“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