When Atlanta Celebrates Photography launched in 1999, there was no Atlanta Beltline, no Instagram, no Renzo Piano buildings at the High Museum.
Today, thanks to technology and the ever-changing landscape of the city, all those things are vital to the month-long festival devoted to the dynamic and accessible medium of photography.
As the world changes, Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP) changes with it.
“This couldn’t be a better time to be involved in photography,” says ACP executive director Amy Miller. “It’s exploding in popularity, and everyone has a visual vocabulary now. So we have embraced all the different ways people come into using photography.”
This year, Atlanta Beltline visitors can take in a 700-foot-long installation of pictures by artists from around the world. The public can gather at the world-class High Museum to hear artists, journalists and influencers discuss the pros and cons of the photo-sharing app Instagram. And ACP will feel the love of an impassioned community of photo practitioners, collectors, dealers and just-plain lookers.
During the October festival, fine-art photographers Lalla Essaydi and Duane Michals lecture at the High. Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham and former poet laureate of the United States Natasha Trethewey will celebrate a new book filled with Georgia-made poems and pictures. And ACP will hold a gala benefit-auction with food by Todd Ginsberg, the Atlanta chef of The General Muir and Fred’s Meat & Bread and Yalla. (It’s perhaps worth nothing that the man behind the kippered salmon and crab salad on the night’s menu is also an avid photo collector.)
And it turns out that one of ACP’s biggest fans is Ryan Gravel, who dreamed up the Beltline project while a graduate student at Georgia Tech. “The Fence project along the Beltline is always inspiring,” says the Atlanta-based urban planner, designer and author. “My kids like to walk along and pick their favorite photographer. They see images from around the world, and they see themselves as part of something bigger.”
And isn’t that the point?
Here, then, is a look at highlights of this year’s ACP.
Duane Michals. One of the great living masters of the form, Michals is known for an innovative style of visual storytelling that uses sequences of images and hand-written text to compose visual narratives. “I write about what you can’t see,” he says. “I write about where the photograph fails.” At 84, Michals has little interest in technology and trends. His High Museum lecture will be a rare opportunity to see the man behind the mask. His work can be viewed in the companion show, “Duane Michals: The Narrative Photograph,” at Jackson Fine Art. Lecture: 7 p.m. Oct. 6. Free, reservations required. High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-733-5000; www.high.org. Exhibit: Oct. 7-Dec. 3. Jackson Fine Art, 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave., Atlanta. 404-233-3739. www.jacksonfineart.com
The Fence. Running along the Eastside Trail of the Beltline, this public-art installation is an internationally curated photo project sourced from an open call for entries from artists all over the world. It includes everything from Michael Hansen’s study of Dominican Republic baseball players to Robin Schwartz’s whimsical pictures of feline couture, has already been unspooled along the Beltline, where it can seen by 20,000 visitors a week. “It’s a perfect example of what public art can do,” Miller says. Now in its third year in Atlanta, The Fence will be simultaneously exhibited in Boston, Brooklyn, Houston and Santa Fe. Through Nov. 1. 145 Krog St., Atlanta.
The Georgia Fence. Until last summer, Paige McFall didn’t even own a “real camera.” She had only taken photos with her iPhone. Yet somehow, the former professional dancer mustered the courage to show her work at ACP’s portfolio review, a decision that proved to be life-changing. This year a selection of McFall’s images were chosen for inclusion in The Georgia Fence, a sister project of The Fence, and her photos have been regularly featured on National Geographic’s “Daily Dozen” blog. Her contribution, called “Response to Play, captures “what it feels like to run away, to sail in the sink, to crash the party,” says McFall, a former principle dancer with Miami City Ballet and the wife of former Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall. The Georgia Fence travels the state and showcases, in addition to McFall’s work, photos by Georgians Casey Brown, Blake Burton, Fernando Decillis, Andrew Feiler, Nick Gruenberg, Patrick Heagney, Kelly Kline Dorothy O’Connor and Michael Reese. It’s on display in Savannah through Oct. 2; Gainesville through Oct. 16; Columbus from Oct. 8-Nov. 8, and Thomasville Oct. 22-Dec. 3.
“Thomas Struth: Nature & Politics.” The contemporary German photographer who creates large-scale color photographs that comment on the clash of technology and the natural landscape has an ongoing relationship with the High Museum. He came to Atlanta in 2013 to take pictures, and three of those images are included in this exhibit of more than 30 works. One of them shows a Georgia Tech robotic lab, crammed with equipment and a large plush toy dinosaur, while another depicts a group of children and adults in front of a giant tank of fish. Some of the youngsters look at the flickering schools of pink, green and blue fish with awe; others seem a bit tentative and distracted. Oct. 16-Jan. 8. High Museum of Art.
“Teen Spirit.” A few years ago, ACP decided to work with Scottish Rite and Egleston hospitals on a program that would allow sick teenage patients to make self-portraits. At the end of the exercise, the kids write something about their experience, and the portraits are displayed with the text. The results are often astonishing and poignant. “Sometimes it’s the last photograph,” Miller says of the kids who don’t survive. “And of course the families really cherish that.” This year, the exhibit will pop up during several ACP programs, including the Duane Michals lecture Oct. 6; the Lalla Essaydi lecture Oct. 27; and the “Instagram as Atelier and Salon” event Oct. 22. All are at the High Museum of Art. acpinfo.org
“Instagram as Atelier and Salon.” The popularity of the photo-driven app has prompted some prestigious artists, including influential color photographer Stephen Shore, to use it with abandon. This discussion, led by New York Times photo editor Whitney Richardson, will feature Shore, Atlanta photographer and publisher Bill Boling and artist Peter Halley. 2 p.m. Oct. 22. Free, reservations required. High Museum of Art.
“Inspired Georgia.” When the Georgia Council for the Arts decided to put together a collection of poems by writers from the state, they realized they needed imagery, too. What better way to provide it than to bring Georgia photographers into the mix? The resulting coffee-table volume, “Inspired Georgia,” edited by Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham, ACP’s Michael David Murphy and the council’s Karen L. Paty, was recently published by University of Georgia Press. To celebrate, ACP is having a cocktail party, book signing, photo exhibit and reading by Mitcham and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey. 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26. West Side Cultural Arts Center, 760 10th St. N.W., Atlanta. www.westsideartscenter.com
Photography auction and gala. Atlanta chef Todd Ginsberg will prepare a seated, four-course dinner. Also includes silent and live auctions. 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1. $200 (for a single ticket) to $3,000 (for a table of eight). Mason Fine Art. 415 Plasters Ave., Atlanta.
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