My final day at Houston Fotofest was full of great photography. This morning, I saw the work of photographer Karen Marshall. Karen has several bodies of work, but the one that intrigued me the most was her 25 year long project (and counting!) photographing the same group of friends (from their teens into their 40′s) called Between Girls: A Passage to Womanhood. Karen has so much material that she has been able to put together photographic installations, books, video… an in-depth visual study. In today’s world of short attention spans, where three years seems like an impossibly long time to spend on a project, seeing this work was a refreshing reminder that good things come to those that wait, and depth comes to those that seek.
In the afternoon, I had a very interesting conversation with Lais Pontes from Brazil. Lais creates self-portraits as characters (ala Cindy Sherman). I had some trouble reconciling the similarities between Pontes’ portraits and Sherman’s work….but Pontes’ project only starts with the portrait – then it moves into social media. Pontes takes the portraits and then posts them on facebook. Social media takes over, and comments from around the world determine the final identity of this ‘person’. The virtual lives of over a dozen characters have been determined by facebook users – and the project continues. Some of these characters are now on Match.com! Pontes is not afraid to push the boundaries and wants to explore the social media aspect of how we are eager to judge others and create personas from such a small amount of superficial information. Follow the facebook links to see more.
I am still somewhat hung-up on the Cindy Sherman style self portraits – which may be an obstacle that prevents this project from being seen for the truly interesting experiment in social media that it really is. Perhaps Pontes can find a way to re-imagine her project to avoid this comparison.
My last review of the day was just what I needed after a week of reviewing almost 60 portfolios…a moment of zen. Normand Rajotte of Canada has been photographing the same square mile of land for many years. He rarely looks up, but focuses instead on the quiet terrestrial changes that evolve over time – from moment to moment, morning to afternoon, week to week, or year to year. These photographs are slow, quiet and contemplative. A tiny event, like a worm’s trail, is a big deal. There is a lesson here – one that we all need once in a while and one that I needed today.
I’m headed back to Atlanta to tackle my Fotofest follow-up to-do list that has been growing each day. Thank you for letting me share some of my experience with you!