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Katie Koti


FOCAL POINT Q1.14 Interview: Katie Koti

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 have been involved in art and music since I was a teenager, but I didn't pursue photography seriously until I was about 27 years old. At the time I had been running an eco friendly house cleaning business for about 7 years. I had expanded the business, hired some employees, and made a life-long dream decision to go to school full time to immerse myself in art. I enrolled full time at GCC (Greenfield Community College). They offer two year Associates Degree programs. Their faculty and staff are amazing. Tom Young was my mentor and quickly became my first photo "hero". I never thought it would go beyond those two years, but things quickly caught fire and GCC lead to a scholarship to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) where I completed my BFA. Then RISD lead to a scholarship to Yale School of Art where I completed my MFA.

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

I am a non-traditional person by every definition of the word. I love making photographs and believe deeply in the bodies of work I have built. I currently reside in Western Massachusetts. In a perfect world, I would be represented by a forward-thinking gallery in NYC who not only believes in my work passionately, but is equally excited to have an artist on board who hasn't conformed to the traditional mold of residing in NYC.

What are your goals for 2014?

My photography related goals for 2014 are to find said gallery as mentioned above. I would like to return to shooting large format again. There are several new projects I have been dabbling with that I would like to start pursing seriously in the coming months.  I'm excited to see how everything unfolds!



Kate Koti: Bubblegum.

Katie Koti: Bubblegum.

Jennifer Schwartz is no stranger to out-of-gallery galleries. She took to the road in a van filled with photographs in her ten-city Crusade for Art. Now the Atlantan has launched an online exhibit, replete with curator’s notes and artist statements.

The first edition of FOCAL POINT showcases the work of Katie KotiDorothy O’Connor, and Brandon Thibodeaux. O’Connor’s surreal tableaux and tableaux vivants are known around Atlanta, her home base; its a pleasure to see them again here. Koti has focused on a family with the disturbing intimacy of Sally Mann and Tierney Gearon. Thibadoux’s portraits dig deep into the soul of the Mississippi Delta.

Brandon Thibadoux: When Morning Comes.

Brandon Thibadoux: When Morning Comes.

In February, Crusade For Art will solicit applications for a $10,000 grant that will be awarded to an individual photographer or group with the most innovative plan for increasing  audience and collector base, and it will soon launch a version of the CSA (community-supported art collecting), similar to the established by WonderRoot, which sells prints by local artists. In Crusade’s version, 50 collectors will pay $350 and receive six photographs over the course of a year.

Dorothy O'Connor: Tornado.

Dorothy O’Connor: Tornado.



Critical Mass - You Should, and If You Didn't. . .

I have long been a fan of Critical Mass as a fantastic way for photographers to get important eyes on their work. Photographers submit a portfolio of ten images along with an artist statement, and these submissions get culled down to 200 finalists. If you make the finalist list, your work will be viewed, rated and critiqued by over 200 industry heavy-weights, from curators to gallerists to publishers. Whether or not you make the next cut (the Top 50) or win one of the prizes (book award, exhibition award), the exposure a photographer receives from being a finalist is invaluable. Many photographers have been approached for book deals, exhibitions and representation from being viewed on Critical Mass. Honestly, I cannot brag on it enough. Before I highlight some of my favorite entries from this year, I want to share something that I think is really helpful when thinking about a body of work and its impact on the viewer. I once had a friend and fellow juror tell me the judging strategy he/she uses when going through the submissions. Of course, this is a crude break-down and this person is extremely thoughtful when looking at each portfolio, but this is the criteria this photo-person uses as a general guide.

As a juror, we can give a portfolio a score of “0”, “1”, “3” or “7”. This photo-friend (who, by the way, is my go-to person for an honest assessment of my own work) looks at a portfolio of images and uses this system as a starting point to think about the work: - a “0” if the images do not seem compelling enough to want to look farther (again, this is the baseline starting point – I do not want to imply in any way that photographers’ work is not given a fair look and assessment) - a “1” if the images are interesting, but the artist statement does not seem to match the work - a “3” if the work is good and the statement seems to match what the images convey - a “7” if everything comes together and the work is really phenomenal

If you are a photographer, I strongly encourage you to think about this when looking objectively at your own work. Why are you making the work? Why should the viewer care about the work? Do the images reflect what you are trying to say?

OK, so – I was lucky enough to jury Critical Mass again this year, and I was blown away by some of the work. Some of my very favorites made the top 50 and others did not, but here are just a few highlights for me (note: I am purposefully not posting about photographers represented by Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, since it would be hard to appear objective):

Katie Koti I literally cannot stop thinking about this work. It is raw and honest, and I have shown it to everyone who will look since I first saw it. Go to her website. Go now.

Tamas Deszo I actually bought an image of his at AIPAD last year. So yes, I am a fan.

Thomas Jackson Last year there was a floating Cheetos image that made me more hungry than inspired. This year, Thomas Jackson presented a floating Cheese Ball image that kind of blew me away. Just goes to show, it’s all in the approach.

Nate Larson, Marni Shindelman This is a really smart collaborative project using geolocation information to track the locations where users posted updates to Twitter. They photograph the places people stood when sending a particular tweet and pair the image with the originating text.

Tom Griggs I first saw Tom’s work at FotoFest this year (a different series), and I was impressed then and have been since with the thoughtfulness of his imagery.