Portland Photo Night #1 — Feb. 8, 5:00-7:00 at T.C. O’Leary’s

Photography can be such a solitary craft, and that solitude can be necessary to do great work. But I think there’s value in getting together in person with other photographers, bouncing ideas together, commiserating and celebrating. Many cities have a Photo Night, where photographers and friends of photography meet up in a backyard or a bar, show some work, see other folks’ work and maybe have a pint or two. Let’s start doing that here in Oregon.

Our first Portland Photo Night will be Thursday, Feb. 8, at T.C. O’Leary’s Irish pub on NE Alberta, from 5:00-7:00. We won’t have a projector set up to show work at this first event, and will aim to keep it pressure-free and small-scale. Let’s just hang out and build something together. If all goes well, we can grow into other communities throughout Oregon.

The proprietor Tom O’Leary will be brainstorming photo-themed cocktails — so far he’s come up with the Mapplethorpe and the Minor White. Happy hour is from 4:00-6:00, and there will be bagpipers at 7:00. Yes, real-live bagpipers. I’ll see you there!

Recap – The State of Photography in Portland

Here’s a great, detailed recap from Photolucida regarding their recent State of Photography in Portland event at Disjecta. Hundreds of us photographers gathered to talk about what’s working and what we can improve from a community standpoint. The panel largely focused on the art photography realm, but there’s plenty to chew on for photographers of all stripes.

Topics included the struggle to build community support for nonprofits and the arts, the city’s supposed inferiority complex, grants and funding, the importance of framing what a “photo community” can be, and Photolucida’s own Portland Photo Month coming up in April.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and dig in.

Pinhole cameras on the Mother Road

The Grand Canyon. Photo by Wes Pope.

Beginning in 1998, Wes Pope has driven Route 66 with an unusual cargo: pinhole cameras he created by filling empty aluminum cans with film.

“There’s so much serendipity,” said Pope, Co-Director of the Multimedia Journalism master’s program in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. “I can plan and plan, but the best images in this project are not things that I planned for.”

Pope has lived and worked all along Route 66, from Chicago to Flagstaff to Santa Fe. His most recent visit to the highway was to Tulsa, Okla., in November to meet with Michael Wallis, who wrote Route 66: The Mother Road, a definitive tome on the iconic highway that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. Pope used the book as a guide on his travels, and Wallis also wrote the foreword for Pope’s long-germinating photo project that will be released in book form in March.
Wes Pope. Photo by Thomas Patterson


The cameras. Photo by Wes Pope.

Part of the magic of using an analog process like this exists in the letting go. Pinhole cameras require very long exposures, and in an age of digital imagery and its instant gratification, there can be value in something slow and unexpected.

“Each can, you get one shot,” Pope said. “There’s one piece of film in there… The thing about the cans, they make the aesthetic decisions even more than I do. A lens flare appears, seemingly at random.”

A pinhole portrait. Photo by Wes Pope.

Pop 66 is a very personal project for Pope, and a sense of the passage of time is inherent in the images. Pope’s grandfather was born in the Oklahoma panhandle, an Okie who migrated at the beginning of the Dust Bowl.  His grandparents were married in a church in Gray, Okla., and Pope photographed it when it was the last building still standing in that town. Pope also photographed the church after the building had been moved to the Museum of the Plains in Perryton, Tex..

Gray Community Church. Photo by Wes Pope.

“I’m interested in the people and the relics and the wreckage of what used to be there,” Pope said. “The organic nature of the clutter, random tourist stuff made up to make a buck before mass culture. Route 66 is an icon that has lost meaning. Originally it was a collection of mom and pops, people scraping by, people with an amazing spirit. Nothing homogeneous.”

For more information or to purchase the book, visit pop66.us

E. Jason Wambsgans to show his Pulitzer-winning Chicago work in Portland and Eugene

A portrait of Tavon Tanner from Wambsgans’s Pulitzer-winning entry.

Chicago Tribune photojournalist E. Jason Wambsgans will speak at two University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication events and show his powerful project that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

Wambsgans will discuss his work — which illuminated the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago by focusing on ten-year-old Tavon Tanner’s recovery from a shooting — in Portland on Jan. 30 and in Eugene on Feb. 1. Oregon Focus will co-host the Portland event.

E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune.

How the Alexia Foundation Chooses Grant Winners

From Sarah Blesner’s Alexia grant-winning story in 2017: Students from School #18 perform a show at the local theater in Sergiyev Posad, Russia, 15 Dec 2016. The show promotes the cadet school at School #18. Sarah Blesener/Alexia Foundation

The Alexia Foundation is once again accepting applications for its prestigious photography grants. For advice on how to apply, don’t miss Alexia Chair and former Oregonian photo editor Mike Davisinsightful article that can help all manner of applications:

“There are four broad aspects, questions, really, that you have to satisfy in the judges’ minds, hearts and eyes: Is the subject engaging? Can you do it? How are you going to do the project? What will happen because of your project?”

Continue reading “How the Alexia Foundation Chooses Grant Winners”

The State Of Photography in Portland Today – A Panel Discussion

As Portland photographers continue to navigate the developing art scene in a changing city, a Photolucida event at DISJECTA on Thursday promises to be an enlightening gathering of views on the here and now. I’ll see you there! From the invitation:

“Join us for an evening discussion with some of the key figures in Portland’s photographic community. We want to know…what is happening now and what is next? What do you feel is working and what is missing?
Lend your voice and learn along with us! Stick around after the one-hour panel for a social hour to continue the conversation. Beverages and snacks will be provided! Free and open to the public!” Continue reading “The State Of Photography in Portland Today – A Panel Discussion”

Happy New Year and Welcome to Oregon Focus!

Photography can be a lonely business, and a lonely art.

When I was a full-time photographer, I often felt like a lone wolf, moving from assignment to assignment, shoot to shoot, without a connection to the audience for my work and without the feedback from clients I needed to improve. Too often I heard “We love it; just give us more,” which feels nice, but impedes growth. And without detailed knowledge of the creative strategy that led up to the assignment, and without the foresight of all the different ways my work would be used, I was at a disadvantage as went out into the field.
When I became the photo editor for the international humanitarian agency Mercy Corps, each day some of the most talented photographers from around the world reached out to be hired. I tried my best to respond to everyone, but I found myself giving more detailed feedback — and assignments — to one of two groups: not the photographers who only showed their recent work with only their own vision; but instead, the photographers who had researched my organization and its mission, its visual style, its programming and the locations where we worked around the world, and tailored their pitches accordingly. In a deeper sense, I sought out people who wanted to work together in a meaningful way to help the world.

Continue reading “Happy New Year and Welcome to Oregon Focus!”