I make when creating a photograph is informed by my personal experiences—my upbringing as the child of a Southern Baptist minister, my vision problems, my transition from childhood to adolescence to maturity, etc. In fact, the loudest question being asked in my photographs is my own question of who I am. I’m trying to work out my own identity, and I use the act of making photographs to search for answers.

 

How relevant is the notion of role-playing in your work?

Rocio: Role-playing is a huge part in my work and the majority of my series consists of self portraiture. I invest an extensive amount of money and time into wigs, make-up, custom jewelry, as well as staging the scene with backgrounds, wallpaper, and paint. For instance, in my series Honor Thy Mother, I attempt to define the gamut of the contemporary mother archetype by portraying extremely surreal, yet undeniably realistic female characters of today. My twenty-two-year-old daughter is a master at make-up so she has been very helpful in the production of these characters. While it takes a great amount of work to make these images, it is a process that is fun for me.

Carla: I'd say it is very relevant to my most recent works. These pieces combine collage, digital imagery, illustration and portraiture to blur the line between the actual and the artificial. Each subject is simultaneously playing her(his)self while also illustrating a historical and social political figure of subjectivity.   

Hannah: I think it’s incredibly relevant. For me, the performative act of making my photographs is therapeutic—that’s the biggest reason why I’m drawn to self-portraiture. There’s something about being able to act something out in front of the camera, even if it’s for an indirect audience, that I find so fulfilling.

 

Are you satisfied with the representation of female photographers in today’s artistic community? Are there changes you would like to see?

Rocio: I am a feminist by definition and I think that is visible in my work. The world has a plethora of inequalities in gender specificities, but in the short time humans have existed, female leaders have helped pave the road for the rest of us in positive directions. I am in no way saying that we are where we should be, but we continue to move forward. Acceptance of one another is the change I would like to see.

Hannah: No, I am not. I think there are a growing number of strong female photographers out there with powerful stories to tell, but they aren’t getting recognized. Overall, I think that women are widely underrepresented in the canon of photography. I’d like to see more opportunities for female voices to be heard throughout the medium, exclusively—in exhibition, print, and otherwise.

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Behold: Haley Morris-Cafiero

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

When Haley Morris-Cafiero’s series “Wait Watchers” went viral, it quickly set out to do what she intended: open up a dialog about the ways in which we perceive one another.  Cafiero’s self-portraits of strangers looking at her (she allows interpretation of the glances up to the viewer) are provocative. When the series took off, Cafiero felt the critique of the series would revolve mostly around the quality of the photographs. Instead, although many comments were positive, many were negative, attacking Cafiero’s weight, appearance, clothing choices and lack of makeup. Her intention to begin a conversation about body image partially morphed into a conversation about the darker side of the Internet, one fueled by anger she feels is the product of invented – and anonymous – personas. After meeting with Mary Ann Camilleri, the Magenta Foundation published her work, along with many of the comments, titled The Watchers. We caught up with Cafiero to find out what it was like to make and publish a photo book.

You will find some extra Q&A below and can read the original Slate interview here.

How did the opportunity to work with Magenta come about? 

I met with the Director and Founder of the Magenta Foundation, Mary Ann Camilleri, at the 2012 Fotofest portfolio reviews. I think I met with her at another portfolio review, but I definitely met her again at the Fotofest in 2014. She gave me excellent feedback the first time we met and she saw how the project had progressed over the two years between our meetings. When I met with her the second time, I told her about my plan to self publish a book as I could not find a good fit with a publisher. At the end of our meeting, she offered to collaborate on a book. We did a kickstarter and raised the funds and it took off from there.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while working on the book? Both before, during and after the process.

The first challenge was the kickstarter campaign.  I was doing the campaign a year and a half after the project went viral, so I knew that people had seen the project, but I didn't know if they would support it financially.  I then contacted all of the media sites that ran a story on the project and asked them to run a follow-up about the kickstarter. I was surprised and grateful that so many shared the project and the campaign. I think that exposure is what helped me reach my funding goal.

Between the kickstarter and the time of publication, I had to make new images.  Lots of them.  So many of the images had been on the internet, and I knew that you can't have a book if the images primarily live online.  So I did a significant amount of traveling to photograph new images - all while juggling a full time job and media opportunities.

After the book was published and delivered, the hardest thing was sending out the kickstarter rewards.  I know that sounds simple, but I live in a small house with no studio and way too many animals to set out tables and create an assembly line for packing and mailing.  I bartered with people so they would help me, and I spent many days in line at the post office sending out books. 

How did the translation of your work from something that was seen online to a book form influence the ways in which you decided to continue with the project?

I am very lucky to have worked with Mary Ann and her team (Julien Beaupre Ste-Marie was the editor and the Office of Gilbert Li designed it), because we were on the same page with the design from the beginning. The team knew that I had started archiving the hateful comments and inspirational messages that I received through emails and in the comment section of the online articles.  So when it came time to design the book, we knew that the way to present the images in a unique experience from how they were shown online was to incorporate the comments into the narrative of the book. To do that we made the cover plush and squishy. The front cover has positive messages debossed into the surface and the back cover has a similar treatment but with negative comments. The liner pages present the comments compiled together. Then there are several spreads throughout the book where we neutralized the negative, bullying comments with the positive, inspirational messages. While the comments do not have anything to do with the images, they provides the reader with the environment wherein the project was created and how people interpret the gaze.



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Zines - A Culture of Affordable Sharing and Collecting

A zine (abbreviation of magazine or fanzine) is a small circulation publication, often self-published and reproduced via photocopier. They are becoming more and more popular in photography and are a very Crusader-ly way to share work (meaning they are accessible and affordable). The FOCAL POINT Q1.16 photographers (Rachael Banks, Nathan Pearce, Jordan Swartz) are all involved in the zine scene, and so we had a chat about it.

 

Can you give us a little background/history of zine culture - how and why zines became a popular way to share content and where you think the trend is heading?

Jordan: From personal experience/ knowledge/ research, zines first gained traction in punk culture. While existing previously in art and literary circles, punk culture brought it into a larger mass production and allowed for people to spread/ share ideas. Production was cheap (often being able to be stolen) and easy to give to others. Photography and related arts saw a resurgence in zines in the early 2000's again for the reasons of cheap production and ease of sharing. While book publishers often require large sums of money to print with, as well as larger bodies of work requiring more time and ultimately again more money, zines allow artists to get smaller amounts of information into the world and circumvent the antiquated methods of big name publishers. 

Where the culture is heading is interesting because a sort of beautiful part of zines are that the makers/ publishers/ printers are often impermanent, and the ones that do stick around usually move on to larger production trends of hardcover books and larger projects. In turn, this leads to a continuing batch of new blood and ideas and content. 

 

Do you create different work for zine projects than you put out into the world as your ongoing fine art projects? And/or do you use the zine as a way to “test” new images?

Nathan: Sometimes a zine can be a sort of sketchbook for me. Perhaps for a project I am unsure of or a project I really like but am unsure of the final direction that it will go in. I can then experiment with an edit and see how it goes.

two of Nathan Pearce's images in his section of the split zine with Rachael Banks

two of Nathan Pearce's images in his section of the split zine with Rachael Banks

For instance, the work I used for my split zine with Rachael (All Night Long volume 10) was from a project that wasn't complete. I had the general idea and had made a lot of work for it including rephotographing some family photos, but I couldn't make it feel like a complete project. I had no desire to show it online or exhibit it, but I experimented with an edit and made a split zine. I'm not sure it would have been interesting anywhere else, but I think it was in an appropriate place as half of a split zine. It also helped that the project was about family and place, and that went well with Rachael's work.

In projects that are more fully formed and well defined, I may use work that didn't quite make the final edit but I still like alongside pictures that are more central to the project. In this way a zine can still be unique even if I am going to use the work and re-edit it for a book later. For me, zines are the perfect place to experiment. 

Rachael: I've never considered making work strictly just for zines. Usually what ends up happening is that I have a smaller selection of images or stand alone images that I am excited about but they don't necessarily fit in with the rest of my work. For my ongoing series Between Home and Here, I always end up having a lot of images that I consider outtakes. It's not that they are bad images but they might not fit in with my larger series of work in terms of theme or they look too repetitive next to an image that fits the series better.

I definitely also utilize zines as a way to put my work out in the world and see how people react to images, without going completely broke. In the past, it hasn't been uncommon for me to use images from a series in both a fine art and DIY zine context. It's really important to me that my art is accessible and affordable for everyone. I don't think my work only has to or needs to function in a "higher" fine art community. The work I make is about family and home. We all have a family and/or home in some way, so I don't see why my work can't be available to anyone.

Jordan: Zines are and have long been a part of my working process, because I don't make work in the traditional body sense. I'm just always photographing, and if the photos work together, then they go together. Zines allow me to be democratic about my editorial process and have old and new images share space and be given equal opportunity. Text is also a large part of my work and works great in the pages of a zine. 

 

How large is the zine market?

Rachael: The zine market is huge! I have no idea how many are possibly being made, but I see them everywhere, and I think even more zines are being put out than before now that self-publishing is a rising trend among artists . Around September of 2015, I attended the Dallas Zine Party (Founder: Randy Guthmiller) and experienced it as a really great opportunity to meet new artists from and around the Dallas (but also Houston and maybe Austin) area. This was a really valuable experience for me, because in my time living in Texas, I found that when I'm not teaching or making my own work in a different state that my knowledge of Dallas artists is a little more limited than I would like for it to be. The zine party was a great resource for me in terms of expanding my knowledge and appreciation for local artists.

Jordan: I have no idea how many zines are produced every year, but I'd say in the millions. It's a huge part of our culture now and has also very much spread to mainstream, where fashion magazines will now include smaller editorials in a stand-alone zine that's placed inside the magazine.

Nathan: There are thousand of zine makers out there, and lots of zine fests are popping up. The crowd of photo zine makers (and buyers, sellers, etc.) is much smaller. I have attended several zine fests in the last few years, and it's pretty common for there to only be 2-3 people selling photo zines out of the hundreds of other zines. They are gaining traction though.

I think a lot of people who aren't initially familiar with more traditional zine culture come to be interested in making and consuming photo zines through their interest in photobooks. Because of that, I think there are more photo zines at art and photobook fairs and photobook stores than places that specialize in zines. There are exceptions though like the 8-ball zine fair where you are likely to find lots of photo stuff. Despite photo zines being just a small fraction of both zine and photobook scenes, I find both of those crowds to be full of very positive people so the reception for photo zine releases is usually great.

Selection of zines published by Empty Stretch, the imprint co-founded by Jordan Swartz

Selection of zines published by Empty Stretch, the imprint co-founded by Jordan Swartz

Through those crowds I have found a lot of people who buy zines we put out through Same Coin Press. Some are photographers but many more aren't. I think the fact that they are affordable plays a big part in their popularity. Not only because it’s a very small financial commitment to pick one up, but also because people don't feel precious about them after buying them. I'm sure lots of folks collect them and place them next to their signed first edition photobooks, but there seems to be an equal amount who buy them and leave them on the back of their toilet in their crappy apartment. I'm sure there are lots of people who fall in between those two as well. For some people I really think it's some of the first art they have purchased.  Folks that either aren't able to buy a print for hundreds of dollars or those who can afford it but haven't yet made that commitment can own the work of a photographer they love for $10 or less. What they are getting is something really cool, and because it is likely made in a very small print run it's instantly collectible. It's like gateway art collecting I suppose. People are building low-rent photography collections. I know I am. 


How do people get their zines out there?

Jordan: I think a lot of getting your zine out there is sort of knowing where you see yourself. The first thing I say to people when they ask where their zine should go is, “Where do you get your zines from? How do you find out about new work?” Depending on how many you have made or the preciousness of your own zine, sell them at record stores, leave them on the bus, send them to photographers or other artists whose work you enjoy. I used to slip my zines inside photobooks or novels that I was a fan of so someone who also enjoys that work may find mine. 

Rachael:  In terms of how zines get out in the world, people do a wide mix of things. Personally, I get my own zines distributed through self-promotion and social media. I will also sometimes send free zines to editors/artists/friends who I specifically want to see my work. When I was first introduced to zines, it was when I was a teenager at punk shows and at independent book stores/community centers. 

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Behold: AaronBlum

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

When Aaron Blum left West Virginia to study at Syracuse University, he quickly realized there was a lot of misunderstanding about his home state. Combined with a desire to better understand his personal history, Blum began an ongoing series, “Born and Raised,” about Appalachia that includes not only the landscape with light that inspires his imagination, but also his friends and family. Photography is a way for Blum to tell a story and he hopes viewers of “Born and Raised” will understand his a bit better.

You will find some extra questions and answers below and can read the original Slate interview here.

Tell me about when you first started thinking you could pursue a career as a photographer?

I think I make a distinction between making a living as an artist and as a photographer. I make absolutely no money as a photographer. I make most of my money selling my prints and teaching college courses, but I don’t make any shooting for other people. I do a lot of workshops and freelance education work as well. So really I have a small art business that has a lot to do with photography, but I’m not sure you could call me a commercial photographer.

I was really unsure what I would do with my career after school. I had mostly art training and like any postgraduate was terrified of what was next. My mom and one other classmate really encouraged me to apply to some exhibitions as soon as I got out of school, and to my surprise I got a lot of good feedback and then eventually it just kept snowballing and then I won the Jurors Choice Award at Center within the first year of exiting grad school. I was shocked, and that’s when I thought maybe I could make this into a career.

You seem to have entered a lot of competitions and festivals. Is that so? How has that been helpful to your career?

I have entered a lot of things at this point, but I’m starting to slow down with that a bit, and from what other people have told me that is somewhat normal. I’m starting to only enter the things I really want to do. I entered a lot at first because it seemed like a great way for people to see your work, and it was. I made a lot of important connections that way. I started realizing that some were worth it some were not. I got way more rejections than anything else. I started to learn when to enter and what they were looking for. At this point my success rate is much higher. I will say that the connections I have made are invaluable; whether making them through a review or a competition those relationships have proven to be the most important thing in my career.

If you can pinpoint a "break" that advanced your career, what would that be? Or, perhaps a shift?

That’s really hard to say.  Everything seems to be more about momentum and not one big moment for me. It has been more about taking one opportunity and transferring it into another. There have been big memorable moments for sure. Like I said earlier The Center award was big, being chosen to be the Carnegie Museum of Arts representative for the Leopold Godowsky Color Photography Awards and being recognized by the PRC in Boston was amazing, having a show with Doug Dubois my Professor and mentor at Syracuse was very rewarding, but I think the biggest moment was being named one of the FOAM Talents this year. I got cold sweats when I saw the cover, which read “21 artists that will define the future of contemporary photography” that was an amazing moment, but also terrifying. It’s a lot of pressure in a good way.

Your work is included in museums. Do you have gallery representation? If so, describe that relationship. If not, tell me about how you market yourself?

I do not have gallery representation. It something that I have thought about of course, and I’m sure I could sell more prints if I did, but I would also have to split the commission. I think you really have to find the right gallery as well. I have been always told it’s a little bit like getting married. You have to find the perfect gallery or set of galleries. So if the right one came along of course I would do it. For now though I have a presence online through social media and I keep in contact with the people I have met. I do portfolio reviews every so often, and if I need to get my work in front of someone I put out the call and see if someone can help me get some time with the person I want to see. Usually that works. If you are honest, and nice and help others in the community it will come back around.


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FOCAL POINT Q4.15 Interview: Jane Szabo

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

The arc of my photography career has been quite an arc. I fell in love with photography in college and learned the basics of black and white photography, but my degree specialized in painting. When I went on to graduate school, I began working more conceptually; creating installations that incorporated painting, sculptural work and some photography. But I ultimately left photography behind and fell victim to the simplicity of the point and shoot cameras that were so readily available. Graduate school turned into a career that swallowed up all my free time and left little room for personal creativity and art making.

It took many years to return to the art world, and even longer to reincorporate photography into my fine art practice. I am excited my new work bridges the gap between my old ways of working and my rediscovered voice as a photographer. My current project, Reconstructing Self, blends sculptural constructions with installation and conceptual photography in one package.

The MFA degree I earned from Art Center College of Design gave me a strong foundation in critical thinking and conceptual art making. More recent workshops with photography mentors Aline Smithson and Cig Harvey have helped me find my voice and situate my work into the world of photography. Attending quite a few portfolio reviews has been enormously helpful both in getting my work out in to world and helping me understand how the work is being perceived.

I am excited about the exhibitions I have scheduled for 2016.  I will be showing large bodies of work at the Yuma Fine Art Center in Yuma, AZ in March, the Museum of Art and History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA in May, the Brand Library Gallery in Glendale, CA in August, and at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) in Santa Ana, CA in October.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like? 

I think I am exactly where I want to be right now, but admittedly, I have big ambitions! I’m working toward having my work exhibited across the country and internationally, in large art fairs and significant exhibitions. I strive to make work that is brave, bold and most importantly, true to myself.

Also important to my career as an artist is the act of giving back. Helping other upcoming photographers and artists is a fulfilling and mutually beneficial experience. I look forward to being a mentor to others and welcome the opportunity to lead workshops and curate exhibitions. There are so many ways to engage as an artist – and making and exhibiting work is just one facet. Continuing to branch out into new experiences is a personal requirement.


What are your goals for 2016?

With four large exhibits on the calendar for 2016, my main goal is to make each one spectacular! I am experimenting with ideas for incorporating mixed media installations with the photographs. It is exciting to be working with some really flexible and experimental exhibition directors.

And without a doubt, making new work is on the agenda – continuing the Reconstructing Self project and developing the next series, which is a seed that has not yet sprouted!




 

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FOCAL POINT Q4.15 Interview: Steven Duede

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far. 

I had been a painter and sometimes mixed media artist for over 20 years prior to focusing on photography. I had always had a keen interest in photography and had occasionally toyed with a few photographic projects over the years. It was around 2009 that I first began taking photography seriously as my medium of choice. I found that working with the camera and exploring my process from that fresh vantage point very satisfying and my work has flourished since I committed to the camera. Cleary one can see the influence of painting in much of my work. Selections of my work from this ongoing series Evanescence were first exhibited in the Danforth Museum’s New England Photography biennial as well as the Griffin Museum of Photography’s national juried show, and I’ve been busy exhibiting parts of this project ever since. Most recently works have appeared at the Photo Center North West in Seattle as well as the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s national contemporary photography exhibition.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

This is hard to answer. I’m enormously satisfied with the way things are going in my fine art photography career at this point. Participating in several high profile exhibitions in the Boston area and around the nation, I just couldn’t be happier. The public and academics in the arts are discussing the works, studying the works, enjoying the works, and the dialogue is getting stronger. I’m encouraged by all of the kind support. To say exactly what my career would look like I might only say that if I can continue to produce and share the works at this level, and even a higher level, I’ll continue to feel satisfied in my participation in the creative process.

What are your goals for 2016?

2016 will be a good year. I have a solo exhibition planned for the spring at the Danforth Museum of Art in MA, which will incorporate over 40 works including very large format prints. Additionally I have a book in the works for selected pieces from two series, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work on not only the Evanescence series but several other projects where I’m stepping out of my box and dabbling in street, landscape and architectural photography. 


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FOCAL POINT Q4.15 Interview: Alyssa McDonald

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

What really lit a fire underneath me was my sophomore year final review for my major studio photography class.  One of my reviewers was Nick Nixon, known for being brutally honest, as if I wasn’t nervous enough about my first ever review board.  He told me the words I had needed to hear the entire year, “You’re onto something, but you could shoot more.”  I feel like my creative vision really started to take off and flourish my junior year at Massart when I made myself step out of my comfort zone.  Shooting became an obsession, the more I shot the more I learned about myself and developed a pronounced vision and style.  What I also gained was confidence in my photography, as well as my own abilities.  For me, this was an extremely pivotal moment.  If I wasn’t crazy about my photos, why would anyone else be?  I’ve finally reached a moment in my photographic career where I now feel confident enough to expand my horizons by having my work seen by others.  As of now, I’m working hard to keep photographing and strengthening my images and ideas, as well as branching out to online publications and galleries to feature my work.  My biggest influences and motivators are the photography faculty and professors at my school.  They are all established, working artists themselves, each with dynamic background, a wealth of information and inspiration.  Their dedication to passing their wisdom down to their students is truly commendable. 

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I think the key to an evolving, flourishing career and work ethic is to never quite be exactly where you want.  No matter where my career takes me, I will always shoot fine art photographs for myself.  Over the past two years photographing has become a subconscious habit and compulsion more than ever before.  Again, I’m working on pursuing various avenues of exhibiting my work; getting it seen.  One step at a time.  Ideally I would love to broaden my professional horizons by working for a magazine or be a studio assistant to a photographer.  I think that would be the best way for me to learn the tools of the trade and become well rounded in my field. 

What are your goals for 2016?

I’m a candidate for a Bachelors of Fine Art in Photography in May, and I’m hoping for a strong end to my career at Massart.  I’m taking my major studio photography class as well as a bookmaking class, where I’ll be hand-making my own photobook, which is pretty exciting.  I’m in the process of interviewing for a few internships; real work experience, where I can build my professional skills and relationships is what I’m hoping for the most in 2016.  Another future prospect of mine is to take a cross-country trip with no one other than my camera.  My passion for shooting really developed when I re-visited my home as a possibility for making work.  Home has been the place I have investigated the past two years.  Now that I’ve developed vision and ideals in my practice, I’d love to take this passion elsewhere. 

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Behold: Greg Brophy

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Greg Brophy’s work documents New York’s disappearing neighborhoods, although he doesn’t necessarily focus on the most obvious areas. For the past two years, Brophy has paid multiple visits to Willets Point, a somewhat raw area in Queens that is populated with metal foundries and automotive repair shops. The aptly nicknamed “Iron Triangle,” is also the title of Brophy’s series of mostly environmental portraits of the workers who do business in the shadow of Citi Field, home to the New York Mets. Although a plan that was put into place during the Bloomberg administration to turn the area into a shopping mall was struck down earlier this year, the area still faces an uncertain future.

We asked him about how he became interested in photography and about how he funds and markets his personal projects. Read the full Behold feature here.

Tell me a bit about your background in photography.

I went to Syracuse University for art and during my third year I studied abroad in London where I learned photography. It was already my third year, too late to switch (majors). I thought ‘Why am I painting? I can get my message across by taking a photograph. I’m very impatient and need to get things done quickly.

How do you manage to finance your career as a photographer?

I don’t really do this for money. I work for B&H Photo Video; I work on their website. It’s a great help because I have access to cameras I can take our for free. I went to Willets Point to test out a camera for B&H. One of the reasons why I met Jennifer was that I realized nobody really teaches you how to market yourself to get your work out there. My wife was yelling at me, “You’re doing all this work but nobody is seeing it!” The hardest thing as a photographer is to get your work out there. I’m passionate about what I do whether I make money form it or not doesn’t matter. I still have stories I want to tell and sometimes its nice because I don’t have to worry about anyone’s voice interfering. I can tell the story I want to tell. In the past if I was hired for work I would have to do it in a different way; more and more people are getting away from that and then figuring out how to get their work out later.

Are you interested in finding representation?

If it happens, it happens. I’m not going to say no to being able to finance this stuff. I have a decent paying job and can afford to buy some things and print the stuff in my darkroom at home. One thing I’m working on is applying for grants. I’d like to work for NGOs to offer my services for free in order to help them help other people. Sometimes it’s strange the money aspect of it, trying to do this kind of work without exploiting the people I’m taking photos of. 

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FOCAL POINT Q3.15 Interview: Sara Macel

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

I took my first photography class when I was 15, and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be a photographer. In high school, I exhausted every possible outlet to learn more about photography that I could find in my school and town of Spring, Texas to the point of writing the Houston Chronicle and pitching photo stories to them (it worked!). At eighteen, I moved to New York to study photo at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. It was a wonderful program full of talented students and great teachers like Tom Drysdale, Deb Willis, and Phil Perkis. I loved being surrounded by people who liked to talk about images.

After graduation, I lucked into a job as Bruce Davidson's studio manager. Working for Bruce taught me what the life of a working artist looks like. He taught me his method of darkroom printing and gifted me my Mamiya 7II, which is still my favorite camera. Almost as soon as he gave me that camera, I left to go make my own work for a few months. That began my on-going series "Rodeo Texas" about my home state. Upon returning to New York, I got a job working under photo agent David Maloney at Art Department. There I learned all areas of production (bidding on jobs, budgets, building crews, on-set production, travel, billing, contracts, etc.) and worked my way up to being one of his two head producers for his roster of photographers. When I wasn't head producer, I had time to work on my own fine art photography on nights and weekends. Slowly, I started getting into shows and winning small awards like Jen Bekman's Hey Hot Shot. I was using all my vacation days to travel for shooting personal work. But it wasn't enough. I knew I needed to shake things up if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be with my own photography. 

So, I applied to grad school and decided to quit my job and attend SVA for my photo MFA. That decision changed my life in incredible ways. While in school, I began what became "May the Road Rise to Meet You," a road trip photo series about my dad's life as a traveling telephone pole salesman. Grad school also changed my relationship to images and how I view myself as an imagemaker. After graduation, "May the Road..." started getting a lot of exciting attention. I was awarded the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer's Fellowship and signed with Daylight Books to publish "May the Road Rise to Meet You" which was released in 2013. I was very fortunate to be asked to join a Flash Powder Projects retreat right before my book came out, and there worked on ideas for pushing the book and taking my photo career to the next step. And since then, I've had a traveling exhibition of that work shown all over the country and in some international photo festivals, my collector base has grown, and I was selected as one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch for 2015. And just two months ago, I self-published a small edition of my older series "Kiss & Tell" that sold out in 2 months, so now, in addition to my latest work-in-progress, I want to revisit that series and see how it has evolved since I started it over 10 years ago.

I've also been teaching photography for 3 and half years now at SUNY Rockland Community College and am starting this fall to teach at CUNY Kingsborough Community College. And I've been shooting more and more commercial and editorial work, which has been great and something I'm looking to push more in the coming year.

I feel really fortunate for all the good things that have come my way and grateful for all the experiences that helped inform my skill set and creativity. The advice I tell my students is: be humble, be grateful, be hungry and just don't stop.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

That's hard to answer. I don't know that I'll ever be EXACTLY where I want to be, because each new wonderful achievement opens new doors and leads to new goals. But it sure would be nice to sell out of the editions of a series!  And a definite new goal of mine is to partner with a gallery for representation.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

In addition to gallery representation, my goals for the year are to create a "Kiss & Tell: Volume II", make a significant amount of progress with my newest series, explore more exhibition opportunities for "May the Road Rise to Meet You," and seek out more editorial and advertising clients. And get a dog. I'd really like to get a dog.

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FOCAL POINT Q3.15 Interview: Raymond McCrea Jones

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

The arc of my career really started with my education. In 2004 I enrolled in a technical photography program in North Carolina at Randolph Community College. The program has a storied and influential history in the North Carolina photography world yet I knew very little about it when I enrolled. All I knew was that photography was the one thing I hadn’t got bored with yet. So I went for it.

RCC requires all students to start with a medium format film camera. I went on to learn film processing, color printing, lighting theory and large format photography. This technical training really created and still serves as the foundation of all of my work. Although I primarily shoot digital today everything I learned there has influenced how I work today.

I went on to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Pat Davison and Rich Beckman. All the while I was doing internships every summer. This allowed me to put my education into practice as a working photographer while still receiving guidance from excellent editors like the late Bruce Moyer of the Hartford Courant. 

My big break came when I landed a job at The New York Times. I was 26 when they offered me an internship at the website as a photo producer. This soon led to a full time position and a truly unbelievable experience. Somewhere along the way I learned one of the most valuable skills a photographer can have and that is the skill of self-promotion. I began developing relationships with the picture editors I worked with and I began showing them my work. Then I started working on my own stories and sharing them with those editors. People like Michele McNally, Jim Estrin, Clinton Cargill, Meaghan Looram and others gave me great feedback and support, the kind that is invaluable when you are a young in experienced artist. It wasn’t long before I had my first personal project published. Then I began shooting assignments through the metro desk. It was all truly a dream come true and an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

At some point along the way my family situation “expanded” and I decided I want to branch out a little bit with my career. I was fortunate enough to meet Marcel Saba and Redux Pictures who invited me to become part of their extended family. I relocated to Atlanta and began the second chapter of my career as a freelance photographer.

 September 1 my photobook “Birth of a Warrior” will publish and this will be one of the proudest points of my career so far. I have to say that if it weren’t for the relationships I’ve built and maintained with those I work along side with in the photography industry I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I believe that never being satisfied is a healthy way to stay motivated. I’m thankful and gracious but I am absolutely never satisfied with the work I produce. I like it that way. 

If I were exactly where I wanted to be with my career I would have multiple gallery representations, my book would be hardcover, I would be shooting covers instead of inside portraits, I would have my own studio, I would have a full time assistant and I would have the opportunity of hearing my name mentioned in the same sentence as Richard Avedon’s. If I had all of those things what would I have to work toward?


What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Over the next 12 months I have several goals the first of which is to see the successful launch of my new book. I also want to do several super rad talks and presentations of this work around the country. I want to shoot at least 4 cover shoots and begin shoot my next book project. I want to learn how to manage my business finances better and I want to elevate my exposure in the industry through better publicity. I also want to shoot at least 3 more music videos and be a better dad to my kids than I was in the last 12 months. Not that I wasn’t a good dad or anything but it’s all about progression.

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FOCAL POINT Q2.15 Interview: Deb Schwedhelm

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

After 10 years as an Air Force Registered Nurse, I began teaching myself photography in 2006 and launched a child and family portraiture business in San Diego in June 2006. I continued on that path until we relocated to Kansas for one year (my husband is in the Navy). It was at that time that I decided I was going to take a break from the portraiture business and get back to photographing my children. That was a significant time in my photography career because it was a period of experimentation and growth. 

Next was an assignment to Tampa for four years. Having a pool in our backyard and relatively nearby beaches, I decided to purchase underwater housing. I loved photographing in the water and it was almost as if the photographs spoke to me, pulling me in and having me longing for more. After about a year, I decided I would take my FROM THE SEA series to the PhotoNOLA Portfolio Review. I was extremely nervous and really had no idea what to expect, other than looking forward to receiving some constructive feedback. To my huge surprise, I ended up receiving first place, which resulted in a solo show and self-published book for the following year’s reviewers. To say that I was blown away would be an understatement. This was the start of my work really being recognized within the fine art community. 

I also have had the incredible opportunity to be mentored by Jock Sturges. He is honest and thoughtful, yet doesn’t sugar coat things, which I find refreshing. He has encouraged and pushed me in the best way possible. Jock was instrumental in the launch of my Werkdruck book with Galerie Vevais, produced by Alexander Scholz, which can be viewed and purchased here:  http://galerievevais.de/products/item.werkdruck_20.html.

While often tough, I truly believe that being a military family and relocating every few years is a gift. Each relocation offers new challenges and opportunities. It was our recent move to Japan, which was the impetus of my most recent series, HOME AWAY. 

I also cannot leave this question without mentioning that there have been so many individuals who have offered thoughts, suggestions and advice along the way. I am grateful for each and every one of them and wouldn’t be where I am today without their influence. As the African proverb states, “it takes a village ” and I so wholeheartedly believe that. 


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I really am grateful for where I am today and for any and all opportunities that come my way. I believe that with really hard work, dedication, commitment and patience, great things can be accomplished and opportunities will present themselves — and it is this that I hold on to.  I hope to never stop creating. I hope that people continue to enjoy my photographs. I hope that I am able to inspire and teach others. I am pretty new to fine art photography and so I’ll simply say -- I will continue to dream big and setting new goals along the way. I dream of one day having gallery representation but for the moment, that takes me back to working hard and continuing forward momentum. And with that, I may have just written circles around your question.

 

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Photography-speaking, my goals for the next 12 months are to keep photographing and pushing myself. I plan to review and possibly revise my online photography workshop offerings. I want to begin exploring collage and mixed media, with my photography, along with looking into some alternative printing methods. I hope to photograph in the waters in Japan this summer. I’m also thinking about unique presentation of my HOME AWAY series.  Lastly, I would be beyond thrilled to have a solo show in Japan, while I am living there. 

This most likely will be our last year in Japan, so I hope to do a lot of traveling around Asia along with embracing all that Japan has to offer me and my family.  I’m homeschooling while living in Japan and my oldest is attending college in the US, so with that said, I simply hope to survive the next 12 months. 

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FOCAL POINT Q2.15 Interview: Rebecca Drolen

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

I would say that my photography career found its beginning while working towards my MFA during graduate school at Indiana University. Prior to returning to school, I had concerned myself only with making beautiful photographs.  In school, I realized the potential of communicating ideas through my images and working more conceptually, which now guides my process.   After grad school, I began showing my work mostly through group and juried exhibitions which eventually led to more opportunities for solo exhibitions.  One major pivotal experience was the year that I spent at the University of Georgia as a Post MFA Faculty Fellow.   In this role, I taught classes, recognizing my passion for teaching photography, and I was also responsible for making and showing a new body of work.  The environment of devoted and hardworking faculty, colleagues, and students helped form a model for me of how academics and creative research can collide with harmony.   I have found continued community and support in organizations like the Society for Photographic Education (SPE).   These relationships with fellow artists and educators are invigorating and inspiring.  Finally, I would be remised  not to mention the role that showing my work via blogs, news sites, and photography organizations on the internet which has dramatically increased my audience and recognition of my photographs.   While not a traditional gallery space, experiences such as having images on the Huffington Post, have allowed for new opportunities to show work amongst people who may have otherwise not known it existed!


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

My goals are always shifting on where I would like to be in my photography career.  As I reach one ideal, the next presents itself!  I would love to be represented by a gallery, and of course, continue showing work in varied types of spaces.  Generally, I always want to be in the middle of a productive and successful current project or body of images!


What are your goals for the next 12 months?

In the next 12 months I will be beginning a new teaching position at the University of Arkansas that carries emphasis on research.  I plan to begin a new project while seeking opportunities to show some of my other bodies of work.  I have some ideas on the new work, but also hope to give myself a chance to respond to my new place via the work that I begin.  

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CSA Photographer Interview: John Brinton Hogan

In our Crusade Supported Art program, we commission six photographers to make an image in an edition of 50, and we sell 50 shares. Shareholders receive an original, signed and numbered photograph from each of the six commissioned photographers. We have had two CSA cycles so far, and they have been a huge success. Photographer John Brinton Hogan's image (below) was part of the second round CSA. We asked him a few questions to let you get to know him a bit better.

Climber on the ascent, Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness Area, near Blythe, California, 2013 (Yellow Dot) by John Brinton Hogan

Climber on the ascent, Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness Area, near Blythe, California, 2013 (Yellow Dot) by John Brinton Hogan

Had you heard of an art CSA before? What were your impressions of the idea?

No. I was familiar with the concept with regard to farming, but not pertaining to art.  Right away, though, it struck me as a good idea, and was happy to participate.

What about the program made you interested in being one of the participating artists?

Many of those who'd like to purchase contemporary art face the obstacle of price.  The CSA seemed to me a democratizing force.

How has your experience been so far, and what else do you hope will come as a result of participating?

The experience has been rewarding, in that I'm able to connect with an audience I might not have been able to reach through my current network. I hope people can connect with the work they purchased, whether on an emotional or intellectual level; ideally both.

Please tell us about the piece you created and how it fits within your larger body of work?

From a practical standpoint, this project forced me to change my normal workflow when it came to creating the object itself. 

Visual Aphasia, the body of work I've been producing for the last couple of years, has been comprised principally of mixed-media pieces, and their physical composition makes them impossible to replicate.   The CSA was going to require a fairly substantial edition, and in order to create it I had to design an efficient process for producing the work. 

For some background, construction of Visual Aphasia pieces involves various embellishment techniques which are performed by hand. The works start as somewhat straightforward documentary photographs of figures and equipment in landscapes, which are then transformed into otherworldly tableaus via software manipulation. 

Once a print has been made, the human elements are "redacted" (see below) using various ingredients normally associated with lighthearted craft: glitter, gold leaf, holographic foils, etc., which by their nature require painstaking efforts both in application and handling.

For the CSA, I needed to formulate a system wherein I could deliver an edition that included the elements of the more complex Aphasia pieces, while still being practical from a time/cost standpoint. So, with a wink at Baldessari, I covered the figure of the Palo Verde Climber with a simple yellow dot, and created a glitter "paint" that could be applied in a just a couple of coats (image above). Hand-painting a small circle consumes less time than an intricate human figure, so, by employing a makeshift production line (last image below), I was able to deliver a picture that fits in well with other contemporaneous pieces.

Creating work in this manner allows me a small but meaningful tactile reward, which, with the demise of darkrooms, scanners, etc., I'd come to miss in my studio practice. 

To view more of John's work, please visit his website.

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: Welcome to the Neighborhood

Welcome to the Neighborhood is proposed by Sharon Lee Hart

How did you come up with the idea for your project? 

I have lived and taught in South Florida for 2 years and have been impressed by the number of talented (and often under-recognized) artists in the area. I wanted to find an avenue to promote regional up and coming fine art photographers who are making exciting images.

While working with a real estate agent viewing homes, I thought about the welcome gift that was given to my family when we moved into the neighborhood I grew up in, and I thought that it would be a warm and inviting gesture to provide new homeowners in Palm Beach County with photographs from regional artists to the benefit of both the recipient and photographer. 

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

I became aware of the grant last year, near the cut-off date, so I followed the project.  The engagement grant is such a unique and brilliant idea, I knew I wanted to participate. When the call was announced this year, I submitted "Welcome to the Neighborhood" because I feel that it embodies the heart of the grants' goal by exposing new homeowners in the diverse communities of Palm Beach County Florida to vibrant artists in South Florida. The gifts would not only enhance an existing art collection, but also spark an interest in collecting fine art photography.

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to? 

Girls’ Club in Ft. Lauderdale, FL puts on their annual Art Fallout for one night in October. This art event is an interactive art crawl with pop up galleries, mural painting and tons of special events. The most engaging exhibition called Unframed takes place at Girls’ Club itself. Works on paper by South Florida artists are displayed on the walls for a panel of gallery owners, dealers, curators and museum professionals to review. They provide feedback via post it note placed under each piece. Last fall, it was standing room only and the energy was palpable. The public is also invited to share handwritten comments. It is democratic and allows for direct audience engagement. Many of my students participated last year and all left with feedback via a pile of handwritten notes. Several students sold their work. I foundUnframed to be a great way for the public to discover new artists, and the benefits for the participating artists are invaluable.

How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?

After I read this question, the Einstein quote, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” popped into my head. I think artists need to take responsibility for explaining their ideas and motivations in understandable terms. We need to determine who our audience is and formulate strategies to engage that group. Artists should actively interact with audiences by giving talks, exhibiting work in all types of venues, attending openings and engaging audiences in person and online.  As artists, we have the power to evoke an audience's deeper understanding and appreciation for our work through directand compelling statements and talks. From my experiences, I believe the standard for artist talks should line up more with TED talk time limits or Pecha Kucha and the remaining time reserved for questions and conversation.

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: Sleep On It

Sleep On It is proposed by Sarah Keeling and Anna Nelson

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

We first heard about Crusade for Art last year in an email from a friend and we've been following Crusade for Art's programs ever since. When the application for this year's Engagement Grant came out, we got to talking. As two young artists, we are passionate about developing creative solutions to the types of questions proposed by the grant. Cultivating a wider audience and breaking down barriers to accessing contemporary art will help to create the type of environment we and our peers need to thrive.

The idea for our proposed project, Sleep On It, arose from a desire to integrate fine art photography into locations outside of traditional art venues. We want to bring the art to the people and using hotel rooms as alternative galleries is a win-win. Hotels improve the quality of the experience they are offering to guests, guests learn more about contemporary art in a comfortable setting, and artists’ work is exposed to new audiences. By incorporating the experience of viewing a unique piece of contemporary photography into guests’ hotel stay, we aim to pique their interest and provide an intimate setting in which to view the work. We believe that when people experience the positive value of living with contemporary photography, they are more likely to begin purchasing contemporary photographs for their own home. Guests may also be intrigued by a specific photographer and find joy in following his or her career's progression.

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?

Sarah: The most engaging project I've seen has to be "Art for the People," which took place during the 5th Auckland Triennial in 2013. New Zealand artists Evan Woodruffe and Catherine Ellis gave away 85 pieces of contemporary art to the public at the Auckland Art Gallery downtown. They set up a booth, which was open for two days, three hours each day, and gave away art donated by New Zealand artists on a first-come first-serve basis. Each piece was wrapped in brown paper so the recipients didn't know what they would be receiving. Woodruffe and Ellis kept track of where each piece of art came from (home address of the artist) and where it was going (home address of the recipient). At the end, they created a map of where art was being produced in the city and where the art collectors (or potential art collectors) where located. The audience response to this project is what really made it a phenomenal success. The public came out in droves and lines wrapped around the block. Woodruffe and Ellis ended up extending the project and collecting more art to meet the public's demand.

Anna: One project that I really admire for the way it engages with an audience is the Conflict Kitchen. This project functions as both a restaurant and a method of raising awareness about the U.S.'s international conflicts. The Conflict Kitchen, located in Pittsburgh, PA, serves ethnic cuisine from countries with which the U.S. is in conflict.  It is currently serving Palestinian food. The food wrappers have text from interviews with Palestinians living in Palestine and the U.S. who responded to questions about Palestinian politics and culture. Food brings people together and the texts spark conversation, transforming a simple meal into a discussion about international politics. 

What do you think is the greatest struggle/weakness facing artists and the art community right now? What is the greatest opportunity/strength?

We believe one of the greatest challenges artists are facing today is the ease in which images are communicated digitally. Cell phone cameras, Instagram, and other photo-sharing sites have led to the creation of a new environment that contemporary photographers must learn how to navigate, to both gain recognition and also to translate internet popularity into sales and shows. 

This is also where the greatest opportunity for expansion of photography as medium lies. We're interested in taking the wide-spread digital access to photographs and channeling it toward developing new ways of collecting, experiencing, and promoting an understanding of contemporary photography. Having an on-screen presence can work hand-in-hand with marketing physical photographic objects and creating a greater perceived value of these objects. Sleep On It relies on these new mediums of communication in conjunction with in-person encounters with the art to connect photographers to each other and to new potential collectors.

How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?

We'd say as creatively as they approach their own work. We think artists can only stand to benefit from communicating the intent, inspiration, content, process, etc. of their work and believe that more invested interest in the field of contemporary photography will come through a greater understanding of its nuances. It's not artists alone who can or should tackle this. We think galleries, museums, and writers can help in the process of creating a more productive dialogue.

While we don’t believe that all artists must also fill the role of educator, we’ve found that when more effort is required to understand a piece, fewer people are likely to put in that effort to engage with the work. Most people receive an insufficient education in the arts, which can sometimes make the entire field seem like a private club. When artists put time into making their work accessible, more productive conversations arise. That said, this transparency doesn’t have to come in the form of a blurb on a website or wall text in a gallery. The approach to communicating information about the work can be as creative as the work itself, or even a part of the work.

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: Art Heist Detroit

Art Heist Detroit is proposed by Andria Watha

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

In late 2014, I decided to clear out all the subscriptions in my RSS reader and start anew. I wanted to keep it lean and follow only those with enriching content. One of my top favorites quickly became Lenscratch. I spent weeks reading old Lenscratch articles. I came across a post from March 2014 featuring Jennifer Schwartz and the Crusade Engagement Grant, and it instantly grabbed my attention. I spent months looking for a way to fund my project and after reviewing the Crusade for Art website and reading the grant guidelines I knew our missions aligned.

How did you come up with the idea for your project?

My project started from a desire to gift my images to the people who live in, visit and contribute to the city I take pleasure documenting. Searching the internet for inspiration, I came across Zoe Strauss, a photographer based in Philadelphia who photographs her city, hangs unframed prints of her work under a highway underpass, and allows people to take the images they want. She inspired my own project and Art Heist Detroit was born. 

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?

Art X Detroit 2015, presented by The Kresge Foundation, was by far the most engaging event I have attended. Featuring Kresge fellows from the 2013-2014 calendar years, this 10-day event provided an explosion of art and culture. Various art genres were presented through museums, artist and panel discussions, screenings, multimedia performances, concerts, an all day gallery crawl with over 25 leading galleries participating, and even an artist conversation over a bonfire! The icing on the cake – every event was free to the public!

Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?

There was a time I found art intimating and it took a long time to call myself an artist. I felt galleries were places the rich and famous went to for an evening of cocktails, finger foods and to buy expensive fine art. I still remember the changing point for me. There was an opening exhibit and artist discussion I wanted to attend but was to intimated/nervous to go alone. So I grabbed my sister and dragged her with me. While the delicious cocktails and yummy finger foods were present, it was not filled with the stereotypical crowd I expected. As a matter of fact, it was filled with people from all economic classes, race, religion, and ages. I had an amazing night and experience.

I hope to do my small part to help break down the barrier I once felt by offering people an easy way to start collecting art through Art Heist Detroit.

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: Student Loan Photo Program

Student Loan Photo Program is proposed by Julie Delliquanti

How did you come up with the idea for your project?

Student Loan was inspired by a program that I have long admired at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center.

After having raised two children who lived in dorms at college, I observed that the self- determination they exercised creating their own spaces was empowering and an important transitional moment in their foray into adulthood.

Also, I recognized that so many young people grow up in households without original art and this prompted me to think about what it would take to demonstrate art’s value, and acknowledge that saying it is valuable is not enough.

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?

I enjoy community based events like Northern Spark and Art Shanties -- both Minnesota-based projects that provide opportunities for artists to interact and engage with the public in a setting that is outside of the gallery experience and encourages and rewards adventurous behavior, curiosity and openness to new experiences.

What do you think is the greatest struggle/weakness facing artists and the art community right now? What is the greatest opportunity/strength?

In many cities, artists behave like they are in competition with one another for audiences, collectors, funding. They need to be more willing to work together – collaborate, partner, identify opportunities for synchronicity, educate the community, and catalyze an informed citizenry who shares their belief that art is an important component to the individual and common good.

Artists and photographers need to socialize and involve themselves in circles that extend beyond the creative community if they want greater exposure to broader publics. Fortunately, we live in a technologically advanced age unlike ever before, where connecting to people across the country and across the world has never been easier. 

Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)? 

I don’t agree that people find art intimidating. I think people find the art world intimidating – the museum and the commercial gallery being the primary spaces. In my experience as a museum educator, people do not fear the art or even worry that they won’t like it or understand it. They fear that if they admit that they don’t like it or don’t understand it, they will be judged by others as being unsophisticated, uneducated, common. We have put in place systems that often discourage curiosity, vulnerability and a willingness to be brave enough to participate in an experience that asks you to look longer, engage deeply, think differently, or consider ideas that you hadn’t before. As educators we also have to do a better job in helping the public to understand that making photographs is not about the technology or the equipment, it is a way of seeing the world.

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: .LDOC

.LDOC is proposed by Joseph Wilcox and Danielle Wilcox

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

I originally heard of the grant last year through the Chicago Artist Resource. I thought it was really cool that an organization was donating $10,000 just to help artists engage audiences with artwork. I really enjoyed the DIY grassroots aspect to the organization and this fit with my ethos. I applied last year, and was ultimately unsuccessful, but came back this year with an even better proposal. My wife and I have always appreciated accessible and unpretentious art efforts and had discussed doing some kind of public distribution of a publication geared towards art and writing. When the grant cycle came up for this year, we jumped on the chance to pitch our idea to Crusade for Art.

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?

One that immediately comes to mind is an Art Battle held in Detroit, MI that we participated in. At this event, organizers rented out a huge warehouse space, split the space up amongst artists, and then allowed artists to create live for viewers. The viewers voted on their favorite art piece at the end of the event and that artist or team won $1,000. This was a great way to turn art into a live event where people can watch the artistic process. It gave the audience ownership over the value of the artwork.

How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?

It depends on the artist. If you are an artist that benefits from the idea that art should be expensive and elite, then you probably shouldn’t educate the common public about art. This could hurt your profit margins. But if you are an artist who believes in the idea that art should be accessible, both financially and conceptually, then it is important for artists to engage the public in a way that fits into each individual’s understanding of what art is and what art means.

Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?

Art can be intimidating for a lot of reasons. The places where art is held often feels exclusive, like you need to be part of a club to go there. Artists are portrayed as geniuses knowing something we don’t. Also, a lot of art doesn’t make sense. At least not until you understand the language of art. And every media has its own rules: brush strokes have meaning in a painting, a camera angle in film. It can be hard for someone who hasn’t learned or studied art to have a point of entry to engage with work.

Our project tries to create this point of entry. By using photography, a media many people are familiar with; text, a linguistic tool people communicate through; and newsprint, a familiar and unintimidating material, we hope to create an experience where people can start to develop an understanding of what art means, both to them and at large.

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FOCAL POINT Q2.15 Interview: Loli Kantor

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.   

I started photography late in life. I was interested in documentary photography, specifically live theater and the performing arts. I was especially passionate about documenting the creative process of performers, directors and people involved in stage work. Initially self taught, I later decided to fill the gaps with workshops and independent study courses at photography study courses at a Junior College, which provided me with the essential feedback from mentors and peers. My early inspirations were Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus and my mentor Peter Feresten. My favorite medium was black and white photography and traditional dark room printing.

A pivotal moment for me was in 2004, when I volunteered to work in Krakow Poland at a former Nazi labor camp. This sparked the idea to find living Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. For nearly a decade, I became deeply involved in the subject of presence and absence, of Jewish life in Eastern Europe today. It also gave me the time and space to feel what being a second generation to Holocaust Survivors means.

I also attended portfolio reviews and workshops to escape my solitary life in the darkroom and in my studio and to immerse myself in the wider photography community, both reviewers and fellow photographers. I responded to calls for entry and entered competitions to get my work around and attempted to use the feedback, both negative and positive, in a constructive way.

Another pivotal moment was at PhotoLucida 2009. My work began being recognized widely, and I felt that it transformed into a stronger and more cohesive body of work. I continued this a few more years with my goal being to complete this project and to publish a book.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I would be a source for young photographers to mentor and teach.

I would be teaching photography workshops in the United States and abroad.

I would have 1-2 more completed bodies of work and books published.

My entire body of work from Eastern Europe would be acquired by a museum.

I would have exhibitions in reputable museums in the United States and abroad.

I would have gallery representation in the United States and abroad.

My work would be featured in nationally and internationally reputable publications periodically.


What are your goals for the next 12 months?

- To have a clear idea about my next project, the scope of the work, and the photographic language, which I will use.

- To learn one or two new photographic skills.

- To tour my new book and have scheduled talks and exhibitions for the next 2-3 years.

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