Atlantan's mission: Put photos in America's viewfinder

Since launching her crusade in mid-October on Kickstarter, a fundraising website for creative endeavors, Schwartz has raised more than $9,100 toward her $15,000 goal from 129 backers. Her plan is to plow the $15,000 into acquiring and outfitting a used Volkswagen van for a have-photos-will-travel extended excursion to New Orleans, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago and New York in spring 2013.

Schwartz figures she needs to raise an additional $50,000 next year for gas, food, lodging, photo printing and framing, and promotion. She's hoping some of that will come from the campaign exceeding its goal, but she expects to raise the bulk from gallery fundraisers and sponsorships.

Kickstarter focuses on for-profit ventures, but Schwartz pledges that she isn't planning her grand tour purely for the sake of the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery's profit margin. Her goal is to nurture a crush of young collectors from sea to shining sea.

In other words, people much like herself: 36, married, the mother of three, with sophisticated tastes and some disposable income that could be spent on art by emerging photographers.

It's the same trendy group she's trying to court with "The Ten," an online site she launched that offers up a curated selection of 10 signed 12-inch-square prints (in a limited edition of 25) on the 10th of each month for $250 each.

"I call it the gateway drug to larger collecting," Schwartz said with a cheery laugh.

As much as she admires the people of means who buy blue-chip photography, she worries that her generation, while showing discerning tastes for other things, is missing out on art collecting.

"Everyone’s into organic and farm-to-table restaurants and knowing about coffee," she said. "Now you'll wait in line 20 minutes and pay $5 for a cup and you'll be happy and go back another day for the same experience. So it's not about the economy. ... It’s about putting art in the same realm as something that’s cool and accessible, something you can and should do. And I think once you do do art, it sells itself."

For someone who just a couple of years ago had never worked or shown her own portrait photography in a gallery, Schwartz is pretty sharp at selling the concept, using many of the social media tools at hand.

She posted a cheeky, homemade, minute-and-a-half music video on her Kickstarter page, showing her in a blur of changing outfits before shifting geographic backdrops, intercut with a toy VW bus motoring across a U.S. map. She blasts updates about the campaign regularly on Twitter and says she'll carry an iPad on the road for customers wanting to order an image from The Ten that she isn't carting in the van.

A different photographer will join her for each leg of the trip, and her "saint of a husband," Michael, who works in finance, will join her for some long weekends with their children, ages 7, 5 and 1.

A few years ago, the couple raised funds on an online charity site to help build a school in Cambodia. Hearing about her new crusade, friends have asked who she's helping this time. "I'm like, ‘art, artists,' " Schwartz said.

"I think it's part of my responsibility and commitment to push art out there in general," she added. "I have this mentality of what's good for one is good for everyone."

Atlanta Celebrates Photography executive director Amy Miller, who advised Schwartz as her business quickly evolved from a Buckhead portrait studio with a small gallery out front to a big Westside gallery with a secondary portrait studio, is one of the crusade's contributors.

"Jennifer has so much energy, and her passion is contagious," Miller said. "There is a dearth of young art collectors and patrons in this country, a problem that will become more obvious as some of the older [ones] pass on. The time to focus on avoiding a crisis is now, [and] Jennifer’s approach is vibrant and full of fun."

More on Jennifer Schwartz

  • Jennifer Schwartz Gallery: On view through Nov. 26, the group shows "Instant Gratification: From Polaroid to Impossible" and "Wet Plate and Mirrors: Photographers Working with Historical Processes." 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Brickworks, 1000 Marietta St., Suite 112, Atlanta. 404-885-1080, www.jenniferschwartzgallery.com
  • "Crusade for Collecting" fundraising campaign: www.kickstarter.com/projects/657323826/crusade-for-collecting
  • "The Ten" curated monthly online exhibit: www.thetenphoto.com
  • Blog: Keep up with Schwartz, who is currently in China, curating at the Lishui Photo Festival, http://jenniferschwartzgallery.wordpress.com

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