Fine Art Photography Show, Lecture and Crit at Smith College

Fine Art Photography Show, Lecture and Crit at Smith College

I was really forward to seeing old friends from Yale, hanging smaller prints in a new way, seeing and commenting on student’s work and giving a talk about my work.

It started with a bus journey, which was uneventful. I usually prefer to take the bus rather than trains because the highway can be slightly meditative and trips through frayed and faded downtown bus stations provide a more interesting view of cities (and buses are usually much quieter and less annoying than Amtrak or Metro North).

Paola Ferrario was nice enough to meet me the station, and Grace was extremely helpful in hanging the prints. I was a bit blurry eyed from lack of sleep and tried three different arrangements but decided the best was the sequence I’ve used before: start roughly from dark interiors to lighter exteriors. This seemed best for the both the narrative of the work, the emotional feeling and the space. For a dinner break, I got the chance to drive Paola’s manual shift car—something I’ve only done three times before (with my step-mom’s Opal; with a friend’s car in Maine, and in Sicily).

While things got difficult after Grace’s expert help, causing me to fiddle with correct spacing, I liked the end result of placing small white round unobtrusive pins through a small piece of tape attached to just the top right and left corner of the prints, allowing them to slightly “breath” and roll up at the bottom. I love trying this because it makes the work more accessible.

Smith Professor Fraser Stables and Amherst Professor and Yale Classmate Justin Kimball

The one regret I have is not making the prints larger: they would have been powerful to see the people in them at nearly life size.

It was nice to sleep in a house for a change and to be awoken by rain on the roof at four in the morning—a lovely sound that I don’t hear in the City. A friend called me from Paris, and I made a few other calls, and had a nice chat with Paola. Then off to school.

Smith Photo Crit Room

My first crit was the last hour of a basic photography class. As I was new to this, I was nervous but I tried to just listen, organize my thoughts, and speak my mind honestly and openly. One comment I made was about a student’s statement, and suggested that she was the artist and could say anything she wanted, but there was no need to say what she DIDN’T do in the work, or where it failed in her eyes. The work was interesting for a first class in photography, was wide reaching in scope, and one student’s work was stunning.

I loved looking at something, thinking about it, and responding in crits, and was very excited by this concept. I’d love to do it again. I found Fraser Stable’s comments incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, and positive.

We headed to lunch and I mentioned this to Fraser—that I thought his comments were very intelligent. I really enjoyed our conversation over lunch about teaching, students, art, galleries, photography—but curiously noticed that everything on campus seemed slightly off kilter to me. Being Smith, naturally, there were no men, save a few teachers. This lead to an amazing feeling of being in the “minority” and feeling that the animated discussions I witness around me by the young women seemed different—less pressure?–without the presence of young men.

Smith Computer Lab

The afternoon was spent with a three hour advanced photo class crit. The work here changed dramatically, and I was amazed that only two courses separated the novice from work that was highly developed, more complicated and more diverse, and thought that Paola and Fraser must be good teachers. Some work was quite striking, and I loved offering my opinions after loosing some self consciousness about what I should say—even if it seemly slight contrary. Actually, it was quite an honor to be asked to sit in and offer my thoughts. All I could do was be present and completely open, which I think I did.

As the class ended, my anxiety increased because it meant my presentation would start soon. There were some technical gliches which were fixed right as the talk was to start. Paola gave a very complementary introduction to me (its odd and flattering to hear someone say out loud my accomplishments), and I nervously started after the lights were dimmed. I’m glad I had my notes in PowerPoint because it was hard to get started. But as I tried to just look at the work I felt more at ease.

Smith Photo Professor Paola Ferrario at Smith

It ended with about ten questions, and I was glad it was offer. I chatted with a few students and friends, and Paola and I headed for a quick bit and then a drive to New Haven, which was both incredibly nice for her to offer but was great to talk and connect with Paola. Again, the discussion ranged from shows, photography, teaching, martial arts, and what various Yale classmates were doing.

I was over tired as I boarded the Amtrak train but loved being asked to show my work, comment on student work, and give a talk about my photographs.

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