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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Contemporary Photographer Series - Jason Lazarus

Phase 1 Live Archive, Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA © Jason Lazarus

Jason Lazarus (b. 1975) is a Florida-based artist, educator, curator and writer. His works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Milwaukee Museum of Art and have been shown in galleries and museums around the world. He was recently interviewed by Benjamin Moten for our Contemporary Photographer Series (CPS).

People primarily recognize you as a photographer but you've branched out of that role in the last few years. How has serving as an archivist or curator affected your mission as an artist?

I consider it all my practice - interdependent, generative and my path of growth. As I've gotten older, I don't shoehorn all my thoughts into printed photographs anymore, this seemed limited and anachronistic to me. I'm currently a new tenure-track assistant professor of photography and digital media at the University of South Florida, Tampa and my pet project down here is starting a gallery, Coco Hunday, set to open in the Spring of 2016. I miss curating and will be seeking out artists/work/formats that challenge my ideas about everything. Inevitably this will inform my own practice and the gallery will also act as a pedagogical tool - If my professor is having art shows in his garage, why don't I? You have to make your own art world, and strangely when you do, the more mainstream institutions seem to clamor for it. Michelle Grabner's practice is a good example.

Your project, Phase 1 Live Archive, features Occupy Wall Street signs that have been recreated from online documentation of occupations that have happened around the world. The physical signs that are made are a part of a growing installation. While exhibiting this body of work, you've been able to start a dialogue about the signs used during major protests. How has this experience varied with each different exhibition?

Each geographic location, its context, its people, all inform the workshops and the readings of the work. When I exhibited the work at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in SF, the audience was informed by their activist history and the teenagers I worked with threw themselves into their contributions. In Chicago at the MCA, there seemed to be more of a divide between artists and activists, and the larger audience seemed to operate more as witnesses in general. The workshop I had there was just as productive; if someone shows up at the workshop they are already open-hearted to the process and its meaning.

© Jason Lazarus

During exhibitions of this work, you've held workshops where participants are encouraged to make their own protest signs. In these workshops, is there a discussion about the process of making signs versus the importance of the message displayed on the signs?

There is not a standard curriculum, the pedagogical aspect is very much embodied, and through participation, the connections and repercussions seem to flourish. This is my attempt at circumnavigating the traditional documentary on a social phenomenon - let's make the project together and be together, let's mimic the economy of protect for a public forum.

Installation detail, Too Hard To Keep © Jason Lazarus

Collaboration and submissions have helped assist you in adding to many of your exhibitions in the last few years. One of your projects, Too Hard To Keep, features old personal photographs that were too emotionally painful for their original owners to keep. The owners weren't required to provide a reason or explanation as to why they couldn't keep the photo when they submitted them. Without having this prior context, how were you able to curate the exhibitions?

I curate through a sensibility that grows with the project - how can I show the texture and depth of the submissions? How can I not bore the viewer or give them what they expect? How can I slow down the reading and promote deep engagement? How can the selections and installation strategies encourage personal connection and broader philosophical engagement with images, archives, history-writing, and the analog-to-digital paradigm shift?

© Jason Lazarus

Phase 1 Live Archive and Too Hard to Keep are both ongoing projects. As an artist, when do you decide a project is complete?

When I am done learning, things tend to slow down, although both projects seem to resuscitate themselves which is motivating to take another step into their iterative pathways.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

William Wegman at Asheville Art Museum

© William Wegman

Renowned artist and photographer William Wegman will be giving a public lecture on his work at the Asheville Art Museum on Thursday, November 19 from 6-7:30pm. ETSU students can attend the talk and see the corresponding exhibition for only $4. There won't be any van transportation from Johnson City, but if you are interested in attending for the discounted price, please email professor Joshua Dudley Greer at so he can get an accurate headcount.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Taking Care of Business Opening Friday

The opening reception for the Student Photographers' Association exhibition Taking Care of Business will be held this Friday, November 6 from 6-8pm. The show, which will be on view at the Tipton Gallery until November 20, features work by Annie Buckles, Rebecca Ingram, Matthew Brown, Joshua Harr, Monica Simerly, Lyn Govette, Katie Sheffield, Matthew Jessie, Bradley Marshall, Jared Sapp, Amber Law, Katherine Joy Williams and Amanda Musick.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mike Smith Named as Finalist in Smithsonian Portrait Competition

 Watauga, Tennessee, 2014 © Mike Smith

ETSU photography professor Mike Smith was recently named as a finalist in this year's Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. Smith was one of 43 artists selected for the exhibition which will run from March 12, 2016 to January 8, 2017 and will feature works in painting, sculpture, photography and drawing. Along with key members of the Smithsonian staff, guest jurors Dawoud Bey, Jerry Saltz, Helen Molesworth, and John Valadez selected the finalists from more than 2,500 entries this year.

Other notable photographers in the exhibition are Paul D'Amato, Jess Dugan, Claire Beckett, Jessica Todd Harper, Dave Jordano and Cynthia Henebry.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Erin Florence Receives Research Fellowship at Philadelphia Museum of Art

ETSU Alum Erin Florence (BFA 2008) will be joining the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a Research Fellowship in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

This is a three-year fellowship which provides an opportunity for close collaboration with the curators as well as research within the department's collection of nearly 35,000 photographs. This position falls under a museum-wide initiative to completely catalog all works of art in each department and to make them available to the public by way of the museum's website. Once related research is completed, all works will be photographed so that the museum has a digital file of everything. 

Erin studied photography at ETSU before continuing on to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she became a curatorial intern in the museum's photography department. She has also held positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Not a bad pedigree. Congratulations to Erin on all of her success.