Louisville Photo Biennial 2015

Sep 16, 2015 at 5:58 pm
"Samburu Rite of Passage, by Karen Ballard
"Samburu Rite of Passage, by Karen Ballard

Welcome to the Louisville Photo Biennial 9.0. This long-running event has one focus: photography. But after that, it’s wide open, with different photographic techniques, subject matter and styles from regional, national and international artists being showcased.

The Louisville Photo Biennial 2015 officially starts on Sept. 25 and goes through Nov. 7. A few shows are already open and some will continue pass that  end date. There are over 60 exhibitions; Louisville galleries, museums and colleges are showing the majority, while Southern Indiana has 14 venues. The Biennial is also on display in Frankfort, Bardstown and Lexington (see the exhibitions sidebar for more information).

Paul Paletti is our brain trust on all things photographic. He’s not only a gallery owner (his self-titled gallery is the only all-photography space in town), but a historian, collector and photographer as well. The Biennial keeps on showing up every two years because of his leadership. It was started in 1999 by the Erin Devine Gallery (now PYRO Gallery), Galerie Hertz, Swanson Cralle (now Swanson Contemporary) and Zephyr Gallery.

“Photography is a medium that is accessible to almost everyone, spanning all demographics and cultures,” says Paletti. “The Louisville Photo Biennial highlights the beauty and variety of this medium. With work that includes local and regional photographers to internationally famous artists, some of the earliest processes to the most cutting edge digital imaging, subject matters that range from historic and documentary work to fine art, and everything in between, we will expand the visual literacy of the viewers and participants in this cultural event which is open to everyone.”

We’ve come to expect a lot from the Biennial over the years. In the past, it’s highlighted the Center for Photographic Studies and The Kentucky Documentary Project, hosted the View Camera Magazine Large Format Conference and been “invaded” by Canadians. My favorite year so far is 2007, when the George Eastman House photography collection was shown at the Speed Art Museum.

The ninth Biennial is focusing on public programming. While they have always had artist talks, workshops and panel discussions in the past, this year they are increasing their outreach. A few are listed below; visit louisvillephotobiennial.com for the full calendar of events.

To get in the swing of things, attend the Kick Off Party on Friday, Sept. 25 from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Copper and Kings. Then plan to attend the Midwest regional conference of the Society of Photographic Education (SPE). Their conference, “Throwing Light, Catching Shadows,” is Oct. 1-4 at the Seelbach Hilton. Speakers include Lori Nix, one of a handful of artists whose work is being shown at many venues, such as 21c Museum Hotel, 849 Gallery at the Kentucky School of Art + Design and Huff Gallery at Spalding University. The Cressman Center is exhibiting photography by the SPE speakers, like Dan Estabrook, Steve Gompf and Linda Adele Goodine (yes, Nix is there too).

Bring your flashlights to Churchill Down on Saturday, Oct. 3 when the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) does their next “Big Shot” community photographic project. The RIT photographers plan to shoot Churchill Downs at night and they need a lot of help, so they’re looking for hundreds of people with lights. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the “Big Shot” beginning at 9 p.m.

Also on that date is the midnight showing of “Pecker,” the 1998 film directed by John Waters about a budding photographer, at Baxter Avenue Filmworks.

Paletti, along with Emily Bierman of Sotheby’s auction house, is presenting a lecture on collecting photography on Sunday, Oct. 11 from 3-5 p.m. at Frazier History Museum.

There are a number of workshops available, including one on photo transfers and two on gelatin silver darkroom printing. Fionnbharr O’Suilleabhain is leading a number of calotype workshops at UofL’s Photographic Archives and is showing in “Collecting Shadows” there too. There are also five digital photography workshops for teenagers at the Baxter, California, Portland and Shawnee Community Centers and at the Metro Arts Center over the course of the Biennial.

Because he knows his stuff, we should pay attention to the photographer Paletti is showing in his gallery. “I picked Michael Kenna [“Forms of Japan” exhibition]  because he is one of the best landscape photographers in the world,” he explains. “His work is quintessential black and white film photography, and he has a very strong international reputation. I think it is very important to have some people of this caliber represented in the Photo Biennial. And I enjoy the beauty and elegance of his work.”

Dobree Adams is another artist who’s all over the Biennial. As one of the founders of the Kentucky Women Photographers Network, she is in their show at Actors Theatre Gallery.

Her solo exhibition at CRAFT(s) Gallery “is all about fog and water, … of intimate landscapes,” she says. Adams is also at the Georgetown College Fine Art Galleries and Bernheim Gallery at the Louisville Free Public Library with John Nation. The Frankfort artist is a creative Renaissance woman; while she’s well known as a photographer, she’s also a fiber artist. “I used to raise sheep,” says Adams, “and showed at the [Kentucky] State Fair … The C-J twice ran an amusing picture of me with sheep shears in hand … two years straight. Too funny.”

Nori Hall is also in a number of Biennial venues, giving Adams and Nix a run for their money. Hall, who is showing with Adams at the Actors Theatre Gallery and Georgetown College Fine Art Galleries, is also featured at The Green Building Gallery with Mitch Eckert and in a group exhibition of the artist-in-residency program at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

As a former architect and realtor, Hall states, “After marrying and having children, I discovered photography. From the first, I felt that something auspicious was happening in the darkroom. For over 20 years, I have been interested in creating photographs that have a dreamy, sometimes dark mood. My images do not portray what I see through the lens of my camera. I am interested in creating sensitive arrangements of form, color and texture that are beautiful. In that respect, my work is decidedly romantic.”

Indiana University Southeast and Horseshoe Southern Indiana are exhibiting “Imperiled Landscapes” by Philip Jessup, a photographer who is also an advocate to slow global warming. He will be giving a lecture at the Ogle Center at IUS on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m.

“He was just photographing in the Marshall Islands,” says Julie Schweitzer, executive director of the Arts Council of Southern Indiana. “We will be the first audience to see these photos and hear how they are dealing with their impending submersion. This guy carries a lot of weight in the climate change field. He is more interested [in] giving lectures and narrating his work than exhibiting it.”

One of the world’s top photojournalists is showing at Galerie Hertz. More than likely you have seen Karen Ballard’s work in newspapers and magazines. While she has photographed all over the world, including Morocco, Africa and China, she may be best known for the time when she was embedded with the 101st Airborne in the Middle East. Ballard later was on assignment for TIME Magazine when she photographed dictator Saddam Hussein as he faced the Iraqi Special Tribunal for the first time.

To sum up, it’s all photography, all the time. By now you have realized there is a lot to see during the Louisville Photo Biennial 2015. To end it in a proper fashion, there will be a closing reception at the Tim Faulkner Gallery on Saturday, Nov. 7 from 7-11 p.m.