Photographers and "That Which is Absent"
My new showcase and curation process, plus tips for getting your work noticed
My latest curated showcase, Photographers and That Which is Absent, for Thinking About Photography [dot] com is now live and runs through the end of Winter, March 19th, 2024. The photographers in this showcase have faced absence with grace. Some have explored memory by creating spaces that allow us to reflect and reframe our own past. Others echo the heartache of those who are no longer with us, or use humor to celebrate those that are. Several have created spaces that have never existed - dreamlike landscapes that speak to a collective unconscious. We also have book reviews, from PhotoBook Journal, covering an excellent group of artists exploring this subject matter.
Living in the Bubble by Sally Chapman, Food or Women’s Work by Jenny Fine, Dare alla Luce by Amy Friend, Sound of Butterfly by Soomin Ham and Otherworld by Keith Taylor
Alive and Destroyed by Jason Francisco, reviewed by Steve Harp, Remember Me by Preston Gannaway, reviewed by Gerhard Clausing, Body as a Negative: Sensations of Return by Izabela Jurcewicz, reviewed by Gerhard Clausing, Signs by the Roadside by Miro Kuzmanovic, reviewed by Steve Harp, Personal History by Sarah Malakoff, reviewed by Steve Harp, Show Me the Way to Go to Home by Sandy Suguwara and Catiana Garcia-Kilroy, reviewed by Wayne Swanson.
Use this link if you’d like to go directly to the showcase - otherwise, keep reading for more about my curation process for this showcase and some suggestions on how to get your work noticed.
A couple of years ago, I ended up with a website space that I’d paid for, but wasn’t using, and rather than waste it, I decided that an online photography journal would be perfect, especially since there weren’t too many folks going to IRL exhibitions at the end of 2020. That’s how ThinkingAboutPhotography.com was born and since then, I’ve been honored to curate thirteen showcases featuring seventy-eight artists. In my second year I started collaborating with PhotoBook Journal and have included forty-one photo book reviews. Here’s how the process went for me on this latest showcase.
Concepts and Research:
Sometimes I have a strong idea months in advance, but not so with this latest showcase. In fact, I had been considering themes related to money or social inequity…but decided there are plenty of folks tackling those issues. I wanted to do something more ethereal - less defined. Initially, I thought of “memory” and that’s what I used for much of my searching. As I started to see the work I was interested in - the idea slowly shifted from “memory” to “that which is absent” which felt more poetic and definitely fit the bill for less defined.
My searches start with a list of people I’ve bookmarked in the past, I then move on to searching larger photo-related sites. Lenscratch and Lensculture are both great resources because you can search by genre and keywords, which usually brings up interesting artists. Depending on the theme, I will also search relevant organizations such as ICP and The Aftermath Project for more documentary style approaches. It’s important for me to make sure I’m looking at as wide a range as possible, so I search non-profit organizations and photo festivals throughout the world as well.
When I find someone interesting, I look for a website. It’s still amazing to me how many websites have no contact info, or confusing navigation. Simple, simple, simple is best. Obviously, if you’re famous - well, you can do whatever you want - but the rest of us schlubs need to make it easy to find us. Once I start finding people I like, I create a table with the basic info and a thumbnail of the work. This visual allows me to see how they will work as a group - and stops me from repeating styles within the theme.
For this showcase:
• I had bookmarked Soomin Ham when I’d seen her work on Lensculture’s 2019 Portrait Awards. Her website had so many projects with the right feeling, but what convinced me to choose Sound of Butterfly was the statement she had on the project page: “One quiet night in August, I lost someone I loved so much. With my grief, I began searching for memories we shared...” Such a good example of how a statement can be so powerful when exploring personal themes.
• I’ve always admired Keith Taylor’s work since I first saw his amazing platinum prints decades ago in Seattle. His Otherworld project feels so different, truly otherworld almost as if they are underwater. I love his boldness with obscurity (can that be a thing?) in the tones and find myself leaning forward to see into the valleys below.
• Jennie Fine was on Lenscratch, listed under “Browse by Subject” with the keyword “memory.” They featured a very touching project she’d done on her grandmother. I went to her website and the home page has a large grid of all her different projects - I immediate was attracted to “Food”. I’m a fan of still life, so creating the sculptures, and how she shot them, impressed me with their combined nostalgia and humor!
• In 2018 Lensculture started their “Best of Art Photography” awards and I regularly look through them for interesting work. Amy Friend was a finalist that year with an image from her Multi-Verse project. This took me to her website where I found her Dare alla Luce project and immediately responded to the magical effect that her manipulations of the prints created - with the piercings creating a star-like effect.
• Sally Chapman’s Living in the Bubble had been on my list after I saw her work online as part of A Smith Gallery’s 2021 exhibition Common Objects, where she’d won the Director’s Award. I love alternative process and the project was different than any of the other artists I was considering. Additionally, “home” is a touchstone for me and I was intrigued by the duality of it being both a safe space and a zone of isolation.
• The gallery page for the PhotoBook Journal reviews is done after I’ve finished the showcase artists so they will connect with, but not repeat what I already have. The editors compile a list from their contributing writers and then I edit it down looking for ways to expand what we’re seeing with the showcase artists.
The essay is my big hill to climb - this time I had a completely different one started (that I was not happy with) and then we watched American Symphony and it wrote itself. The rest is the busy work: queries, getting files, building the gallery pages and creating/sending out promotional assets. You can see why I’ve changed from once every two months to every three months!
Suggestions for Getting Your Work Out There:
Lensculture offers the ability to create a portfolio for free - take advantage of this because they have an international audience. Also, make sure you create a good set of Keywords for each project so you are searchable. This is listed under “Project Info” if you want to add some to previous projects.
This one you already know - but remember to always use hashtags on Instagram when posting! I had already seen several of the showcase artists on IG when I’d searched various hashtags - seeing them again reinforced the impression. It’s a great way to build an audience and don’t forget to regularly check your IG messages.
If your goal is to get your work out there - a website can be a great tool.
If you don’t have one, but have been thinking about getting one, it’s never been easier. You need two things: a domain (the website address) and a host (the company that has the site). Namecheap is a very affordable domain registration and they throw in free privacy. Hosts now all have templates, you just pick the one you like and upload your photos - easy peasy. WIX offers free hosting, I use paid Wix and Format, but Zenfolio, Square Space, GoDaddy etc. are all great. A lot of hosts will also register your domain name.
If you do have one - please make it easy to read. Thumbnails in a grid of your projects on the opening page is such an easy way to show what you got! Please have an email address listed - full disclosure, you will get a ton of spam initially, but you could set up a free gmail account just for that if you’re concerned. Or spell out the email…not sure if that works, but I’ve seen a lot of folks do that. The problem with just a contact form is they’re often not checked and you never know if you’re getting through.
I know you hate it, but have some text on your site about each project, and you in general. It provides a context for what the viewer is looking at - doesn’t have to be overly wordy - just simple and clear.
So, check out the showcase, I hope you like it as much as I do. Here’s the link for Photographers and That Which is Absent.
Subscribe for free to receive monthly creativity posts and support my work.