Monday, February 04, 2013

UnBound2! Prospectus Available Today.

Candela’s photographic Bootstomp & Revival is back!  Last year, our inaugural UnBound! exhibition worked out incredibly well and did so while we were somewhat flying by the seat of our pants.   This year we hope to bring the same energy and a little more know-how to a new and improved version of this unique event.

Prospectus available as a news item at Candela Books + Gallery

The Bare Bones:

UnBound2! is a hybrid invitational and juried exhibition

We will be inviting a select number of artists to participate in an exhibition at Candela Books + Gallery in Richmond, Virginia.  This is one way we are reaching out to artists that may not have heard of us yet.*

And then we will also be having an open call that anyone may submit to.  And the majority of this show will be from the juried work.   Last year, we invited work from maybe ten artists and then over 320 photographers submitted work.  Because of the great quality, I had a hard time whittling down to an edit of 50 some images.  

All submissions will be considered for inclusion by myself - Gordon Stettinius - and Candela Books + Gallery’s Associate director, Amy Ritchie.

There are no fees to submit for this exhibition.  

Basically, the idea is this:   …all proceeds from any print sales are split between artist and gallery just as would happen with any other exhibition.  BUT we have created a fundraising event which will close the exhibition.  And we are putting together the best event we possibly can, as rock-bottom cheaply as we can.  This is more an indie happening than black tie event you might say.  

Last year we had live music, a raffle, door prizes, a DJ for late night, back-alley chicken, custom Dixie Donuts and all proceeds from ticket sales and raffle ticket sales and miscellaneous contributions went towards the purchase of eleven works from the show.  These eleven collected works founded the Candela Collection, and are currently on exhibition in our office at Candela.  Eventually, we intend to donate this work to a significant permanent collection.  The cool thing from our perspective is how well this idea was received by photographers and patrons alike.    And the event was sort of awesome as well.

To see work from last year's exhibition visit Candela Books + Gallery's past exhibitions page.

With the UnBound2! exhibition’s call for submissions being announced very soon, I thought it might be good to introduce myself – and maybe my photographic biases - a little for photographers to guage their work against my interests.  

A Rumination about Aesthetics:

As a photographer of some 25 years, more recently turned publisher and gallerist, I do have some fairly entrenched biases about the state of the photographic art today.  I cannot speak for Amy – who will also be considering work this year - and she may choose to speak for herself elsewhere but in an effort to be somewhat transparent I have put together a rambling thought or two about photography that I love.

As we get ready to curate** this second incarnation of UnBound!, I would like to put my thoughts out into the blogosphere, mostly because we are almost certainly going to take a pass on some very quality work, due to our own specific interests.  I don’t much like the idea of adding a new hash in the rejection column for anyone but for all you students out there, rejections will become something more useful over time.  Think of those mounting stacks of no thank yous as your art vitamins.

So, we are grateful for the opportunity to look at all the work that will be coming in.  And I am grateful for all the support.  

This open letter is for anyone who may wonder what types of photography I might be interested in…

What I like!

What I embrace aesthetically and what I strive to create for myself as a photographer are often related but not necessarily so.  So my own work would certainly provide some clues.  I enjoy humor.  And I can occasionally get sucker punched by “cute”, especially in the guise of puppies or grandmas throwing gang signs or fainting goats.  Irony is also well received.   And sometimes, smarts can turn my head but generally this holds true only if the smarts are in the work and not just in the concept or project statement. 

For me photography is about timing, about exploration, about implied narrative, about imagery derived of this world (often the world immediately surrounding and inhabited by our loved ones), about asking questions.  To a lesser extent, beauty is sometimes something I notice but often I dismiss.  Beauty is okay – especially as an element - but honestly I am content to let other people worry about beauty and its role in photography.  Beauty doesn’t need my help.  It is doing just fine as it is.  I am more smitten with subversion and subculture and folly and politics.

Why not landscape?  I am sometimes confronted with beautifully capable landscape work.  And I am very seldom touched by that work.  I can appreciate someone’s technical prowess and their ability to harness the potential of light and composition and mechanical aspects of the medium without being moved at all by the actual image before me.  I would rather be in a landscape than regard landscapes through these minor and flattening windows.  Work in the fashion of the New Topographics movement can sometimes be interesting but the work treads a fine line I think between canny observation and boringly empty.  An image of a Mary Kay Cosmetic  Pink Cadillac in front of the heaping Modesto Landfill… sure.  I would kind of like to see that.  But the typologies out there, the malnourished Becher facsimiles that are kicking around usually do not do it for me.  And if the work looks like a collection – think “I have been photographing flags!” - then I hope to see (or feel) a mad glint in your eye because some madness, some pathological curiosity is needed.  And collecting things seems more a hobby to me than a vision.  And by the way, I kind of collect flags too but they are, for the most part, a collection of just okay pictures.

I have seen enough of certain types of images to last me a lifetime.  If you are trying to raise the alarm as to the perils of pollution, or the desecration of urban culture, or the plight of the small farm… I am on your team actually but it won’t make me kinder to the photos.  These sorts of images often seem to me to be secondary illustrations to ideas that are fairly easily explained with words, with research, with advocacy.   Photography can help with that but visual punch needs to exist in at least every other photo or so for the work to thrive as photography.  Too much filler sometimes gets into the statement driven portfolios.***  In fact, if the image in question is only a plaything of a larger concept, I am less likely to bite, even when the concept is something that I can embrace without feeling icky.  Even if I want to like something, I sometimes can’t, unless that something, that image can exist as simply an image without the benefit of heaping exposition onto it.

I am a bit of a process nerd.  I sort of love old processes…  tintypes, van dykes, wet collodion, and I almost feel ready to put conventional darkroom work into this category.  I like low fidelity stylings, namely pinhole and plastic lenses and such.  I sometimes like mad construction, mixed media and frenzy.  It depends…  It always depends because if the imagery or idea is weak then the cool process cannot retrieve it.  If digital and analog were in the Thunderdome, I would be pulling for the old and ugly beast.  But honestly, I have learned to stop worrying and love digital photography.   There is no right way.  I, like so many others, just have a recognizable bias in one direction. 

Why not Flowers?  Enough flowers already.

And as that last bit was maybe too snarky because there are a few great flower/still life images yet to be made hopefully....  I will put on my Jiminy Cricket hat for a moment.  There are always exceptions.  Landscapes every once in a while can really singe some part of me.  There are some that do this stylistically and there are some that hit high notes in a classical manner.  But it definitely does happen.   I once got sort of choked up looking at an Edward Weston image of a stump at Point Lobos.  A stump.  I do have a heart!  And if your passion lies in the landscape arena then press on, and submit it and it doesn’t much matter what a self-absorbed prig like myself thinks.  Nudes kind of land in the same bucket as landscapes.  Occasionally a nude can be extraordinary or sculptural or ethereal but more often than not the run of the mill nude feels tired and familiar.  I think I prefer naked pictures to nude photographs.  If that makes any sense.

Actually none of this is supposed to make any sense.  It is simply to spell out a little bit about my biases and thinking with regard to photography.  

If you do me the kindness of sending work for consideration for our UnBound2! exhibition, then I am grateful.  Hopefully we can connect on some level but if not, then we keep moving. 

Many, many thanks.

Gordon Stettinius

*  If you are a friend of the gallery, then please don’t wait to for an invitation as we are already hoping for your support of this event.  We are only inviting maybe a dozen or so people and we are focusing on people who may not yet know about the gallery.

**  I can support a few different labels but the title of curator is not one of them.  I always feel that using the words “curator” and “curation” to describe putting together a show is an overreach.   I have no formal education in materials and conservation and chemistry and only a fragment of the art history necessary to earn that mantel.  But other words don’t really suffice either so I get why people sometimes land on this one.  Culling, weeding, editing, paring, conceptually organizing… bah.  

***  There is another minor point to be made.  I actually love mature work and projects that have been thoroughly investigated; the types of portfolios that come together over years rather than weeks.  But for purposes of the UnBound collection, I will probably be a little more generous to the stand alone images that do not rely on the larger series for their charm.  This criteria would DEFINITELY be different if I were considering work to publish or to exhibit in a solo show.