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Photo Camp: The Culture of Now

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday June 30, 2011

In April this year, select students from various universities around New York City and Los Angeles were invited to attend Photo Camp, a hands-on photography workshops presented by Sony and Aperture Foundation. Held over two consecutive weekends, first in L.A., then in New York City, each workshop consisted of a day of shooting with a Sony Artisans of Imagery, followed by a day of editing and post-production help. The second day included one-on-one review sessions with Aperture’s editorial staff plus myself and Tim Wride as  guest editors. The end result is an exhibition of more than 80 images that opened this week at Aperture Gallery that express the student photographers’ interpretation of the overall theme, “The Culture of Now.”

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Left: Aperture Gallery, The Culture of Now opening. Right: Jacqueline Iannacone, School of Visual Arts. Photos Peggy Roalf.

The program was organized by Kayla Lindquist, Director of Sony’s Artisans of Imagery program, and Michelle Dunn Marsh, former co-publisher of Aperture magazine. In her commentary for the exhibition, Michelle wrote, “Though a few participants came with pre-determined approaches to the theme, most responded to the circumstances around them, and let their experiences throughout the weekend guide their interpretations of ‘The Culture of Now’….Nature is present but fragile, bolstered by human intervention but also threatened by it. In California, the ongoing economic decline is visible from Hollywood Boulevard to Rodeo Drive to Riverside (where home foreclosures have skyrocketed). Tension is palpable at a street protest and in the quiet of a café, but is relieved in an organized national pillow fight, or in tender moments with loved ones.”

Throughout the diverse collections of images, there are also signs of hope, and signs of spring – especially in New York, which had been shrouded in a wintery blanket of cold gray air for weeks. The Artisans, Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier. Andy Katz, Brian Smith, and Matthew Jordan Smith; plus Sylvia Plachy, an “Aperture Artisan” who taught at Photo Camp in New York, took their small groups outdoors on Saturday, to locations as diverse as Madison Square Park and Coney Island. Afterwards, the photographers split up and went their own ways, some of them shooting through the night.

The Sunday editing session had the intensity of a city room on deadline, as the student photographers presented their work to the editors with the view of cutting their take down to three images; getting feedback from their colleagues; and checking out the books, magazines, and limited edition prints on display at Aperture. Between editing sessions, the photographers were spread out on the gallery and bookstore floors with their laptops, working feverishly on postproduction tweaks to make the five o’clock deadline. 

The opening on Tuesday night was packed with student photographers and their cohorts, most of whom had just finished up the spring semester and were taking a welcome break. A number of faculty members from participating universities were also on hand including Anne Turyn, from Pratt Institute; Deborah Willis NYU Tisch School of the Arts; and Joan Powers from Long Island University at CW Post; and Ken Shung from SVA. The question on many minds was, “When will the next Photo Camp be announced?” Stay tuned...

Photo Camp: The Culture of Now continues through July 15 at Aperture Gallery. 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY.

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