Juror’s Statement for Alternative Processes
Without hesitation, I will tell you that I had a wonderful, and exhausting, experience considering the nearly 1000 pieces of work that were submitted for the Alternative Processes exhibition at The Center for Fine Art Photography. It was a complicated process selecting a cohesive show of 50 images that simultaneously illustrated the excellence of the work and the concept I was constructing in the process. My inclination was to select work that was challenging and that invited me to create “with” the image rather than to simply identify its subjective content, or demonstrate technical finesse. I chose work that, for me, clearly differentiated between the camera’s ability to record, and what the photographer intended to communicate. I was looking for clearly enunciated concepts and intentions. For example ….
Imagine standing on the Mallory Square Pier in Key West preparing to make a stunning cliché of the sunset, with hundreds of other people intent on the task with their cameras and telephones with photo apps. In that moment you have a choice. You can see this sunset event from an ironic perspective by creating an image of all those people making the same picture in unison, their flashes collectively bouncing off the surface of the setting sun to assure a better exposure of the experience… or, you can just go along with the tourists and take the shot of the glowing red sky to send to friends on Facebook. Both approaches to that moment will document a Key West sunset but the first option will transcend the archetypal Mallory Square experience by illustrating the personal and conceptual impressions of the photographer… and not simply the camera’s manufactured ability to capture reflected light.
There is a rapidly growing army of alternative photographic process artists who regularly impress one another with extraordinary technique and command of alternative process syntax. Their triumphs are measured by the success of their calculations, formulas, and clarity of tonal scale. To be sure, these are admirable geeky skills. But remove the alternative process materials, and the funky equipment, from the observation and imagine that you are looking at a conventional silver gelatin or digital print. How would you then respond to the content and concept of the subject or image?
To often the answer is that the work is impressive because of the technique rather than the visualization and inspirations that instigated and led to the image. This is often my experience when jurying… or evaluating portfolios to my BFA and MFA programs at AIB. Out of 1000 images for this show, there were only a handful of examples where the artist actually failed to represent themselves, or their craft, well. The distinctions became clarified when the quality of the technique was assumed and admired and the critical conversation shifted to concept, creativity, and the image in context with process. At that point, I responded to the mystery within the image and the intelligence, and heart, that I felt in the artist’s work… exactly the same criteria that are relevant to all forms of artistic expression.
We are in an interesting time for our medium. Photography is evolving into something entirely new. From an alternative process perspective, a better than suitable marriage partner to most all of the hand-made and performing arts that are willing to see what will happen if they take the plunge. To the upcoming generation of photographic artists, schooled with the pixilated sterility of digital imaging, and a social networking aesthetic, using one’s hands to make an image is a persuasive argument simply because it is imperfect… and as a result, a profound and precise reflection of us all.
I am absolutely pleased with this show and want to add that like most juried exhibitions, this selection of work is only a representation of the juror’s personal preferences on the given days of looking at it… and the specific desires of the host gallery. It is hardly ever a definitive critique on the merits and artistic qualities of the images submitted. This is certainly true when considering how much I wanted to include the extra 48 images that I had in my “wish-I-could” folder…. I simply ran out of room. Thank you for showing such outstanding imagery and thanks to Hamidah for the opportunity to jury such a great collection of work and to Nicole for her assistance in the process.
Director M.F.A. Program in Photography
Department Chair / Photography
The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University
To see the online gallery for Alternative Processes click here.