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Jeff Rau

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LPS Spotlight: Jeff Rau

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 Jeff Rau from the LA Crusade pop-up:

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

I came to a contemporary art practice through a rather unconventional path. My undergraduate degree was in Structural Engineering, and I didn't really get interested in art until after I'd graduated. I was living in Long Beach and happened to start making friends with lots of artists using their contemporary art practice to engage with the local community in exciting ways. Through my participation in some of those projects, I developed a real passion for art myself. Soon I had quit engineering and was taking classes in photography, going on to receive an MFA in Photography and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies  from Cal State Fullerton. My work today is not always what one might readily identify with the practice of "photography" in a traditional sense--as it often incorporates other media, including: video, performance, journaling, audio, installation, mapping, etc.--so I don't usually identify myself directly with the label "photographer". I could perhaps say that I am a conceptual artist who works in projects or series, establishing systems of documentation and engagement that unfold over time, but that doesn't really help describe it in any useful way. Maybe I should say that my recent interest has been exploring how we interact with the landscape, both individually and as a society.

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

I first heard about the Crusade through my friend (and fellow Crusade participant) Kurt Simonson. He has participated in other workshop events with you (Jennifer Schwartz), and has been very excited about this project since he first heard about it back in the Kickstarter fundraising phase. I have to say that I was fairly skeptical about how it could be good for the participating artists; I mean basically we're just giving stuff away for free. But Kurt's enthusiasm is infectious so he won me over. Then as I found out more about how we were managing this special run of prints and looking to connect personally with potential new collectors, I began to see it more and more as a great opportunity to connect with people and engage in conversation about my work. For me prompting those conversations has always been the number one goal of my art practice, so it was natural to participate in an event that shared in the goal of getting people talking about the work.

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

I had real mixed feelings on the day of the event here in LA. As I mentioned before, I was definitely excited about the possibility for conversations, but I was also very nervous about whether anyone on the streets would really care.

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

I thought it was spectacular! On one level, we had beautiful weather so it was just plain fun to hang out outside with fellow artists for several hours; then on top of that, we had a very steady stream of people passing by our location and the folks we ran into on Abbot Kinney were really excited to engage with us! All around I felt it could not have gone better! Lots of great conversations with people who were genuinely interested in the work we were doing, and I was also very excited to find myself frequently engaged in conversation with arts professionals who had randomly happened upon our event (including well-respected established artists, museum professionals, and designers who were inspired by our work)!

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

As I just mentioned, there were several folks who came by who are professionals in art related business, so those connections could potentially payoff in a variety of ways... It is tempting to hope that at least one or two of those folks will keep in touch and those gifts may eventually lead to future professional opportunities. But honestly, I don't know if that is realistic. So I remain happy to have simply had the opportunity to converse with them for an afternoon. Hopefully our random encounter on one Saturday will leave a lasting impression in their lives, through the gift of a print displayed in their home or office, or as they contemplate our conversation and seek out other opportunities to engage with artists and their work. I have no expectations for immediate returns, but I hope that seeds have been planted that will continue to grow and bear fruit for weeks/months/years to come. Maybe someday I'll see some of that fruit, but even if I don't see it personally or directly, I expect that the exposure and networking will payoff in quieter ways.

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

I gave away a print titled "HAZE - 30 Days Over L.A. (April 2012)". This image was part of larger project (HAZE) employing various photographic strategies to represent the immaterial, ever-shifting cloud of smog/grit/marine-layer that cloaks the city of L.A. in an obfuscating fog. The project as a whole spanned two years, but the specific image printed for the Crusade for Collecting used a series of 30 images of the L.A. skyline--one from each day of April 2012, all taken from the same location--and stitched them together to represent one continuous landscape under a shifting sky of blue/grey/brown, with the city and mountains constantly disappearing and re-emerging from the haze day after day. To see more of my work you can visit my website -- www.JeffRau.com. Also I have been featured in the current issue of Fabrik Magazine (www.fabrik.la) as one of the "Fresh Faces in Art: Eight L.A. Artists You Should Know". You can read the magazine online here - http://issuu.com/fabrik/docs/fabrik20.

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LA Crusade: Sunshine & Success!

There could not have been a better way to start the west coast leg of the tour than with the Crusade pop-up event Saturday in Venice.  It was ridiculous - sunshine, huge crowds, lots of pre-event buzz, energetic and talented participating photographers, enthusiastic audience. . . it was beyond, beyond my highest hopes. From the first minute we pulled up in front of the Alternative Apparel store (an awesome partner and responsible for our tour-exclusive t-shirts and hoodies), it was bananas.  People everywhere wanting to know what was going on, what the Crusade was about, where exactly this Lady Blue was going. . . Shannon Leith, one of the superbly talented local photographer showcasers, said it best (and caused the group to double over in laughter) when we stopped in the middle of the fantastic chaos to take a group photo, and she leaned her face up to the sun, eyes closed, and said, "feel this moment, guys".

Bootsy Holler, Tom Johnson, Shannon Leith, Kurt Simonson, Jeff Rau

Bootsy Holler, Tom Johnson, Shannon Leith, Kurt Simonson, Jeff Rau

In case you need a refresher, five local photographers are curated into the project in each tour city.  They each give away ten signed copies of one of their images in a 6x9ish size.  And they need to have chutzpah too, since they actively engage people walking by.  This group was tops.  There wasn't a single moment of pause - it was a chorus of "Would you like to become an art collector today for free?" and "Would you like an original signed photograph to take home today?".  Art guns blazing, charm for days - these photographers were amazing and each made it a point to have meaningful conversations with their new collectors about the image, about themselves, about the project, about the awesomeness of art.

You're totally jealous you missed out on these beauties, right?

Be on the lookout for the webisode of this pop-up on our YouTube channel in a few days, but in the meantime, here are some fun photos from the event to give you the flavor.

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