While attending the SPE conference (please see posts on March 14th and March 12th), I took the opportunity to meet with a couple of photo curators, and to show them my work. The experiences with them were as different as they are (go figure?).
The first, well in a way it strikes me as odd that he was recently asked to be the curator of photography at a major museum in Denver. Not for his knowledge, because I’ve always admired and respected his sense of photography. The hesitation I guess, is in the fact that he is so far outside of the mainstream, at least for that world. He’s never been to the Chelsea art district. In fact, he hasn’t been to New York City in twenty years, give or take. His goal is to show work that isn’t typically seen, by the people who work everyday but don’t necessarily show.
The second of the two was a strange mix, a foot in academia and a foot in New York, a player in both fields. She seemed to want to catalog or categorize things, pictures, to put them into definable unites, little boxes even. She told me work as intuitive as mine, doesn’t do well in judging or contests. She told me that people want concrete things, ideas readily at hand. She wanted to see a project that is clear, this is this and that is that.
I’ve thought a bit about this since returning (got home last night). Every time I teach a beginning photography class, I start the semester reading one of several Wallace Stevens poems. From “The Latest Freed Man,” one I use regularly in the class: To be without a description of to be. I love this line. I thought of it this morning. Stevens had a lot of clarity for an insurance salesman.