Last week I had the privilege of attending Filter Photo Festival as a portfolio reviewer. I spend a lot of time at my computer writing about photography and events like these are a wonderful way to make personal connections with the people who make up the photography community. The 39 photographers who sat at my table presented completed and in-progress portfolios in a wide range of genres and processes. Most of the photographers I met with were eager to have discussions about how to develop their works in progress, and approaches to marketing completed bodies of work. Although 20 minutes isn’t a lot of time to fully delve into the complexities of art-making and the art market, I hope that I was able to provide helpful critique and advice.
In addition to the one-on-one reviews, Filter organized a portfolio walk on Saturday evening where each photographer displayed their work to the public and made themselves available for questions. Here are a few portfolios that I enjoyed.
Wendi Schneider — States of Grace
States of Grace is a portfolio of painterly photographs illuminating the sinuous grace of nature’s organic forms. This series captures the fleeting movement of light and form that is often overlooked, to preserve that mystical moment that stills time for me. I photograph intuitively - what I feel, as much as what I see. Informed by a background in oil painting and art history, I portray a personal interpretation, rather than a strict representation, to find balance between the real and the imagined.
These images are captured, layered and printed digitally with archival pigment ink on vellum. White gold leaf is then hand-applied to the back of the print, creating a silken sheen on the print’s surface. Throughout history, civilizations have prized the use of precious metals for their beauty and sanctity. The leafing process highlights the intrinsic value of my subjects with the implied spirituality of the gold. Each print may differ in color or texture, and, as the effect of gilding inherently varies, each of these limited edition prints is unique. The perception of luminosity also varies as the viewer’s position and ambient light change. Drawn to the sensual, I create these glimpses of beauty and serenity amidst the chaos.
Max Cozzi — Superior Times
Superior Times is a photographic series that is centered on the unsettled traveling of the Lake Superior and north woods region of the Midwest. Using the diversity and brilliance of northern light, I contrast a vivid and colorful palette against the dullness of harsh, overcast winters to draw out the region’s unique character and appearance. The subjects will often vary between idyllic views of great lakes and the overlooked prospects of economically-torn towns. This work is a meditation on the quiet moments of beauty that arrive from the love of wanderlust.
Thomas Wagner — North Korea
The Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea, (DPRK), 'The Peoples Paradise,' these are its names within the country; outside it is called the Hermit Kingdom, and North Korea. A place few foreigners visit, my first trip was in the late 1990s when I heard about the Arirang games, a mass spectacle performance by tens of thousands of North Koreans, and I wanted to go, it seemed an anachronism that would not carry on long. I was wrong. This festival continues as does the country. Little seems to have changed.
The architecture, the near vacant streets seem stage managed to a minimalist order. To tour the country is a rorschach test of ones’ paranoia. Fantasies or realities of surveillance, of being continually watched. From the constant presence of the minders always attempting to be nearby, to the men in suits standing around the streets of the cities. It is not the surveillance of ubiquitous automated cameras and big data, but of a populace that fears outsiders and the repercussions of possibly aiding those intending to do harm to their nation, which they have been told is all outsiders. At various points in my trips I was led back to my travel companions by locals, by guards, or sought out by my minder if I strayed too far.
It is a place of looking, of guessing, not knowing. Of watching, and of being watched. It is the tourist equivalent of the biggest roller coaster, the fear and exhilaration of having done it and have gotten away, from which to learn more about yourself and your presumptions of others than the place where you stand.
Barbara Karant — 820/Ebony Jet
This project documents the core essence of the Johnson Publishing Company, the most influential African-American owned corporation of its day. It focuses on their historic building in its semi-skeletal state before the last vestiges of the original workspace vanish. These lively interiors fostered the creativity of a staff working in a variety of media, including the iconic Ebony and Jet magazines. The Johnson Building still embodies the spirit of this company who occupied it essentially unaltered from 1972-2012. It remains a genuine cultural time capsule of African-American enterprise: a specific stylistic vocabulary that has survived the passage of the decades. The Johnson Building, stripped of its furnishings presents a unique opportunity: to document the resonant interiors of its long time occupant—interiors which simultaneously represent the spirit of this landmark company and the sense of its loss, of a seminal moment in African-American history and the history of this nation.
Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don't Take Pictures.