by Sarah Knoll
Upon arrival of my first time at Brooklyn’s Photoville, I had no idea what to expect. If it was going to be a fest of people seeking the right piece to complete their collection, displays of work, trading or all of the above. What I did find was a celebration of the photographic medium in expansion. Curated in shipping containers, walls of wood, and stairs Photoville captured the question of “Where does photography stand today?”
For those who’ve never been to Photoville, it has been described by their staff as a photography festival. To me, it was a mass array of well-displayed photographs served with a side of some booths by photo brands, sellers, and collectors as well as a Beer Garden by Smorgasborg (Shout Out to Smorgasborg, your food is amazing). Photoville is saturated with contemporary photographs ranging in subject from gender identity and politics to refugees, to race and ethnicity. Photoville did not leave a single photograph behind.
In this dense arrangement of shipping containers, it’s hard to narrow down and analyze each collection. There were so many different subjects and each had their own unique flavor to them. Some containers really stood out to me, such as Endia Beal’s “Am I What You’re Looking For?” photographing young women of color transitioning from the academic sphere to the work sphere. The transition is presenting in colorful photographs of the women, backed by mundane office spaces, creating a juxtaposition between the way women of color are seen in the contextual environment of the corporate office and the presentation of these women in their workwear. Beal’s work is not only visually striking but holds a great question that is often overshadowed in the transition between academia and workforce, “What next?”
Ordinary was a project that captured my interest. Described as “...a quarterly fine art photography magazine featuring over 20 artists from around the world who are sent one ordinary object, which comes as an extra, to make it extraordinary.” The object chosen for this current issue was a black garbage bag. Just the way some of these artists were able to transform such a mundane object to become a means of fine art kind of baffles me. It makes me think about the way we can use objects and the context in which we use them transforms the object. If it’s photographed or designed in such a way that brings the object out of its known definition, does that make the object a new found art medium? I’m looking forward to seeing what Ordinary’s next object will be.
One of the things that I particularly noticed at Photoville was the student collections. As a photography student myself, I wanted to see what these school’s (almost all from NYC) were cranking out. To my delight, I found a lot of very interesting photographs describing thoughts on self-identity, politics, and beautiful portraiture. However, one of the questions that popped up while I was viewing these student works was the fine line between photography and digital imaging. Some of the works had a clear indicator that there was some digital manipulation, and not in the sense of editing.
The works had this relationship to illustration; that the images seemed to be constructed on a computer and not in the real world. It makes me think that if this is an indicator of where photography is heading, where do we include or exclude digital media in this conversation?
Overall, Photoville was an amazing experience. Saturated with media and the love of photography, I felt a sense of community. A place in which the language of Photography is your first language and one of fluency. I’m hoping to see more of this type of community flourish and to see more events like this in the near future.