Detroit area high school students view their work at the DIA, May 2009
In the weeks leading up to summer, you might think that my desk would see a little bit less action – a few less phone calls and maybe a day with one less email. But the success of our current exhibition Of Life and Loss has kept me and many DIA staffers and volunteers busy with tours and special programs. In late May, I was fortunate to spend some time with the young minds responsible for the works on view just outside the photo gallery. I spoke with a group of Roeper and Dearborn High School photography students and discussed the exhibition with recent guest blogger Michelle Stamler, a dedicated instructor of photography at Roeper. In early May as well, the Detroit-area chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women toured the exhibition with me and more groups will visit later in June with the Jewish Federation. Our veteran docent and photo collector Barbara Goldsmith will be on hand to enrich their experience as well. Of Life and Loss has been a quiet yet powerful exhibition with its images speaking volumes to our audience. It has drawn many visitors to the DIA. The exhibition will be on view through July 12, 2009.
More summer news came recently in an email from Detroit-area photographer Bill Schwab regarding his upcoming Photostock 2009. Bill has fostered the workshops and programs at Photostock for the last four years and envisions the event growing upcoming years. It’s great to see Michigan on the map with a weekend dedicated to the medium. So if you are heading north at the end of June and find yourself near Petoskey, there is an interesting evening lined up with photographer Shelby Lee Adams in conjunction with Photostock.
And the Richard Avedon exhibition continues to occupy everyone’s minds here at the DIA. Even though the DIA will take a brief break from special exhibitions in the upcoming months, DIA staff continues to work on programs and the research & installation of upcoming exhibitions. Although the public sees a seamless transition from one exhibition to the next, the planning and execution of our exhibition schedule often takes many months and sometimes even years.
I have been working for the past several weeks with architect and exhibition designer Frank Arvan to create an exciting presentation of Avedon Fashion Photographs this fall. Frank has been responsible for the design of several DIA exhibitions including Monet to Dali and American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. We have plotted out the exhibition carefully with special attention given to Avedon’s work laid as it has developed decade by decade and with highlights that include a “Paris by Night” section as well as a gallery devoted to Avedon’s vintage engraver’s prints made from 1955-58. It is just the start of a busy summer for photography@the DIA – I’ll be blogging soon on upcoming acquistions and other programs and events in the near future.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Bill Schwab, Dearborn High School, Detroit, Exhibitions, Fashion Photography, Frank Arvan, Jewish Federation, michelle stamler, Michigan, National Council of Jewish Women, Of Life and Loss, Petoskey, Photography, Photostock 2009, Richard Avedon, Roeper High, Roeper High School, Shelby Lee Adams
Many thanks to Michelle Stamler for posting recently on her involvement with Roeper High School photo students and the DIA. I am looking forward to their visit later this month at the DIA to view Of Life and Loss and talk about their work inspired by this exhibition. I did not expect such an overwhelming response to this exhibition. There is a constant stream of visitors in our galleries everyday. And it seems that this very powerful group of photographs speak to a very diverse group of visitors on so many different levels with great emotional impact and resonance. I was fortunate to have exhibition curator Karen Sinsheimer deliver the most-illuminating lecture on Of Life and Loss this past Sunday to over 100 people in the DIA’s lecture hall.
Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936, by Walker Evans
The DIA is moving forward with our other photo exhibitions and programs for the year. This past week I have been busy working with interpretive educator Madeleine Winslow on an upcoming exhibition Photography-The First 100 Years. Although the exhibition does not open until September 2, 2009, plans for installation and development of interpretative materials for the gallery take place months and sometimes years in advance. Madeleine and I hope to get some feedback from our visitors in the gallery with a reader response table focused on the work of Walker Evans one of the featured artists in the exhibition. We plan to set up some online opportunities to hear your thoughts as well.
The exhibition Avedon Fashion Photographs 1944-2000 will also open at the DIA on October 18. 2009. I was fortunate to get an advance copy on the catalogue with essays by exhibition curators Carol Squiers and Vince Aletti. The authors have given their undivided and thorough attention to this very productive and influential period of the photographer’s career in fashion editorial work that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and in later years for the Versace campaign beginning in 1980 and eventually as staff photographer for The New Yorker. The exhibition opened last week at the International Center for Photography, New York, and a sneak peak of some of Avedon’s fashion work can be found at the New Yorker Online - Here at the DIA, the exhibition will get four-star treatment in our special exhibition space with an elegant installation and some exciting programs and events to soon be announced.
Posted in Exhibitions
Tagged Carol Squiers, Fashion Photography, Harper's Bazaar, high school photography students, History of Photography, International Center for Photography, Karen Sinsheimer, Madeleine Winslow, michelle stamler, Of Life and Loss, Richard Avedon, Roeper High School, Versace, Vince Aletti, Vogue, Walker Evans
Early in September, I was contacted by Jennifer Williams from the DIA asking me if I was interested in participating in an exhibition that would include the work of my students. They would shot and print work that would explore the complicated ideas of memory and loss; a daunting prospect to students ranging in age from 14 to 18. If taken on, this project would be aligned to the exhibition called Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky that would open April 15, 2009. The guidelines set out at that time by Jennifer stated that “The project would use the photos in the exhibition as a catalyst to inspire students to explore themes of memory and place in their own work”. And while student work would not be inside the gallery with the work of Gusky and Vishniac, it would be given enormus respect when it was shown on a screen outside the exhibition.
The students were thrilled about the project from the onset long before they knew that inclusion in this show came in conjunction with a trip to the DIA to view the exhibition, discussion of images, general tour of the museum, and copies of the video and booklet of their work.
I can say without reservation that this project garnered more discussion of images, before and after they were shot and printed than any other assignment that I can remember. The students were engaged from the beginning but something palpable changed after we were visited by Linda Margolin and Jennifer Williams who showed the students the PowerPoint that I had seen in September. The intensity and power of the images and the discussion that followed took some of the students in a different direction; some asking if they could shoot again as they knew that only one image each would be submitted.
The students were humbled by the work they saw that day and felt honored to have their work juxtaposed to the images of Gusky and Vishniac. The fact that Jeffrey Gusky was an “amateur” photographer did little to mitigate their concerns that their work would be worthy of inclusion.
Over the next few months the issue that the students grappled with the most was how to tie their own “short” history, to the monumental history of war torn Poland and other ravaged Eastern European countries. I watched each student deconstruct this concept and reassemble it in their own visual vernacular. All the student interruptions were different and they all made the assignment their own.
Interrupting one’s own identity through the lens of a personal history is a powerful mandate and when explored fully can be a teaching tool that extends far beyond photography and the final image.
The students felt an additional connection to the exhibiting photographers as they all worked in the same medium — black and white film and darkroom printing.
We are now getting ready for our visit later this month. I feel that I can speak for all of us when I say that this will be a powerful and inspiring day.