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November 16th, 2015

The Do’s and Don’ts of Collaborating with NGOs

Jane Huber, creative director of Oxfam America, says she’s inundated with requests from photographers wanting to work for the non-governmental organization. The photographers she rehires understand its mission and values—which includes respecting the individuals and communities it serves. “When you work in the field with an NGO, for all distinct purposes, you are the NGO,” says Huber. “You’re representing us and you want to embrace our values: human first.”

Huber was a participant on two panels during a one-day workshop titled “Photography: Agent for Change,”  hosted by the Alexia Foundation at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City on November 8. It was designed for documentary photographers and filmmakers who go beyond raising awareness and move into advocacy. Many photographers seek work from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the hopes that their images will be used in awareness campaigns, fund-raising and advocacy; some seek the access to communities or areas where the NGOs work, and want help with production and translation.

Huber spoke with PDN following the event to offer practical advice for photographers taking the initial steps to work with NGOs and how to behave in the field once they’ve been hired.

First of all, “do your homework,” Huber says. “As a prospective photographer you want to understand the objectives of Oxfam and what I’m seeking.” Huber continues, “I get a lot of emails that say, ‘I’d love to work for Oxfam because I love to travel and I’m interested in other cultures and I’m a photographer…’ And I think you haven’t done your homework. Photographers interested in doing work for international NGOs are a dime a dozen.”

To distinguish yourself, show that you know the organization and its programs well, Huber says; she recommends referencing specific campaigns that the NGO is conducting. Continue the email along the lines of “I’m particularly interested in labor issues and am always available for domestic work.” says Huber.  “Everybody likes to feel their time is valuable,” says Huber, “so you could say, ‘Dear X, I’m going to be in your area on Tuesday and I would love to take you out for coffee. It could be as short at 30 minutes.’” She adds, “Anyone who has a good portfolio, I’ll always try to give them a shot.”

Second, Huber expects photographers to put the people Oxfam serves before pictures. “You’d be surprised by what some people do in the field,” she says. “If you’re going to be a photographer working with people living in communities that are suffering because of poverty or violence and it’s for an organization that has a rights-based approach to development, then you have to mirror those values.” The photographers she rehires consider how they interact with the population they’re photographing. For example, she says: “If someone is weeping, it might be a really beautiful shot, but you may have to lose the great shot for the greater human interaction.”

Reciprocity with subjects is crucial, she says. At times that means missing the best light of the day to meet a contact person, an elder or local dignitary. It could also mean sitting down for tea. “I had a photographer who Oxfam worked with some years ago who I don’t choose to work with anymore,” Huber recalls. “It was reported back to me that when the family invited him to sit down for a cup of tea, he chose to sit in the corner and look at his camera. He may have thought he was using his time effectively, but when the team said it was important he sit with the family, he said, ‘I’m beat.’”

Huber sums it up by saying, “You may not be able to drink the tea because the water isn’t boiled, but you damn well sit there and show respect, because that’s reciprocity.”

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How To Work Profitably with NGOs

Can Photography Affect Change?

November 13th, 2015

Daniel Mayrit Wins $10K First PhotoBook Award from Aperture, Paris Photo

© Riot Books

You Haven’t Seen Their Faces by Daniel Mayrit, © Riot Books

Daniel Mayrit has won the First PhotoBook Award and a $10,000 prize at the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards. The award, which is given for an outstanding monograph, was announced today at a ceremony at the Paris Photo festival. Mayrit’s book, You Haven’t Seen Their Faces (published by Riot Books) features photos of “the most powerful people in London” that have been rendered in grainy black and white by the artist to imitate closed-circuit TV footage this is used by police during criminal investigations.

The prize for PhotoBook of the Year was awarded to Illustrated People by Thomas Mailaender (published by the Archive of Modern Conflict/RVB Books). Maileander laid negatives, pulled from the Archive, over the bodies of his models, then projected a UV lamp onto them: “Maileander then photographed each of his models before the sun made the image disappear,” according to the publisher’s description of the book.

A special Juror’s mention was awarded to Deadline by Will Steacey, a tabloid-sized, newsprint publication which chronicles the decline of The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.

Images of Conviction: The Construction of Visual Evidence won Photography Catalogue of the Year; it was published in connection with an exhibition at Le Bal in Paris of photos and video used as crime evidence.

The winners and all the shortlisted photo books are currently on display in Paris. The jurors who selected this year’s winners were: Frish Brandt, president of Fraenkel Gallery; Christophe Boutin, cofounder of onestar press; Clément Chéroux, curator of photography at Centre Pompidou; Donatien Grau, author and editor; and Lorenzo Piani, curator of the Enea Righi Collection, Bologna.

The shortlist was selected by Yannick Bouillis, founder, Offprint Projects; Julien Frydman of the LUMA Foundation; Lesley A. Martin, creative director of Aperture; Mutsuko Ota, editor-in-chief, IMA and Christoph Wiesner, artistic director of Paris Photo.

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November 5th, 2015

B&H Photo Video Warehouse Workers Vote to Unionize

Warehouse employees of B&H Photo Video have voted to unionize under the umbrella of the United Steelworkers, radio station WNYC has reported.

The vote, held yesterday among workers in two B&H warehouses in Brooklyn, was 200 to 88, according to the union.

After the vote, B&H spokesperson Henry Posner said in a prepared statement, “B&H Photo has always stood behind our employees’ legal right to seek union representation, and today’s outcome and our commitment to engage in a respectful dialogue with our employees and their representatives still holds true.”

Workers at the warehouses—many of whom are Hispanic—had complained of unsafe working conditions and discrimination, according to press reports. For instance, The New York Times reported last month that union organizers claimed B&H warehouse employees had been forced to work in warehouses where emergency exits were blocked; were exposed to dusty air that allegedly caused rashes and nosebleeds; and were pressured by management to sign English-language forms releasing B&H from medical claims.

A B&H senior executive countered in that same Times article that “B&H provides terrific benefits, highly competitive wages, and a safe, friendly environment.”

Laundry Workers Center, a non-profit labor group, began its efforts last year to help B&H workers unionize. United Steelworkers contacted B&H management last month, asking to be recognized “as the sole and exclusive bargaining representative of the employees.”

That request set the union vote in motion. Shortly afterwards, hundreds of photographers, filmmakers, and other industry professionals began signing a petition in support of the B&H employees. (The petition was initiated by union organizers, including Laundry Workers Center.)

The union alleges that B&H “ran an aggressive anti-union campaign prior to the vote.”

In his statement asserting B&H’s commitment to work with the union, Posner also said that the company has “gone to great lengths to ensure the highest standards for living wages and benefits, workplace safety, and respect and dignity in the workplace.”

—David Walker


October 28th, 2015

Lucie Awards: George Tice, Kathy Ryan Honored; Sandro and Maxim Dondyuk Share International Photographer of the Year

Fran Drescher and Simon Doonan honor Roxanne Lowit, who won the Lucie Award for Achievement in Fashion.

Fran Drescher and Simon Doonan honor Roxanne Lowit, who won the Lucie Award for Achievement in Fashion.

George Tice, Jerry Uelsmann, Danny Lyon, Roxanne Lowitt, Stephanie Sinclair and photo editor Kathy Ryan were among the honorees at the 13th annual Lucie Awards, held last night at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The International Photography Award was a tie: The honor was split between the Ukraine-based Maxim Dondyuk, honored for his recent work on the ongoing conflict and demonstrations in his country, and Chicago-based photographer Sandro, whose project “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich” reimagined classic photos with actor John Malkovich as his sole subject.

The Discovery of the Year award went to the Finnish photographer Ville Kansanen for his fine-art project “The Procession of Spectres.” The Lifetime Achievement award went to large-format documentary photographer George Tice, who noted in his acceptance speech that he won his first trophy for his photography when he was 14.

Rangefinder‘s Libby Peterson reported on the awards ceremony. For her full report on the awards, including winners of the awards for curator of the year, book publisher of the year and photo editor of the year, see Rangefinder‘s Photo Forward blog.


Maxim Dondyuk: Inside a Camp for Cossack Youth

October 27th, 2015

Model Wins Defamation Claim over HIV Awareness Ad

© NY State Division of Human Rights

The model whose likeness appeared in the ad has won her defamation suit. © NY State Division of Human Rights

A model who was falsely identified as being infected with HIV in a 2013 public service advertisement is entitled to damages for defamation, according to a report in New York Law Journal.

State court judge Thomas Scuccimarra said in his ruling that falsely identifying the model in a stock photo as HIV positive was defamatory because “from the perspective of the average person, [it] clearly subjects her to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace.”

The model, Avril Nolan, sued for defamation after her likeness appeared without her permission in an ad by the New York State Division of Human Rights. The ad featured a photo licensed from Getty Images and headlines that said “I am positive (+)” and “I have rights.” The ad copy said, “People who are HIV positive are protected by the New York State human rights law” and provided information for contacting the state’s Division of Human Rights.

Nolan does not have HIV. But the photo, which was licensed from Getty Images, appeared with no disclaimer stating that Nolan was a non-infected model posing for a stock image.

Judge Scuccimarra said in his ruling that it was “self-evident” that the state’s use of the model’s likeness was defamatory, according to the New York Law Journal report. The standards for defamation, he explained in the ruling, are the “sensibilities of society as to what disease bears a pejorative stamp.”

The judge noted that the New York State Division of Human Rights ignored warnings provided by Getty with the image license not to use the photo in any way that might be considered pornographic, defamatory, unflattering or controversial to a reasonable viewer.

The judge rejected out of hand the state’s argument that it didn’t violate Nolan’s rights under the state’s Civil Rights laws because the ad was a public service announcement, rather than a commercial advertisement.

A trial date for damages has not been set.

Nolan also sued Getty for unauthorized use of the photo, claiming she had never authorized its use for commercial purposes. That claim was settled out of court earlier this year, according to New York Law Journal.

— David Walker

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October 24th, 2015

PPE 2015: Mary Virginia Swanson’s Tips on Funding Your Photo Project

In her seminar “How to Fund Your Long-Term Project” at PhotoPlus Expo, Mary Virginia Swanson shared a variety ideas for researching and securing support from government, corporate and philanthropic entities. Swanson, a consultant, author and the executive director of the LOOK3 festival, encouraged photographers to think about everything they need to finish a project, and to achieve their goals: These valuable assets can include not only cash, but also access to subjects, paper or printing, publicity for an exhibition. Whether support in these areas from a lab that donates printing, the chamber of commerce that publicizes an event or or a local bank that helps pay for an exhibition, Swanson recommended thinking about what value your project can offer to the supporter. “Would putting their logo on an exhibition or book be of value?,” she asked. Consider the visibility the funder might want: “Do your funders the courtesy of thanking them,” on the wall of the exhibition, on invitations, and on your website.

Swanson noted that many photographers are applying for the same grants, fellowships, and government-supported arts programs, so they need to broaden their search for funding. She divided funders into two camps: Those interested in supporting you, and those interested in supporting the subject of your project. The people interested in supporting you are limited to “your fan base and your family.” Support for your subject matter, she said, “comes from like-minded, passionate people.” These may include strangers, who are likely to ask, “Is there a tax deduction in this for me?”

Funders who want tax deductions are unlikely to write a check to individuals, however, so photographers may benefit from partnering with a fiscal agent. Fiscal agents provide artists a connection to a 501 c 3 nonprofit, and can funnel your donations to you; they typically handle administration in exchange for a percentage of your donations. Fractured Atlas, Blue Earth Alliance (which works with artists devoted to environmental issues) and NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) are three fiscal agents who work with photographers.

Swanson gave a quick primer on researching family foundations and corporate philanthropies. Many companies devote pages of their websites to topics such as “corporate responsibility” or “the community,” and provide information on the charities and causes they support. “They’ll be giving [to a cause] because it supports the community they function in or serves the families of their employees.” Target, for example, funds arts education.

The Foundation Center has a searchable database of grant-making organizations, which is available online and at hundreds of satellites the Foundation Center supports around the country in local libraries and community centers. The database provides information on each philanthropy’s mission, the causes it supports, and also access to its most recent 990 tax form, where nonprofits list exactly how much money they gave in the course of a year, and to whom. By paying for a subscription to the Foundation Center’s database, users can also search for grants and funders by subject matter or area of interest.

In considering whether to try crowd-funding, Swanson said, “You have to weigh if you want to take a month off from working to work on your crowd-funding.” She noted that Kickstarter has an extensive reach, can attract enormous traffic and donations to the campaigns its staff chooses to highlight, and provides users useful information about traffic and donations. She also noted, however, that if a crowdfunding campaign fails to reach its goal, it remains on the Kickstarter site forever “as a failed project.” Swanson recommended looking at the projects that failed before writing or recording your own pitch for a crowd-funding campaign. After looking at pitches that failed, Swanson said, “I promise you, you’ll make your video differently.”

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October 24th, 2015

PhotoPlus Expo 2015: Photo Book Editors on How to Publish Your Photo Book

There may not be much money in photo book publishing, but is money a photographer’s only reason to publish a book? As Aperture book program publisher Lesley Martin said, “Books have become an integral part of photographic practice.” So for the legions of  photographers driven to publish a photo book despite the costs, a panel of experts gathered at PhotoPlus Expo to explain the how-to. Besides Martin, panelists included Abrams publisher Michael Sand, veteran book editor and agent Robert Morton, and photographer Lauren Henkin. PDN Editor Holly Stuart Hughes moderated the discussion.

The panelists discussed how to conceptualize a book project, how to pitch it to publishers, how to raise funds for publication, and how to market your book once it is published.

As veteran book editor and agent Robert Morton explained, technology has dramatically changed the photo book business. On the one hand, it’s easier than ever for photographers to create a book themselves thanks to online, on-demand publishing. On the other hand, photo books are much harder to sell because independent bookstores have closed by the hundreds, so potential buyers of photo books have no good way to browse. “Amazon doesn’t show you what’s inside the book,” he said.

The editors on the panel strongly advised against publishing albums of personal work. “Your material has to have a subject,” Morton said. “If it’s purely personal work, you’re going to have a hard time coming up with a subject. Fine art books that are purely and simply a photographer’s vision of the world are almost impossible to sell, [and were] even in the days when there were 4,000 bookstores.”

Hughes directed the audience to the Princeton Architectural Press submission guidelines for authors interested in pitching book ideas. Its questionnaire requires authors to figure out who the primary and secondary audiences are for their proposed book, to research comparable titles to the books they are proposing and answer other tough questions. The questionnaire had been recommended by Mary Virginia Swanson, co-author of Publish Your Photography Book.

“It gets to the heart of [the question]: Why does the world need your book?” Quoting Swanson, Hughes said, “If you can answer the questions, you can [pitch your book project] to any editor.”

Sand ran through his list of “14 thoughts on placing your book with a commercial publisher.” The list underscored the difficulty of getting a commercial trade publisher to publish and market photo book. Some of the items on Sand’s how-to list included:

1. Be famous. (Sand pointed to Drew Barrymore’s books of snapshots titled Find It in Everything)
2. Be famous and dead (e.g., Ansel Adams)
3. Be famous, live a complicated life, and write about it. (e.g., Sally Mann)
5. Get in a helicopter for a fresh perspective (e.g., George Steinmetz)
6. Associate with interesting people (e.g., Todd Selby, creator of The Selby)
9. Animals make good subjects
10. Consider food [cookbooks]

Martin explained that the two critical issues for publishers and self-publishers alike are how to pay for the production, printing, and distribution of a book, and how to find potential buyers in order to sell the book. A non-profit publisher, Aperture has traditionally raised funds through grants and print sales, but has recently worked with photographers by running Kickstarter crowd-funding campaigns —a strategy that not only raises money, but also helps to pre-sell copies of a book. For instance, a Kickstarter campaign for Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers book raised $80,000 in pre-publication book sales. Another Kickstarter campaign for Robin Schwartz’s Amelia & the Animals raised about $30,000.

Martin advised the audience that “the photo book community is a self-organized, highly networked, international community. So be part of it.” For instance, web sites such as offer resources and ideas for marketing a photo book–at festivals, book fairs, meet up, and through photo blogs. She also referred the audience to The Photobook Review, a free, twice-a-year publication from Aperture about book publishing. And Martin noted that “one of the myths of self-publishing is that have to do [everything] yourself. You don’t.” She added that the most successful books are the result of a collaborative effort.

And that has been the experience of Henkin, who has self-published several successful fine art books since 2010.

Having studied architecture, Henkin is as much concerned with materiality and scale of the books as she is with the content. Her books, which she has produced in editions of a few hundred,  are collectible as objects, as she discovered when she set about figuring out who might be interested in buying her first book. She found interest among a community of special collections librarians, who led her to private rare book dealers and collectors.

“I banged on a lot of doors to build that audience,” she said.

Her third (and most recent) book, Still Standing, Standing Still, is a sculptural object. It contains just 14 images of a single tree, place in a wooden box. The images are mounted on a stiff backing, and bound so they can be displayed radially on top of the box. Viewers can then walk around and view the images as if they’re walking around the tree Henkin photographed.

Henkin made 300 copies of the book, and priced it at $500. It sold out in a day.

by David Walker

You’ve Published Your Photo Book. Now How Do You Market It?
How to Pitch Your Photo Book to Publishers
Leveraging an Online Audience to Atrract Book Publishers
Lauren Henkin: How (and Why) to Hand-Make Your Photo Book

October 7th, 2015

Victor Blue Documents Survivors of Kunduz Hospital Bombing

Front page of October 4 New York Times, with photo by Victor J. Blue. © The New York Times

Front page of October 4 New York Times, with photo by Victor J. Blue. © The New York Times

Victor J. Blue‘s image of a young patient who survived the US airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, appeared on the front page of The New York Times on October 4. Blue’s  interview with a man who survived the bombing was also reported in a follow-up story.

Blue happened to be working in Kabul, Afghanistan, on a story about the hospital run by Emergency, an Italian NGO, when patients started arriving from the Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz. In addition to his front-page image of an eight-year-old patient  being comforted by a nurse, he photographed her being carried into the hospital and being treated.

Blue, who has traveled to and photographed in Afghanistan many times in the last six years, had spent two weeks in Kabul documenting work at the Emergency hospital. Admissions at that hospital have increased dramatically since the Taliban has regained ground. Blue says, “The month before I arrived, [Emergency] set a new record for admissions. Every day between 10 and 20 new patients are admitted. The hospital is so busy, they have to set strict admission criteria, only treating penetrating trauma—war wounds from bullets, shells, or mines and IED’s. They take some stabbings too.”

We reached Blue while he was awaiting transport to Kunduz, and asked him about his images and reporting on the MSF hospital casualties.

PDN: Why were you in Kabul, and working at the hospital there?
VB: I came to produce a piece on the flood of civilian casualties this year, and on the hospital in Kabul, Emergency, run by the Italian NGO of the same name, that works to save folks hurt in the fighting here. I made pictures in the hospital on both of my last two trips to Afghanistan. It’s an incredible place. The staff there are really open and dedicated, they work extremely hard to save a lot of lives.

The hospital in Kabul actually draws in patients from a pretty wide catchment area, 7 provinces. Emergency runs a network of First Aid Posts around Afghanistan, 46 in all, which are situated in the districts and usually stabilize the wounded before transfer to Kabul, although plenty of folks come in by private taxi. The majority were from Ghazni province, where the fighting between the Taliban and the government has been really fierce.

PDN: When did you—and the staff of the hospital—learn they’d be seeing patients moved from the MSF hospital in Kunduz?
VB: About four days or so after the Taliban overran Kunduz, a few patients started to trickle in. Then, after the bombing [of the hospital in Kunduz], it was a lot—around 20 came in one day. You could tell they had been treated in the hospital in Kunduz, but were not healed enough to be sent home, and came [to Kabul] to continue treatment. On Saturday afternoon, the day of the US airstrike, the two families I photographed arrived in Kabul via Afghan helicopter from Kunduz. When they came in, I had a nurse ask [for me] if it was OK if I made some pictures, and the parents of both of the children agreed. The Emergency nurses worked to remove their soiled bandages and assess the wounds. The kids were pretty scared and upset, and the nurses were amazing with them—not just calming them, but asking them to be brave while they helped them.

PDN: How did you get in touch with The New York Times, and what did you send?
VB: I talked with the father of one of the children [evacuated from Kunduz], Najibullah, and then asked a staff member at Emergency to translate for me. I interviewed him and realized that his personal account was really powerful, he had survived the bombing with his son in a bunker. The same blast that put his son in the hospital killed two other sons of his.
I am in touch with friends that work as New York Times reporters when I am in Afghanistan, and my friend Joe Goldstein… is currently here reporting. We had already hung out, and were in regular contact about the situation in Kunduz and about another story of his I had been assigned to [cover]. I called him up and told him what I had and he sent a car over to pick me up. I hung out at the Times bureau while the Afghan reporters called Najibullah and asked him some follow-up questions to the interview I brought. Then I filed the pictures. It was a Saturday and International Picture Editor David Furst was off, so my friend Metro Editor Niko Koppel received them and passed them on to International Picture Editor Thom McGuire, who worked hard to get them in the paper. Najibullah’s account of surviving the airstrike ran the next day. It felt good to get his voice into such an important story.

PDN: Did MSF workers from Kunduz go to Kabul, too and what did they tell you?  
VB: The next day at the hospital, more patients from the MSF hospital as well as MSF staff arrived at Emergency. They were still grieving and in shock and made it clear they did not want to take questions from journalists. I continued to do my work, shooting patients and surgeries and following the nurses on their rounds, but gave the MSF folks a wide berth. Of course I wanted to talk to them and hear their stories, but I had to respect their wishes. It was a big moment of solidarity between them and Emergency, two organizations with similar missions but that work very differently, and I wasn’t going to get in the way of that.

September 30th, 2015

Lauren Dukoff on Production Skills and Creative Experimentation as Keys to Success

Lauren Dukoff discussing her work during an Iris Night talk at Skylight Studios.

Long before Lauren Dukoff, the subject of the cover story in PDN‘s September issue, started shooting fashion stories for Vogue Japan, she had known for her music photography and portraits. She captured intimate, often candid images for Rolling Stone and Spin, shot the art for Adele’s album 21, and in 2009 published her book Family, based on her collection of behind-the-scenes and on-the-road images of her longtime friend Devendra Barnhart and the musicians with whom he collaborated. She found herself in recording studios, dressing rooms and intimate settings with artists she looked up to. “I felt so awkward in this private space, but with my camera, it was a kind of shield and it gave me a reason to be there,” Dukoff said in a recent lecture at the Skylight Studios, part of the Iris Nights lecture series run by the Annenberg Space for Photography. (The full video of Dukoff’s talk, “A Collaborative Path,” is archived on the Annenberg website. )

While Dukoff’s quiet approach to capturing unguarded moments might seem like an odd stepping stone to directing models in couture gowns and managing large productions, she told her audience at Skylight Studios that she got valuable training and encouragement while working in the studio of Autumn De Wilde. Dukoff had long admired De Wilde’s work and was happy to take on any job available. In time, she worked her way up from babysitter to studio manager, where she helped arrange productions, and learned “the nuts and bolts” of hiring a crew and looking after shoot logistics. While some young photographers “go the assistant route,” Dukoff said, learning production “was really valuable to me because I knew I wanted to be a commercial photographer.”

De Wilde also encouraged Dukoff to believe in the work she was shooting on her own time through collaborations with friends. By pursuing it, Dukoff says, “I was starting to build a visual identity of your own.”

As PDN‘s story explains, Dukoff moved from capturing in-between moments with musicians and other artists, to creating posed portraits, and then to collaborating with fashion stylists on celebrity portraits for magazines such as L’Uomo Vogue, Lula and Vanity Fair. Along the way, she also learned to shoot commercials by collaborating with experienced film crews. Like De Wilde, she has experimented with a variety of genres, to stretch herself creatively while also expanding her clientele.

“I find that as soon as I’m comfortable I think: I better figure something else out, because there’s so much more to do, there’s so much more to learn,” she told her audience. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay true to your style. But don’t be afraid to try things and expand.”

Dukoff spoke at the Iris Night lecture during the run of the “Emerging” exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography (curated by the editors of PDN). Other photographers in the “Emerging” show who shared how they found their voices, established their place in the photo world and navigated the photo business include Zun Lee, Olivia Bee, Corey Arnold and Bryan Derballa. All the videos of their talks can be found online at the Annenberg website.

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September 8th, 2015

Educator, Consultant Mary Virginia Swanson Named New Executive Director of LOOK3

© Tom Daly/courtesy LOOK3

The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, during LOOK3 2015. © Tom Daly

The board of directors of LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph today announced they have hired Mary Virginia Swanson, a long-time photo educator, workshop leader, author and consultant to photographers and arts organizations, to be its new executive director. She succeeds Victoria Hindley, who had been executive director of the non-profit photography organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, since 2014.

© Steven St. John

Swanson (left) teaching at Santa Fe Workshops. © Steven St. John

“I am thrilled to come back to my roots of developing educational programs and events that draw together diverse members of our photography community,”  said Swanson, who had previously participated in LOOK3 as a workshop leader and mentor.

Photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols, cofounder of LOOK3, said in a statement,  “We are thrilled and honored that such a well respected long-time member of the community will be calling LOOK3 home. With her over 30 years working with photographers she will take LOOK3 to new heights.”

Swanson says that as LOOK3 enters its tenth year, she hopes to put more emphasis on the week-long festival’s educational programming, which has sometimes been overshadowed by its exhibitions and public talks by photographers.

Swanson notes that LOOK3’s stated mission is “to celebrate the vision of extraordinary photographers, ignite conversations about critical issues, and foster the next generation of artists.” The festival began when photographer Mike “Nick” Nichols held slide shows annually in his backyard; it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2006. Throughout its history, Swanson says, LOOK3 “has had a rich legacy of supporting three generations of photographers,” including emerging talent, mid-career photographers and the master photographers who have spoken during the festival at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater. At times, she says, its educational mission has been “less visible” than its other programs. “I’m keen on photographers having a window onto the business as it’s evolving,” she says. “I want to continue our mentorship of young photographers and meet the need of long-standing professionals for continuing education. We all need to be lifelong learners.”

The LOOK3 board of directors, which was recently expanded, will hold its first meeting this month to discuss next year’s festival.

Before her appointment was announced, Swanson informed her photographer clients that she will be limiting her private consultations. Swanson says she will honor commitments to teach seminars this fall for Aperture Foundation and PhotoPlus Expo, and she plans to continue giving lectures and attending portfolio reviews. As a reviewer, lecturer and teacher, she says,  “I will wear different hats at PhotoNOLA  and [Houston] Fotofest. I’ll be an advocate for LOOK3 as well as an advocate for photographers.”

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