Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So many competitions, so little time

Lately, I've been feeling slightly overwhelmed by the abundance of competitions, calls for entry, and grant applications out there. I have a stack that seems knee-deep and have been trying to decide, on a case by case basis, which ones are worth the time, money, and energy to apply to.

I try to be discriminating in regard to which shows or contests I apply to. I pay close attention to the juror, the venue, and any potential prizes involved, especially if those prizes include publication. I look at what artists have entered in previous years and what they are doing now. If I recognize a slew of artists who I respect, I take that as a sign that it's worthwhile. I know on some level that all exposure is good exposure, but sometimes it's not worth all of the cost to have your photo hang on the wall of some anonymous gallery where it won't be seen by many people. Simply the reward of getting into an exhibition isn't always enough of a draw. After paying an entry fee ranging from $30 to $80, or sometimes more, getting accepted into a show is exciting but often brings with it a price tag of several hundred dollars once you account for printing, framing, and shipping costs.

That being said, my stack of pre-screened calls for entry is STILL quite high, and I am faced with the decision of which ones are worth the fee and the energy. I tend to feel like I might be missing a potential opportunity if I don't apply for everything that seems relevant, but I also think that I (and presumably other artists trying to make a name for themselves) can get caught up in all of the exhibiting and promoting. In all of this hustle and bustle, it is not often stated that sometimes it is best to hang low and focus on making your work. Artists can't be focused only on the exhibiting side of things (I sure can't, anyway), and it is nice to be reminded that at the essence of it all, it is about making pictures that are meaningful, which isn't always easy and often requires a great deal of thought, energy, and time.

Don't get me wrong- I have several contests, grants, exhibitions, and residencies on my list of "to apply for"- each one dutifully written on a sticky note and placed on the wall above my desk. But I am also learning to strike a balance between the excitement of promoting my work with the quieter, more internal (though equally exciting) process of making images that I am passionate about.

I'm looking forward to a day in the darkroom today to print some new work.

Friday, April 23, 2010

David Hilliard at Dartmouth College

Last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing David Hilliard's exhibition, "Highway of Thought" at Dartmouth College, where he is the artist in residence for the spring.

I could never say enough good things about David's photographs. I first discovered his work while studying with him at MassArt, and his images struck a chord within me and have been an inspiration ever since. His images capture a beautiful sense of humanity and all of its emotions, ranging from desire to longing to sadness to joy. They quietly capture experiences of the everyday, simultaneously expressing a sense of the commonplace with a sense of the profound.

I have always been struck by the honesty of his images. In many of them, I feel a sense of sadness or of longing to be a part of something larger. Perhaps it is a search for the spiritual, in the most broad sense, or a desire for human connection. What I love so much about this is that it feels familiar to me. I see an optimism in the longing, as it is not an easy quest but is one that signifies an inherent belief in the power of connection, of relating to another person on a deeper level. His work is at once so intimate, so specific- yet so universal. That, for me, is where the power lies. I see his images and know that his experience is not my own, but I recognize myself in his work. I would argue that this is a high measure of success for a photographer of people, and in this regard his work excels.

In his current exhibition at Dartmouth, he has chosen 15 pieces spanning over many years, creating an intelligently arranged mini-retrospective. The themes of human connection and spirituality guide the show, and it would be impossible to experience it without feeling emotionally moved. One of my favorite images is the 4-paneled image from which the show gets its title, "Highway of Thought." The image is of David's father's journal in which he writes quotes of inspiration, flanked by his hands on either side. For me, this image breaks down so many complexities and barriers of expectation. The simple act of recording quotes of inspiration, presumably for reflection and an attempt at understanding the world around you, is a beautiful and quiet activity. The writing on the pages is exquisitely neat, meticulous, and gentle, reminding me almost of the cross-stitch patterns my mother used to make of devotional poems, flowers, and the like. Yet these words are written in blue ink, the letters intricately woven into shapes and patterns, tightly filling up the pages of a standard ledger book. From having seen David's other work, I am familiar with images of his father, who from the outside doesn't necessarily appear to be the kind of person to keep such an eloquent journal. It is this absolute commitment to human experience, especially when the truth defies the stereotype or expectation, that I find so moving throughout all of his images.

I believe that we each have to figure out who we are in this world and how to relate to those around us, a task much easier stated than executed, but David's work leaves me with a sense of optimism. It is a beautiful and gentle reminder to look deeper and think harder with the understanding that people are not always what we assume them to be. They are often much more beautiful and complicated than we expect, and taking the time to truly look is a rewarding and wonderful experience.

Go see the show if you have a chance- it's worth it.

"Highway of Thought" is on display from April 6 - May 2, 2010 at the Jaffe-Friede Gallery in the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. More information about the exhibition can be found here and the rest of David's work can be seen on his website at

Some more of my favorite images:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Feature on Lenscratch

I am honored and delighted that Aline Smithson featured my series A Place so as to Stay on her blog Lenscratch. It is quite a treat to see my work featured on such a wonderful blog.

Aline has an opening tomorrow night, April 22nd from 6-7:30, at the Griffin's Atelier Gallery at Stoneham Theatre, so if you're around the Boston area, be sure to check it out. In honor of her exhibition at the Griffin, she has posted several features of Boston area photographers to her blog, so be sure to check it out to see some amazing work.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Transgender Emergency Fund Calendar

I recently photographed an amazing group of individuals for the Transgender Emergency Fund's benefit 2011 calendar. I'm making my way through the 1,600 images I took and wanted to post a few of my favorites below. Keep your eyes open for the calendar, which will be released in early June and available for purchase at Boston Pride. I'll post more info here as well. There are many more photos to come!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photographs from "In between" at Allegheny College

Darren Lee Miller was gracious enough to send me some installation shots from the exhibit "In Between: (re)Negotiating Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality," in which I had three photographs from The (Trans)Gender Series. Along with the images, he sent a very touching letter about the many ways in which the exhibit sparked controversy (initially) and ultimately ignited positive discussion throughout the college. They put out a very nice catalogue containing interviews with all of the artists, which can be seen here. Below are a few of the photos:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Show in Chicago

Over the past few weekends, I've been printing two of my new triptychs to send to a show at the Schneider Gallery in Chicago, IL. "A New Angle: Portrait Group Show" opens on May 14th and includes the work of Jowhara Alsaud, Jennifer Greenburg, Ursula Sokolowska, and myself. The show runs through July 3, 2010. I'll be present for the opening on Friday, May 14th and am also thrilled to have a few days to explore Chicago and see all of the art the city has to offer.

I'll be sending two images from my newest body of work, A Place so as to Stay, and I'm really looking forward to exhibiting these works full-size and seeing them on the wall. While I am nearly two years into this body of work, I am just beginning to make enlargements and see the images as I intended, in 3 separate 16" x 20" panels. Full size, the images come alive, and I can see all of the details I fell in love with in the first place.

Here's a little bit of the backstory for each image below:

Greg in his Cigar Shop, Little Rock, Arkansas, 2008

Greg is one of the first people I photographed for this body of work, when I was still figuring out what I was exploring by using triptychs and why I felt compelled to shoot in panels instead of a single frame. Having grown up in Little Rock, Arkansas, I go back often to see my dad, who still lives there. Since I was small, I have been going to the cigar shop with him to buy his cigars. His friends who worked there would always give me a wooden cigar box as a present, and to this day I have several of them. They sit on my desk and hold various silly things, and when I look at them I lovingly think of my dad and his cigar smoking buddies. In the shop, I always loved the smokey haze, the unmistakable smell of cigar smoke, and the trinkets on the shelves. I associate pipe and tobacco shops with odd little items from a time past: ivory carved canes, marble chess sets, various carved bears and fantasy metal dragons. Maybe it's just that particular cigar shop, but all cigar shops seem to have a special charm. In Greg's, there is a steady rotation of guys, and some women, sitting around a table full of ashtrays and hot coffee in foam cups, smoking the day away. I have always wanted to make a series of images in this place. Perhaps it is because it is a wonderful mixing pot of people, where your identity as a cigar smoker comes before any other previously defined category. You walk in and you feel like family.

Anyhow, back to the photo: last time I was in town, I called Greg and asked if I could make a photograph of him, and he generously agreed. As familiar as I am with this place, I was nervous- the dynamics change when you walk in with a 4" x 5." I should have known, though, that this was exactly the place for me and my wooden Wista. I photographed Greg in his walk-in humidor, halfway smoked cigar in hand, a smile on his face. I normally don't go for smiles, but with Greg it was so genuine I couldn't resist. I fell in love with his patterned shirt, his wonderful grey hair and beard, and his absolute commitment and dedication to being a cigar smoker and the lifestyle that accompanies it. That dedication and embodiment is what this project is all about. After I photographed him, we sat and talked for a long while, creating one of the best memories I have in that little cigar shop. I sent him a copy of the photo (via my dad) and I heard he put it up in the shop. I can't wait to go back and see.

Ted and Virginia, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2009

This photo of Ted and Virginia was taken at the Fogg Art Museum in 2009, a year after the building had closed to the public and shortly before the building was vacated by the staff. Ted is the Curator of American Art and Virginia is the Assistant Curator of American Art. In 2008 and 2009, I completed a series of photographs called A Moment Collected: Photographs at the Harvard Art Museum which included portraits of 37 staff members and approximately 50 still life images from throughout the museum. For most of my potraits, I approached people individually and asked to take their picture. Towards the end of the project, Ted approached me and asked if I would take a photograph of him and Virginia in their office, a wonderful little nook full of books up on the third floor, as a way to remember their time and space at the Fogg before the building was renovated.

Books are integral to any curator's work, but Ted is known for his massive collection of books. I decided to take a triptych of them reading, in addition to individual portraits which I used for the series and for my graduate thesis, and loved the way it came out. Though it was originally intended to be a part of the Fogg series, I moved it into A Place so as to Stay because it so perfectly fit the essence I was trying to capture. It was interesting when choosing which panels to include. During the exposure, I photographed both Ted and Virginia reading their book and looking at me. I toyed with having both of them look at me, which felt too posed, and also with having Ted look at me and Virginia looking at her book, which felt too male-dominant, somehow. I eventually chose to have Virginia looking at me (or the viewer) and Ted reading his book, which worked visually but also emotionally, capturing the essence of who I know these people to be.

It is amazing to me how quickly this image has become a memory of the past, with this office no longer existing. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to photograph these amazing people who are both wonderful scholars and interesting characters. It is a reminder that exciting pictures come sometimes when you least expect them to, or out of the spaces and experiences that seem so everyday.

I am looking forward to seeing these two images on the wall in Chicago!

Information about the show from the Schneider Gallery website:

A New Angle
Portrait Group Show
May 14 - July 3, 2010
Opening Reception: Friday, May 14
5:00 - 7:30 pm

The Schneider Gallery is pleased to present the work of four young artists, Jowhara AlSaud, Jess T. Dugan, Jennifer Greenburg, and Ursula Sokolowska. These exceptional women photographers all explore the power of the portrait.

The portrait is personal, and when effective, goes beyond depiction- it commands presence, it reveals the quality and character of the sitter. The portraits by AlSaud, Dugan, Greenburg, and Sokolowska allow us the unique pleasure to do more than look but to engage a world that we may otherwise not feel invited into. Each artist captures their subject with such ease and grace that we too feel to have an intimate relation with them. We do not see as a voyeur, rather as friend, confidant, or equal. We are welcomed to comfortably wander, even inhabit the frame.

Saudi Arabian artist Jowhara AlSaud works with purpose. She begins with images of daily life- snapshots of family and friends- and works subtractively, scratching into the emulsion of the negative itself. Through elimination she employs a visual language that reacts directly to the process of censorship.

Jess T. Dugan takes interest in identity and self definition. She explores how activities, collections, and place act as mirror to the self. Dugan both asks and answers the question- how are our passions, interests, and pursuits reflected in the environments we inhabit. A seemingly simple question is handled with sincerity, delight, and insight into the figures and the spaces illuminated.

Jennifer Greenburg explores the subculture of the American Rockabilly in frames that inherently have documentary quality, but work beyond the limits of the genre. The Rockabillies live within the parameters of mid-twentieth century America. Judgment, critique, and skepticism of those living this adopted lifestyle fall away; our engagement with the figures is both personal and direct.

Ursula Sokolowska’s latest work is subtle yet weighty. No removal exists between the viewer and subject. The immediacy and rawness of the individuals depicted allows for an instant contact with the space, charac-ter, and subsequent narrative. If we were not allowed to hide ourselves in shadow our meeting with the figures would almost be abrupt.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last week, my boss brought me in a few flowers after Easter. What better thing to do than to take a photo of them?

Friday, April 9, 2010

MassArt Auction this Saturday

I'm excited to attend the MassArt's Annual Benefit Auction this Saturday. My image, Roxane, is one of the pieces available for purchase. If you're in the area, check it out. There is a great line-up of work available every year, but this year in particular there are works by Triiibe, TT Baum and Michael Grohall, Laura McPhee, David Hilliard, Lalla Essaydi, Ambreen Butt, Claire Beckett, Barbara Bosworth, John Carleton, Tara Donovan, Yoav Horesh, Archy Lasalle, Nick Nixon, Adam Lampton, Alec Soth.... the list goes on and on. As usual, you can find the wonderful sculptures of Stephanie Chubbuck (which I always wish I could buy!) and tons of other great art.

From the Massart Auction website:

Join us for an exciting evening in support of the next generation of creativity. The MassArt Foundation's 21st Annual Benefit Art Auction will take place Saturday, April 10, 2010 at the Sandra & David Bakalar Gallery and the Stephen D. Paine Gallery at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, 621 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

The auction is the school's major fund-raising event of the year. This year, over 300 nationally and internationally renowned artists will participate in the auction, including many of our distinguished alumni, faculty, staff, graduating seniors, and master's degree candidates.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Live Auction will begin at 8:00 p.m. with auctioneer Karen Keane, CEO Skinner, Inc. The Silent Auctions remain open throughout the evening.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My tattoo on Flickr

Oddly enough, the best photo I have of my camera tattoo was taken at an opening in the fall of 2008 (the tattoo was only a month old) by someone I didn't know, which later turned up on Flickr. It unfortunately isn't quite this crisp anymore, but that is to be expected. Here is the photo, via Flickr:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Photos from "Shower" at Gallery Kayafas

Here are a few photos from TT Baum and Michael Grohall's amazing performance, Shower, performed at Gallery Kayafas on March 26th. By the end of the night, everything was covered in gold! The performance was beautiful and moving. I loved how everyone crowded in to take photos of TT and Michael once it was over (see the last few photos).

Diane Arbus Exhibition

Those who know me know that I love Diane Arbus. Her work significantly influenced me during my time at MassArt, and I even have one of her quotes tattooed on my arm (which, I have to say, elicits the most bizarre comments from strangers). Below is an article from Art Daily about a new exhibit of her work that displays her images as part of the magazine spreads for which they were created. I wish I could see this show, as I am fascinated by the fact that so much of her work was made on assignment. There seems to be less crossover between commercial and personal work, at least for me, than there used to be. The show also raises questions about context and intentions.

Pierre Leguillon Features Diane Arbus: A Printed Retrospective, 1960-1971. Collection Kadist Art Foundation.
Foto: Prallan Allsten© Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

The French artist Pierre Leguillon has compiled a unique retrospective on the large body of work produced by Diane Arbus for the Anglo-American press in the 1960s. This spring and summer, the exhibition is being shown at Moderna Museet Malm̦, featuring some 100 photos in their original context Рon the pages of magazines.

In the 1960s, Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was used widely by publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Nova and The Sunday Times Magazine. Her extensive work for the Anglo-American press is relatively unknown, however, and Pierre Leguillon’s presentation is the first time it has been shown in this way: a printed retrospective in the form of some one hundred original magazine spreads.

The exhibition presents a broad material comprising hundreds of photos that demonstrate her wide variety of subjects and genres: photo journalism, celebrity shots, kids’ fashion and several photo essays. All Arbus’ photos are shown in their original social and political context, in the pages of original magazines. The images are shown as they were intended to be seen, in their intended format and setting and in relation to a text. Interspersed in this rich array of Arbus’ photographic output are various texts and images by other photographers (Walker Evans, Annie Leibovitz, Victor Burgin, Wolfgang Tillmans, Matthieu Laurette, Bill Owens) directly or indirectly referring to a specific part of Arbus’ oeuvre and thus emphasising its strong impact on her contemporary times and the present day.

The retrospective, which was put together by the French artist Pierre Leguillon and is presented as a work of art/exhibition/collection, also encourages us to reflect on these aspects and on the relationship between the original and the copy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reception for Coupled at Gallery Kayafas Tomorrow

I can't believe it's already time for the second reception of Coupled!

Tomorrow is the second First Friday reception, and I'd love to see you there if you're able to make it.

Reception: April 2, 5:30-8:00 p.m.

Gallery Kayafas
450 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

The show will be up until April 10th.

Above photo courtesy of Gus Kayafas.