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Maggie Meiners


Flash Powder Explosion

Mark my words - these photographers are going to set the world on fire.

A year and a half ago, David Bram and I had an idea.  What if we invited a few photographers we felt had a lot of potential to a five day, four night retreat and worked with them to take their work to the next level?  We would all stay together in the same house, and everyone would bring their photographic project.  By the end, they would each have a solid edit, sequence, artist statement, a 12-month plan, and the knowledge to make it happen.  They would also have the two of us, as well as the rest of the group, as a resource going forward.  It was a big idea, but then again, I love those.

So we created Flash Powder Projects, and we haven't looked back.  Seven retreats in three different locations and 33 photographers later, we are constantly hearing from our retreaters with amazing news and successes. This is one of the best and more rewarding things I do, and the relationships I've made with these photographers have added so much to my life.  And luckily, they all seem to feel the same way about the value of this experience.

A week ago we finished our seventh retreat, this one in New Mexico. Even after all this time, David and I still get nervous about the group. We are really selective about the photographers we invite, because so much of the experience hinges on collaboration and each person bringing a unique and informed perspective.  The photographers need to be at similar levels and have a similar drive to move forward in their photographic careers.  And then the personalities need to mesh, which is the truly stressful part, because that is impossible to predict.  Luckily we have nailed it each time, and the bonding that happens is insane.

This group was no exception. The retreat was at a ranch in southern New Mexico, 90 miles from the nearest grocery store.  These four!  When the photos come out and we dig deep, the barriers just naturally come down.  We all left not only inspired, but closer than I thought was possible.

But enough of the sappy stuff, and let's get down to their incredible work:

Dustin Chambers

Steven Ford

Maggie Meiners

Lexey Swall



LPS Spotlight: Maggie Meiners

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 Maggie Meiners from the Chicago pop-up:

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

I was inspired to be a photographer in 1999 when I was at a  retrospective for whom I do not even remember at the V and A in London.  Photography is something that I have always loved to look at , but had never really tried to make pictures myself.  I started off by taking a basic Photo 101 class as a Continuing Ed student and something was born.  I've since taken a workshop here and there, which have all been extremely influential in my practice, but for the most part, I am self-taught.  However, I must say, that the best education I have gotten has been through my relationships with other photographers-- that has been invaluable.  My early work was generally quite abstract and did not involve much human interaction, whereas now, I am focusing on several projects that examine various sub-cultures.  This is quite a shift for me, as photography was initially a way for me to isolate behind the lens and spend some time by myself, and now I am finding that I am interacting with people on a much grander scale than I ever imagined.  It has been great though and I still find some time to be by myself, hiding behind my camera.

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

I heard about the Crusade through the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery website and The Ten.  It seemed like such an interesting concept and I am so inspired by people that are doing things differently.  I especially loved the idea behind engaging the public in a conversation about art.  I had no initial impressions other than it was something I wanted to participate in if selected.

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

I was so thrilled to be one of the 5 Chicago photographers selected, especially since I was familiar with Matt's work and Jess's work.  It was an honor to be participating with them, and of course an honor to participate with Damon and Nate, as well.  I am a bit of an introvert so I had a little bit of angst on the day of the event. Initially, I thought the crowd was tough, but once I started to get my game on, engaging people was not as difficult and it was fun to see them get so excited about art.  But I tell ya, I've never seen so many people dis something free before-- the economy must be doing really well !  It was also interesting to see what photos attracted people and why.

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

The event itself was great, despite the chilly weather.  It was so fun to be part of something so innovative.  I did not have many expectations for the day and it went well. At times, I felt like it dragged on, but I think that was a result of the mid-day pre-holiday weekend crowd thinning out.  I really enjoyed talking with the other photographers, and would have liked to do more of that, but had to remind myself to engage the passers-by.  I was pretty surprised that more people were not as enthusiastic as I would have thought they would be about the prospect of getting something free, especially art.  At times I wanted to say, "Do you have any idea how huge some of these guys will be one day?", but I kindly kept those thoughts to myself, as I did not want to seem like I was accosting anyone ;)

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

Sometimes I think it takes a while to gauge what will result from an experience like the Crusade.  Obviously, I really enjoyed meeting some other local photographers and it is great to continue to build up my own network and to engage in the Chicago photographic community.  Professionally, it was great to be able to participate in something produced by Jennifer and to get my work out there in a more innovative context.

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

The image I gave away is called, Goddamn Sherpa,  it is 1 of a series of 12 self-portraits which explore the various identities I presume on any given day.  This body of work is the first time I had used a studio setting or lighting and took about 3 years to complete.



Crusading in Chicago: the trials, the triumphs, the wind

Chicago, you were a tough one.  To be fair, we popped up on a busy downtown street corner on a chilly, windy Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  And I expected this to be a more challenging location, because of these circumstances.  Several people suggested popping up in more art-friendly spots, but that's not the real point, after all.  We are trying to give people an arts experience who were not already seeking one out.  So we just had to zip up our Crusade hoodies and be extra charming.

The events we've had on weekends felt more relaxed - people seem more willing to stop and check out a curiosity on a Saturday.  These business people not only did not stop, they did not even respond.  Occasionally we got a curt hand or head shake, indicating "no thank you,  not a chance", but mostly people just ignored our "Would you like a free photograph from one of these local Chicago artists?".

But that just made the moments we did connect that much sweeter (though not warmer). The five local photographers were really earnest and excited about reaching out to the people in their city, and there were some really amazing moments.  And amazing photography.