Monday, September 15, 2014

Money, Photography, Diversity

Recently, I shot Joerg Colberg a quick note of thanks and appreciation for his Sixth Annual Portfolio Competition  (deadline 10/31) labor of love. Interestingly, he wrote back a brief response stating how much more diverse the submissions were (as far as race and sex were concerned) than the usual competition fare, primarily because it was, in fact... free. Also of interest, the fact that the winners are "blindly" chosen, another nod towards avoiding- the usual suspects.

No surprise, of course, that most photo reviews and festivals are overwhelmingly White simply because of cost involved, or that most unpaid photo "intern" positions are filled by those (White) applicants who can most afford to work for... free. Or that those who can afford to attend those events are those that will most likely be remembered and invited to participate in upcoming projects, exhibitions, etc. The last part, at least, is easily understandable, it's how we humans interact and socialize- it's the first part that can get easily ignored, forgotten or... denied.

Anyone who's come here more than once by now realizes that I (along with a few handful of others) do on occasion talk about race and its relation to this thing we love called photography.  And while I'm certainly not going to apologize for it, it is very simply a reaction to the dearth of these conversations elsewhere, 'cause as we all know- people who talk about race are... racists!. Clearly, no faction of humanity is without fault or sin, and surely, everything isn't always "black and white," exactly why we need more open and ongoing discussion- as opposed to accusatory tirades. And it always, always, always devolves into just that because we never continue the discussion beyond that. Everyone either yells and screams at each other, or tries to talk over each other until in the end- we repeat, retreat or exhaust ourselves, accomplishing little, quietly gathering our strength and talking points until the next screamfest.

This is not to say that we could "cure" anyone of their hardcore, ingrained racism, no one is that naive, but it would be nice if there was an ongoing attempt to further dialogue beyond accusation and examine just how certain factors can influence and exclude. Of course, some (like myself) would say those factors and consequences are already well established and clearly evident- I think a good starting point is... why has their been so much more progress towards fighting sexism in the arts? Has sexism been vanquished- of course not! But the strides that women and LGBT people have made are obviously evident in places of power and consequence when it comes to the arts. Why has that segment of society experienced such consequential change, while so many people of color (with the possible exceptions of certain Asian populations) still struggle to maintain token representation? The question of economics looms large, but it is both cause and consequence of even larger factors.

Everyone harbors their own personal prejudices- admitting that is the first step, discussing how it impacts our world (of photography) would be the second...

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