At Crusade for Art, we are focused on educating photographers about best practices and sharing practical information to help move careers forward and connect audiences to photography. It is often helpful to hear from photographers who are right in the thick of things, and so we bring you the second installment of a new series called Developing.
Charles Mintz is a Cleveland, OH based photographer who primary works with large format color film. Since starting this full time, his work has become intensely personal - often involving portraiture. This can be seen in The Album Project, Precious Objects, Costumes and, still in progress, Lustron Stories, Held Notes and Station Hope:Bound. Even Every Place – I Have Ever Lived, where people in the images are largely unrecognizable, is uniquely personal. It begins with his childhood home that was in foreclosure and continues thorough all his lifetime neighborhoods In general, his work has become less traditionally photographic both in form and method. www.chuckmintz.com
As someone who spends a lot of time photographing strangers who volunteer for projects, I am very aware of the power imbalance that exists between photographers and their subjects. People believe that photographers have the power to make them look good or bad and that some of us go out of our way to do harm. A lot of my process is directed at ameliorating that problem. It is a bit of a fixation.
This sensitivity to power imbalances also makes me more aware of them in other places, including portfolio reviews. At a portfolio review, a photographer has 20 minutes to convince a stranger that his or her work is worthy of attention. The reviewer completely controls the outcome. This is not to say they do this unfairly or abusively. But they can. Not unlike what I could do to your portrait if I so chose.
At FotoFest a few years ago, I was given my 25th out of 25 choices for my last review of the event. This reviewer came from an institution that did not deal in the photography of old, Jewish, American men. I was sure the review would be a bad experience, but he turned out to be an extremely savvy and insightful reviewer. As I had done for all of the other reviewers, I offered to send him a copy of my first book, The Album Project. When it came time to do so, I sent him an email asking for the correct address. He replied with the information and his Fedex number to cover the cost of shipping. I was struck by his generosity. Not by the amount (two and half bucks :) ) but with the consideration and thoughtfulness. This experience helped me appreciate even more the immense value of small acts.