Last day of the festival, the most prestigous in the US. Artists from all over the world come to this gathering, where food, wine, and music complement the artists showings in one of the most beautiufl settings possible, Sausalito and the San Fracisco Bay. The food is just OK, but the rest is terrific. Two music stages go all day(for three days), with top flight musicians from rock icons to upcoming new artists. I'm looking forward to Marvis Staples even though the headliner is Jefferson Starship for today. So far my favorite music was Lynn Asher and Cole Tate with special guests Carlos Reyes and James Nash. If you have not heard of them, don't despair since they are local musicians who are amazing. In the world of art which includes music and photography, I'm always struck by the fine line between success and struggle. Lynn Asher et.al. show this, they are wonderful, talented, and above all extremely good musicians, yet financial success on any scale is still elusive. So what about photography?
First, the show is by invitation only. This means you apply, judges examine your work, and you are sent an invitation or rejected. I don't know how many apply etc. but any artist you talk with is pleased to be invited, if not thrilled. The art runs the gamut from furniture-wood to watercolor, 2D mixed media to fiber. In all, thirteen categories including photography. During the show, they award "Best in Show" for each of these categories which is added prestige and a money prize of $500.00. An award of 1st and 2nd are given for each of the thirteen categories. In 2009, the photography 1st prize was given to Chris Honeycutt of Pacifica Ca. and Patty Mulligan of Berkeley Ca. Second prize went to William Vanscoy of Brookings Or. This year the photography first prize went to Calli Hobgood-Lemme and second went to Kelli Knack. You can google the names adding "photography" and check out their work.Twenty photographers were invited this year. I did not count the number of artists but the Festival claims 275 artists with 20,000 original pieces of art. and 4million dollars in sales. Not bad for a 3 day gig by anyone's standards.
I have been attending for several years and while I'm no qualified judge of photography, I will give some comments. The first quality you notice is that all the photography is "eye catching", causes you stop and examine. Secondly each artist has a certain "vision" or "point of view", meaning the images follow a theme. You can see for yourself looking at the websites of the names given in this post. Finally, there is definitely unique processing involved, from wet printing to adding color to black and white. Image capture ranges from large format to digital with most being film on medium to large format. The images are not iconic scenes but created from the artist eye. In fact many could be anywhere, which gives hope to all of us. One common factor is the quality of the printing is extremely high, whether wet or digital, it all looks terrific. The images, for the most part, are simplistic, not complex, with focus for the eye. Compositions run the range, and interestingly break many "rules of traditional judging". Clearly, artist expression is the key which is no surprise, and within the boundaries of excellence, you can write your own rules.
Overall comments, clearly these photographers are photographing for festivals, competiting for the top tear. Their perspective is creating a unique body of work that will sell at these shows. Interesingly their pricing I would describe as modest compared to the rest of the show. Unframed prints are in the $90-$100 range, and limited edition large framed pieces(think Epson 9880), are for the most part in the $2000.00 range. Based on my conversations with high end painters over the years whose originals start around $7000, this show can reach $30-40K. Photographers are not in this sales category from the pricing I observed. Again, from conversatons with some of the artists, they will attend from 3-10 of these shows/year. All say this is the best show, measured in sales.
For this year, William Vanscoy and Alla Tsank were the photography judges and have agreed to an interview for Hold The Eye Images Podcasting. I'm very interested in picking their brain about photography which should be of interest to most photographers. Alla is a painter, who also judges painting for the show, William(Bill) is a photographer whose work is beautiuful. Both have websites so check them out.
I did some photography at the show with a 24/1.4, shooting at l.4, posting later. I also did a nine image pano of the SF skyline with evening haze using a 600mm. Have not had time to download, since my evenings where spent out and about. Discovered a new place the "Sea Horse" which has live music every night, reminds me of my days in Memphis with all the clubs. Another story, but never written about.
Time to pack up and head out for another day at the festival. Happy Labor Day.