Artist + Curator Seminar Follow Up
This is the story of six photographers…
ADAM MARELLI’S STUDIO
Weekend Wrap Up
New programs are always exciting. I have never offered a photography program where we don’t actually shoot pictures. It might sound crazy, but I have found that many, many photographers don’t actually have difficulty taking good pictures. What they struggle with is taking meaningful pictures.
Why do you take pictures? Why did you make that series? And why would anyone want to look at it. These are questions that even the fanciest cameras can’t answer. These problems of project development were hashed out with pen, paper, discussion, and a little bit of vino. The results were exciting and by Friday night I could not wait to get started.
Eric Luden of Digital Silver Imaging, my black and white printer, was in New York City for the night. We had a chance to sit down and discuss the things I had on the table for 2014. This seminar was just one of them. Going through the ins and the outs of the seminar with Eric only got me more excited. By Saturday morning, I was ready to get things going. It was the first time that I have hosted a program with a colleague, in this case curator and writer Susan Bright. Our goal was simple:
We wanted to help six photographers stop taking random shots
and build a body of work they could turn into a book, an
exhibition, or even just a personally fulfilling exercise
that had a start and a finish.
This was no small challenge. We had six backgrounds, six skill levels, six points of view and at least six genres of photography to work through. The photographers came from as far as Poland, Rhode Island, Washington DC, and as close as the West Village.
Six is the perfect party
By day’s end, everyone had a clear cut, easily definable, and potentially successful project to shoot. Susan and I both agreed that if each photographer completed their respective shoots over the next year, they would all represent books we would actually be interested in buying.
The day was divided into three parts. I led the morning with totally new talks on Caravaggio, Cartier-Bresson, and Gregory Crewdson. We looked at the pitfalls of Andy Warhol and how everyone turned their failures into successes. Then Susan took the afternoon, giving the photographers an insiders view on what curators look for from photographers. (Clarity counts for a lot here folks. The best ideas are often lost in poor editing, and I’m talking about image selection, not post-production.) Then we went through everyone’s body of work. We listened to each photographer’s interests and picked out the disconnects we saw as viewers. Often the ideas you have in your head are great, but they don’t make it into the image. That’s where the problems arise.
Finally, after much discussion, the photographers were given assignments and step by step solutions to shooting their projects. The turnarounds were incredible.
Just to give you one example, and I won’t use their name, we had a photographer show up who said they were into landscapes. I mean, who doesn’t like a good landscape picture, right? But why shoot landscapes when everyone knows that trees are pretty and mountains are majestic?
After unpacking the photographer’s stories and answers, it became clear that the themes of loss and isolation were at the forefront of the pictures. All of the landscapes had a sense of loss that stood out to both Susan and I immediately. It turned out the images were of munitions storage from World War II along the eastern seaboard. These idyllic seascapes were punctuated by the vestiges of the WWII era preparation for invasion. Now, these bunkers are decommissioned and appear to be melting back into the soil they guarded for so many years. In a poetic parallel, we pointed out to the photographer that in a few years, all of the remaining soldiers from the War will be gone too. What a timely conclusion to a cycle of war and fear.
For us, as leaders of the seminar, it was so exciting to see the gears turning in everyone’s heads. We all agreed that we will meet again in six months for a follow up seminar.
So what else did we do? Well, you will have to come to the next seminar to see. See the schedule here. There are only three spaces left for the July seminar.
The First and Second Testimonial