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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

...or more like slightly singed.

A photobooth image an hour or so after...

So much going on these days. So much to be grateful for. So much that I am still waiting on. So many people that are reaching out. So much great work to see, to discover, to absorb, to create.

This past weekend, I just about electrocuted myself. I had been warned. I was being careful. But obviously, I wasn’t careful enough. The electrician I spoke to about this whole episode tells me I am lucky to be here. And while I feel fine, for which I am exceedingly grateful, I still don’t really know exactly how to process such a close call.

So, my lovely girlfriend and my family and I are moving back into Richmond after the past some years living in the sticks of Goochland. And while working at the new place this weekend I was clearing a stand of bamboo along with my son, Walker, and his brother, Luke. Luke was working the chainsaw and I was handling the falling shoots and Walker was hitting the stumps with an earth unfriendly potion. These bamboo were probably twenty-five or thirty feet tall and it turns out this is quite high enough to reach the rear service electrical lines behind our new place. I did mention I had been warned about this, right? When we bought the house, the inspector had said that this was a problem and to get a licensed landscaper or electrician or someone qualified to handle this sort of problem. Someone made entirely of rubber maybe? We had been working a few hours on this particular task and had made our way down about half the stand without any incident to speak of when one of the taller bamboo swayed the wrong way and had to bend around another leaning bamboo and of course sent the branches of the tree I was holding on an arc towards the wires above.

The buzzing wires above.

Something was going terribly wrong. Hard to say exactly how this relative instant unfolded but it definitely expanded into a broad stretch of “this might be how it all ends”... A lot was going on and even my comprehension of the event seemed to ramp up with a furious, if reckless, brand of energy. Something had exploded. Maybe my elbows had exploded? I was certain there was an event and I needed very badly to recoil from whatever was happening to me. I needed to cover up somehow. But I was fixed in place and I was vibrating or shaking furiously. Quaking might describe it. The rhythm of my rapid reverberation was a clue of some sort but I couldn’t quite figure anything out. Thinking was difficult. Maybe Luke was sawing into my legs with the chainsaw? But my legs didn’t really hurt it seemed. So what was happening then? It seemed that everything was coursing through my arms and chest and head. My body was stressed unbelievably, flexing, surging… All I managed to get out by way of “help” or “don’t touch me” was a sort of muted growl.

In fact, I am not sure if I managed to release the bamboo or if it shifted in my grip… but I did break free somehow. And I was standing there still. Looking at my son, and at Luke, wondering what had just taken place. It took a moment for me to collect my thoughts, check out my various systems. I felt pretty good. I was a little shaken but I felt pretty good really. And I stomped around a bit. My arms still had a thrum to them and my head was a little bleary but I have certainly felt worse before.

Luke said he had been getting ready to kick me free as he realized what was happening. He is such a solid guy, I have to say. And has more sense than me. But he really hadn’t had the time to react and I am glad he didn’t put himself into the mix. The whole episode took probably a single second. And I am not quite sure how I managed to bail on my incipient electrocution because after this eternal instant, the bamboo remained quietly, threateningly, still in place, barely reaching but solidly attached to the overhead wires. Some 30,000 volts of light your home. 30,000 volts of fuck you up. 30,000 quarts of electric jungle juice.

Could it be this stand of bamboo was not terribly happy about our mission to take it out? We had challenged the wrong stand of trees it seemed. People are always talking about how hard it is to get rid of bamboo. But no one tells you what a wicked thicket it really is.

I had been wearing rubber soled boots, so I suspect that when I tried to guide the bamboo with both hands as it fell, I must have completed a circuit of some kind. Being thoroughly sweaty from a few hours of working probably didn’t help matters much either. No matter how it actually transpired, or how poor my judgment had been, I am counting myself fortunate to have walked away from this particular episode. I am blessed even. And I am happy to write about it. I would be happy for such a tale to serve as a warning to others. But I also have to ask how it is that I am the only poor sap that I know of personally who has nearly frittered himself on those lines hanging a mere 20 some feet above pretty much every backyard in urban anywhere? Twenty feet is not so out of reach for a lot of innocent activities. That is probably the length, give or take, of many, many extension ladders, or telescoping pool cleaning poles and is certainly not much higher than most tree houses or rooftops… I guess it happens that people die regularly because the utilities are so quick to warn us before digging and to be careful around downed wires, etc… but damn, I had never given those innocuous exposed wires much thought.

I think about them now.

Later that night, over a beer at dinner, with Carrie and the boys, I thought about all the close calls in my life. In anyone’s life. The near misses, the nerve warping dodge around a deer, the swerving drivers in other cars, that precarious misstep while climbing or hiking, or when hearing the next day about the senseless violence that happened just down the block… Things are happening all the time. Tears are shed. Promises shattered. But near misses happen too thankfully. And then sets in the unsettling relief and all the grateful promises when you realize that you have just dodged a bullet. Actually, I guess that one grazed me a little. And I am happy to say that I think that may have been the closest call I have had in my forty –five years. Something will get me at some point. And so be it. But for now… woo hoo!

I am not completely certain but I may now have slightly enhanced paranormal abilities. But then I also put my underwear on backwards the day after so it all sort of evens out you could say.

Life goes on. And I do intend to make the best of it. Much love to all. And it would probably be better not to tell my mom about this.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gita Lenz Exhibition at Gitterman Gallery

Last week, we went up to New York for the exhibition opening of Gita Lenz and the book release party for Candela Books first release, Gita Lenz: Photographs.

The reception was great. A lot of people made it out to the gallery, we sold a bunch of books and all in all it was a really good time. We had hoped to get Gita out to the show but when we visited her, it was too rough on her just moving her around the nursing home really. On Tuesday, Timothy and I visited her for about four hours and it was the most lively I had seen her in a long time. We took her outside to the garden but she was too cold in the breeze, so we moved back into the lobby. We went through the book a couple of times and Gita was pretty animated by the whole experience. Towards the end of our visit, when she seemed to be getting tired, she asked a couple of times "Who took these pictures?" She wasn't looking at the book though and was asking about the windows in front of her and the scene outside. It was a strange moment. Sort of poignant... We would repeat to her that what she was seeing was the world out side, to which she would say... "hmmm."

On Wednesday, the day of the opening, Carrie and Woody and I went back by the nursing home and had another nice visit. We only stayed maybe an hour and a half or so as she was less energetic than the day before. But she had a nice visit and we got to sit outside as the weather was maybe ten degrees warmer or so. When we left, we were sad to be heading out to her exhibition without her but the truth of it is that she wouldn't have remembered it the next day and the trip would have been too painful.

The show was great though and by the opening, several photographs had already sold. It is nice to see our effort and belief in this project is being validated a little bit. And it is very cool to see Gita begin to receive some recognition finally, long overdue as it is.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Gita Lenz Book Has Landed

The first published offering has arrived minty fresh to Candela Books international headquarters. And it looks great. 100 pages, beautiful tritones, spot-varnishs, printed by the good folks at Meridian Printing and designed by my good friends at Scout Design.

The book release party and exhibition reception is next month in New York at Gitterman Gallery.. The Candela website. will soon be commercial ready. I delivered a book yesterday to Gita and though the visit was a poignant one, she really does love looking at her photography. It is strange to say but after so much work on the book, I am only half done with the project. Now to get it out into the world...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Upcoming NY Exhibition

image copyright Gordon Stettinius

Passing this along. I am excited to be showing in New York next month though I am a little stymied by all that needs to be done between now and then... but it will be done.

Exhibition runs from January 20th - February 28th, 2010

Opening Reception will be Wednesday, January 20th
from 5:30 to 8:30pm

(from the RRG press release...)

The Robin Rice Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition of photography by Gordon Stettinius.

In his new body of work, Gordon Stettinius presents Notes From US Route 1. This collection of color and sepia toned images, lies somewhere between Robert Frank’s, The Americans and Alec Soth’s, Sleeping Along the Mississippi. Stettinius has given us a memorable and clear eyed meditation upon the American road trip and a particular moment in time, awash with motels, roadhouses, wanderers, and characters that would have to be included in any modern back road odyssey.

Stone Crab Traps, Florida, featured on the exhibition announcement, is indicative of the power of observation that Stettinius possesses for his surroundings. The simplicity of the composition is underwritten with an incredible amount of detail and a sensual presence and becomes an image that is understood immediately but then refuses to let go.

In another image taken at The State Fair in Virginia, Bottle Tree portrays a tree in the foreground adorned with wine and liquor bottles set against a red and white striped circus tent. His expert handling of color, line, and frame creates a statement piece that evokes thoughts of both the carnival and restless energy of its gin-soaked revelers.

David, Kingsville Maryland, shows a poetic yet un-glamorized view of a man dragging a larger than life wood cross with a backpack tied to it. Stettinius takes this subject and not only looks but also assimilates him to a modern semi-Christ. His images are more than an anthropological examination they’re an intimate experience between a photographer and his chosen subject.

Stettinius’ work reveals in real-time what Ronald Barthes called the reality effect in 19th century art, making the content chosen relatable to all viewers, even out of context. None of his visuals are arbitrary, nor are they staged. Stettinius takes all of his subjects and brings their intrinsic meaning to the forefront; he has a true understanding of and respect for the power of the visual, the power of suggestion.

Gordon Stettinius lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. His undergraduate degrees in Art & History are from the University of Virginia and he is currently taking a year off from teaching in the Art Department at Virginia Commonwealth University to start an independent publishing company focusing on fine art photography primarily. Gordon has exhibited his work nationally and internationally and is one of this years recipient of the Theresa Pollak Award for Excellence in the Arts. His work has been featured commercially on book jackets, CD covers, and national magazines as well as being represented in various public and private collections. This is his third solo show at the Robin Rice Gallery.

For more information or printable images please contact Robin Rice at (212) 366-6660 or email All the additional images of this new work can be found on our website at

Saturday, December 05, 2009

U.S. Route 1 Project promo [1 of 6]

I have just put together a leave behind, a trifold promo card, for the U.S. Route 1 project. Essentially what I will be using in reviews and meetings and such trying to get the word out I guess you might say. Have been working on other cards also. More to come...

U.S. Route 1 Project promo [2 of 6]

This is one facet of a trifold card with normal boilerplate contact info and five images on it... I needed something more than a single image card because there are no images that stand in for such a varied collection of work...

Monday, November 16, 2009

U.S. Route 1

Stone Crab Traps, Florida
copyright Gordon Stettinius

This past summer I started a new project documenting U.S. Route 1 from Canada to Key West. Essentially, i drove the whole length of road... which runs some 2,300+ miles. The road hits a number of significant metro areas... starting in Richmond, Virginia of course; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Washington D.C.; New York City (through the Bronx), Boston; Miami; Jacksonville; New
Haven; and more. And so the road is part scenic and part sobering reality really and the idea of doing a photo survey seems to me a bit over-reaching. I feel as though I have gone to the ocean and having been impressed I irrationally decided to try to bring it back to the studio.

But... the die is cast as they say. Or the buns burned maybe. So, while I am not sure I am completely finished shooting the project and there are a few things that might still add complexion or color or integrity... I am definitely sitting on top of a mountain of interesting work which is in dire need of sober editing. The first opportunity to exhibit the work is coming up in January 2010 at Robin Rice Gallery, so I am definitely crackling along right now. And I will be showing the work also here in Richmond eventually at Page Bond Gallery though that hasn't been specifically scheduled as yet. And I hope to add additional galleries to the schedule as well and have, I am thinking, at least one other likely exhibition in the works.

I haven't decided how much of the work to put online just yet. For the moment, I am trying to figure out what a show might look like versus how a book might look. There is a lot of analog (film) work and there is a whole lot of digital work. So, the immediate learning curve for me is trying to determine how I want to output the digital work but those are coming along really well. So, more images and information to come as I catch up with the darkroom side of things...

And if you should have a pithy title for the project then let her rip. I am still not quite sure what I want to go with. Whether I want to go with something simple and explicit like "U.S. Route 1 Project" or something more poetic like "The Long and Crinkly Thread of Time and Transportation" or maybe something more cryptic like "Cobalt Wails of Ecstacy" or... Any suggestions would be appreciated.