Amy Miller | Director of Atlanta Celebrates Photography | Interview by Victoria Amador

September 2012

 

ACP Auction

Victoria Amador: Can you tell me a little about Atlanta Celebrates Photography in general?

Amy Miller: Atlanta Celebrates Photography produces the largest annual community-oriented photography festival in the United States. During the month of October, Atlanta will be transformed by almost 150 simultaneous photographic exhibitions featuring the work of over 700 photographers during our annual, month-long, city-wide photo festival.

These photo-related events are complemented by a strong core of ACP programming. Our activities provide opportunities for professional and amateur photographers of all ages, galleries, curators, collectors, and general photography enthusiasts – a diverse audience of 100,000.

ACP produces programs throughout the year; however, the bulk of our events take place during our October festival. Visit ACPinfo.org for details about all of our activities and how you can be involved.

 

Amy Miller

AM: Our main festival programs are:

ACP Photography Auction Fundraiser: This dazzling gala consists of a silent auction and cocktail reception followed by a seated dinner and an exciting, live auction. The quality of photography offered at this event is unprecedented – as many internationally known photographers have donated their work to benefit ACP. September 14th

ACP Knowledge Series: This series features multiple programs that offer career, technical or art historical perspectives to benefit photographers and/or collectors of all levels. October 17th at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

ACP Lecture Series: This program features public lectures by photographers with international reputations. Joel Sternfeld at the High Museum of Art’s Hill Auditorium – September 27th; Brian Ulrich at the GA Tech Paper Museum – October 11th; and Alex Prager at the High Museum’s Hill Auditorium on October 23rd.

ACP Spotlight on Local Talent: This series focuses on Atlanta’s rising photography stars and gives them greater exposure. Aspiring photographers can learn by hearing these local successes discuss their artistic techniques and career strategies. Liz Von Hoene at Big Studio – October 24th.

 

Down And Out In the South, Jan Banning

ACP’s My Atlanta Exhibition: An exhibition open to everyone! The general public, schools, and senior centers also participate, and many prizes are awarded. Opens September 29th and runs through October 27th.

ACP Book Fair: Photography’s rising popularity has resulted in a boom in photographic publishing. This event offers photographers an opportunity to show (and sell) their self-published books and offers the public an opportunity to see (and purchase) these rare, limited-edition objects. Piedmont Park Community Center – October 20th

ACP Film Series: This series explores the close connection between photography and film. October 3rd at the Plaza Theatre (featuring films about Alec Soth and Gregory Crewdson – a double feature!)

ACP Public Art: ACP has a rich history of temporary public art projects that reach out to audiences who may never go into traditional arts venues. Each year a different artist is commissioned to produce a project. See below for an explanation. Throughout October. Reception October 18th.

 

Brian Ulrich Pep Boys, 2009

ACP Portfolio Review and Walk: One of our main events is the Portfolio Review. That day offers an incredible opportunity for photographers to discuss their work one-on-one with some of the nation’s most influential photo-industry insiders, from gallery owners to curators, photo editors and publishers. This event gets the most amazing feedback every year – and incredible results for the participants. Afterwards, the artists show their work to the public at the Portfolio Walk. At the GA Tech Hotel and Conference Center October 13th

ACP Photography Auction Fundraiser: This dazzling gala consists of a silent auction and cocktail reception followed by a seated dinner and an exciting, live auction. The quality of photography offered at this event is unprecedented – as many internationally known photographers have donated their work to benefit ACP. September 14th

Plus other programs throughout the year!

 

Gregory Crewdson Brief Encounters

VA: Do you also offer workshops at ACP?

AM: We offer workshops, lectures, portfolio reviews – a diverse array of programming. As for workshops specifically, we have offered them during the festival, but also as programs that occur outside of the festival, at other times of year. In July, ACP offered an advanced photo-book making workshop that followed up on our beginning-level workshop from last summer.

VA: How did you get involved? Can you give me some information about your background as it informs your interest in photography? Which photographers have you met who particularly impressed you or gave you a “fan” moment? 

AM: I’ve always loved photography. A love passed down from my grandfather to my father to me. I lived in New York for a few years (to get my MFA at Pratt Institute). While at Pratt, I worked at a photo gallery, Alan Klotz Gallery. I had the privilege of seeing and handling some rare and very iconic images there – it was a thrill. I really loved the gallery business, but couldn’t afford to stay in New York, so I relocated to Atlanta (I am originally from Georgia) and worked as the gallery director at Fay Gold Gallery – one of the South’s premier fine art galleries. While at FGG, I was able to work with many of the photographers that I studied in school – I had some star-struck moments when getting to work with Jerry Uelsmann, Sandy Skoglund, Andres Serrano, Tracey Moffatt, David Levinthal, Mike and Doug Starn, the Robert Mapplethorpe estate, the Herb Ritts estate, etc.

After being with FGG for almost 8 years, the position at ACP came available and I jumped at the chance. Since that time I have been able to work with photographers such as Gregory Crewdson, Danny Lyon, Alec Soth, etc, etc.

 

Spotlight On Local Talents Liz von Hoehne

When I was in the gallery business, my favorite part was being able to play matchmaker between art lovers and art. Being at ACP is no different, but rather than being focused on selling art to collectors, we are providing encounters between image makers and people who seek to experience the power of images.

One very exciting exception to this is our Public Art Project, which brings lens-based projects out into the world where they are not expected, to be experienced by people in the course of their daily lives.

VA: Would you share some information about the huge events going on in October? As much detail as you’d care to share? 

AM: One of our main events is the Portfolio Review. That day offers an incredible opportunity for photographers to discuss their work one-on-one with some of the nation’s most influential photo-industry insiders, from gallery owners to curators, photo editors and publishers. This event gets the most amazing feedback every year – and incredible results for the participants.

Some great photographers will be speaking at featured ACP events. These descriptions are from our Festival Guide copy text:

Joel Sternfeld 

From the beginnings of color photography as an artistic medium, Joel Sternfeld has been one of the field’s most influential and enduring practitioners. With a career spanning nearly forty years, Sternfeld’s work continues to inspire each successive generation of photographers as they continue to load 8×10 sheets of film into their view cameras.

Available in classic photobooks like American Prospects, Stranger Passing, and On This Site, Sternfeld’s work shines a keen eye on America’s visual (im)possibilities, from the grand gesture of the Space Shuttle piggybacking a jumbo jet, to the quiet street portrait of a woman wearing a pink suit carrying a caged bunny. Sternfeld’s eye has the omniscience of someone who’s clearly seeing everything at once, and yet knows exactly where to place his tripod to capture what the rest of us wouldn’t be able to imagine.

Lecture Series, Alex Prager

Yet Sternfeld’s fascinations don’t remain in the ironic. His investigations of nature (Oxbow Archive) and the High Line before it became the “High Line” reveal an artist in touch with nearly every aspect of what makes America America: the uniqueness of its people, the fragility of nature in the face of the built environment, and how the past consistently reveals (and underscores) the present.

Sternfeld’s latest book is First Pictures (Steidl, 2011) and he’s on the faculty at Sara Lawrence College.

Brian Ulrich

Brian Ulrich’s work came to prominence through Copia, an ongoing, long-term study of American commerce that first focused on shoppers in retail big-box stores in the wake of 9/11. While President Bush’s urging that Americans “go shopping” to help America recover from the terrorist attack may have been more myth than fact, Ulrich’s work dives straight to the heart of American mythmaking: that a perfect, utopian future is purchasable.

His work examines vacated shopping malls (Dead Malls), retail establishments abandoned in the wake of the financial crisis (Dark Stores), and how the retail ecosystem recycles itself in second-hand stores (Thrift). While taking a conceptual approach to examining how buying-and-selling is at the root of the American ethos, Ulrich’s approach is substantively aligned with his photo-documentarian forebearers. Ulrich’s Dead Mall’s might as well be our decade’s dust bowl, and by illuminating their haunting presence, Ulrich reveals the cracks in the thinnest of facades, that freedom isn’t free, it’s On Sale now!

His 2011 book from Aperture, Is This Place Great or What combines all three projects into a cohesive whole. Ulrich currently teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Liz Von Hoene

Liz Von Hoene is an American photographer specializing in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle photography. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia, where she also owns BIG Studio, a photo-studio rental space in the King Plow Arts Center.

Her advertising clients include L’Oreal, Stuart Weitzman, Macy’s, Dove, and Neiman Marcus, and her work has appeared in magazines such as New York, More, and Marie Claire. Von Hoene also works in film, and in early 2009 she directed a video for Neiman Marcus called “On Cloud Nine.” Von Hoene is represented by Stockland Martel.

VA: What current exhibitions are on at the moment at ACP? 

AM: ACP is not a gallery, and we do not have our own venue. One unique thing about ACP is that we do not typically produce exhibitions – we pride ourselves in bringing audiences into all the great venues throughout the city. Our main exhibition is the open-to-everyone My Atlanta Exhibition that takes place in Piedmont Park. Last year we had 23 schools and 6 senior centers participate, as well as numerous other adults and children. Over 300 people exhibited over 700 images.

Over the last two years, however, we have had the pleasure of putting together what we call “Special Exhibitions.” This year, we will have two. One will be at the High Museum’s Greene Family Education Center and will feature self-portraits and biographical writing by inpatient teens at Scottish Rite and Eglelston Children’s Hospitals (reception November 1st ).

The other one will feature work from our Public Art Project Geolocation:Atlanta by Marni Shindelman and Nate Larson as well as portraits of homeless Atlantans by Dutch Photographer Jan Banning. Jan is producing a book of these haunting and powerful portraits as well as a 6-channel video that will be displayed during the ACP Festival on Georgia State University’s DAEL building in downtown Atlanta.

Larson/Shindelman 

In the cacophony and crowded hubbub of social media, it’s nearly impossible to know who’s listening. Larson/Shindelman’s Geolocation: Atlanta project has its ear to the ground, mining (and revealing) the increasing divide between public and private when broadcasting one’s thoughts on Twitter. By discovering and photographing the real-world locations of tweets, Larson/Shindelman are new kinds of documentarians whose photographic subjects declare themselves in less than 140 characters.

Seamlessly weaving together video, still photography, and geo-based data-mining, Larson/Shindelman’s project gives significance to insignificance, revealing the most innocuous thought (tweeted) as a permanent act of infinite possibility.

Geolocation: Atlanta will be exhibited on 8 digital billboards throughout the Atlanta metro area, and will be witnessed by more than a million commuters and pedestrians during its installation. Nathan Larson and Marni Shindelman are a collaborative team; Larson is based in Baltimore, Maryland, where he teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art, and Shindelman is relocating from Rochester, New York, to Athens, where she’ll be filling the shoes of Mary Ruth Moore in the UGA photography department.

 

ACP Portfolio Walk

Jan Banning 

A Dutch photographer whose scope includes a global look at power, governments, and the effects of war, Jan Banning has recently been photographing in the US to produce a documentary project on the Southeast’s homeless population. Utilizing a time-honored portrait style that recalls 17th-century Dutch painting, Banning’s portraits reveal the homeless not for what they lack, but for who they are.

A photographer who often investigates typologies for what they say about our sameness and differences, Banning’s work, in book form, has explored Bureaucratics (Nazraeli, 2008), Comfort Women/Troostmeisjes(Ipso Facto/Seltmann+Söhne Utrecht/Lüdenscheid, 2010) and 2005’s Traces of War: Survivors of the Burma and Sumatra Railways (Trolley Books).

Banning’s current project Down and Out in the South will be visible during ACP in a public installation at the Digital Arts Entertainment Lab at Georgia State, in a series of six video projections on the corner of Pryor Street and Edgewood Avenue at the SE corner of Woodruff Park.

Work from these two projects will be exhibited at Big House Studio in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, and we will have a reception with the artists on October 18th.

VA:  Atlanta seems quite keen on photography. How do you explain that? 

AM: Atlanta is a place where there is a high ratio of creative jobs and companies that rely on creative people. There is a thriving photography industry here. Think about the needs of CNN, Coca-Cola, the magazine industry, the fashion industry, the music industry, the entertainment industry (many TV shows and movies are being made here). Then you have the fine art industry – there are five galleries here that are dedicated to promoting photography year-round. The High Museum of Art is consistently showcasing great photography. There are many photo organizations here; clubs for fine art photographers, professional organizations for advertising photographers, wedding and portrait photographers and nature photographers. There is a very supportive infrastructure here that you don’t see as much with other types of media or other art forms. We also like to think that ACP has had something to do with raising the profile of photography in Atlanta through our efforts over the course of the last 14 years.

VA: Who do you think is photographing in the American South at the moment who you find particularly interesting? 

Beth Lilly
Dorothy O’Connor
Maury Gortemiller
Anderson Scott

VA: Do you practice photography yourself? If so, what is your oeuvre? 

AM: I often take pictures, but I haven’t seriously photographed in years. Lately I’ve been involved in some great curatorial projects such as a photo installation featuring 21 photographers at the Atlanta Airport’s new International Terminal. Getting to be a part of showcasing the work of these talented photographers has been infinitely rewarding and seems to scratch my creative itch in a satisfying way.

ACPinfo.org

Follow Jerry Atnip:
Jerry Atnip has a 38-year career as a commercial and fine art photographer. His images have been published in 40 countries, and since 2003, he’s held over 75 exhibitions and been presented with over 90 awards. He is also a teacher, workshop director, curator, juror, frequent lecturer and serves on the boards of several Arts & Photography organizations, including Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival and Slow Exposures Photofestival. His work has been collected by museums, corporate and private collectors and he is an Exhibiting Member of The National Arts Club in New York.

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