How does one take the measure of a photography festival that includes well over a hundred and fifty shows, lectures, receptions, artist's talks, and more, and more, and more?
I stumbled onto the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival several years ago when a professional commitment took me to Atlanta in October and I suddenly realized I was surrounded by photography. I've had work in several ACP venues over the years, but have never had the time simply to wander about and taking in the full scope of events.
So when family business took me to Atlanta last week, I jumped at the chance to take Saturday afternoon and see what I could see. But what do you do if you only have half a day to get the flavor of so vast and diverse an event?
One answer is to plan well, using the ACP Guide's listings of events by areas of Atlanta, then crank up the GPS and head out.
I specifically wanted to visit galleries where Southern photographers had work up that I had previously seen only on line. So a show called A Celebration of Photography: Six Southern Viewpoints, took me to the Art House Gallery, at 3193 Paces Ferry Place. Donna Rosser's work is there (see above), along with work by Richie Arpino, Ilia Varcev, Lila Campbell, and Diane Kirkland.
It was definitely good to see this work. I also enjoyed a long conversation with the proprietor, especially about William Eggleston, whom she knows.
My special interest in Southern photography also took me to the Emily Amy Gallery, where Stephanie Dowda has curated a show called Echoes of the Sublime, especially to see the works of Jeff Rich, who has been having an exceptionally fine year as a photographer.
Jeff's printed images -- it turns out -- are not exactly better than the same images on line, but they do have a special depth, a remarkable amount of fine detail, and a strong tactile quality when seen on the wall as a print that they don't have when seen on-screen.
Jeff shares wall space in the Emily Amy Gallery with a number of other fine photographers, including Allyson Ross of New York, John Paul Floyd of Atlanta, Klea McKenna of San Francisco, Wes Cummings of Atlanta, Justin Weaver of Atlanta, Ashley Kauschinger of Atlanta, and Megan Gorham of San Francisco.
There is a review of this show, here, from ArtsCriticATL, Atlanta's online arts journal.
The Emily Amy Gallery is in Suite 208 at 1000 Marietta Street, a funky assembly of industrial buildings that have been turned into galleries and other commercial operations, including Toscano and Sons, a first-class Italian market that has on offer delicious panini, perfect for lunch on a long day of gallery hopping.
Also at 1000 Marietta Street is the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, which has up a couple of fine group shows, one of polaroids, featuring work by Chloe Aftel, Sol Allen, David Walter Banks, Kendrick Brinson, Amber Fouts, Grant Hamilton, Mikael Kennedy, John Reuter, and Magnus Stark. There was also a Polaroid shooter there, on Saturday, on the premises, ready to demonstrate this distinctive medium of image-making.
The other at Jennifer Schwartz Gallery is a show of Alternative Process work, including images by Keliy Anderson-Staley, David Prifti, Joni Sternbach, S. Gayle Stevens, and Curtis Wehfritz.
Of even more interest to me was the section of the gallery with small bodies of work by Southern photographers Lori Vrba, Jennifer Shaw, Lisette de Boisblanc, and Kathleen Robbins.
Fall Line Press, which is pioneering new ways to get photography on paper and into people's hands.
Mentioning Fall Line Press, which features work by Laura Noel, reminds me that Laura has a show in this year's ACP up at the Spruill Gallery, at 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road, in Atlanta, called Subject Matters.
Last year at ACP, Laura had flash shows up in various parts of Atlanta, part of what she called her Guerilla Photography Project. This year, Laura has taken over three rooms at the Spruill Gallery. One room contains well-seem and well-thought-out images from random, or not so random, moments in life.
The next room is papered over with what must be thousands of left-over to-do lists, over the walls and the fireplace and every available surface. I immediately felt terribly behind, wondering where I was on my current list.
On the other hand, Laura has a blog for this, her "To Do Installation Project," but there are no entries in it, so I guess its OK to be behind in one's work. Unless the empty blog is itself a part of the installation. There is, by the way, a review of this show, here, on the BurnAway site.
In any case, I then happily moved into the next room, where I found a wide range of images and objects more conceptually organized and thought out.
The art works here range from boxes of matches (I almost took one, but restrained myself, thanks to the stern warning posted near the bowls of match boxes) to photographs of buttons and pieces of candy with images on them to works like this one, in which Laura has photographed books discarded from libraries.
Laura says of this work, "These books . . . represent time and yet are inevitably destroyed by its passing. The librarian's 'Withdrawn' stamp is like a silent slap across the face. A once loved volume is ostracized from the family home."
I also made it to Jackson Fine Art for the exhibition of Sally Mann's recent work Proud Flesh, a body of work in which the subject is Mann's own husband, who is living with late-onset muscular dystrophy. This is powerful photography in which Mann uses the processes of image making to engage us with aging and illness and courage and loss and longing.
Mann's images emerge from the process of their creation marked in engaging ways. There is the subject, which is the wasting body of her husband, and the composition, which shows us this body unflinchingly, and the light, which makes these images a play of light and shadow, and the chemical process, which marks this body with its own random traces of time and change.
This is strong work, in the great tradition of religious art, in which the body is the site of meaning-making, of our efforts to come to terms with both the gift and the challenge of embodied existence.
I first encountered Mann's work at an earlier exhibit at Jackson Fine Art, of her Deep South portfolio. In a number of ways, her work has called me to make the American South a subject of my own work, and of this blog. I'm grateful to Mann for that, too.
And that pretty much covers my time at ACP. I missed a show I really wanted to see, with work of my friend Titus Heagins, as well as work by Allen Coonley, Builder Levy, and Marlene Lilian, at the Arnika Dawkins Gallery, but they were closed when I got there. If you go to the Anika Dawkins Gallery website, you can see images of the work I missed.
And there was still so much one could see and do. Folks in Atlanta -- and throughout the South -- are fortunate to have this annual extravaganza of photography. Next year, I'll plan a longer visit.