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Sarah Moore

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Collecting Stories Part 6: To Theme or Not to Theme?

This series chronicles my (and I hope soon others') journey to becoming an art collector, with the goal of demystifying the whole concept of collecting. As you will see, I do not have an art history background, and I do not have Picassos covering my walls. There are just pieces of art that I love, and I buy them. That is collecting. See? Not so scary.

Previous installments in this series discussed how I started buying art, some embarrassing early purchases, how I learned about editioning, and building relationships with the artists I collect. In this post, I'd like to talk about themes in art collections. Many collectors I know have themes they collect within as a way to narrow their focus - photographs of musicians, black and white street photography, still lifes. . . anything really. Some may focus on a very specific time range and origin (1890-1920 American paintings, for example). But can you collect without a theme?

Hells yes. My theme has been the "everything I love" theme. And it is diverse, because my tastes range from straight documentary-style portraits to dreamy, etherial images to just about anything that makes me feel something. However, over time I have realized there are some types of images I am drawn to over and over again. My former gallery manager once pointed out my over-the-top affinity for forlorn women and birds. I also love beds and windows and intense portraits, often of rough-around-the-edges men. I don't only collect these things, I just tend to be drawn to them. I do have a bird room though (after my husband said, "can you at least put all of that bird sh*t in one place?").

an recent image of a wall in my bird room (rearranged constantly),   featuring Joshua Meier , Rachel Chabot, Tristan Spinski, Christian Bradley West, Angela Bacon Kidwell (x2), Kathleen Robbins, John Bohannon,   not pictured: Keith Carter, Randi Lynn Beach

an recent image of a wall in my bird room (rearranged constantly), featuring Joshua Meier , Rachel Chabot, Tristan Spinski, Christian Bradley West, Angela Bacon Kidwell (x2), Kathleen Robbins, John Bohannon, not pictured: Keith Carter, Randi Lynn Beach

I love white on white or mostly white images, and I recently realized I had quite a few of these and/or snow photographs. Recognizing a mini-theme, I decided to hang several of them together, similar to my bird room.

clockwise from top left: Ben Huff, Sarah Moore, Sarah Moore, Daniel Coburn, Maureen Drennan (waiting on another piece. . .)

clockwise from top left: Ben Huff, Sarah Moore, Sarah Moore, Daniel Coburn, Maureen Drennan (waiting on another piece. . .)

And then when I purchased my beloved David Hilliard, Anna Walker Skillman (owner of Jackson Fine Art) suggested I hang other photos with kids in them (seems I had a bunch of those too) on the wall with it.

counter-clockwise from the top left: Brandon Thibodeaux, Mark Steinmetz, Daniel Coburn, Daniel Coburn, Joshua Meier, Mark Steinmetz, David Hilliard

counter-clockwise from the top left: Brandon Thibodeaux, Mark Steinmetz, Daniel Coburn, Daniel Coburn, Joshua Meier, Mark Steinmetz, David Hilliard

So don't get hung up on rules. Just buy what you love!

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Crusade Thoughts From the Co-Pilot: Part 2

This is Sarah Moore again, reporting to you from my little casita in Santa Fe, NM.  I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about the end of the Crusade for Collecting tour, which already seems like so long ago.  Sigh. The rest of our stay in Brooklyn was…interesting.  I mean, you have to understand that I’m not really a city girl (born and raised in South Dakota), nor am I used to the humidity anymore (currently living in the desert).  So, to be in the throes of a large city during an incredible heat wave was not necessarily my cup of tea.  I remember spending hours upon hours holed up in my Hotel Indigo room (which, might I say, was absolutely lovely!), sheltering myself from the heat and the people.  That being said, I did enjoy a few lovely nights out in Brooklyn, a stroll through Prospect Park, a few entertaining subway rides, fun confusion in DUMBO, and an afternoon with two of my favorite photographers.  So all in all, New York was a success.

Spending an afternoon with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris-Webb was definitely my favorite part of the New York stop, possibly of the whole trip.  I’ve been a long-time fan of their work, particularly Rebecca’s My Dakota.  It’s not often I meet another person from South Dakota (outside of that state, that is), not to mention a talented photographer.  It was a pleasure to talk to Rebecca about our home state.  Though we grew up under different circumstances and in different landscapes, we both can relate to the vastness and solitude of South Dakota.  Talking to her definitely put a few things about my own photography in perspective.

It was also a pleasure to see many of the Norris-Webb books, both ones they’ve made individually and ones they’ve collaborated on.  These photographers are clearly passionate about telling stories, and they do it with such grace.  Plus, they were just delightful people to spend a hot summer day with. But enough on that…let’s get back to the Crusade!

The Brooklyn Pop-Up event was one for the record books…the heat record books!  Ha.  No but really, it was a balmy, sweaty, sunshiny day spent by the river in DUMBO.  Our photographers were all awesome and outgoing, but it was still pretty tough to get the passersby to take the free photographs.  Some people would claim that they “already had art, so didn’t need any more”, and one guy even said “well, I’d hate to take that and then just throw it away.”  Fair enough, I guess.  Despite some hesitations, we managed to get 50 new collectors in Brooklyn that day, and many connections were pure and joyful.  It was a good day, even if many of us almost got heat stroke.

All in all, as exciting as parts of New York were, I was quite happy to set sail to Washington DC.  I was a bit weary on how our Nation’s Capitol would take to the free art campaign, but excited to see how it would end up.

DC was another unexpected (for me, at least) breath of fresh air on this trip.  What a lovely, tree-lined, art-loving, high-security city!  Perhaps the high security part wasn’t quite as fun.  But really--DC was swell.  Jennifer and I stayed with her college boyfriend, Sam, in a cute old brownstone in a nice quiet neighborhood.  The architecture around DC is really stunning, which is something I hadn’t noticed the last time I was in DC (which was on an 8th grade field trip to see all the great monuments and museums, of course).  And the dappled light in the evening was warm and welcoming.

Jennifer and I spent one afternoon driving Lady Blue around the city, both so she could see it and so we could get photos of her in it.  This went well for the most part, except for one minor hiccup when we were getting a photograph of Lady in front of the White House.  The police officer wasn’t thrilled that we were parked in a “no parking” zone in “that vehicle” during a state of heightened security.  Needless to say, we moved right along (after getting our photo).  I must say though, Lady Blue looked really nice in Washington DC.

For our DC Pop-Up, we stationed the Lady and our five local photographers right in front of the National Mall.  I thought perhaps we’d get some angry business folks or security guards that day, but it actually went smoother than I could’ve ever imagined!  We got a huge variety of people to stop and talk to us about photographs and the art world--ranging from eager tourists (including a troop of middle school boy soccer players) to coffee-clutching businessmen to people who heard about us online and sought us out.  Nearly everyone who stopped was excited, inquisitive, and thrilled to walk away with art.  We left the Mall that day feeling like we had hit our East Coast high note in an unexpected place.  It was definitely a good way to end the Crusade journey.

We finished our DC stop with some delicious pizza and wine with a few photographers before heading back to Sam’s place.  I slept about four hours that night, due to an early bird plane ride back to the Southwest.  The next thing I really remember was being nestled in my Santa Fean bed, wondering if the Crusade had been just a delightful dream.

Thanks again to Jennifer for including me on her East Coast Crusade tour.  I know as time goes on I’ll grow more and more grateful for the experience and more and more conscious of all the things I learned while traveling with her and Lady Blue.  It was a remarkable trip, filled with laughter and tears.  I met so many incredibly people and have a renewed sense of what it means to be a photographer and a collector in today’s Arts Ecology.

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Astoria Retreat (Season 4!): #flashersforlife

When David Bram and I started planning our first invite-only retreat for photographers over a year ago, we never could have imagined how powerful these experiences would be - for everyone.  David and I leave each and every one completely blown away by the talent, energy and drive of these artists.  And then there's the bonding. . . something about living all together in a house for five days, talking non-stop about your art and life. . . it easily makes the retreats one of the most special and rewarding things I do. I have often said that living in the house together is like The Real World without the hot tub, and when I started my tour, so many of the photographers who have participated on the retreats either came along on a leg of the trip or participated in a pop-up or just showed up in a city for an in-person high-five. It started to feel like The Real World-Road Rules Challenge, with photographers from one retreat meeting photographers from another and sharing stories from what they all knew was a completely unique experience.  "What retreat were you on?" sounded very much like "What Season were you on?".  

Sean Dana and Kurt Simonson (Season 1 - aka Astoria 7/12, aka #Astoria6) drove with me from San Francisco to Portland, where we met up with Bill Vaccaro, who was also Season 1 and participated in the New Orleans pop-up (so did Kurt!) and met up with the Crusade in Cleveland.  In Portland I saw Julia Vandenoever (Season 2, aka The Cat Cave) and Elizabeth Clark Libert (Season 3, aka The Bone Collectors) and Brandon Thibideaux (who was soon to be Season 4, aka Flashers).  Sarah Moore (Season 2) was my co-pilot from Chicago (where we met up with Matt Crowther - Season 4) to Cleveland (enter Bill Vaccaro and Matthew Conboy - on Sarah's season) to New York (where she reunited with Muema from Season 2 and met Sara Macel from Season 4 and Charlotte Strode, who will be Season 5 in July).  And to bring it all home, Heather Evans Smith (Season 3) met me in Richmond to celebrate the final Crusading days.  Whew.  Confused?

In all of the traveling excitement, I have not written up the last retreat (Season 4 - held in Astoria, Oregon in April).  This group bonded straight out of the gate.  It was almost alarming.  We always try to put together people from different places, photographic experiences, types of work, etc. so that the participants learn from each other as much as they learn from us.  And although this group had the usual amount of diversity, they were besties nearly instantaneously.

We had the usual agenda of intensive work on portfolios, sequencing, artist statements (my favorite!), and hours and hours of more, followed by after-hours bowls of Butterfinger ice cream and more photo talk.  We also explored Canon Beach (Goonies rock!), made friends with some locals, rocked the DQ,  and became flashers for life.

This crew. . . damn special.  They all are, honestly.  David and I say it constantly - we are so lucky to do what we do.

Make sure you check out the work from this talented group: Matt Crowther, Elizabeth Fleming, Sara Macel, Brandon Thibodeaux and Annick Sjobakken.

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check out Flash Powder Projects here.

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Crusade Thoughts from the Co-Pilot

Sarah Moore has been an amazing co-pilot and cheerleader on the east coast leg of the tour.  Here are some of her thoughts from the first portion of our trip:

I first found out about Jennifer’s Crusade for Collecting over a year ago, when her Kickstarter campaign launched.  The idea to drive around the country in a VW bus and give away photographs was exciting and new for me, as I’m sure it was for many.  I would have never imagined all those months ago that I’d be joining Jennifer on the East Coast leg of her tour.  Not only has this opportunity allowed me the chance to spend time with someone I admire and really like, but I even got to meet the bus (Lady Blue) in person!

This rather unique road trip has been filled with some trials and tribulations, but mostly a lot of joy and learning.  I met up with Jennifer in Chicago, where we immediately had a mild airport miscommunication.  Luckily, we both arrived safely at our lovely hotel, the stylish and hospitable Hotel Indigo Chicago.

We spent our blistery days in Chicago running around seeing photographs, picking up Lady Blue (a two hour turned five hour journey), talking it up with talented Chicagraphers (their own coined term), eating deep-dish pizza, and dodging the never ending rain.  Jennifer wrote a bit about our Chicago pop-up event, so I’ll spare you those details.  My impression of Chicago was that it was a windy, welcoming, photo-filled city looking over a beautiful lake from stunning architecture.  Even if many of the pedestrians of downtown Chicago didn’t want our free art, many amazing connections were still made.  We left Chicago with grateful hearts and a purring and happy Lady Blue.

Cleveland was our next stop, a destination Jennifer, Matthew Crowther (awesome Chicagrapher who joined us for the Cleveland journey), and myself had few expectations for.  Yet, after spending a few soggy and cold days in the Windy City, we were pleasantly surprised to find Cleveland both sunny and awesome!  We bunked up in the Cleveland Hostel, a new and hip hostel for the modern and funky people of Cleveland’s west side.  We enjoyed drinks in a Speakeasy, where we were also graced with the presence of the great photographer and friend, Matthew Conboy.  We even ate some of the best meals of this trip so far!  However, my absolute highlight of the Cleveland leg was seeing Todd Hido’s new show up at the Transformer Station.  Jennifer and I got a private tour of the exhibit by owner and collector Fred Bidwell.  Fred was kind enough to share his insights about collecting, contemporary photography, the Cleveland art scene, and what things draw him to an image.  It’s always nice to talk to someone who cares about photography in the ways that I also care about photography.

Upon leaving Cleveland, we managed to hit a few road blocks in the Lady Blue department.  I’ll save those stories for a later date though.  Suffice it to say, Jennifer and I had a few long days trying to get to New York, but like any true road warrior women, we did in fact make it!

We’re currently stationed at the Hotel Indigo Brooklyn, yet another lovely hotel complete with swanky murals and lovely staff.  New York is hot and muggy (mugginess is not one of my favorite things, as I’m a Santa Fe gal now), but proving to be yet another awesome piece of this Crusade puzzle.  We’ll keep you posted on how this one ends up.

It’s been amazing to be able to meet photographers, collectors, gallery owners, and inspired strangers over the past week and a half.  I feel so lucky to be on this journey, and I know I’ll return back to the desert with a new sense of what it means to collect and appreciate art, new friends, and a new admiration for the woman who decided to make the leap and travel around the country in a VW bus!

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If Chicago Was a Hustle, Cleveland Was a Mosey. . .

Chicago was by far the most challenging pop-up, and with good reason (downtown street corner on a cold, windy Friday before a holiday weekend), and when we got to Cleveland, we were still pretty keyed up from it.  When we arrived at the Root Café in Lakewood on Sunday, we were anxious to get things going and start “selling” our free art.  The photographers arrived, and Sarah and I were rushing around the bus to set up, get the photographers prepared for engaging people who may be incredibly uninterested, and get our game faces on.  No need.  Cleveland just a smooth, easy, lovely walk in the park.  At one point someone asked how it compared to the Chicago pop-up, and I said, “Well, if Chicago was a hustle, Cleveland was a mosey”.  Everyone stopped.  Everyone was more than willing to chat a bit and take home a photograph.  Was it too easy?

When we were able to get someone to stop in Chicago, the energy was high.  The participant was surprised and excited and very interested to see all of the work and get to keep an image.  Everyone in Cleveland was so nice and accommodating ("Sure, I'll take a photograph"), it was hard to determine if a real connection was being made.

And then there was Henry.  Henry is 8 years old, and prior to this event, he did not own any original artwork outside of his own drawings.  He fell in love with this Sarah Moore photograph from The Ten, and was beyond excited to learn she was there in Cleveland and could tell him more about her image.  Henry was able to really articulate what drew him to the photograph and what he loved about it.  It was a really special moment and definitely a highlight of the tour for me.

The next day Cleveland Print Room hosted a Memorial Day BBQ and Crusade talk, which was really relaxed and fun.  Several of the people we met at the pop-up the day before came to hear the lecture, and it was great to get to check out this new facility.  Shari Wilkins, the founder of the community darkroom which opened just a few months ago, was instrumental in getting the Crusade to come through Cleveland.  It was not originally on the tour, but she made a compelling case, and was absolutely amazing as my "on the ground" person, coordinating the entire Cleveland stop.  So thankful - there just aren't words.

On our way out of town on Tuesday morning, we had the supreme pleasure of meeting Fred Bidwell at Transformer Station, where he gave us a tour of the absolutely mind-blowing Todd Hido show.  He graciously allowed me to ask him a million questions about his love of photography, how he started collecting, the mission of Transformer Station, and I will be sharing those in a future blog post, don't you worry.

And finally, the photographers!  Shari Wilkins from Cleveland Print Room curated the five photographers for the local photographer showcase, which was unique to this city (I have curated the photographers in all of the other cities into the project) and super fun.  A huge thank you to the five of them: Donald Black, Jr., Stephanie Mercer, Angelo Merendino, Dan Morgan and Julia Van Wagenen.  

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Looking vs. Owning: Why Collecting is Awesome

The past two days in Chicago have been a whirlwind of photo awesomeness.  The photographers here - Chicagraphers, as they call themselves (clever, right?) - are an enthusiastic and welcoming crew.  They seem to love the medium and love their community, and we have felt like VIPs every minute. Yesterday we (the "we" is Sarah Moore - my trusty co-pilot on the east coast leg of the tour - and me) and I had the biggest treat.  Jess Dugan, a supremely talented and incredibly thoughtful and sharp Chicagrapher who is in the MFA program at Columbia College and works as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, pulled out photographs from the museum's collection for us to drool over.  When we were setting this up, she asked what we might like to see, and I told her I wanted her to pull some of her favorites.  I didn't know the museum's collection, and I knew she would know the jewels.

We got to see Sally Mann, Larry Sultan, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Mappelthorpe, Dawoud Bey, Alec Soth's prototype of Sleeping By the Mississippi. . . it was a dream.

When Jess and I were speaking about how fortunate she is to be able to work with these images and view them daily, she said something that struck me.  She said that just knowing an image and loving it is different than living with it every day.  That when you get to see a photograph that speaks to you hundreds of times, it becomes part of you and the connection becomes intrinsic.  (I'm paraphrasing.)

That is why collecting is so amazing.  You get to interact with an image you love on a daily basis, and it seeps into your soul.  That may sound mushy and overly-romantic, but hey, I'm driving a bus around the country to talk about collecting, I'm pretty mushy about it.  You should be too.  Art is awesome.

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#Astoria 5: Photographic Retreat for the Record Books

As I write this, I am on my flight home from another amazing retreat in Astoria, Oregon (also known as:  my most favorite place on earth). For those of you who don’t know, the retreats are invite-only photographic retreats developed and facilitated by David Bram and me.  In these four-day, five-night retreats, small groups of photographers have the opportunity to strengthen and package a portfolio of work and develop a plan to strategically launch a project. David and I and the participating photographers (5 maximum) share a house for an experience that feels like a cross between a reality tv show and a big group hug.  The shared living quarters allow the learning, feedback and dialog to continue past the structured hours of instruction and creates a casual, comfortable environment to explore and share work and experiences – and lots of jokes.  Cat Cave, anyone?

We hosted our first retreat in Astoria in July with six photographers (you may know them as the #Astoria6), and the success of that trip encouraged us to schedule several more (January in Astoria, February in New Mexico, and April in Astoria).  The first was so great – both personally and professionally rewarding and fun – that David and I were both apprehensive about going into our second retreat.  But as soon as Muema pulled up in the minivan of champions with all five photographers and the first package of doughnuts was busted out, we knew we were home-free.  This was truly a phenomenally talented, spirited, and generous group.  David and I cannot stop talking about how fortunate we are to be doing what we love, surrounded by gifted, wonderful photographers.  It is a dream.

The #Astoria5:  Matthew Conboy (Cool Ranch), Kelly K. Jones (KK), Sarah Moore (Dream-Crusher), Muema (DJ SUV) and Julia Vandenoever (Pelligrino)

First full day in Astoria: Matthew Conboy, Julia Vandenoever, Kelly K. Jones, Sarah Moore, Muema
First full day in Astoria: Matthew Conboy, Julia Vandenoever, Kelly K. Jones, Sarah Moore, Muema
Photo geek-out day trip to Portland
Photo geek-out day trip to Portland
Beer makes writing artist statements less painful
Beer makes writing artist statements less painful

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check out Flash Powder Projects here.

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Give the Gift of Original Art

. . . the gift that keeps on giving. . . Every year Fraction Magazine holds a Holiday Print Sale, offering special editions of small prints (most are 8.5 x 11) at affordable prices (average of $95) from photographers who have been featured on the online magazine.

Scrolling through the 94 items (both photographs and photobooks) is like a who's who of photographers I adore. I had so many items in my shopping cart, I thought the site would crash. And just like every other year, I over-spent, but felt good that I could put money directly in the pockets of photographers I admire.

So check it out! The sale runs through December 31, and all photographs are shipped within 5 days of purchase.

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