New York Photo Review
from the NYPR Archives

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine


AIPAD Contemporary Photography Panel 2011
© Norman Borden, “Alec Soth, Shirin Nashat, Larry Fink and Julie Saul at AIPAD” 2011

Truth in advertising it wasn’t. According to AIPAD’s advance blurb, the artist- participants in this Saturday morning discussion were going to answer some pointed questions such as “How easily have they embraced new technologies? What are the ramifications of digital technology superseding silver-based photography for artists?” When all was said and done, those questions went mostly unanswered, but the audience had a good idea of where these artists came from and what they were doing today. It was time well spent: interesting, illuminating and inspiring. Add “intelligent” and it gets four “I’s.”

On the dais was Larry Fink, of “Social Graces,” as a replacement for Sally Mann who had cancelled. Julie Saul, the moderator, explained that three generations of artists were sitting at one table—Larry Fink, legendary social documentarian, was supposed to speak for the older generation, but didn’t act it. (“Life is too serious for me to be serious.”) Shirin Nashat, an Iranian video artist and photographer who won a Silver Lion for directing at the Venice Film Fesitval, was in the middle. And Alec Soth represented the emerging artist, although he’s already quite accomplished.

As part of the discussion, Julie Saul asked what they each had expected from their careers. Soth felt there is no clear path to being an artist, so much depends on personal experiences. He said he worked at a museum for seven years, decided to do his art on the side and got lucky. “I didn’t plan ending up here (the Armory.)” Laughter. Larry Fink said he’d expected nothing less than a Communist revolution. “I was a red diaper baby and wanted to add to the world in a positive way.” Shirin Nashat revealed she’d had this romantic idea of being an artist at a very young age, but was one of the worst students in college. She abandoned the dream for 12 years until she created art as an emotional response to events in her life. Someone saw the work and said she should have a show. “I’m an example of one of those defeated artists who didn’t do well and surprised my teachers.” Audience laughs.

 by unidentified photographer.
Alec Soth

Julie Saul asked if their art could effect social change. Larry Fink immediately said, “No.” Acknowledging he was being cynical, he added, “You have to respond to the culture.” Nashat said, “Where I come from (Iran), my art has defined me. You’re handicapped by the government. If you’re outside the country, you’re an exile. We as artists become central to social discourse and the voice of the people.” Alec Soth explained how he used Flickr, the photo sharing site, to engage people and effect change in their lives. He gave monthly assignments via his blog that drew thousands of responses. One assignment required his “students” to go into the street, meet a stranger, ask if they had any hobbies and then follow up. So, for example, if they liked model airplanes, they would ask the stranger to show them their collection or go to a model airplane store and see some. For the artist, it was a way to get people moving on a journey. The photos weren’t always great, he said, but the people involved had amazing encounters. “I feel it created change in people’s lives.”

There was an extended question and answer period that drew some sharp questions and thoughtful answers. And then it was time for the next event.

The video will be available on the AIPAD site in several weeks.

AIPAD Contemporary Photography Panel 2011 by Norman Borden

Share

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery