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Rebecca Senf Juror Statement for the Still Life exhibition

Posted by staff on August 22, 2014

Curatorial Statement for “Still Life”Rebecca Senf, Norton Family Curator, Center for Creative Photography and Phoenix Art Museum

“Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent…in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device…goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the Wheel. It’s called the Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”
Don Draper, in Mad Men, pitching an ad campaign for the Kodak Carousel


In my favorite scene from the cable series Mad Men, Don Draper uses photography’s nostalgic potential as inspiration for renaming Kodak’s new slide tray product “the Carousel.”  Although Draper is viewing family snapshots, I would contend that no photographic genre is more centrally concerned with issues of nostalgia, memory, ephemerality, and decay than still life.  Photographic still life abounds with symbols of loss, consumption, transformation, and rot.  Still life photographs use pomegranates or bicycles, plastic bags or flowers, mannequins or carousel horses, or possessions separated from their owner to remind us of the inevitable and undeniable truth that death is coming.  Although the majority of the photographs in this exhibition adhere to this vein of exploration – the transitory nature of people and things – still life photographs can serve other functions.  

It was a pleasure to expand this exhibition’s boundaries to include still life photographs whose subjects were crafted by the photographer to explore humor, to play with scale, or to create autobiographical statements through the arrangement of objects.  These photographs often use familiar objects to challenge what we believe, creating a dynamic interactivity not typically associated with still life.  I also chose a few pictures which, narrowly speaking, are not still life images, but landscapes.  Those that I selected, though, focused on the relationship of elements within the frame to create a palpable sense of space and mood, harmonizing with my expanded concept of still life.
Whether picturing a subject found or constructed, printed in color or black and white, using digital or historic process, this group of photographs invites us on a journey of exploration.  Each photograph presents itself, its subject, and a deeper layer of meaning, revealing not only the power of the medium, but the great talent represented by contemporary photographers.

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Christopher James Juror Statement for Alternative Processes

Posted by staff on August 18, 2014

The Alternative Photograph

Juror’s Statement 2014-15

Christopher James


Damn that was fun! … The task of isolating and selecting an exhibition of 50 strong images, out of nearly 1500 entries, was not difficult at all. What was complicated however was dealing with the problem of having to reject the nearly 1000 images that equally deserved to be included after the first editing passes. It took the better part of a week to get down to 75-80 images and then I finally gave up and asked Hamidah to let me put an end to the impossible and include all that were left… I simply couldn’t reject another great piece of work. Hamidah, who was at this point in the process showing great patience with me (thank you) showed mercy and told me that with that many images, the gallery would be bursting at the seams. What that meant is that there will simply be a bigger party for you all to celebrate your art!

From the beginning, I was making notes in the margins of my paperwork and here are a few of my thoughts that I want to relate. When the medium was in its infancy, and for a long time into its adolescence, images were judged by how well they technically represented representation and not by the conceptual, contextual, or inspirational risks taken by the artist… in essence successful photographic work was assessed by its ability to do what a photograph was supposed to do… accurately representing the subject in front of the lens.

From its inception, photography has never been a single, identifiable, technology or process. Throughout its evolution, the medium has been a slowly moving glacier of change, adaptation, and obsolescence followed closely by another metaphorical glacier influenced by the heat of science, industry, technology, aesthetics, and cultural. I think of these separate entities as I do the boulders I find in the woods near my studio… evidence of the glacier’s melting. Each of these transformations, the great majority of them overlapping, has ushered in an ever-greater democratization of photographic image making and resulting public adoption and adaptation. Each of these cycles have had the same family name regardless of how odd the offspring appeared… and they have always shared the genus, in a philosophical sense, a class of things that share common characteristics, and DNA of photography… that of making marks with light.

Alternative process image making is not about the technique employed, the camera, or the use of digital or film capture. Nor is it about the “artifact” or accident within the image that represents a contemporary artistic gesture that miraculously makes an image artistic and expressive. Alternative process image making has its heartbeat strongly allied to a tradition of making images by hand, using light and chemistry. It is driven by a curiosity to see where a process will lead the artist and her imagination and that living philosophy is the soul of this modest collection and exhibition. It is, in my mind, a representation of the new photography.


Christopher James

August 2014

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