Five official reviews today. The first one, with the curator for a Mid-Western museum, went incredibly well. He called Nighthawks “a fresh approach,” and “some of the best of this kind of work he’s seen.” He also wanted to see work from This Green Growing Land, which I’d left at the hotel. I dropped by at the break with the farm-worker prints. The bad news? (You knew there was going to be bad news, didn’t you?) They are building a new museum and it will be several years before they can do new shows. That’s OK. I’m patient. When they move in to their new digs, they will have four photography shows a year. I’ll keep in touch.
My next appointment was with a curator who said on his interests form that he was only interested in still lifes and abstracts, so naturally I led with PhotoCalligraphy. That went over pretty well, so I pulled out some Las Vegas Neon and LED abstracts (under “Light & Motion” on my web site). He was interested in why the lights formed the patterns the way they did, and I explained a little about how neon lights turn on and off 120 times a second, and LEDs cycle much faster. He said he’d keep me in mind if he did a “technical show”. That was a surprise; I’d never thought of the Light & Motion series as being at all technical, but I do recognize that my appreciation of the underlying technology does influence the way I make the images.
Remembering yesterday, I asked if the lunchtime talk had been rescheduled. It had indeed. Mary Virginia Swanson gave a rapid-fire lecture on using the Internet for promotion and sales. It was a lot of information in a short time, but very useful. She identified many web sites that she thought to be exemplars of how to do things right.
The first afternoon review was with a magazine editor who had been way down on my priority list; number 40 to be exact. His magazine is “…dedicated to publishing in-depth photographic essays on important issues of the day.” It didn’t seem like much of a fit. I showed him Nighthawks, and I got some really useful feedback. He picked up on the voyeuristic aspect to the series. I haven’t been entirely comfortable with that, which is one of the reasons that I’d stayed away from crisp images. He suggested that I look at the work of Sophie Calle.
He also said that he found it disconcerting that the aspect ratio of the photographs kept changing. I explained that, what with the scenery flying by so quickly, I couldn’t really frame the shot at the instant of exposure, and, with the presence or absence of parked card being random, I couldn’t tell whether the bottom of the frame was going to be obscured. I said that I could try editing the work into several series, all with different shapes. That would allow me to find a place for some work that’s so skinny that I didn’t bring it to the conference. It’s worth a try. There’s a part of me that understands why shape is important, and a part of me that balks and thinks it’s a little like arranging your books by size or color. In any event, here was another case of a reviewer with no interest in using my work providing useful food for thought.
The review with Mary Virginia Swanson seemed to go by in no time. She is a much a bundle of enthusiasm and energy one-on-one as she was giving her lecture. She had Googled me and gone to my underwater photography web site, since it came up first in the Google results. There’s a link on the underwater site to the art site, but, since she was using a laptop, the text at the bottom of the link image didn’t make the first screen. So she was sitting there wondering why this underwater photographer was coming to see her.
It was a good lesson in the disorganization of my web presence. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have any art at all on the web, and it’s no surprise that what is there looks like an afterthought. She suggested that I swap make the art site kasson.com and the underwater site kasson.org. I know she’s right in the long term, but that’s going to break a lot of links, many of them mine.
When we finally got to the art site, she went to the “Information” tab, and focused on the “How to buy” menu entry. She said it should say “How to acquire.” In my former life as an engineer, I used to spend a lot of time with the marketing folks, and I immediately recognized the mindset. Similarly, she suggested that I re-title the PhotoCalligraphy series. We went on like this for a while before we started to look at the work that I’d brought. She had a few problems with the more blurry images in the Nighthawks series, saying that she found it easier to connect with the people if she could see more of their faces.
She asked me for the elevator vesrion (although she didn’t use those words) of what Nighthawks was about. I explained the idea, touching on ambguity as one element of the more successful images. She suggested one word to decribe the series: mystery. I thought that it was close but not right on target, and worried that it promised more than I could delever. We didn’t find the one word, but looking for it is probably a good thing for me to do.
I told Ms. Swanson that I’d like to work with her in the future, and we made plans to get together by email.
The last review of the day was with a woman who is associated with an on-line and physical gallery. She was frank that she was put off by the blurriness. She did have an interesting suggestion: since some of the work looks more like a painting than a photograph, maybe I should try galleries that don’t normally handle photographs. It’s a thought. I’m afraid there will be a lot of prejudice to get around if I go that route, but you never know until you try.