My wall at Light and Vision 2, Rice Media Center, Houston Fotofest 2010.
I’m going to be writing about Houston FotoFest 2010 for the next few posts. I’ll start with an overall impression and then reflect on specific photographs, shows and events that impressed me.
This FotoFest was great fun for me as an artist. I finally got my recent diptych work into a selective exhibition that was part of a major festival of photography. True, I was helped by knowing the curator, Photography Professor Geoff Winningham, having been his student in my BA and BFA years at Rice, and by keeping in touch with him over the years, sending him prints and the first edition of my self-published book. I think my artistic work has been getting stronger since 2007, and it’s gratifying to have someone I admire think so too. We had a good opening crowd, and I hope that many more people will make the trip to see the exhibit, which also features eleven other Rice alum’s still photos and a cool video installation by Lina Dib, a current anthropology Ph.D. student at Rice.
Of course, I went to several other FotoFest exhibitions around the city, and most were quite good, even if I didn’t like everything on display. I definitely appreciate color documentary and landscape photography more than heavily manipulate “artsy” work, because that is what I myself like to make. I perhaps suffer a bit from the “Renaissance Disease” Professor Bill Camfield used to describe in my art history classes at Rice, wanting a picture to be clearly about its subject in a representational way. But at least I feel like I am long over my Ansel Adams phase of admiring overdramatic landscapes purged of all humanity.
Best of all was getting to catch up with my former photo professors from Rice, Geoff Winningham and Peter T. Brown, to hear what they have been doing and to get their comments on a little portfolio of 8x10” prints I toted around. It’s good to see they are both still in good health, though Geoff walks with a bit of a limp from being gored by a bull in Mexico and Peter ha put on some weight. Both were very encouraging about my diptychs, though as Geoff pointed out, the simple idea of dividing a scene into two images produces picture that seems far more interesting than it ought to be. Something definitely goes on different in a viewers’ neurology when a person looks at a single image of something than when the same scene is divided in two. I think it forces your brain to work at reconstructing the visual experience of being the photographer to some greater extent than a single picture does.
I very much enjoyed the gallery talk I went to see with curator Katherine Ware interviewing Frank Rodick and discussing the arc of his photographic work at Colton & Farb Gallery. It wasn’t so much about liking the artist’s work, which I find too unsettling to enjoy, as it was to listen to how the work evolved and how the Frank works. To be sure his process is not much like mine, but it was fascinating to here his thoughts. I’ll go into more detail in another post.
Also terrific was going to Fotofest’s Open Portfolio night on Sunday, March 14th and meeting other photographers who are more or less peers of mine, the emerging or reemerging photographers, looking for a little recognition that they are doing important pictures. I saw what I thought was some of the best and worst work while overlooking the tables in the hall that night. Literally everything from baby portraits and wedding pictures to heavily digitally manipulated pretentious art was there, and everything in between. Again I gravitated to certain peoples’ documentary work, but quickly walked on past many others’ stuff. In the process I made some new friends and even met a fellow photographer from Boston, Eva Timothy, and a friend of a friend Lynn Saville, a night photographer who also knows Boston’s nocturnal imaging guru Lance Keimig.