Camera Position 97 : Pictures From The Exhibition

The Gallery Photographica Exhibition, which opened March 3 at the Michelle O’Connor Gallery in San Francisco is showing some really excellent photographs. While I can’t highlight all the great photographs that are in the show, I wanted to comment on a few of the photographs that really impacted me as I selected the work. I will be at the gallery the evening of Saturday, March 24, 2012 for a reception that is planned as a part of the Society for Photographic Education conference in San Francisco.

Photographers profiled in this podcast include:


2 thoughts on “Camera Position 97 : Pictures From The Exhibition”

  1. Hi Jeff,
    I just listened to the third of your podcasts on the SPE Gallery Photographica Exhibition (Camera Position #97), and have thoroughly enjoyed them. One thing is puzzling me, though, so maybe you can address this in a future podcast, or a post to the ListServe. Or, maybe it is just peculiar to me…

    In the first podcast (#95), you mentioned that the images that kept coming to the top of the pile were obviously of a body of work, i.e. consistent in style or subject matter, or having some common theme or elements running through them. In #97, you return to this idea and explored it in a little more depth. However, in discussions and classwork, the conventional wisdom has been to provide a consistent body of work when submitting a portfolio for review or exhibition, or even for art fairs. On the other hand, when submitting to competitions, the advice is to provide variety, since one may not know the ‘taste’ of the judges and what they are likely to select.

    So my question is, how does one reconcile the ‘body of work’ vs variety issue when submitting for competitions?
    Some photographers specialize in portraiture or landscapes or documentary or other styles and subject matter, so it is easy to see how they could have variety within their preferred style/subject matter. Others, like myself, are either generalists or are still exploring, discovering, and evolving a personal style and preferred subject matter.

    If part of the reason for entering competitions (short of winning Best in Show) is to increase exposure, then is it ‘damaging’ (or maybe confusing is a better term) to be entering a variety of competitions with widely different subject matter and styles, thereby ending up with a mix of work out in the public eye?
    Thanks for your thoughts….

  2. First off… thanks for listening! I really appreciate it.

    Secondly, I think you have, in a sense, answered your own question toward the end of your post.

    I think that there are two factors at play here, and both point to submitting work from a “body of work” rather than taking a shotgun approach.

    First, there is the problem of creating work that you believe in. Ultimately, you have to trust that the work that you’re making will rise to the top in someone’s eyes. The more you trust in the work and make the work that you really believe in, the better that work gets and the deeper your connection to that work becomes.

    Secondly, there is, as you say, the problem of “confusion” on the part of the person looking at the work (juror or gallery visitor or website visitor). I think that the more clear you are in the message you want to send, the better off you are. Clarity… brevity… single-mindedness… it’s all part of the process of thinking about what it is you want to say.

    Think about it this way: in a sense, your goal is to establish a relationship with your viewer, even if it’s only a brief one. If you think about it that way… as a “relationship” then you can think about it relative to the sort of relationship we have with spouses or partners or friends. We want them – and expect them – to be consistent. It would be hard if someone we had a relationship with was sunny one day and gloomy the next and it would be similarly difficult if the relationship we want to establish with our viewer showed us as being wildly different on every viewing.

    So… my advice for submitting to competitions would be to make sure that you believe in the work and think that it has some authority and visual power and that it’s what you want it to be. I would so much prefer to see consistency in the work than to see a shotgun approach with the hope that something will “hit” the juror. Nearly every one of the “winning” photographs that got into the competition or won prizes in the show that I judged came from a consistent body of work. In the end, what I did with many of them was choose the “best picture” (aka “my favorite”) from that group of images.

    Hope that helps!

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