SPE National Conference Re-cap [ PART I ]

I just got back from my first SPE National Conference, in Atlanta, GA. It was by far one of the most amazing experiences of this year. Next year's conference is in San Francisco and the theme will be Intimacy and Voyeurism, now that's what I'm talking about! This year's conference theme was Science, Poetry and the Photographic Image. I'm very grateful to Jill Waterman, editor at PDN who included me in a panel and allowed me to share my work with such an audience. I met some amazing people, learned a great deal and shared some beautiful moments with artists and educators from around the country. I feel so incredibly enlightened and encouraged to pursue my work and I'm happy to be part of an incredibly inclusive community of such talented and kind people. Below are some highlights from presentations I attended, people I met and things I learned.

Johnny and I at SPE 2011
MICA crew at SPE 2011

Keynote Speakers
The keynote speaker was Abe Morell, whom I've looked up to for a long time and whom I had the pleasure to work with while I worked at Bonni Benrubi Gallery in NYC. His lecture was very interesting and I commend him for shutting up the annoying guy who kept on interrupting him. It was great to hear about his work-process.

Abelardo Morell
Camera Obscura: Side View of the Florence Duomo inside Granduomo Hotel (2010)
Courtesy Bonni Benrubi Inc., NYC

I was particularly surprised to learn about Catherine Wagner's work, I'm surprised that I had not heard of her before. Wagner is an extremely prolific and widely exhibited artist who has created immensely challenging work through a series of interesting collaborations with institutions of all sorts ranging from museum to molecular research facilities. I was extremely inspired by her creativity and ability to make something out of nothing. Her clever and sometimes even humorous approach to making and presenting work was inspiring. I particularly responded to the way in which she managed to engage audiences through alternative forms of display.

Catherine Wagner
Catherine Wagner
Catherine Wagner

People I Met
On the first night of portfolio sharing I met Ashley Kauschinger. We talked for a while and into the late evening. I was immediately drawn to her work, aesthetically, and as we talked I realized how similar our approach was. We connected immediately and a really interesting dialogue about our work formed. I was touched by the honesty in Ashley's work, she is exploring ideas of fear in a relationship and the fragile nature of it -you never know when the one you love will slip through your fingertips. She photographs her boyfriend with such gracefulness, as if at any moment he could just break. She addresses fears both real and imaginary, dreams and emotionally charge gut-reactions to the possibility of loss.  A really beautiful collaboration between her and her lover.

Ashley Kauschinger
Ashley Kauschinger
Ashley Kauschinger

Then I had the pleasure to meet Johnny Picardo, we hit it off right away and immediately discovered many similarities. Johnny's work is really beautiful and I'm very much looking forward to the new work he showed me, which is not yet posted on his site. But of all the work, my favorite is this video titled Holy Spirit, which layers footage from his baptism and current footage from a performed baptism that blurs the line between religious ritual and lustful interplay. Johny was lucky enough to study with David Hilliard in Anderson Ranch and has been the subject of Hillard's photographs. He is a really awesome dude and I'm very happy I met him; good luck in grad school, Johnny!


by Johnny Picardo, Holy Spirit

Johnny Picardo, Voyage: Self
On the second night, at the hotel bar I met Ryan Ball, a really cool guy who surprised me with his amazing work the next day at the Curator's Walkthrough. Ryan shoots with a 4x5 and has an uncanny ability to craft one hell of a picture using narrative, performance and other elements. In his series Hurry up and Wait he explores the difficulties presented by his own ambitions, they display an environment empty of helpful devices as he sets out to solve every-day-life problems through tedious processes fueled by Obsessive Compulsive tendencies. The mechanics of each performance alone are very hard on the body, so it only made sense that he chooses to photograph them through an equally challenging process: using a view camera and himself as the main character. I really enjoyed looking at his prints and he immediately made me feel like a lazy bum, so much effort and care has gone into producing each image- it's very inspiring! I encourage you to read his statement, it's very eloquent and he does a better job of explaining the work. 
Ryan Ball
Ryan Ball
Ryan Ball
Reviewers
I had the honor to have my work reviewed by the following three wonderful artists. All of whom were extremely constructive and helpful. 

Nate Abramowski
The work below is from his project "Quiet Men"

Nate Abramowski
Nate Abramowski
Nate Abramowski
LaNola Stone
LaNola Stone
Javier Carmona
Javier Carmona