Wednesday, October 12, 2016

ETSU Visiting Artist Lecture - Jo Ann Walters

© Jo Ann Walters

Photographer Jo Ann Walters will be coming to ETSU as a visiting artist on October 17th and 18th, 2016 as part of the programming around the exhibition, Face It: Reimagining Contemporary Portraits, which is currently on view at the Slocumb Galleries and the Reece Museum. Her visit will include a public lecture on Tuesday, October 18th at 6:00pm in Ball Hall Auditorium following a reception at 4:30pm. Jo Ann will also be giving photography student critiques earlier that day. If you wish to have a critique please see Mike Smith for the signup sheet or contact Joshua Dudley Greer at All events are free and open to the public, so we hope to see you next week.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ETSU Photo Alumni Series: Emily Denton

Emily Denton

Emily Denton was born in Knoxville, Tenn. and currently lives and works in Lafayette, Indiana. Denton graduated with her B.F.A. from East Tennessee State University in 2013. Denton has exhibited locally and is currently enrolled in the graduate program at Purdue University.

Emily Denton

Emily, describe what you were looking for in a graduate program.

In a graduate program, I looked for a small and tight-knit program where I can easily become involved in the arts community. I looked for professors whom I can learn from so I can develop in new ways. I'll be studying with Korean artist Min Kim Park whose work is visually very different from mine, but her subject matter focuses around gender roles and feminism, which I'm very interested in. Lee Lynn, another professor I'll be working with, works in a darkroom and practices alternative processes, so I will be exposed to her more traditional methods while also learning from Min's modern techniques. I am required to take electronic and video arts classes too. This will challenge me but give me the opportunity to explore a new art medium. Lastly, I looked for a program that wants me. I was offered full tuition waive and a teaching assistantship, so I know that I'm desired. I wouldn't have accepted a program that didn't offer me benefits.

Emily Denton

What was your process like when applying for graduate schools? 

Before even considering applying, I knew I needed more than one solid body of work. It was very important for me to take time off after finishing undergrad. I took 3 years to myself, to center myself and to realize that art is a means for my survival. You learn how important it is to continue making pictures when you're choosing to do it on your own, without professors giving assignments. My process for applying to grad school consisted mostly of knowing when I was ready to start learning again. I wouldn't be satisfied with only a BFA. I needed to challenge myself to feel fulfilled.

Emily Denton

Did you apply to any other graduate programs?

I moved to Lafayette to be closer to my twin sister, Megan, who is getting her MFA at Purdue in Poetry. I was alone in Johnson City for 6 years, and it really took a toll on my mental health. I am so happy to be close to her again, and at this point, I'm not willing to relocate for school. I accidentally met a Purdue photography professor, Min Kim Park, who looked at my work and encouraged me to apply. Surprisingly, the program fit all of my needs, so I went with it. I applied to one school and got in. My story is unique and non-coincidental. My path was laid out in the stars.

For more on Emily's work, please visit her website.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Atlanta Celebrates Photography and EYE SOUTH Symposium

© Alec Soth

Every October, the city of Atlanta hosts a number of photography exhibitions, lectures, auctions, and other events in what it calls Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP). This year, ACP will host lectures and exhibitions that include artists Duane Michals, Stephen Shore, Vivian Maier and many others. Baldwin Lee, retired UT Knoxville professor, will be presenting a lecture on October 13 at MOCA GA to coincide with the exhibition Land Inhabited and Works of Baldwin Lee, which also features photographs by ETSU professors Mike Smith and Joshua Dudley Greer. To check out more information on this year's ACP, click here

As part of the programming and in conjunction with the SPE Southeast Regional Conference, Columbus State University will be hosting a photography symposium called EYE SOUTH on October 14-15. The keynote speaker will be Alec Soth and there are other events scheduled including panel discussions, portfolio review and exhibitions, including a small group show about gun violence called Every Five Minutes, which was co-curated by ETSU professor Joshua Dudley Greer. The events are free, but students need to register here to be included.

It's going to be a great month for photography and a great excuse to spend Fall Break in Georgia.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ETSU Photo Alumni Series: Megan G. King

Megan G. King

Megan G. King is a photographer and editor from Bristol, Tennessee. King graduated with both a bachelor's degree in Spanish and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2013 from East Tennessee State University. King's work has been featured in Oxford American's Eyes on the South, NPR's CodeSwitch, Politico Magazine and The Bitter Southerner, among others. King is also on the editorial board for Looking at Appalachia. She has exhibited regionally and her work is in the permanent collection at Duke University. King has recently begun her graduate studies at Syracuse University.

Megan G. King

What is the process like when applying for graduate schools?

I'm not entirely sure how to answer this yet. It was great and terrible. I put a lot of pressure on myself. To begin with I briefly looked into all the schools I thought might be worth checking out. That was maybe 20+ schools. Then I factored in program length, professors at each school, students that graduated from these schools, tuition, location etc. Primarily, faculty played the biggest role. I asked a lot of questions before applying. I asked people at some of the schools I was considering questions about the program and the other students. I asked people I admire, who know me pretty well, and have a better sense of the reputations programs carry their thoughts on the schools I was thinking about. Other people offered their own opinions and I took anything and everything into consideration, even if just for a second. The hardest part was writing about myself for each school. Maybe that is easier for others. Choosing my images one of the easiest tasks.

Megan G. King

How many schools did you decide to apply to after considering all of those factors?

I applied to 5.

Megan G. King

Was it important for you to choose a school with faculty members whose personal work was related to yours?

No. Not really. It was more about if they were making work I was interested in. That might mean that there are parallels between our work, but it was not a requirement.

Megan G. King

What factors led to you choosing Syracuse?

Syracuse, for obvious reasons, was at the top of my list throughout the entire process, but I was doubtful that it would be feasible to attend, if accepted. So, once I applied and interviewed with some schools, I made campus visits and started to get a feel for the kind of atmosphere I wanted to work in. I received a generous offer from another school and was strongly considering them. After interviewing with Syracuse I tried my best to decide which program would be the best fit for me. I talked to a former ETSU and Syracuse graduate which was incredibly helpful.

Syracuse was able to secure me some pretty good funding for my first year, but I didn't feel like I could make a secure decision without visiting the campus, so, two days before I had to make a decision that's what I did. I liked that Syracuse has 4 great photo professors. I was able to talk with each one of them individually when I visited. I spent a good amount of time with students, talked with students about their work, sat in on a graduate seminar. I found that I preferred a program with more students. Lightwork is obviously an incredible resource. Syracuse was just a great fit for me. Visiting programs easily played the largest role in my decision making.

To see more work from Megan, visit the artist's website at

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Matthew Jessie Interview on Wavepool

© Matthew Jessie

Recent ETSU grad Matthew Jessie (BFA 2015) was recently interviewed about his work Its Hills and Valleys on the contemporary photo blog Wavepool. Check out the conversation here.

Friday, February 19, 2016

PHOTO + CRAFT Festival - Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC will be hosting a 4-day festival on the intersection of photography and craft, March 31-April 3, 2016. Sponsored by Warren Wilson College, the festival will contain a multitude of events including exhibitions, lectures, film and panel discussions. They are looking for a number of student volunteers to help with specific events, so if anyone is interested please email Joshua Dudley Greer at We will discuss this in more detail at the next SPA meeting, for more information visit

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Athens, Georgia and The Do Good Fund Collection

The Willson Center for Humanities & Arts at the University of Georgia will be presenting a number of exhibitions and events over the coming months related to The Do Good Fund Collection. Six different venues in the town of Athens, Georgia will host exhibitions from the collection, which is a public charity dedicated exclusively to photography of the American South. The events are being held in partnership with The Georgia Review, which published a portfolio of images from the collection in their Winter issue, including works by ETSU professors Mike Smith and Joshua Dudley Greer.

Additionally, there will be a panel discussion and portfolio review with Mark Steinmetz, Mike Smith, Baldwin Lee and others on February 19. For a full calendar of events or more information, please click here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Matthew Jessie's Its Hills and Valleys

from the series Its Hills and Valleys © Matthew Jessie

Recent ETSU alum Matthew Jessie (BFA 2015) has been making the rounds online with his project, Its Hills and Valleys. Fresh on the heels of his exit show just last semester, Jessie has been featured on Oxford American's Eyes on the South, The Latent Image, Splash and Grab, and Aint-Bad Magazine. Check out the links below for more information:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Contemporary Photographer Series - Kristine Potter

from the series The Gray Line © Kristine Potter

Kristine Potter (b. 1977) holds degrees in Art History and Photography from the University of Georgia, as well as an MFA in Photography from Yale University. Her photographs have been exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art, Neuberger Museum of Art, and the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery. In 2014, she was an artist-in-residence at Light Work and is currently represented by Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York. She was recently interviewed by Bradley Marshall for our Contemporary Photographer Series (CPS). 

You not only hold a BFA in photography, but a BA in art history. Were you always interested in photography? If not, what was the turning point that prompted your return for a BFA? Would you say that a degree in art history made the transition into finding artistic direction any easier?

I earned both of my undergraduate degrees at the University of Georgia. Truth be told, I skipped around majors a bit - trying on this and that for a while. I even studied Japanese for two years. (No, I don't speak it anymore. Two years was barely enough to order at a restaurant.)

At any rate, I settled very comfortably into the Art History program and was working at museums. To complete the degree, I had to take some studio courses - which I think is a really important requirement. All art historians and art world professionals could benefit from learning how things are made. I ended up in a Photo I course and everything changed for me. I had always "liked" photography in whatever way I knew how to use it as a kid. But I sat down in class the first day and my teacher was (by luck of the draw) Mark Steinmetz. He showed us a slide show of his work and the photographers he admired: Atget, Kertesz, Brassai, Cartier-Bresson, and of course, Garry Winogrand. I was immediately taken with the idea that photographs possessed a very particular visual language, and I was able to connect that language with the history of art. For me it was a rich and symbiotic experience to pursue both degrees. I found myself progressively less interested in writing about dead artists and more inclined to be a maker. I finished both degrees concurrently, and packed my bags and moved to Paris, France; the former home to many of my newly-established heroes.

The term "subjective documentary" was used to describe your work in a recent piece for Light Work; do you think that a sense of you as the photographer needs to be present when viewing your work? What are your thoughts on the term "documentary" in a contemporary sense?

I've always appreciated the language of the document but I've never really believed in its ability to exist, author-less. There are just too many decisions to be made when you hold up a camera - what's in the frame, what's out, what's in focus, what's not, etc. It changes the nature of reality, as if reality were one fixed idea. I've struggled with the notion of the subjective documentary style being attached to my work. But at the end of the day, yes - I believe my picture making points back at myself as much as what is in front of me. It seems pertinent to consider my presence. Perhaps Walker Evans expressed it best:

"What I believe is really good in the so-called documentary approach to photography is the addition of lyricism. This quality is usually produced unconsciously and even unintentionally and accidentally by the cameraman."

from the series The Gray Line © Kristine Potter

The space in your work is often complicated and disorienting. Often times your human subjects (if any at all) must be discerned from the monochromatic intricacies of their surroundings. My question for is do you find the black and white aesthetic an essential component of your work?

For the moment, yes. I'm still quite invested in the monochromatic print and all of the wonderful ways in which it can be manipulated and visually manipulative. I have a workflow that includes shooting on color 4x5 film, scanning it and then converting it (often in laborious ways) to black and white. This technique is perhaps becoming more normalized within a RAW format, digital workflow, but for me it began with film and it offered me ways of translating color to black and white that dramatically changed the space of a picture. For the West Point work, I really used it to amp up the idea of camouflage. With the Manifest work, it has become a key way of visually addressing the incredible intensity of the light in the mountains and the disorienting experience of getting deep in that landscape.

from the series The Gray Line © Kristine Potter

Your most recent body of work, Manifest, is a menageries of male characters and landscape studies made in the American Southwest. What made you turn toward this looser, more enigmatic range of subject matter in contrast to the somewhat tight focus of military cadets in The Gray Line?

I think I wanted something "Wild." The Gray Line was about parsing out nuance from a very rigid structure. Separating the cadets form the corps was critical in letting them become "human" and individual again. However, as much as they let down their guard during the photographing sessions, I still found them to be incredibly polite and in a way, obedient. It was like part of their genetic makeup. After that body of work, I really just wanted to loosen everything up. I wanted to look at masculinity from a full pendulum swing away. The men I photographed out West are not tied to a set of rules. In fact, they are very likely out there because they don't like rules. Individuality reigns and the experience for me was much more adventurous. The landscape work flowed naturally in between my portrait work. I was out in the middle of nowhere and there were far more dusty paths and thickets than men to photograph. I began to see the landscape as a psychological stand-in for the men I was otherwise in search of. 

from the series Manifest © Kristine Potter

What compels you to deal with people as subject matter and how do you go about finding your next subject? Also, what advice can you give to someone on photographing people while remaining challenging or inventive?

I'm interested in the human drama and the psychological and emotive experiences we have. And simply, I'm interested in connecting with people - which the camera (however briefly) allows me to do. 

How do I find people? It depends. With the Manifest work, I basically hung out in this very small town on the western slope of Colorado and would just solicit interesting men to work with me. Sometimes they introduced me to other potential subjects and so on from there. When I see someone I want to work with, I don't hesitate. I go right up and try to explain that I'm a photographer and I'd like to make their picture. Too many regrets arise when you psyche yourself out and get scared to act. My advice is to be as fearless as possible. "Stranger Danger" is a real thing, and while I don't think we should ignore our better instincts to leave certain people alone, I do think our society has taught us to be afraid of people we don't know or who are (gasp!) different from us. So first thing is first - you can't make a good portrait if you don't get your camera in front of an interesting person. After that - I'm not sure what to advise. A certain level of instruction balanced with a certain level of patience and observation seem key. Being a good conversationalist will help. Flattery most often helps. But just being sincerely interested might be the key to it all.

from the series Manifest © Kristine Potter