So after a stellar Day Three, and getting a hug from the badassery known as Anne Tucker I got a few minutes to rest before we had open artists night. This was the evening of Day Three, and was an odd experience to say the least. Rather than go home I hung out with some of the other photographers there and tried to collect my thoughts. The first thing I had to do was pull myself together. I was exhausted and elated, but needed to remind myself that I have not even begun my journey as a photographer at this point, and need to work even harder on my images when I get home. Waiting around looks a bit like this at Fotofest:
Some need cigarettes to wait:
And of course the obligatory down the hall shot:
Once they said thing were ready we all stumbled in and set up our work.
Then it just got strange as we all stood behind our tables as people streamed in and would every once in awhile stop to look:
FYI- Not an uncommon reaction to my work!
We each had approximately 4 feet of space, and so we all shoved as much of our stuff into that space as possible. What really sucked for me was that my larger prints had taken quite a beating from the reviewing and were a bit under the weather for this event. Anyway, people would stream on by and once in awhile stop and you would go into a lovely description about your work and then they would move on. Except in my case. I had two people leave my table crying. Add that to the 2 reviewers who ended up crying and I think I gained a reputation as the sad documentary guy…That and the guy with the new Olympus camera. Funny enough all week long I had nearly as many people ask about my camera (the E-P2) as I did my work, and since I had it sitting on my table a ton of the public asked as well. This could be interpreted as my work not being very good, but I hope its more that the camera is really cool! I hope?
Anyway, had a good time, and a few of the people I had spoken to earlier in the week stopped by and actually finalized exhibitions or print sales, with a few surprises tossed in as well. One surprise being that my Aunt Rena and Uncle Freddy came by. They’re Italian, which means Aunt Rena talks with her hands. I’m a photographer, so when people talk with their hands around interesting light they end up on my blog…
So despite being in an exhausted stupor, I was happy and ready to go home to get ready for day four…but before I go there, here’s a quick video clip of the open artists night:
To be totally honest, day four was a bit of a hangover. The open artists night being the night before kind of had an end of the trip party feel to it, so many of us were a little sluggish. To make matters worse, the way you are assigned reviewers is based on you selecting your top 25, and you are given your top choices earlier in the session, and lower choices later in the session. So most of the people on everyone’s lists were either numbers 20-25 or not even a choice to begin with. Personally I didn’t care because it could end now and I would leave happy. But I was curious to see what the day would bring…
What it was scheduled to bring was Stephanie Braun (The Photographers’ Gallery), Pavel Banka (Fotograf Magazine), Pippa Oldfield (Impressions Gallery), Karol Hordziej (Foundation for Visual Arts/Photo Month), and Jessica May (Amon Carter Museum). Pavel, Pippa, and Karol were back to back to back, which is tougher to manage than you would think. Anyway, here we go:
Stephanie was an incredibly sweet lady with an obviously strong insight into photography. She really liked what I did, but more importantly was able to articulate why. Some people complained that she gave very surface reviews, but I got an in depth look at what I had done. Certainly gave me a lot to think about.
Pavel made me nervous. People had said he was really tough, and I was worried about taking a verbal beatdown. Turns out he had been quite sick (Rumors had him in the hospital the day before), and was actually a very nice guy. He really enjoyed my work, gave me some good advice on how t handle it as well as on things to improve with my next project. Before we got up he told me he’d like to publish my work in his magazine, but that he had to wait for the theme to fit and would I mind waiting? Day just got better!
Pippa was a cool review. In addition to having what may have been the coolest name of the week (Although Bevin of HCP could also easily win that contest), she was quite brilliant in her insights. With the third stellar advice review of the day, I realized today was going to be “Bill learns how to be a better photographer day”. And I did not mind one bit. I’m still taking everything in, but I know I learned a lot.
Karol on the other hand was a surprise. While most of the reviews I did not even expect to like my work, Karol’s bio specifically said he liked documentary work. Then we sit down and he tells me its great, but has too much contrast (I Know!). The he tells me that he doesn’t deal with documentary work and wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do next. Huh? Bio mismanagement at its finest…at least we didn’t talk about parenting!
One other thing about the final day hangover. A LOT of people were not showing for their reviews. Not me. This thing was expensive and I was ready to hawk a freebie. Chance came while waiting on my final review, and I took it in the form of Burt Finger (PDNB Gallery). I had no idea what he likes or doesn’t like, but was more than happy to hear what he had to say. That was a mistake as this ended up being the single biggest strangest review I had all week. A bit of backstory though. I befriended two lovely ladies (Valerie and Beverly) at FotoFest and we quickly formed “The Trio”. (Not really our nickname but I need something for the purposes of the story. Anyway, both Beverly and Valerie had seen Burt and gave me a mixed review. Valerie saw him first and he asked her why she shot B&W film (she does really cool images of a story she’s telling with a Rollei)…and then he went on to tell her she was wasting her time because film and B&W were dead and digital color was the way to go. I’m sure she wanted her 20 minutes back. Beverly saw him a bit later and he told her he loves her work and wants to do something with her at her gallery. What does Beverly do? You guessed it, documentary on B&W FILM!
So I go sit down and after we both make a few bad jokes (including calling me multiple times by the woman’s name who skipped out on him), we sat down and started looking. He gave me this very interesting attitude and started asking why I did the project. I gave him my reasons at which point he said “But why would you photograph this? Why should anyone see this if it’s rare?” I explained that I thought it was a part of the human experience and that people should see it to be aware of it, even if it isn’t the most common situation. Further, I believe the project has sub-stories that everyone can relate to, such as a mother’s unwavering love. His response was “Look, I don’t need to see a picture to know a mother loves her cub.” My response was, “Well you also don’t need to see a photo of a dead Marine to know people die in war.” Wrong comment apparently as he proceeded to flip out on me, with full finger pointing while explaining “Don’t you dare! That is different! That is the suffering of man and the pain man inflicts on each other and it needs to be shown!” Slow your roll cowboy! I then told him that both of my mentors either currently photographed conflict, or did in the past and that I am not trying to say we don’t need war photographs. What I was trying to say was that if you make an asinine statement about why we take a photograph, you could apply it to EVERY photograph ever taken! I told him we could walk around the room and ask that question of every photograph taken…pointless and stupid. If you don’t like my work, fine, but don’t be silly. That chilled him out a bit and we shared another bad joke before parting. He did also invite me to see his gallery which I am sure I will do in the near future…
Jessica May was my last review of the week and I was ready for it )and hoped no discussions of war photography would come up!) While waiting Sara Terry came up to me and told me to make sure that Jessica gave me a solid review because she was only into landscapes and Sara had to force her to review her work. Stellar. Just what I wanted to do was have my last review involve torture and teeth pulling. So I sat down and said “I know I don’t do what you like, but maybe this will be cool anyway” She asked why I said that and I told her I had been informed that she only liked landscapes and I was quite not the landscape photographer! She then asked who told me that because it was absolutely not true and she didn’t know why people thought that. Moving on! She actually ended up being one of the best reviews of the week. She gave me very clear insight into what I was doing and what I could do better in the future. Very strong for a landscape person!
Before totally saying goodbye I went and had a few drinks with Ed from Day Two. Really an amazing guy that I’m honored to have met. And man does he have a lot of cool work hanging on his walls!
So there we have it! All reviews in the bag and all goodbyes said. I was a bit sad, but very excited to head home. So the next morning I packed up the car and put Houston in the rearview mirror.
And of course Kiwi had shotgun..although she took a nap and I was jealous all the way home…
My next post will be about my discoveries of the Meeting Place. Each FotoFest has an exhibition called “Discoveries of the Meeting Place”, in which they select one or two reviewers from each session and ask them to choose their “Discovery”. I’d love to be in this exhibition, and I’ll cross my fingers, but in the meantime I’ll tell you guys who I liked! See you next time…