This year I attended the third of four, four-day portfolio review sessions at Fotofest’s Fourteenth International Biennial of Photography. Fotofest, organized by Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss, is the largest international portfolio review in the Untied States. Fotofest reviewers see 14 or more photographers per day, which makes it challenging for photographers to stand out.
I asked some of my fellow reviewers to share their thoughts on memorable work they saw. Here’s what they wrote:
Frazier King, Chair, Houston Center for Photography
I would like to highlight the new work that is being done by Laurie Lambrecht. Laurie’s new work is comprised of outtakes of the Chinese landscape—a kind of micro mundi. It is as if she was guided by ancient silk weavers to their points of inspiration. Each of the images compresses the landscape, sometimes in a trompe l’oeil fashion, so that the print looks like a silk weaving. Each image is not only beautiful but also very visually mysterious and intriguing.
Chantel Paul, Curatorial Assistant, Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego)
On Thursday, the final day of reviews, I met with Mariela Sancari. Her series “El caballo de dos cabezas,” depicting the process of grieving and reconciliation Mariela and her identical twin sister experienced after their father committed suicide when the girls were 14 brought a well of emotional response for me. I am still thinking about the moment of clarity when I read her images and wonder if the intense emotion it brought stemmed from my own close relationship with my younger sister. Whatever the reason, these images touched me in a way that was incredible and not easily forgotten.
Hava Gurevich, Director, Art 2 Art
I liked [Herrero's] “anthropological” take on a typical family activity. The work has an immediate visual strength to it, but also a good conceptual base that resonates with me: she is looking at her own culture, and a very mundane activity, and very average people. But the images reveal something very profound to me, about our material culture, about subtle differences between generations, and ethnic groups… She uses the tools she has (lighting, lenses, direction) with great technical skill—which gives the images a heightened drama.
Artist: Paul Lange
Project: Fowl Portraits
The idea of implementing traditional portraiture standards to these birds is whimsical, theatrical, and majestic. These portraits really need to be seen printed large because the detail is gorgeous, and the character revealed in these beautiful birds is undeniable. The response to these images is direct and immediate… you either connect with them, or not. I don’t think there is a big underlying concept, other than respect and awe for these creatures.
Artist: Lais Pontes
Project: Born Nowhere
Lais takes self-portraits that she skillfully manipulates digitally and then releases on a social media site for people to interact with. The project is collaborative and evolves over time, with input from friends and strangers…each girl’s background, personality and story is a collaborative collage of comments people leave on the posting. This project taps into issues of stereotypes, culture, class, race, age etc.. I think it is a smart use of social media. I also like the tension between the very controlled portraits and the unpredictable outcome of each piece.
Project: House/ Hold
There is so much humor, honesty, humanity, humility, playfulness, neurosis, and family dynamics in this work, taking the quirkiness that makes a family unique and turning up the dial to “11.”
Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director, Griffin Museum of Photography (Massachusetts)
Ellen O’Connell is a photographer I met at Fotofest this year from Zurich, Switzerland. She received her MFA from NYU. She turns her camera on her children. In a series called “Triptychs” she assembles a three-part image of her subject. For this purpose I have chosen to deconstruct her triptychs to focus on 3 portrait shots of her son; the clown, the lion tamer and the muscle man. Her prints utilize a carbon ink method that adds a richness that invokes a timeless quality. Her studies are cropped faceless, making the subject anonymous. The effect creates tension yet the images are very lighthearted.
Manfred Zollner, Editor, Fotomagazin (Hamburg, Germany)
In her project “Wait Watchers,“ American photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero is using photography for some kind of a social experiment that is mixing the conceptual approach of staged photography with social documentary photography. She is selecting public spaces to pose publicly in front of her camera. The chance encounters and reactions of those people passing her while the camera’s timer is exposing this situation, make her series special. Morris-Cafiero is a young woman, whose “overweight” body may not exactly fit the common ideas of beauty. Her posing is subtle, showing the casual behaviour of someone, who just happens to be at the place. The glances and reactions of those people passing by are telling, however. Aggressive staring, unrestrained mocking, subtle looks, belly-holding: as a result of her long random sessions in several cities and countries, Morris-Cafiero´s images reveal prejudices and a society´s tendency to outcast people for their appearance. This project is still in its early stages and in my eyes has a lot of potential for further development. Those images I’ve seen so far, certainly stick with me.
Clint Wilour, Curator, Galveston Arts Center
Of all the resources at my disposal for the discovery of new photography, I would have to say it has been for the last 28 years (including this one) Houston FotoFest. During those four weeks I reviewed 145 portfolios and visited over 70 exhibitions. Some of the most memorable discoveries this year were David Robinson’s sliced mushroom narratives, Judy Haberl‘s luminescent ink jet mural, Jamey Stilling‘s new project The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar, Jeff Deemie‘s West Texas photographs and Nicolas Fedak‘s new take on alternative processes.