Thirteen esteemed artists and curators who have contributed to a decade of FotoFocus programming join from their homes around the world to reflect on where they’ve been, where they’re headed, and the fundamental need for creativity and humanity in times of crisis.
FotoFocus is 10 years old. What started as an organization to promote photography through public exhibitions and lectures in and around Cincinnati soon evolved from funding a Visiting Artist and Lecture Series to producing a Biennial and Symposium for photography and lens-based art. Since 2010, FotoFocus has collaborated with hundreds of organizations, curators, academics, and artists to present more than 700 exhibitions and programs involving some of the most renowned names in the expanded field of photography.
On this anniversary, with a pandemic prohibiting the 2020 Biennial exhibitions and lectures from being held as planned, rather than transfer select content to online platforms we decided to pause and take stock of circumstances—not just our circumstances as an arts organization but of our community’s circumstances, both local and global. First, we dispersed funds to support institutions and artists during this difficult time. We’re all in this together, and their survival equates to our survival. Second, we began a series of conversations on various platforms—a blog, opinion editorials, and online webinars—to better understand our faltering world through discussions and ruminations on photography and lens-based art, and to continue to seek solace and inspiration in the company of others who find deep meaning through art.
One particular letdown during this ten-year anniversary week, when we would be convening for the opening of the 2020 Biennial and celebrating with special gatherings and exhibition openings, is the inability to raise a glass and toast all the remarkable people who have participated in past Lectures, Biennials, and Symposiums, some having traveled from far-flung places around the globe. Undaunted, however, we thought to use the tools at our disposal to check in with a selection of past participants and find out where they are and what they’re up to. A simple direction to “show me where you are” and “tell me what inspires you” led to a remarkable “road trip” through various geographies: from upstate New York to Atlanta, Los Angeles, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, New York City, Mississippi, Maine, and parts beyond. Just as remarkable were the ideas and attitudes telegraphed from these various places, most in some way addressing questions of creativity during isolation but also questions of humanity—in particular, the struggle for human rights and freedoms that affects not just some, but all. In the midst of a global pandemic, civil unrest, and a contentious and anxiety-ridden presidential election, we find that we have more in common than ever before.
Somehow, the sharing of such intimacies as private home, special landscape, and quiet thoughts helps to rejoin something that, during these recent years of frantic industry and global unrest, may have felt to be coming undone. Salvaged from the various fractures that have marked 2020 is a chance to reclaim a sense of coherence with past experiences, and a time to reflect on the value of unique human connections forged and explored through the special medium of art. If we are both lucky and determined, some of these connections and ideas will help to carry us forward through 2020 to a better, safer, more civil and just world.
Thank You To:
Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs
Sheila Pree Bright
David Benjamin Sherry
FotoFocus collaborates—locally, nationally, and internationally—to present and support photography and lens-based projects that are accessible, enriching, and engaging to a diverse public. FotoFocus inspires conversations about the world through the art of photography and film, via its partnerships and signature programming including the FotoFocus Biennial, FotoFocus Symposium, FotoFocus Film Program, and FotoFocus Lecture and Visiting Artist Series.
As the Covid-19 pandemic reshaped our world, FotoFocus had to pivot. First, by pledging its 2020 Biennial budget to financially support more than 100 Participating Venues and Partners in the region’s art community through FotoFocus Emergency Art Grants, and further, by enhancing other pathways to support lens-based art and engage the public in accordance with its mission. The Lens—the FotoFocus editorial arm—is one such avenue.