The 2014 Medium Festival of Photography is over and it is time to reflect on my weekend in San Diego. I didn’t know what to expect when I left home Friday morning October 24th. I had missed the first day of Eye to Eye Portfolio Reviews, the Open Portfolio Walk and a lecture by Mary Virginia Swanson, so I was anxious to get to the Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club in the North Park region. The first person I met was Amanda Ashley Toombs, the festival’s Communications Manager who was extremely courteous and helpful. Within moments of my arrival I had been checked in, given a goodie bag, a VIP pass and was introduced to the Director of Medium Festival of Photography, scott b. davis. I thought to myself, “Wow, now that’s service!” The entire staff at the Medium Festival of Photography was sociable, knowledgeable and helpful the whole weekend. Their interaction with festivalgoers fostered a friendly and intimate environment.
The second day of Eye to Eye Portfolio Reviews were in progress but I hadn’t made the few hundred-dollar fee to have my work reviewed so I didn’t get to witness the process. Those who partook in the reviews had positive things to say about their experience. The majority of the feedback was that the Eye to Eye Portfolio Reviews were excellent starting points for long-term relationship building and worth the investment; that it is important to respect yourself enough to invest in your career. I found it difficult to argue with that logic, as I was at the Medium Festival of Photography investing in my career in another way: through connecting with peers and meeting new colleagues. The first lecture of the day was by Chantel Paul, the assistant curator at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA). She spoke about her curatorial process and about her recent exhibition at the MOPA titled After Ansel Adams.
By 7pm a large crowd had gathered to listen to Duane Michals speak and he did not disappoint. It can be said that lectures tend to be dull and dry but Michals’ keynote address was more like a stand up comedy routine. He was engaging and lucid; totally present and in the moment as he inserted humorous anecdotes on a whim. Michals spoke with the charisma, wit and confidence of a mature photographer who knows exactly who he is and what his vision is. It was refreshing and inspiring. After his talk, the amassed group of revelers gathered in the lobby area of the Lafayette Hotel to purchase copies of Michals’ new book Storyteller and get them autographed. Duane Michals continued to be effervescent as he joked with each person and answered questions while taking pictures with his fans. He was certainly the highlight of the evening.
Saturday morning the festival shifted into to a higher gear with the addition of pop-up shops, more lectures, workshop demonstrations and a roundtable discussion. The three events that left the most impression on me were the Points of Entry roundtable discussion, artist Soo Kim’s lecture and the LYTRO Illum demonstration. The sentiment about investing in one’s own artistic career continued during the group talk. Financial investment wasn’t the only factor because relationship building was also heavily stressed. We were reminded that we are “in this together” and that there is not a division between artists, curators, collectors and gallery owners. Each person participates in conjunction with the other for a common goal; to celebrate creative photography.
Soo Kim is an artist that views photography as a reductive process. Much of her work is comprised of landscapes that have elements meticulously cut out. Her works are delicate sculptural photo-objects that reward critical looking. She spoke elegantly about her process along with the difficulties of framing and presenting them. The topic of her framing solution directly tied back to the roundtable discussion about forming long-term professional relationships. Kim has been working with Fine Art Solutions, who was one of the festival’s sponsors and whose owners were panelist during the group discussion. Kim had voiced the benefits of working with company for a number of years and the amount of help they provided her in solving her presentation problems.
LYTRO was another festival sponsor and they had brought a couple of their new Illum Light Field digital cameras to give demonstrations with. The 40 Megaray Light Field CMOS sensor was a huge jump up from the debut LYTRO camera. The Illum Light Field camera was designed for the professional artist as a supplementary image-making device. This camera is not designed to replace your favorite DSLR but it can do things a DSLR never could. By incorporating megaray technology the camera essentially creates a three dimensional image where the photographer can adjust the depth of field infinitely after the picture has been taken. The photographer can also adjust the parallax of the point of view as well. For the demonstration LYTRO brought 3D televisions but explained that the Illum Light Field camera will be able to be used in conjunction with three-dimensional printing as well.
By Sunday the festival had calmed down a bit but wasn’t any less vibrant. There were four more lectures and the pop-up shops continued. Matt Black is an honored photojournalist that shared his work set in Mexico’s Mixteca region. He spoke with great reverence about the changing human relationship to land, farming, food and community. He stressed the importance of not seeing the people he photographs as subjects but as collaborators and that each individual is actively helping him tell an important story. Black is an excellent example of a photojournalist active in modern times. The final lecture I attended was Joni Sternbach talking about her tintype photographs of surfers. Even though it was the last lecture of the day the room was still crowded and animated. Sternbach gave a detailed history of her process, beginning with her early seascape photographs that eventually led to photographing surfers. Sternbach’s incorporation of a wet collodion process gives her images a vintage feel and the surfers appeared as if they were from another time. Once the lecture was over scott b. davis thanked everyone for coming and making the third year of Medium Festival of Photography a huge success and announced the dates for next year. Overall, the festival was an excellent experience. The manageable size and friendly atmosphere provided plenty of connecting opportunities and was definitely a valuable investment for each participant. I look forward to attending next year.
Andrew K. Thompson