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Charlotte Strode

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Crusade for Art Brooklyn Rocks Photoville

Constructed Identities, a Crusade for Art Brooklyn exhibition at Photoville
by Sara Macel, co-director of Crusade for Art Brooklyn

Photoville's shipping container exhibitions

Photoville's shipping container exhibitions

Back in early 2015 when Liz and I were conceiving of Crusade for Art Brooklyn, one of the dream events we thought would be a perfect partner to our mission to engage new audiences with photography was having a group show at Photoville, the annual outdoor festival organized by United Photo Industries in Brooklyn Bridge Park every September. Photoville was seen by 71,000 in 2014, and we couldn't think of a better way to make a splash and announce ourselves to our Brooklyn audience and to the photo world .

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And so, early one morning just before the deadline for Photoville exhibition proposals, I submitted our proposal for Crusade for Art Brooklyn. Being a brand new non-profit, we knew we might be a long shot since the competition is fierce for this festival. Then, we got word back that Sam Barzilay and Laura Roumanos from UPI/Photoville wanted to get us on a video conference call. It sounded promising, but again, we didn't want to get our hopes up. In preparation, Liz and I called Jennifer. During that brainstorming session, the amazing-idea-machine that is Jennifer Schwartz, came up with the idea that we'd take instant Polaroid portraits of our audience and install those images in a mural to be made over the course of the festival in real time by all 10 members of our local chapter. It was the perfect combination of showcasing our members' work and interacting with our visitors that we needed. We also decided that the three of us would curate the show featuring the work of our 10 members: Liz Arenberg, Mia Berg, Nicholas Calcott, Sean Carroll, Maureen Drennan, Sara Fox, Sara Macel, Minta Maria, Tim Melideo, and Charlotte Strode. On the call, Sam and Laura couldn't be kinder or more excited about our ideas. I think it was about halfway through the call that Sam came right out and said "So, you're in." Somehow, I was able to wait until the call ended to jump around like a maniac in my studio. And then the real work began...

hanging the show

hanging the show

This was the first time I personally had ever helped curate a show and organize it from the written proposal to the finished exhibition. At times, it was overwhelming. But our member artists are really amazing and just when I thought there was no way I was going to be able to get all this done, we had a group meeting and everyone excitedly stepped up to take on tasks and jobs. As co-directors, Liz and I have these moments when we look around at these incredibly hard-working, talented folks and thank our lucky stars that we get to be part of Crusade for Art Brooklyn with them.

Crusade for Art member artists setting up

Crusade for Art member artists setting up

Carl from Luxlab made all of our prints. I spent two mornings in August hanging out in his studio. Seeing our prints in exhibition size was pretty great. GL mounted all the prints, and Sean helped us find foamcore for our mural wall. Installation day was hot and sweaty, but with half the team there, we were able to get the work up on the walls (first with magnets, then with velcro) relatively smoothly. I have to pass by the festival from the BQE on my way to teach photography at Kingsborough College, and it felt like leaving my child at daycare the next day when I drove by Photoville on my way to work. 

At the opening party on Friday, Sept 11th, 2015, I stood outside our container/gallery watching my friends and strangers mingling among our prints and having their portraits taken for the mural. The WTC Tribute in Light shown over lower Manhattan, and I took a moment to take it all in. I was a beginning photo student at NYU on September 11, 2001. I had just started dating my boyfriend, and I don't often like to talk or think about that day. I almost left New York for good after that. But I stuck around. And I never gave up on New York or photography or that boyfriend. And in that moment, all of those things that I love were right there in the same place, and it filled me with pride. And that was all before the festival even started!

Over the next two weekends, our members took turns interacting with our visitors and taking their portraits and engaging with fellow artists and Photoville participants. What Laura and Sam and Dave have created with Photoville is a community in every sense of the word, and it felt great to be a part of it. We talked to visitors about our goals as a non-profit and about our ideas for upcoming events. People signed up for our mailing list, and other photographers asked when they could submit work to become members (in the future, we promise!) I got to see so many amazing artists I love and share our work with them: Anna Beeke, Jeff Jacobson, and Jennifer McClure to shamelessly namedrop a few. It was kind of cool to come back after a few days away and see the portraits we all made and how the mural started to, almost organically, take on the shape of the continental US. 

But for me, the best moment was on my last shift on the last weekend when a group of 20-somethings came in to our gallery. I told them a bit about us and asked if I could take their portrait. Immediately, they assembled into perfect "band photo" poses. It was hilarious and perfect. I took their portrait twice because they were so fun. And then, one of them asked me if we could re-take it with them holding up a sign that said "Photoville", so I did. I gave her that Polaroid to keep. On their way out, one of them told me that our gallery was their favorite because "you interacted with us and made it fun." And that right there is what Crusade for Art Brooklyn is all about. Thank you, Brooklyn! And thank you Photoville!

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FOCAL POINT Q3.14 Interview: Charlotte Strode

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. (How you got to where you are now, pivotal experiences/accomplishments/ influences, etc.)

My photography career has slowly progressed through a series of small unintentional life experiences and intentional small steps. I have been exposed to photography for as long as I can remember, but didn't pursue photography until my mid-20's. My father was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and worked in the field throughout his life; my mother also worked as a photographer, living in New York as a young woman to assist Ernst Haas and later working as a newspaper photographer (my parents actually met at a photojournalism workshop my father was teaching at the University of Missouri). 

I grew up completely surrounded. Some of my earliest memories were in my dad's darkroom - I can close my eyes and almost smell the processing chemicals as I helped him change the filters or dodge and burn his prints. I wasn't really interested in learning but I learned by osmosis, whether cataloging slide film to earn some spending money or listening to my parents explain why a certain scene in everyday life was photographically brilliant. At Christmas when I was 22, my father gave me his old Nikon F's that he used in Vietnam - he was dying of cancer at the time and it was such a weighted gift, like he was passing me something of himself that he knew I would cherish. That's when I started shooting.  

After college, I contacted a photojournalism professor who I had met during my last semester of school - he recognized my last name and told me that my dad had been his lifelong mentor. The connection was serendipitous, and he felt an opportunity to pass along what he had learned. I'm grateful that he gave me the gift of spending Sundays together to help me learn photography. Also, during this time I worked at an advertising agency and was lucky to be surrounded by creative and generous friends who fielded my endless curiosity and believed in my talent. It was at this point that I knew photography was really something for me. It excited me and connected me to things that I believe in, giving me grounding in ways that nothing else did.  

In my mid-20's I moved to NYC to assist fashion photographers which really clarified what role I wanted photography to play in my life. For me, it needs to be something that's pure, honest, and uncluttered by a pressure to make money. Since then, I shoot what inspires me, interests me, challenges me. I participated in a Flash Powder Retreat which greatly clarified my work, path, and goals moving forward, as well as connected me with friends who I continue to learn from.


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

I'm honestly just so humbled to be where I am and want to keep making work that connects with people. The fine-art world is one piece of my larger life, and the most important thing for me is that it continues to foster my growth and offers me the chance to get my work out to a larger audience. Recently, photo essays of my work in the south were published in Oxford American and The Bitter Southerner, and I got hundreds of comments and emails from people telling me how much my work meant to them, or how it inspired them to call home or plan a visit. That's really the greatest gift I could ask for... for my work to connect with people in some way. 

In an ideal world, getting a gallery show of a cohesive body of work would be the greatest accomplishment. I think about how incredible it would be to know that one my photographs is hanging in someone's home, who will look at it and always feel something. I do feel like I'm finally in a more focused place, and I hope to channel this and continue to grow my work in a way that will someday lead me here.


What are your goals for 2014?

To keep moving forward, to work on it every day. I would like to be able to find a balance between my photography, my day-job, and all the demands of living in NYC. I need to somehow carve out more space to explore, grow, create, and be inspired. That's my current struggle.  

Smaller goals are to become skilled at color printing so that I can enjoy the "object making" aspect of photography. I would like to apply for more portfolio reviews.  And I would like to continue to foster the relationships I've made in the photographic community, and to make new relationships with people who's work I admire. I've learned that these relationships are paramount.

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LPS Spotlight: Charlotte Strode

Since the photographers featured in the Local Photographer Showcases in each city are supremely talented and excited about reaching new audiences with their work, we will be regularly featuring them to give you more insight into their work and their experience Crusading. Next up is Charlotte Strode from the Brooklyn pop-up:

Tell us a little about your background as a photographer and where you are now with your work.

I call myself a self-taught photographer, but I can't say that truthfully.  My dad was a photojournalist who taught me how to see pictures, even with the simplest things in our backyard.  We had a darkroom at home and I began learning how to dodge & burn and make prints as early as I can remember.   Most of his work was in the south - documenting things like the Civil Rights movement and strip mining in Kentucky - and he taught me how to love place through taking pictures.  I've been shooting ever since, and have taken classes at ICP in New York.  I'm currently working on strengthening my personal projects, instead of simply shooting.

How did you hear about the Crusade, and what were your initial impressions?

I heard about it because I've been a fan of Jennifer Schwartz's gallery and projects for quite some time.  I think I saw a post about it on her blog, and decided to submit an image.  I thought it was such a cool and unique concept - I currently live in New York where fine-art photography and collecting are intimidating.  It feels like a pretentious world that is tough to get involved in.  Art should be for everyone.

Were you excited to participate in the Local Photographer Showcase?  Why or why not?

Of course!  It's great to get your work out there, and a great exercise to engage people about it.

How did the event go for you?  Was it like you expected or different?  Better or worse?  

I loved it!  I think people really liked my image which made me feel good about my work, and I was happy that it took me out of my comfort zone and made me actually say things about what I'm working on.  I also enjoyed meeting the other photographers and made some great connections!

What do you hope will come out of the experience for you - personally and professionally?  Do you think those are realistic expectations?

I'm happy to be a part of this network, and I hope this will continue.  I think the crusade also gave me clarity on what I need to work on with my photographs, so I'm excited to get started on that.

Tell us about the image you gave away at the event and how to see more of your work.

The photograph I took is part of a series of road trips I take to explore my southern roots.  I left the south to go to college, and the distance has made me more interested in the culture that shaped me.  Every year, I take a trip somewhere new to learn about the landscape, people, food, history, and culture, and each time I come back with a better sense of the south as a whole.  This photograph was taken on Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with my dad's 35mm camera from the 1960's.

You can see more of my work on my website, www.charlottestrode.com.

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Brooklyn - Too Hot to Trot

Honestly, this is a tough one to write about.  The photographers were awesome, as usual - enthusiastic and excited to reach out to people and share their work.  But it was so hot out, and the people walking by were. . . non-plussed.  Some really interesting connections were made, but a lot of the people did not want to stop.  They already "did the art thing".  Really?? It just goes to show, maybe the biggest impact is made where people are not already inundated with arts experiences.  DUMBO is way arty.  We'll see how people strolling through the National Mall feel. . . every day is a new adventure!

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