A year or so ago, I sent a "Letter to the Editor" of PDN (which they published) observing how little things had changed in the 35 years I have been involved in photography. More specifically, it was commenting on their "Major Movers and Shakers of Photography" issue- in which the major curators, editors, gallery owners, and publishers featured were all (with the possible exception of one Asian female)... white. OK, OK, one can't possibly pin PDN with the blame for lack of minority representation in the upper echelon of the photographic universe. Agreed.
Then I get my hands on the PDN May 2009 Photo Annual and check out their 24 (not a half dozen, or ten, or a baker's dozen at that- but 24!) judges, each and every one- white, white and white! I know it can't possibly be something as absurdly ridiculous as the now trite mantra of- "I just don't see race." It's what year, what century, what presidency? Just how is it that to this day, people of color are still not represented anywhere near proportionately in these creative command positions?
One major reason (the major reason?) is blatantly obvious- the economics of the photo world stratosphere. I've complained previously about the high cost of photography, and it's not just me whining about not being able to get the new stuff I want and desire. I'll be happy to keep shooting with my 1995 state of the art 35mm equipment till I die. But if I can't afford what's considered "necessary" equipment in this day and age- how are young adults of the "inner city" ever going to? I know some of you out there take considerable time and effort to tutor inner city kids in basic photo classes. And god bless each and every one- seriously. But what happens to those who catch the bug and want to go beyond playing with a camera, and take it up a notch in a serious life long manner? How are they to afford it- thousands in equipment and education?
I still remember (the one year I could afford art school) the look of shock one day on the faces of the kids from the Upper East Side when a certain faction of the class complained they couldn't complete their assignments in what seemed a reasonable amount of time- because we had to work P/T jobs (during daylight hours)! God bless William Eggleston, love his stuff to death- but how well would his name be known if he had had to work for a living?
The other reasons for such obvious exclusion are even more nefarious and depressing, ranging from out an out indifference to blatant passive racism. Regardless, I still don't know what possible, plausible excuse could exist for an all white jury from a publication of such influence. Such accountability is certainly not a priority concern, to PDN or the overwhelming majority of its readers- seems I'm the only one bitchin'. In all fairness, I applaud PDN's support of a program such as Creative Visions on their home page, but... I'm talking about the major leagues here! There's not too many people like a Benjamin Chesterton out there willing to take a proactive stance in empowering indigenous people to document and photograph their own environments and situations- and to honestly testify to the veritable absence of color behind the desks that make the decisions on the images we see published, exalted and propagated in the photographic big leagues each and every damn day.