Perspectives - The Blog

Tagged: Photography

Shane Lavalette’s Juror’s Statement for OPEN

Posted by staff on September 18, 2014


“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
– Susan Sontag, commencement address to Vassar students, 2003


If I had to give a title to this exhibition I’d call it Stay Eager, in reference to these words of encouragement from Susan Sontag. In a world in which we are constantly bombarded with images, it’s easy—sometimes desirable—to tune out. The reason I fell in love with photography myself is because it gave me a means in which to look harder, and to learn from the world around me. To tune in. Through the process of jurying The Center for Fine Art Photography’s OPEN exhibition this year, I faced the difficult task of filling the gallery with a selection of works from over two thousand that were submitted. Naturally, there were many more deserving artists than we could possibly fit into this gallery. So, what were the criteria used to decide? In the spirit of the theme, I maintained a level of openness, and gathered works that, to me, felt curious, attentive, vital, or eager. This includes images that are deeply personal and emotional, experimental or conceptual, story-based documentaries reflecting a social or political climate, as well as everything in between (or beyond). It represents the many ways in which image-makers are utilizing the medium today. Jennifer Loeber’s submission from her series Gyrle encompasses all of the traits I listed above. I was first brought in through her striking images, and then taken ahold of by the story that is told through them. It is a complex and at times difficult one to tell, but it has been done so with beauty and care. My gratitude goes to Hamidah Glasgow and the C4FAP for inviting me to look, and to the artists for making their work, looking harder.
Shane Lavalette

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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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