June 14th, 2013

Look3: Carrie Mae Weems on Race, Sexuality, History and Finding Meaningful Work

Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Willis

© Tristan Wheelock

Visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, who appeared on the main stage of the Look3 Festival of the Photograph last night for a conversation about her work with photo historian and curator Deborah Willis, is finally getting the recognition that she deserves. Weems recently received the Gordon Parks Foundation Award, and her rich, wide-ranging oeuvre from the past three decades is the subject of a touring retrospective exhibition.

As an artist, Weems is not easy to pin down. She uses primarily photography, but also written text, audio recording, video and fabric banners to explore a wide range of topics, including race, gender, sexuality, and power. A common thread to it all, she says, is “an overarching commitment to understanding the present by closely examining history and identity.”

But the work is far more playful and accessible than all of that makes it sound. Her work is grounded solidly in reality. (Take a quick tour here: http://carriemaeweems.net/work.html.) And like so many other photographers, she goes to work every morning, follows her interests, and figures things out as she goes along.

“I’m interested in photography and I’m interested in literature and I’m interested in film,” she explained near the beginning of her wide-ranging conversation with Willis. “I’m trying to figure out how to use those modes as a vehicle for expressing certain kinds of ideas…I’m just interested in whatever works.”

Her conversation with Willis, accompanied by a projection of her images, shed light on her artistic process with a grand tour of her various projects over the years . One of the best known is her “Kitchen Table” series, for which Weems used a kitchen table–that iconic object of American domesticity–to explore the experience of women in their role as mothers, wives, friends, and objects of sexual desire.

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June 5th, 2013

Events, Awards and Other Photo Happenings

Events

Tonight at the New York Public Library, photography educator and historian Deborah Willis will discuss Leonard Freed‘s photographs of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Joining Willis on the panel will be photographers Eli Reed and Jamel Shabazz, scholar Paul M. Farber, writer Michael Eric Dyson, and Freed’s widow, Brigitte Freed. The event begins at 6pm.

The Chris Hondros Fund, which supports photojournalism with fellowships and other programs, is holding a benefit online print auction through June 7. Work by Slim Aarons, James Balog, Al Bello, Andrea Bruce, Robert Capa, Ernst Haas, Michael Kamber, Ed Ou, Joao Silva and many other photographers is for sale.

Free seminars at Review Santa Fe start this Friday with “The Business of Photography.” On Saturday a panel of photographers will discuss “New Methods For Engaging Audiences,” and on Sunday Guggenheim Fellow John Gossage will lecture on “Contemporary Photographic Practice.” For more public events check out the Review Santa Fe event schedule.

Italian photographic education organization Cesura is running a travel workshop in Cairo in November. Led by Gabriele Micalizzi, who covered the Egyptian revolution, workshop participants will also have the option of a two-day supplemental workshop with photographer Moises Saman.

Awards

Kevin Miller received The New Orleans Photo Alliance‘s 2013 Michael P. Smith Fund for Documentary Photography Grant for his project on the Panama Canal expansion. (more…)

February 1st, 2013

Project on African American and Latino Ballroom Subculture Wins CDS/Honickman First Book Prize

© Gerard H. Gaskin

© Gerard H. Gaskin

Gerard H. Gaskin’s photography series on the African American and Latino house and ballroom subculture of urban, gay pageants has received the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize.

The prize carries a $3,000 grant, and an opportunity to publish a book of the work and exhibit it online and at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The images also go into the permanent collection at Duke’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

Judged by curator, historian and photographer Deborah Willis, the 2013 prize is the sixth biennial award given by Duke Center For Documentary Studies and the Honickman Foundation of Philadelphia.

According to Gaskin’ statement, “The balls are a celebration of black and Latino urban gay life and were born in Harlem out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves. Balls are constructed like beauty and talent pageants. The participants work to redefine and critique gender and sexual identity through an extravagant fashion masquerade.”

Though the balls originated in Harlem, Gaskin noted, the culture has grown and spread. He made his images in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. “My images try to show a personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society,” he says.

“Gaskin’s work looks at the notion of transformation as he turns his lens on what it means to be ‘desired,’ and at the same time, what it feels like to be alienated,” Willis said in a statement. “His photographs are as exciting to look at as they are a means for imagining the lived experiences of the communities he has documented.”

The prize is open to American and Canadian photographers of any age who have never published a book-length work. For more about the prize visit: firstbookprizephoto.com.

May 21st, 2012

Curator Deborah Willis to Judge 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize

Photo historian, professor and curator Deborah Willis will be the judge for this year’s CDS/Honickman First Book Prize, sponsored by The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University and The Honickman Foundation. The winning photographer will receive a $3,000 grant and publication of a book of photographs, an exhibition at the Rubenstein Library Gallery at Duke University and inclusion in a Web site devoted to past winners of the award. American and Canadian photographers who have never published a book-length work before are eligible to enter. Applications will be accepted from June 15 through September 15.

Submissions to the First Book Prize are first screened by a committee lead this year by Kimerly Rorshach, director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke. According to the FAQs on the First Book Prize Web site, the focus of the competition is on “the breadth and nuance of the body of photographs as an extended narrative and meditation.” The committee’s selection is then turned over to this year’s judge.

Willis is on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has published such books as Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present; Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; The Black Female Body in Photography; and Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs. Previous judges for the First Book Prize include photographers Robert Frank, William Eggleston and Mary Ellen Mark.

Past winners of the prize have included Benjamin Lowy, Jennette Williams, Danny Wilcox Frazier, and Larry Schwarm.

Guidelines for entries can be found at the First Book Prize web site.