A few years ago I met Gordon Stettinius when he was passing through Atlanta. He stopped by the gallery to show me some work. He had a handlebar mustache and a very odd hairdo. We hit it off. It is impossible not to hit it off with Gordon. He is genuine, disarming, sharp, and supremely comfortable in his own skin. Anyone who can walk about with an iconic hairdo in the name of humor and art has me hooked for life. (Although not the focus of this post, I feel compelled to mention his Mangini Studio Series. I have been known to force perfect strangers in bars to look at these images on my phone. The genius is in the smart humor and Gordon’s ability to fully commit without taking himself too seriously.)

Gordon lives in my hometown, Richmond, VA. Last week I was in town for a quick trip and asked Gordon if I could stop by his space for a video interview. He graciously accepted and we sat down at 9pm on a Wednesday night to have the most intense, brilliant, world-changing conversation that ever was. And you will just have to trust me on that, because I forgot to hit “record” on the camera. (Video is not my medium. And I am an idiot.)

Although we talked all about his evolution from photographer to publisher to gallerist (he remains all three), I was most interested to learn more about Unbound!, a program he created to promote photographers, raise money, and purchase work to donate to a museum collection. Hello, crusader!

Gordon was inspired by a program in Houston called Gift Of Gift Of that invites photographers to submit images that get voted on during an exhibition party – depending on the amount of money raised and the number of votes a piece gets, it may be purchased and donated to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Gift Of caps the cost of the print at $300, and Gordon wanted to develop a program that would allow photographers with higher priced work to participate.

And so, Unbound! Gordon selected over 50 images from both invited photographers and those who submitted work for consideration. On July 20, guests paid $35 to attend the Unbound! Gala Event at Candela Books + Gallery (Gordon’s gorgeous space). Although I would argue that “Gala” doesn’t lead one to think of chicken fried up in the back alley, but I’d take fried chicken, roller girls and hard lemonade over a black tie event any day.

The money brought in from event and raffle tickets went to purchase eleven photographs, which will comprise the newly formed Candela Collection. “The mission of the Candela Collection will be to support photographers through the purchase and collection of their work while also actively pursuing future opportunities to donate said work to notable art institutions.”

Gordon is totally badass. (And he has great hair.)

The following eleven pieces became part of the Candela Collection:

•Louviere + Vanessa, “Chloroform, Valde”, 2006, 1/15, Inkjet on Gampi Paper, Wax & Blood •Daniel Kariko, “Front Porch, Doormat, August 14th (Weevel)”, 2012, 1/10, Archival Pigment Inkjet Print •Beth Moon, “The Ifaty Teapot” from series, “Portraits of Time”, 4/25, Platinum/palladium Print •Alex Artz, “Melanie and Dillie, Canal Fulton, OH”, 2010, 1/20, Archival Pigment Print on Fiber-based Paper •Tony Chirinos, “Untitled, from the series Requiescant in Pace”, 2004, Gelatin Silver Print •Susan Worsham, “Marine, Hotel Near Airport, Richmond, VA” 2009, from series “By the Grace of God”, 3/10, Archival Pigment Print •Aline Smithson, “The Family”, from Pretty/Dirty, 2/15, Archival Pigment Print •Michael Craig Donner, “Elizabeth”, 2009, 4/10, Courtesy of Panopticon Gallery, Encaustic Finished Gelatin Silver Print •Jenny Sampson, “Will, Truckee” 2010, Unique Wet Collodion Tintype, Varnished •Susan Burnstine, “The Last Goodbye”, 2010 9/15 Archival Pigment Print, Hand Varnished •Tami Bone, “Mythos”, 2012, from series “Mythos”, 3/20, Cotton Rag Pigment Print