Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival back in full force

The Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival (ACP) is back in full force this year on the streets and on the walls of the city, after the pandemic-driven hybrid version presented in 2021. ACP will be celebrating 24 years this year, with a new executive director, Stephanie Dowda DeMer, at its helm, and two new staff members.

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Worth noting for the 2022 edition is the launch of a new website, which gives the festival a bold new look. The printed guide will return this year in the form of a large, 15″ by 22″ broadside newspaper that will also be accessible online, along with maps and listings.

The mobile phone app, introduced a few years ago, has not been re-actualized and will be missed. But with 55 events listed, the production of 2,400 limited-edition art beer cans and a promising public art event in Midtown in partnership with Pride Atlanta, the festival should look a lot like its pre-pandemic self.

One of the most anticipated events for arts patrons and photo aficionados alike will be the festival’s auction gala, which will take place Oct. 1 at the Thompson Hotel in Buckhead.

ArtsATL met with Dowda DeMer recently to talk about the festival and highlight some of its main events.

Q: Organizing a month-long festival in the aftermath of a pandemic and with newly hired staff is no small feat. What has been the driving force in planning this festival?

A: What’s conceptually motivated us is the idea of connection. Photography is a connective tool and art form. It allows us to peer into different worlds, different lives and different perspectives. I think that connection is a necessary concept to be engaged with, especially this year. I don’t have to tell anyone what the last two plus years have been like, in our community and in our world. And going back to that connection, that embrace, is the framework we were trying to create. The artists have poured their energy and their hearts into creating moments where we can reconnect or connect again in a refreshed way.

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Q: Is this what motivated you to go back to a printed catalog?

A: Yes, it is all about going back to that physicality and we have printed several thousand. We’re actually doing a newspaper format this year, with 20 pages. It features not just ACP-presented work in a bigger and more elaborate way, it also allows for other event listings to be in a bigger format too. Being able to hold a physical guide feels really important.

Q: What’s the format of the festival this year?

A: We’re definitely going back to 2019 — there will be a lot of events, almost all of them in person. We have put in place a lot of options for things to go virtual should we need to, to be safe. But we have kept the same kind of expansive format with most events happening over the first several weeks of October. We’re opening with our gala, bringing it back as a brunch event, on Oct. 1. It will also be the opening of our emerging artist fellowship solo exhibition at MINT gallery.

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Our 2022 Emerging Artist Fellow this year is Jeremiah Thomas, who is an incredible artist. Some of his portraits will be reproduced on beer cans. The kickoff event for that was at Elsewhere Brewery on Sept. 22. There will be over 2,400 beer cans distributed around Atlanta. Again, we are going back to that connectivity, that touch point. We wanted to do things that are new and feel different and fun.

Another project that I’m really excited about is with a local photographer, Mark Anthony Brown Jr., in partnership with Art Work Projects in Chicago. His work documents the Forest Cove apartment complex, where residents were experiencing severe neglect and came together to advocate for change.

Credit: Jess T. Dugan

Credit: Jess T. Dugan

Q: What will be the other highlights of the festival this year?

A: We are working on a large public art project with Jess T. Dugan, a trans photographer who is internationally recognized. We have partnered with Capture Integration, and the Hyatt Centric in Midtown to produce a large-scale semi-transparent public artwork, which will be viewable during the day and at night will be illuminated from behind, to create glowing light boxes. It will open the Atlanta Pride parade on Oct. 8.

We’re installing Jess’ artwork on the ground level of the hotel, on 10th and Peachtree Street, right in the heart of Midtown, at one of the most highly visible areas of the Pride parade. Jess’ work is all about visibility and connection.

Strategically connecting with Pride, which ACP has never done before, felt really important, especially in this moment where Pride is being reactivated. Midtown is a historic site for the community and so it felt really good to think about aligning those partnerships, between Jess’ work, Pride Atlanta and corporate sponsors who are willing to support our project and the vision.

We also partnered with Jackson Fine Art to bring Tabitha Soren to the Atlanta History Center for an artist talk on Sept. 15. Her new work is all about the surface of the prints and how she uses tools by hand, to change and alter them.

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography and Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Celebrates Photography and Jackson Fine Art

Q: Since its inception 24 years ago, ACP has grown into more than an Atlanta-centered festival. Where else will ACP be visible?

A: There are over 55 different locations, from Gwinnett County to Athens. What’s really great about Atlanta is that it’s easy to get here no matter where you are in Georgia and the Southeast. It’s really exciting to see our community listings and the map of all the event spaces that are happening inside and outside the metro area.

Q: Video work is also part of the festival. Any highlights?

A: This year, we are working with Mika Fengler, a video artist working in Atlanta. She’s creating a video collage-type of installation in our office at our Grant Park space. It will be viewable after dusk, from the outside of our building.

Q: You have been the executive director at ACP for more than a year now. What are your reflections about these last 12 months?

A: There’s still a lot to learn and consider about where we are as a community, as a society. I feel I’m still in a learning moment. There’s a balance between being an executive director of an institution like ACP, and then having my own ideas, but really my duty is to listen to what is being asked for in our world. And how to respond with curious, compelling, interesting and thought-provoking ideas. I think ACP’s structure allows for a lot of that to emerge in its own way.

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Atlanta Celebrates Photography

At galleries, museums and other venues throughout Atlanta through October. atlantacelebratesphotography.org.

Gala Auction Brunch

11 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 1. Thompson Hotel Buckhead, 415 E. Paces Ferry Road NE, Atlanta.


Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL

MEET OUR PARTNER

ArtsATL (www.artsatl.org), is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s goal is to help build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.

If you have any questions about this partnership or others, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at nicole.williams@ajc.com.