Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FOAM: What's Not, Never Was & Never Will Be Next!

When will we finally see people of color not only in front of the lens serving as ample, year round subject matter, but also as: photographers, judges, editors, gallery owners, workshop presenters and festival organizers in some representative proportion beyond mere tokenism?

I submitted the question above to FOAM's What's Next, round about a month ago, and I recently resubmitted just to be sure they got and received. Here is a site that purports to be about a search into the future of photography, a site that is specifically asking for questions concerning the future of the medium, questions that will encourage conversation. And yet, they have neither the room nor the desire to post a question concerning one of the most fundamental inquiries imaginable- basically, who gets to play the game? Yeah, I really do think that question could initiate dialogue- hell, I can guarantee that!  And yes, I really do think it's a dialogue critical to the future health and welfare of any medium or art form.

FOAM's obviously free to pick and choose whatever they want to highlight, discuss and publicize, but then- enough with the cooperative, free spirited let one thousand flowers bloom farce. The fact that they refuse to allow this subject to be listed as just one in their multitude of topics is beyond shameless, and (as if further indication necessary) one thing's pretty damn sure- the future of photography will be controlled, interpreted and disseminated by the same folk who do so right now. Technology will change, styles will evolve, the stars of the future will take us in new and dazzling directions- and the same cast of faces will dominate either side of the lens. Few will question the ratio- just the natural order of things...


Eric Rose said...

Man that has to be THE MOST poorly laid out site I have ever seen! The reason your question didn't appear IMO is because the question is to long. Won't fit into their tiny little boxes aimed at those with short attention spans.

Stan B. said...

Wish the reasoning was that simple, Eric. Here we are in the 21st. century and we still gotta shame people into thinking, let alone doing, the right thing.

mrs. deane said...

But how come I - based in Europe, working with a global set of photographers - do see them, more and more, and you don't? A matter of location, location, location? Of course I can only guess, but perhaps that is why the counter question was raised by Foam, not in the most enticing manner maybe, agreed. If you feel this question needs to be asked, then state your case, we might all learn something from your insights.

Stan B. said...

Thank you for your comment. I take it you're not a regular visitor since I've been "stating my case" for quite some time here (click my archives lower right under Race and you'll see quite a few related posts). And I'm certainly not about to repeat every single point I've made in the last several years on this one comment section for anyone's benefit.

I'm glad you're seeing more photographers of color where you're situated- I would hope that would be the situation most anywhere since we live in a majority non-white world. And I would hope the representation you're witnessing also extends to positions of decision making- as I mentioned in my original question to FOAM. Women are now rarely excluded from any power position in creative fields, and although their numbers still aren't where they should be- they far exceed those of people of color.

Can anyone name me a half dozen current black or brown photo gallery owners in all of NYC- my hometown, a city awash with black and brown faces (and photo galleries)? Let's make it real easy- can anyone name a half dozen black or brown photo gallery owners in NYC since... the Witkin Gallery opened its doors in '73?

Of course, I can keep repeating every point I've ever made ad nauseum, and probably will- some just won't hear any of it, so (as I've done before) I'll just stop here with these parting words from a well known (white) photographer who doesn't have a dog in this (second to last paragraph in the main body- before comments).


Amanda said...

Dear Stan, Thank you so much for submitting that question. As an photographer of color I often wonder the same thing myself. If it helps any, I saw your question on the site but couldn't find a comment space to respond.

It could be a number of factors for why you question hasn't appeared, beyond the obvious. The obvious being if they put a politically loaded question like that as a museum and a magazine at some point, someone will being to look into their history of inclusion.

I sincerely hope that you question sees the "light of day" on the FOAM website.

Good point about the black and brown photo galleries. I have been looking for one but haven't seen one yet. But at least we have black and brown art galleries owners/ founders like Corrine Jennings, Danny Simmons, Laurie Combo. And instutions like SMH, MOCADA, Museum of African Art.

Jonathan said...


mrs. deane said...

Of course, not living in NY seriously limits my knowledge, but you surely must be aware of these curators:

Okwui Enwezor (needs no intro)
Amani Olu http://mrandmrsolu.com/

Plenty of photographers/ artists with what we call hyphenated identities around in your area. I know or have worked with these people and many more outside the region:

Myriam Abdelaziz
(also on: http://www.creativeafricanetwork.com/person/8985)

Neil Chowdhury

Priya Kambli

Desiree Hammen (designer/artist/photographer, part-time in NY)

Other than that, I work internationally, and that goes literally across all continents. So many things in Africa happening, you wouldn't believe it!

Another person to talk to would be Michket Kriffa from Tunesia, who is involved with the Bamako Encounters:


Visit this year's Paris Photo, the statement part has a focus on the African continent.

Stan B. said...

Thank you, for highlighting those names, and please, realize I am not stating that these very capable, competent people do not exist. What I am saying is that they are often woefully underutilized resulting in their continued tokenization or complete absence from many workshops, judging panels and other such organizations of which FOAM is just one.

mrs. deane said...

I know you are not stating that, and I am not here to defend Foam, however, I would like to plant a thought: "Capable, competent people", when "underutilized", will find other ways and platforms to manifest themselves. I would say the NY gallery scene would have to worry more about their absence than these people themselves, who will simply set up shop elsewhere - which is what I see happening. I've said it before elswhere, you can only see the center of the world shift at the periphery of your vision.

Stan B. said...

Well, we would definitely agree that it's everyone's problem when a particular segment of society with something meaningful to say is denied access. And thank you for the examples cited, they offer both proof, and hope- although I somehow suspect FOAM's behavior is not by its lonesome on your continent. The subtleties and nuances of racism vary from country to country, continent to continent. For example, I've definitely noticed how different races socialize in the UK so much more than in the US- and yet, unbelievably, crowds there have been known to make monkey noises when a black player walks unto the field in a pro stadium!

Please keep in mind that finances weigh much heavier in communities of color- for travel, education, you name it... And thank you for your continued input- one last piece of must reading-