By: Lauren Turner, Assistant Curator for the Collection
For those of us who work in the arts in the Triangle, October doesn’t just portend the changing seasons, Halloween, and pumpkin-spiced everything; it also means it’s time to celebrate the medium of photography through the annually occurring, month-long Click! Photography Festival. (Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.)
In an effort to focus some of the month’s activities to appeal to out-of-town guests, this year’s Click! organizers decided to introduce a new facet of their programming – Click! 120, an intensive five-day celebration of all things photography, with highlights including presentations by three keynote speakers, bus tours to local collections, and a day-long portfolio review by assorted curators, gallerists, and arts editors. Unfortunately, this year the Ackland was unable to offer a tour of its collection to the participants since Click! 120 overlapped with both the opening of our new exhibition Flash of Light, For of War: Japanese Military Prints, 1894-1905, the unveiling of our new Store’s location, and some no-big-deal, really minor news announced that weekend. (Kidding! We’re still giddy!).
Even with the flurry of activity at the Ackland and on campus, I was fortunate enough to serve as one of the portfolio reviewers on the final day of Click! 120, during which I met with eleven photographers for a full half-hour each at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham. During those meetings, we discussed their aspirations for their current bodies of work, and where possible, I offered suggestions and encouragement in helping them to achieve those goals.
The morning began with Daniel Kariko, an assistant professor of photography at East Carolina University; his project Suburban Symbiosis: Insectum Domesticus utilizes microscope photography and an intensive post-production process to create stunningly colored portraits of household insects. He was followed by Carol Erb, a Californian photographer who showed me her series-in-progress Reckoning, in which fantastic scenes of natural disasters serve “as a metaphor for a civilization in crisis.” Chris Ogden then shared with me selections from Stones Echo, a series he has created by rappelling into stone quarries; the beautiful images that he has captured read more as elegant abstract color studies than traditional landscape compositions. Susan Patrice was also turning to landscape in her most recent work, but she was doing so in a way to explore a mid-career turnaround in practice and the ways in which exploring a familiar wooded path through a tondo format have had on this transition. Charlotte artist Amy Herman brought apartofme and it wasn’t important until it was, two series connected by her captivating inclusion and consideration of vintage family photographs within her own practice. Tori Gagne rounded out the morning with her elegantly captured Moonlit Dance series of horses in motion.
After a break for lunch, I met Susan Keiser who uses mid-century dollhouse figures with water and ice to create unsettlingly quiet scenes that evoke suburban tragedies in the two bodies of work Barbaric Glass and Flooded. Greg Banks, currently an instructor at Appalachian State University, delighted me with his combination of Appalachian folklore, family history, and a tintype aesthetic in An Explanation of Sympathetic Magic. Donna Hixson impressed me with her witty eye for depicting roadside Americana, as seen especially in series like Unseen Florida and Stars and Stripes. Chapel Hill artist Heather Evans Smith introduced me to her meditation on the tensions between mother and child in Seen Not Heard, a thoughtful body of work that some local viewers may have encountered this year at the Horace Williams House. I finished the day with R.J. Kern who will have selections from his series The Unchosen Ones appear in November’s National Geographic; his respectful portraits of participants in county fair animal competitions complicate conceptions of winning and losing.
While the day was a whirlwind introduction to a broad array of creativity and working styles, each of the photographers I met exemplified professionalism and an evident love for the medium. It is a truly wonderful event that the Click! organizers brought together, and it’s still only mid-October! I encourage you to check their website for more upcoming programs.