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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Nomadic Bookshelf

Nomadic Bookshelf is proposed by Caitie Moore

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

Nomadic Bookshelf was founded two years ago after a dinner conversation with Greer Muldowney and Paula Tognarelli. I had just stepped down from a role in a publishing companyand needed a new project. With the renewed interest and dialogue around the book, I started to wonder why we as a creative community weren’t also discussing the antiquated bookstore format. (Gotta have someplace to sell your books once you make em!) Nomadic Bookshelf is my response to the changing market. Rather than waiting for customers to come into a fixed location, Nomadic Bookshelf is more nimble and can seek out new customers. In general it’s challenging to sell artwork by an unknown artist to a new crowd. Knowing that it was easier to sell books in person, I chose to make the store nomadic. The thought was to bring books to new communities and encourage folks to interact and flip through them. I could then talk to my customers about the book, or artist, or process and project, and effectively sell more books simply by connecting my customers to the products. The shop instantly makes collectors out of folks who may have never considered collected art before.

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

I’m a big fan of trading artwork. I went to an interesting exhibition earlier this year that was called Insider Trading. All of the artists were hand selected for this exhibition and commissioned to make one piece of artwork to donate to the show. At the end of the evening, all of the work was raffled to the other artists in the show — each artist came and left with a different piece of art work.

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

The Internet

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 think a lot of people do not have a literacy or extensive understanding of art or art history,  and the thought of feeling dumb in public is really intimidating. When I go to book fairs, I tend to watch the way that people interact with the books. Books are great, unlike a museum, they are not very judgmental. You can flip through a book and no one will judge you. Often at a museum there’s this unspoken understanding that you have some kind of understanding or background knowledge about the art to begin with. It’s a very intimidating thing. I try to explain my products to people in a very personal way. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than taking the time to talk to someone about one of our books, to later watch them come with friends, as new experts on the subject. Instilling that excitement about art and giving folks the tools to share with others is so incredibly satisfying.

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: New Orleans Experience: Pop-Up Photography Festival

New Orleans Experience: Pop-Up Photography Festival is Proposed by New Orleans Photo Alliance

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

Louisiana, and New Orleans specifically, has really mastered utilizing festivals and celebrations to showcase our art and culture. We draw hundreds of thousands of people to our celebrations and it is easy to forget that that mass of people is actually comprised of individuals seeking out a cultural interaction. We wanted to explore the intersection of the mass audience with an individual experience and the idea of a Pop-Up Studio in the middle of the action was born.

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

Each December, the New Orleans Photo Alliance produces a festival of photography, PhotoNOLA. One of the highlights of the festival is the PhotoWALK. During this event, participants in PhotoNOLA’s portfolio review open their work for the general public to see, free of charge. Hundreds of people come from every corner of the community to interact with photographers and be inspired by the amazing. It’s a truly magical event and is eagerly anticipated by the local community.

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

In any and every way possible! There are as many answers to this question as there are artists creating work. Use the resources that are available to you and just start communicating. Get together with other artists and pool your resources – create a community gallery space, partner with local nonprofits to display work in their project space, use social media, create events to attract local media coverage. Get on a platform and communicate why art is important in your life, what inspires you, and keep talking! We need to make a lot of noise, individually and together.

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)?

People like formulas and sure bets. Art doesn’t follow conventional rules so people don’t understand how to evaluate quality and are afraid to make a bad choice or bad investment. We need to reinforce the global concept that public art elevates the community and then on an individual level the idea that the art you collect is a joy and a gift to live with each and every day.

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Elevazioni/Elevations

Elevazioni/Elevations is proposed by Francesco Amorosino

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

In Rome, many people live in condominiums and the elevator is sometimes the only place where neighbors can interact. In the entrance of my place there is a board where people can stick notes and invitations to events. Since the past months, someone transformed the little table in the hall where advertising materials are left in a book crossing spot. This led to the idea of providing people who take the elevator an occasion to encounter art in a non conventional place and an excuse to talk with neighbors about something different and happy.

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

I’m not new on organizing engaging art events: I’ve curated for three years Photox1000, a collective photo exhibition of one thousand pictures coming from more than 500 photographers from all over the world. The visitors could adopt one picture and write to the photographer to tell him or her their thoughts. I’ve also been the coordinator for Rome of the IParkArt project, where we used to place art installations in regular parking slots after paying the ticket.  

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

For me teaching to adults and children is essential. I teach in some schools in Rome and I always emphasize in photography the technical aspect is just the start and it’s not the most important thing. I invite people to consider their art as a “medicine for the mind” or a tool to find inner balance and to sublimate their pain. If you manage to do so, other people will see it and get interested in art. Unfortunately, in Italy art is taught mainly with a focus on history and not as a platform for conceptual analysis. Working with communities on engagement projects is crucial in getting art closer to the public. That’s also why I really appreciate good street art.

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)?

For many people art is just about the authors they studied at school, such as Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci or Van Gogh and Picasso. What we have to make people understand is that art is now, it is everywhere, and everyone can do art. Whether it is "good art" or "bad art" it is something to discuss.  People say they don’t understand art, but art is not about understanding: it’s about emotions. People start collecting when they see that art is making their soul feel better. 

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: The Storyteller Series

The Storyteller Series is proposed by Judy Walgren, in collaboration with SF Camerawork

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

I saw the Crusade for Art grant posted on Facebook, of all places, and thought - "What an amazing idea that is totally in line with what we are trying to do with ViewFind - get photographers' work out into the world in new and innovative ways to drive new streams of revenue for them as the traditional media budgets and outlets dry up." I liked the shorter entry requirements for the first round for the grant, as well. That made it much easier for me to apply.

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

I have worked on and off for newspapers and print media for the past 30 years, which has been a wild ride. I was around for the heyday of newspaper making and traveled the world covering the most amazing stories one can imagine and I also worked for a newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, that was shuttered by its parent company. I had a great time working as the Director of Photography at the San Francisco Chronicle, after I finished my MFA, I knew that it was time for me to embark on a new adventure and try and disrupt the downward spiral for work directed at documentary photography. That is why I joined ViewFind as the Editorial Director - a visual storytelling start up aimed at disrupting and enhancing monetization pathways for photographers who tell visual stories. When Glen Graves, the founder of PhotoArts Marin, approached me about his idea to start a visual storyteller series with Heather Snider, the executive director at SF Camerawork - it was a no-brainer for me. The goal is to support visual storytellers, get their work out in front of a broader audience such as collectors and editors, and give them a platform to talk about their work, their passions and their processes. I know from experience that audiences love to be connected to visual storytellers to hear about the why and how they do what they do and the also appreciate the chance to ask questions and engage with the photographers. We decided to have an up and coming photographer paired with a well-known photographer - to give exposure to those trying to break into the industry. For our first presentation - I invited Leah Millis, a young photographer who I have mentored for the past 6 years and hired at the Chronicle a year ago with my dear friend, Todd Heisler, a Pulitzer Prize winner and staff photographer at the New York Times. He agreed to do the talk for no honorarium, I used miles for his plane ticket and he stayed at my house. Leah lives here. I have a lot of friends who will do this for me - but am running out of miles. We are doing something similar for the second talk coming up May 24th. Artist Suné Woods is coming up from LA and Wesaam Al-badry is a student at SFAI and lives in San Francisco.

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

I think the most interesting and engaging art collecting event I have been to is the SF Camerawork Benefit Auction - their largest fundraising event each year. They showcase a incredible selection of photographic artwork that is donated by local, national, and internationally renowned artists to be auctioned off to attendees. Collectors, members and supporters of SF Camerawork and the photography community come out of the woodwork to check out the extremely high quality prints and have a great time connecting with the community as they bid away.

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

The greatest struggle facing artists today, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, is housing and studio space - both in terms of their own living situation and studio space as well as the ability for galleries and other outlets that monetize their work to also maintain a location in the city centers. It is a huge problem in San Francisco and Oakland and artists are being forced out in droves - draining the cities of the people who helped the Bay Area become a formidable International hub for creatives, the people who comprise the soul of these cities, to be honest.

The opportunities available are also amazing! There is literally no barrier to entry to have your artwork displayed and distributed to the public through social media and websites that are easily updated by the artist, herself! And as you know, humans have always been telling stories visually - think about the cave paintings. And now, more than ever, humans are engaging through visual imagery which is also increasing the visual literacy worldwide - to some degree. I would say that humans are becoming more and more aware when a GREAT image comes their way now as the 1000's of innocuous imagery passes by them unnoticed. I think people are appreciating great visual art now, more than ever, to be honest. Whether they are buying or not - that is another question...

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

This is a great question and really the reason why we started the Storyteller Series - artists - at least most artists - can speak passionately and articulately about their work, their research - about what drives them to create. And the audience - whether adults, teenagers or children - are most times overwhelmingly engaged in these discussions - whether in person, on webinar panels, on hangouts - wherever! I am giving a lunch-time gallery talk at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on Friday - a 20-minute talk in front of a few photographs by Roman Vishniac. The response has been incredible and it is such a great idea - an easy way for the public to engage with art over a lunch break!

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)?

To be honest, the public today is not the same group of people from 50 years ago. The art, as well as the artists who create the work, is more diverse in concept and creation. The artists and their work are both more approachable and less reliant on the mystic of artistic genius to determine the worth of the work. More and more work is being created through social practice and inspired by the notion of changing bigoted perceptions, stereotypes and other discriminatory legacies. Subsequently, audiences are connecting through commonality of purpose, as well as aesthetic alliances and appreciation.

Ways to lower the barrier to entry for collecting work is through events like the SF Camerawork auction - both brick and mortar auctions and digitally produced auctions, through pop-up shows in non-traditional gallery settings, through First Friday events and Open Studio events in artist communities. Lowering the overhead costs can significantly lower the overall price of the work and the funds go directly to the artist, as well.

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: The Art of Trade

The Art of Trade is proposed by Bruce McKaig

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

I was inspired to propose building a barter network for the Crusade for Art grant because I see no shortage of artists, no shortage of people interested in having art, but bringing them together remains elusive. Art events can be so eclectic; it is almost comparing apples and oranges. Two commonalities across the board: artists are providing more work than artists are earning and people who want and could afford art are doing without.

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

I have been privileged to work on numerous community art projects in the last fifteen years and working with communities my attention and my art came to focus on issues of work and living wages. As I learn about the fight for 15, or personally live the adjunct faculty challenge, I see artists, including myself, as an additional labor group that struggles to earn a livable wage.

With my background as a visual artist and my academic training in economics and international affairs, I advocate for more humanitarian working models for artists. I am a 2016 Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in their New Economy Maryland program. This institutional support provides intellectual resources and rich human contacts for the work. I am turning to the Crusade for Art grant for the necessary resources to build the first working model, in real time, with real participants, real art, direct exchange of goods and services. 

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

Starter Plus is an organization in Paris that opens theater seats to interested viewers in a very clever way. Starter Plus works with theaters to book seats for people for shows that are still running but not to full houses. The seats can be half-price, free, or for two. They mail out availabilities and people call them to book. They reserve with the theaters and people just need to show up. Theaters have increased presence for performances and people who would never have gone discover theater, performers, playwrights, spaces. Unlimited use, it costs about $140/year. Some single tickets cost more than that. People can be risk takers and discover new things without committing a few months spending money. It’s a win-win.

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

The arts are not immune from the greater struggles facing our culture today: what ways will we define and measure work and compensation? Caretakers, educators and adjunct faculty, fast food workers, are just a few. We operate and analyze with tools developed at the great depression when industrialization was the prevailing dynamic. Now, we are waist deep in the information economy, and the industrial definitions and practices are not keeping pace.

This presents a great opportunity for the arts to take on a leadership role in an evolution that has begun and needs traction.

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 this is a very personal thing. Some artists will be more revealing and discursive about their work, which is great. Others less so, and this is to be respected as well. The Internet provides plenty of opportunities to put out statements, images, videos, commentary. Whatever the format or vehicle, maybe the most helpful thing would be to avoid assuming ANYONE you interact with doesn’t want to engage with the arts. I’ve never landed in a community where I was expected to “bring in some art,” that wasn’t already celebrating the arts in many ways without anyone’s help.

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)?

History and culture currently have the artist niched in a very strange position. On the one hand, artist means transcendental, otherworldly, a portal to vision, enlightenment, problem solving skills – holier than everything else combined. On the other hand, elitism is dead so anyone can do it. Holier than thou means it’s priceless. Anyone can do it means it’s worthless.

I think the better we are at linking the labor of an artist to the general issue of labor, qualifications, and compensation, the more obvious and fluid the links will be between artist and viewer. The drives are there. The mechanisms are outmoded.

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Increasing Exposure to Art Photography in the Bakken Region

Increasing Exposure to Art Photography in the Bakken Region is Proposed by Meghan Kirkwood

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

I learned about the Crusade for Art grant last year from a colleague. I was intrigued by the concept and spent some time on the website looking at (and being inspired by) projects from previous finalists. The grant’s emphasis on reaching and connecting new audiences to photography is different than many public arts grants, which are often geared towards supporting known outreach strategies. The particular challenges to artists in the Crusade for Art grant were what inspired me to propose my project. In the Bakken region of western North Dakota there are numerous institutional and perceptual barriers that limit how audiences access and perceive visual arts, and new, creative strategies are needed to move beyond the limitations they impose.

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

I came up with the idea for my project by thinking through challenges I have faced working in western North Dakota. The Bakken region is huge, and comprises many different communities, some of which have been in the area for centuries and others that only arrived after the most recent oil boom. As such, connecting with “local audiences” is not an easily defined endeavor, and I have been challenged to think about what it means to make work that is both relevant and accessible to a particularly diverse set of residents. I believe that photography can uniquely contribute to and inform ongoing reflections on natural resource extraction and its attendant impacts among the various communities in the region, but to do so, it needs to draw upon a non-traditional venues/distribution modes (especially in an area that has few to no galleries or arts institutions).

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

The “job” of the artist has changed so much in the past few years (artists must be excellent makers, designers, writers, marketers, and personal advocates), that I’m hesitant to offer suggestions on what role artists should play in educating the public about their art. That said, I do think artists have a responsibility to think about who their audience is when they design long-term projects. If artists (like so many of us do) want to take their work beyond the white cube, we need to do more than find a new, more public “cube” to show our work in after we’ve finished it. Rather, we need to develop new strategies to integrate art into the public sphere (where it can reach a completely different set of audiences), and these strategies need to be a part of our working process from the outset.

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 think many people find art intimidating because they’ve had limited opportunities to interact with it.  If you’ve never had the chance to study art, work with an artist, or view art made from and about your community, how do you learn what art can do? How do you know that art can be relevant to you and your life? Moreover, I think many people associate art with a specific set of venues and events, which may be places or occasions that they do not themselves feel drawn to. To encourage more people to engage with photography, artists need to find different ways to meet audiences where they are at and – through their work – show them what art is capable of. We (photographers) were all lucky enough to have had some experience that created a desire in us to make and collect images; we need to think of ways to create such experiences for audiences who haven’t yet had the same opportunity.

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: The Curated Fridge

The Curated Fridge is proposed by Yorgos Efthymiadis

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

After returning from a portfolio review, I gathered all the promotional pieces from fellow photographers and arranged them on my fridge. I then posted some snapshots on social media and the response was enthusiastic. Some requested there be an opening reception to celebrate the works and the discovered space. Some sent magnets!

A couple of months down the road, The Curated Fridge was born and the first call for entry opened. Photographers from all over the world sent their prints and digital files. The guest curators (Refridgecurators) juried the work in my kitchen. A year later, the shows are running on a bimonthly basis. The accepted images are posted on social media and the dedicated website. This promotes the work of the photographers and creates connections and long-lasting friendships between the artists.

Since last December, the project has evolved. The Photographic Resource Center (PRC) in Boston invited The Curated Fridge to participate in one of their exhibitions. Three images of the fridge were mounted on the PRC’s gallery walls and a whole new idea was born. What if we could use The Curated Fridge shows as a starting point to break "gallery" limits, making photography more accessible for a wider audience?

The proposal is to print life-size photographs of The Curated Fridge show every two months. In collaboration with schools, colleges and universities, the prints are mounted on their walls. The aim being to reach out to a young crowd while educating them visually and introducing the world of fine art photography.

In addition, a contest will run, where students could write a short statement about their favorite featured photograph (e.g. why where they drawn to it, what do they like about it, what does it mean to them) and the winner from each school, selected by the guest curator, will win a small print of the photograph. Finally, students will be prompted to curate their own fridge at home, photograph it and email the files to The Curated Fridge, where they will be posted on the website and social media.

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

Unfortunately, most people don't have the time to slow down and appreciate art. By bringing photography closer to audiences at a younger age, we can build a stronger connection between the younger generation and fine art photography. The Curated Fridge was born in a kitchen, then there were opening receptions (in the same kitchen!) and it even traveled to a gallery. It’s a quirky project, fun and cool, that never took itself too seriously. Because it’s unconventional and alternative, it connects easier with the audience.     

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)?

In my opinion, people find art intimidating because there are no boundaries or rules; anything can be art, good or bad. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be but the general audience needs to understand and appreciate this, through education. By doing so, all the barriers that one might have will be removed because when something speaks to the heart it's price doesn’t matter anymore. Art becomes priceless, therefore affordable to the right audience.  

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

It has to be the Instantly Yours exhibition at the PRC in Boston, where all the members brought their Polaroids or created some prints with the Impossible Project for the audience to collect. It was a very successful exhibition that ran through a whole month, with gallery talks about instant photography, events and lots of sales!

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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Update on 2014's Grant-Winning Program - Start With Art

Our 2016 Crusade Engagement Grant cycle is now open, and we thought you may get some inspiration from an update on our very first grant-winning program, Start With Art. Here's an update from grant winner and Start With Art founder, Matthew Conboy:

Start with Art: Pittsburgh began 2015 with our first three hospitals, our first artist, and of course, our first baby art collector. We started off with fantastic media coverage from our local newspapers and several blogs. We ended 2015 with one last newspaper article on December 26th and almost 3300 of the world's youngest art collectors. Along the way, I received additional financial support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, who funded the translation of each print into written descriptions for the benefit of individuals who may have vision impairment. 

 March's Start With Art photo by Dylan Vitone

March's Start With Art photo by Dylan Vitone

As excited I was for the 2015 slate of artists and photographers, I was even more surprised with the quality of 2016's artists. Many of the artists are in numerous museum, corporate, and private collections, and they couldn't wait to get started with this project. Only a few weeks ago, Jake Reinhart (January's photographer) wrote to tell me that two of his friends had babies who came home from the hospital with his prints. He had a tough time expressing how special the parents felt and how honored he felt to have these babies collecting his art. Events like this aren't just limited to Jake: there were more than a few artists from 2015 experienced the same thing.

Perhaps the most exciting event in 2016 will be our 5,000th baby art collector. This will occur in July and the Mayor and city council have already prepared a proclamation and will present the baby and family with their art work at a city council meeting. Other tasks for 2016 include finding funding for 2017, as well as meeting with hospital administrators from two other hospitals to ensure that all 17,000 babies born in Pittsburgh begin life as art collectors. Finally, I have chosen all twelve artists for 2017, and although I have not made their names public, they are, by far, the most talented and prestigious group I've had so far. Pittsburgh's babies will be lucky for years to come!

Click here for the most recent press story on Start With Art!

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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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Update on 2015's Grant-Winning Program, LDOC

On the eve of applications opening for our 2016 Crusade Engagement Grant cycle, we thought you may enjoy an update on the progress of last year's winning project. Read co-founder, Danielle Wilcox's update below -

LDOC Summary: LDOC is an arts publication that features Chicago artists and writers on a bi-monthly basis. It is distributed the first and third Mondays of every month at the following Red Line stops: Howard, Belmont, Lake, 35th, and 69th. LDOC was created out of a desire to engage the people of Chicago in an artistic, accessible way. The use of newsprint acts as an unintimidating and familiar material for Red Liners to connect with, while the work of local photographers and writers offers a few minutes away from our phones and screens.

As LDOC progresses into its sixth month of production, the arts publication has found a home in the Chicago photography and literary community, in boxes steps away from ‘L’ train Red Line entrances, in homes via our growing subscription service, and in the hands of commuters all over our enormous city.

For months we established ourselves via press, our website, and through volunteers posted in Chicago’s ‘L’ entrances distributing the issues. In December, we acquired newspaper boxes from an independent press in Ann Arbor that had recently ended their own print distribution. We cleaned them up, designed and produced vinyl stickers at the Chicago Public Library's Maker Lab, and posted them at various Red Line stops around the city, just in time for the cold weather. We have one remaining newspaper box, which we'll be setting up at Hubbard Street Lofts, a collection of artist studios in Chicago's West Town neighborhood.

One of our priorities as editors is to work closely with our featured photographers and writers so that their art is presented on the page exactly as they imagine it. Recently we had the great opportunity to publish the photographs of John Steck Jr., who creates photographs on silver gelatin paper, but never runs the prints through the chemical required to remove the paper’s sensitivity to light. This causes each print to slowly fade as time progresses until it is no longer visible. Because of the specific qualities of the work, we ended up going through 3 presses of one of the issues. We ended up using the third press, after a few weeks of intense collaboration with our printing company and the artist. It was important to present John’s work as he himself would. These are conflicts that online publications don't have to worry about, but we think are well worth the labor. The effect of a tangible print is something ephemeral and unique that only comes from ink and paper.

LDOC has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from commuters. We distribute at the downtown Lake stop during the train’s busiest hours, which sees a lot of bus and transfers. People are excited to learn about the project. We typically get questions about how we’re funded, who the artists are, and where they might pick up an issue if they miss a distribution date. We also have “regulars” who consistently express their enjoyment of LDOC, stopping to say things like, “Yes, I love this!” or, “Finally, it’s the new one.” We’ve had interactions with commuters who were sad they missed a previous issue. We let them know where to pick one up but mail them one for the time being.

We continue to do press via Chicago’s large network of arts and neighborhood publications: Newcity Art, DNAinfo, our MFA alma mater’s Lesley University and Columbia College Chicago, and more. We’re happy to note that every issue of LDOC is now available on our website via the free publication platform issuu, and we look forward to what the remainder of the year has in store for LDOC.

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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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Local Chapter Summit. . . BOOM!

If you live outside of Chicago or Brooklyn, you may not realize that one of Crusade for Art's major initiatives is its Local Chapter program. The local chapters are made up of up to ten artist members who all work together to promote and sell their work and cultivate collectors in their own communities.

We have thriving chapters in both Chicago (our first) and Brooklyn (our second). This past weekend we held our annual Local Chapter Summit (so official!) where the directors of each chapter and I got together to discuss, brainstorm and celebrate. 

In case you haven't been following along. . .

The Chicago chapter has just hit its one-year anniversary and celebrated with a successful tiered print sale – a redo of their launch event, which will now be an annual anniversary affair. They created a postcard subscription program in 2015 that they are repeating for 2016. This is an effective, low-cost way to regularly connect with their audience. Each postcard has a hand-written message from the featured artist member. Chicago also held an Art-B-Q event that they hope to turn into another annual event. They paired BBQ food with an outdoor art exhibition, where pieces were bid on with tickets and auctioned off. They were also invited by Alibi Gallery to have an exhibition of members' work. Kind of a badass year.

Chicago has six artist members (one was added recently, the others were founding members). Matthew Crowther is the director, but decisions are made democratically and responsibilities are delegated. The chapter also regularly holds informal critique sessions between members and rotate instagram posting responsibilities.

 

The Brooklyn chapter also launched (this summer) with a tiered print sale, followed by an opportunity to showcase their work in a shipping container in Photoville. The Photoville event is highly selective, and the prestige and incredible visibility was a huge boost to the new chapter.

Brooklyn has ten artist members, and Liz Arenberg and Sara Macel are the co-directors. The Brooklyn chapter has two new programming initiatives for 2016. One is a series of ArtFeast dinners where a chef will be paired with two artists to create a meal inspired by the artist members’ work. The featured artist members would give memento prints to attendees and also have larger framed pieces for sale. In the second program, the chapter is partnering with a successful agricultural CSA to offer an agriculture + art option to shareholders.

So what was the summit all about?

We spent a lot of time discussing the possibility of adding “curator members” to the overall local chapter membership. These members would be people interested in art and collecting and would be responsible for creating programming to educate like-minded people and encourage them to participate in and collect art. We also talked about ways to increase the visibility of the artist members, cross-chapter collaborations, future programming, adding a new chapter, accounting and accountability, and just generally about the awesomeness of the directors and this program.

 

 Matthew Crowther (Chicago Chapter Director), Ivette Spradlin (future Pittsburgh artist member??), Matthew Conboy (Director of Start With Art, Local Chapter Summit host), Liz Arenberg (Brooklyn Chapter Co-Director), Sara Macel (Brooklyn Chapter Co-Director)

Matthew Crowther (Chicago Chapter Director), Ivette Spradlin (future Pittsburgh artist member??), Matthew Conboy (Director of Start With Art, Local Chapter Summit host), Liz Arenberg (Brooklyn Chapter Co-Director), Sara Macel (Brooklyn Chapter Co-Director)

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First Two CSA Photos Released Into the World!

We had another successful CSA sale last month. This is the program where we commission six photographers to create an image in an edition of 50. Then we offer 50 shares for sale for $400, and shareholders receive one original, signed photograph from each of the six participating photographers. This program perfectly fits our mission - photographers get paid in advance to make work and benefit from 50 new collectors, and the lower price point and variety of imagery create a comfortable entry-point to collecting.

The first two photographs shipped to shareholders last week. I think you'll agree that they are pretty spectacular. (And if you didn't purchase a share, you will definitely be kicking yourself!)

Drumroll. . .

 Amelia Morris' fantabulous creation for CSA shareholders

Amelia Morris' fantabulous creation for CSA shareholders


 Brandon Thibodeaux's haunting landscape image

Brandon Thibodeaux's haunting landscape image

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Art on Track Public Art Project on MARTA, Curated by Jennifer Schwartz

Atlanta Celebrates Photography hired me to curate this year's public art project. I came to them with Art on Track, a concept adapted from a project by the same name in Chicago. We worked with MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) to transform two rail cars into moving art. It was such an honor to be able to create this art experience for Atlanta.

This article about the project was posted today:

Art on Track: Seeing MARTA Through a Different Lens

Posted on November 3, 2015 
By Lyle Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

While a picture is worth a thousand words, the stirring photographic exhibit recently staged aboard a MARTA train left some customers speechless.

The October 18 exhibit entitled “Art on Track,” transformed a pair of workaday railcars into kinetic photo galleries that surprised and delighted unsuspecting riders. It also offered another real-life example of MARTA’s vision to nurture successful relationships with metro Atlanta’s burgeoning “creative class,” to help reflect the rich culture, poignant history and soulful humanity of the community we serve.

The exhibit was sponsored by Atlanta Celebrates Photography(ACP), a non-profit arts organization dedicated to the cultivation of the photographic arts and the enrichment of the Atlanta art community. Led by executive director Amy Miller, ACP has the distinction of producing the nation’s largest annual, community-oriented photo festival that engages and educates diverse audiences through lens-based media.

ACP’s fall festival this year focused on two public art projects. In addition to Art on Track, the organization collaborated with the Atlanta BeltLine for the second year in a row on another transportation-oriented exhibit called “The Fence.” Running through Oct. 31, the project showcases 50 photographers whose work appeared on a continuous background attached to the chain link fence along the Eastside Side Trail. The project also appeared simultaneously in prominent public spaces in Houston, New York and Boston.

 Kelly Kristin Jones, Jennifer Schwartz, Laura Noel

Kelly Kristin Jones, Jennifer Schwartz, Laura Noel

In its maiden voyage on MARTA, Art on Track featured original images by Atlanta-based photographers Kelly Kristin Jones and Laura Noel and was conceived and curated by Jennifer Schwartz, the Creator and Executive Director of Crusade for Art. Jones, Noel and Schwartz worked for months with MARTA staff from numerous departments to temporarily remove the advertising panels on a Red Line train and turn the rail vehicles into what ACP described as a unique, sensory art experience for riders… that will take them to new cultural horizons.”

And so it did.

Jones’ work, titled “No Vacancy” was a visual and text-driven exploration of our man-made and natural environments. She employed the shapes of vacant lots located in the neighborhoods the MARTA line runs through to represent the way Atlanta continues to refill and reinvent herself. The floor of the railcar was paved with a photo-realistic image of verdant grass and the advertising panels were replaced with shots of cloud-filled skies and intriguing quotes such as, “The Grass Ain’t Always Greener” and “ATL Is What You Make It.”

 Kelly Kristin Jones' project, "No Vacancy"

Kelly Kristin Jones' project, "No Vacancy"

On the floor and walls of the adjoining rail car, Noel’s psychedelic work, aptly titled, “Kaleidoscope,” included digitally transformed photographs of Atlanta landmarks and signature events which she rendered in mesmerizing patterns. As customers boarded the train, Noel handed them a small, plastic kaleidoscope through which they were able to view the hidden world she had created with her camera to add an unexpected, unforgettable dimension to their journeys.

 Laura Noel's Kaleidoscope project

Laura Noel's Kaleidoscope project

Mounting such exhibits isn’t easy, and this experience has been instructive for MARTA as it works to revive its once-vibrant arts program for transit customers. We hope to partner with ACP again and appreciate their patience, diligence and guidance to make Art on Track a reality.

Most recently, MARTA has been working with the arts advocacy group WonderRoot, the Transportation Alliance and internationally known visual artist Fahamu Pecou on a mural project at four rail stations. Last month, the Decatur Arts Alliance and the City of Decatur worked with MARTA to install “Ver Sacrum” a gleaming, gold sculpture at the Church Street entrance to the Decatur Station. Funded by a separate grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission, Decatur is also planning a mural on a MARTA overpass in the city limits.

Over the next several months, MARTA plans to announce exciting new, multi-faceted projects in conjunction with individual artists and arts organizations who share our commitment to enhance the public transit experience through the profound power of public art.

To see images of Art on Track, please visit this Dropbox.

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