Review by Douglas Stockdale, Wayne Swanson, Debe Arlook •
In a welcome sign that we are finally beginning to emerge from isolation, Medium Photo held an in-person event in May, their 2022 Festival, the first since the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020. The festival was held at the same location in the Lafayette Hotel in San Diego as it has in previous years. Events included two days of portfolio reviews, an evening portfolio walk, a day of artist talks, pop-up book shop and book signings, and even an opportunity to obtain a wet-plate portrait in the sunny patio space. It concluded with a day trip visiting galleries and artists across the California border in Tijuana, Mexico. Of particular interest and focus of this article are the artist talks by the book authors and the subsequent book signings events.
Most of the book events occurred on Saturday, beginning with an artist talk by Second Sight awardee Amanda Marchand. It included her discussion about her artist book The World Is Astonishing with You in It: A 21st Century Field Guide to the Birds, Ferns and Wildflowers, which presents a collection of lumen prints featuring abstractions that each represent a species under the threat of extinction. We will be reviewing her artist book within the next couple of months.
Mid-day was a book signing event with Stephen Berkman, scott b. davis, Amanda Marchand and Michelle Dunn Marsh, concurrently with a pop-up event that included a small bookstore table of authors featured at Medium.
The mid-afternoon presentation was by Michelle Dunn Marsh, who is not a photographer but a book publisher and provided a refreshing viewpoint of what resonates with viewers of photography. She discussed her own recently published memoir Seeing Being Seen and the development of her publishing imprint, Minor Matters. Of interest is her publishing process for her authors, which seems like a spin-off of the concept behind Kickstarter. After the development of the book’s design and layout, it is made available for pre-sale for three months. If 500 of the books are pre-sold, the book will then be subsequently printed and shipped to the buyers. If not, the money is returned to the prospective buyers and the book is not published. Her publishing methodology obtains the funds to print and bind, indicates a strong interest in the title, and motivates the book author to become a strong champion for their book deal (leg work to promote the pre-publication sales).
The evening keynote presentation by Lyle Ashton Harris that drifted around the development of his various monographs, incorporating his perspective as a queer Black artist, and examining the impact of ethnicity, gender, and desire on our contemporary social and cultural fabric. After his artist talk there was his book signing event.
It’s an enjoyable moment for us when a book artist seeks us out to share their recent published project, such as Colleen Mullins, who showed us her collaborative and delightful book project, Rolls and Tubes: A History of Photography. Mullins and fellow Bay Area artists Christy McDonald, Jenny Sampson and Nicole White created a delightful tongue-in-cheek parody of classic works of the photographic “greats” using toilet paper rolls and tubes. It was more of a challenge to guess which photographic artist was being “honored” by a toilet paper rendition than anticipated.
As individuals and organizations determine how to work within the confines of this COVID pandemic, the 2022 festival was a wonderful opportunity to meet in-person with friends again as well as see the physical photographic art objects again.
Books by those featured that have been previously published on PhotoBook Journal (PBJ): scott b. davis Sonora; Amanda Marchand: 415-514 and Stephen Berkman Predicting The Past – Zohar Studios: The Lost Years.
Authors are Contributing Editors to PhotoBook Journal & reside in southern California.
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