Author Archive

Another of our new group of interns, Fiona will be working primarily in the library with Stefanie Maclin. Here’s Fiona:

I am a recent graduate of Brookline High School and will be attending Pratt Institute in the Fall. I have a deep adoration for photography, which will be my major at Pratt. My freshman year of high school I took an analog photography course and quickly fell in love. My favorite activities aside from taking pictures are traveling and cooking. In general I prefer to shoot analog but I absolutely enjoy shooting digital from time to time. I photograph anything that moves me, which ranges from the faint shadow of a tree to my father glued to his computer screen. The following are a few photographs from my portfolio [click to open larger versions for viewing]:

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Another one of our new crew of summer interns at the PRC, Matthew Reitman is a Boston University student with a major in Photojournalism and a minor in International Relations. Inspired by his travels, Matthew often photographs subjects in their natural surroundings, in attempt to capture their unique essence. He hopes to one day use his photography skills to shed light on various social issues across the world. In addition to the photos below, feel free to view more of Matthew’s work at

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Untitled (from the series Lessons of Impermanence), 2009 30 x 24 inches, color coupler print from 4x5 negative

GS: Tell me how you first connected with photography.

TS:  My relationship to photography has always been that it was simply another art medium that could be put to use to manifest my ideas, in the same realm as, say, painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. I started out as a painter, and originally wanted to pursue that. However, as I gained familiarity with the grand scheme of art, both historically and the more contemporary, photography became more appealing to me.

GS: Where did you grow up? Is your family from there?

TS: I grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, close to Boston. The majority of my immediate family is there.

GS: And you live in Somerville now, right?

TS:  I do.  It’s a great little city with a fairly large art community.

GS: Where did you go to college, Tara? Have you attended grad school?

TS: I received my BFA from The Art Institute of Boston in 2010. I was a fine arts major at first, then after two weeks, I impulsively switched into the photography program. I did this simply because it felt right, but also because I needed a change, and photography was exciting to me.

Grad school, if I go, probably will not be for a few more years. I think it’s important to take time off, and I’m really enjoying life without school.

GS: What was the first photograph you remember seeing, that made a significant impact on you, and how old were you?

TS: This sounds bad, but I honestly can’t remember the first photograph that I saw that drew me in.  I was more interested in the medium as a whole.  I had never realized that photography could be whatever you wanted it to be, it wasn’t just, you know, snapping pictures of what was around you. The possibilities of what a photograph could be were endless, and from a naive standpoint,  that was very exciting. There was a mysterious, sort of eerie quality to photography that I was attracted to.  A photograph possesses the implication that what is depicted in the image is, in a sense, real, and that the moment presented actually happened. I’m saying this in a broad sense; I understand that with all of the digital work and manipulation that goes on now, it is often looked down upon to say that something is “real,” especially in an academic setting.  I’m referring to this idea in comparison to the feeling or construction of a painting or a drawing.

I used to go to the book store when I was younger and look through all of the art books because I honestly didn’t know much about the extent of what art could be and I was hungry to see all of the possibilities. It was then that I came upon photography, and there was just something about it that drew me in. When I first felt this attraction to photography, I was about 9 or 10 years old, and it was something I felt I would never be able to do. Photography was extremely intimidating and I didn’t know how to wrap my head around it. It wasn’t until I started becoming more educated and developed in the arts, especially in a technical sense, that I had a grasp on how to construct a photograph. At the time I first started using a camera (an old 35mm that belonged to my father that was just sitting in the closet unused and collecting dust) I was painting a lot of really basic still life studies for school. I began to experiment with photographing these still lives and trying to make them look like paintings. This isn’t to say that I didn’t try everything, like most new photographers do. I walked around and took street photographs, portraits, abandoned building pictures, all of those different things people new to the medium do to learn how they see. It wasn’t until I went to get my BFA that I decided to pursue photography.

GS: I respond to what you wrote about the “realness” attached to photographs. When I was a kid flipping through books and magazines I was always wary of pictures of things like frogs and fish that I didn’t like in reality. Something about them, about the images themselves unsettled me; it was as though touching the picture was actually like touching the thing. Some of your still life images remind me of the apprehension I experienced as a child. They create a sense of fear, or uneasiness.

TS:  I like the idea of a photograph being able to represent something unsettling that is not typically part of everyday life. This feeling that you talk about as a child looking at photographs, the uneasy feeling that you felt as though you were touching the real thing, is one of the qualities that makes the medium of photography appealing to me over other artistic mediums. A photograph can be very confrontational, especially if it depicts something uncanny that viewers may not necessarily want to look at.

GS: I’m glad you brought up that notion of the uncanny, because that’s a phenomenon your work brings to the foreground. I think the uncanny takes the familiar, the everyday, and makes it strange. In your work, you take ordinary things–ordinary in a butchershop, fishmongers, or slaughterhouse, perhaps, but still not all that unusual–and by recontextualizing them, by putting them in settings that assume some ritual, some set of actions that may still be going on, these objects assume a new uneasiness. It’s not so much that the objects aren’t part of everyday life, it’s the treatment, the presentation of them, that puts them into the realm of the strange and unsettling.

TS:  Still lives have an air of mystery to them and oftentimes, their content is very ambiguous, which makes it such an interesting genre.  Most still lives feel very quiet and delicate, but they can also have the ability to imply something very strange, or even horrific, that occurred before, after, or on the outskirts of the scene. The choice and rendering of the object is so important in establishing what the photograph is intended to express. My photographs, especially when at full scale, force the viewer to see the explicit detail prevalent in the image, no matter how generally grotesque the subject matter may be. However, by using the aesthetic sensibility of painting, the viewer is often seduced by the image’s beauty and can not help but want to look at these fearful, vile arrangements. It is my way of pursuing the age-old sensibility of the vanitas still life, using beautiful, seductive images to successfully introduce unappealing, frightening motifs.

Untitled No. 5 (from the series Seven Evil Thoughts), 2010 40 x 180 inches, color coupler print from 4x5 negative

GS: How large are the multi-panel pieces you’ve been making, like this one?

TS:  Each panel is 40 x 30 inches, making the entire six panel piece 40 x 180 inches.

GS: Tell me about the process, conceptual and physical, you follow to get the images to “full scale” as you put it. You said earlier that you photographed the still life compositions you were making for school; was it a straight line from that to creating tableaux directly for the camera? Did you always know that the images needed to get as big as the recent work is? What motifs, or other goals, were pushing you to get larger?

TS:  By “full scale” I was referring to the photographs in their large exhibition format (versus on a computer screen, handling prints, etc). My process always begins with the concept. Ideas, various influences, feelings and words circulate until I organize and make sense of everything. I then begin to conceptualize specific images, which eventually leads to preliminary sketches of the entire portfolio.

Sketch for Untitled No. 7 (from the series Retribution), 2010, 18 x 12 inches, watercolor on paper

Untitled No. 7 (from the series Retribution), 2011, 40 x 30 inches, color coupler print from 4 x 5 negative

After all of the sketching is realized, I begin shooting. The entire process of arranging the image varies depending on the nature of its content, but I always try to take my time with the work.

When I began photographing the still life arrangements that were originally intended to be painted, I quickly realized that I could, essentially, “paint with the camera.”  The process of moving away from painting and into photography was fairly straightforward and simple for me. It just kind of made sense. However, I hope to never let go of the use of paint in my process entirely. Besides being a necessary tool in the pre-planning of my photographs, I think the sketches play a significant role in informing the grand scheme of the work.

I always knew my photographs had to be large in order to explicitly imply the notion of painting. As much as I appreciate small work that packs a punch, I am in love with impact that large images can have. The first artist that comes to mind when speaking specifically about size is the painter Jenny Saville. I became enamored with her work and the magnificence of its size, it is so overwhelming and confrontational, and the scale she chooses maintains the dialogue she has established with the old master painters. Since my work is also referencing that area of art history, I find the larger size effective. In my arrangements, every drip, stain, mark, and gesture is important.  I agonize over every minute detail. Making the work large is the only way to do these details justice.

Panel 2 of Untitled No. 5 (from the series Seven Evil Thoughts), 2010, 40 x 30 inches, color coupler print from 4 x 5 negative

Panel 4 of Untitled No. 5 (from the series Seven Evil Thoughts), 2010, 40 x 30 inches, color coupler print from 4 x 5 negative

GS: Tara, thanks for talking this through with me. As I’m writing, late in May, I know you’ve just received notification about your 2011 Photography Fellowship award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. I wanted to say congratulations on the honor; I was pleased to have seen and supported your work in that context as one of the three jurors this year. Will this financial gain allow you to do anything new you’d been hoping to do for some time?

TS:  Thank you so much, George.  I am so grateful for the several people that have been supportive of my work. Every artist certainly needs those people, and I feel very fortunate.  I’ve recently completed a new body of work and am currently in the early planning stages of the next, but I always want to go bigger, more elaborate, as I keep going.  It is definitely beyond exciting for me to have funds to work with.  We’ll see what’s in store for the future.

This conversation was carried out through document sharing, starting in February 2011.

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One of our new summer interns, Alexander Abdalian is a Photo Illustration and Psychology student at Syracuse University. Recently returned from a semester abroad in London, Alex has a new found love for world travel and foreign culture.  He photographed his journey through the many countries and has stories to share. Alex isn’t set on one genre but captures anything that interests him, from people to travel, to products and fashion. Like everything he does, he tries to instill a personal style and touch into every photograph.

Included here are selections from his travel and studio portfolios. Welcome to the PRC, Alex, and enjoy your summer in Boston!

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Look for portfolios by Mona Miri and Lisa Kessler of Boston, and newly minted Guggenheim Fellow Katherine Turczan of Minnesota. Plus an interview by Howard Bossen with Concord-based photojournalist Ivan Massar in our Retrospect section.

When a new issue of LOUPE goes to the printers, the old issue is prepared for storage and online access in PDF form. Issue one is already available (link); issue two, featuring Justin Newhall, Julia Curtin, and Lori Grinker, with an essay by Vicki Goldberg, will be released electronically in June.

Remember, the best way to get LOUPE is to become a member of the PRC. It is available for purchase at the gallery, and in select college and art libraries in New England and across the country. But by becoming a member you get it delivered to your postal address three times a year. That and all the other benefits of membership are yours for the modest entry-level price of $50 per year for individuals.

Take a good look at the PRC and LOUPE. And return here to BPF for extended content, plus reader feedback.

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Blue sky. As in, "blue sky" thinking. As in, the sky's the limit.

At a PRC board retreat this winter, one section of the day-long discussion centered around future planning—how do the board members, the leaders of this organization, envision its future? Provoking the session were a variety of open-ended questions about photography and the role of an organization that calls itself, as we do, a “resource center” for photography.

I believe that the board has a critical voice in the PRC’s direction. I also believe that as a membership organization we have a responsibility to listen to our constituency. We cannot function as an organization if we don’t consider, and do our best to meet, the interests of those who join us as members. You pay your money, you have a right to expect something in return. And we have an obligation to listen. While we can’t serve everyone all the time, we can mediate between points of highly concentrated interest and identify common ground among our members’ diverse passions.

We must make the most of the limited resources we have in order to provide the most valuable resources to our audiences. We want to know what you want and expect from the PRC. Call it a feedback loop, call it a membership survey, call it a desperate plea for blog traffic, or call it fodder for what I am planning as a “Vision Night” at the PRC this fall; I pass the following questions along to you, gentle reader, in hopes of stirring up a set of ideas that will grow into visions, discussions, and eventually new directions for this organization. Please contribute your thoughts here on the blog, and I will return to the list at intervals over the coming months.

(These are in no particular order, though the number may help organize responses.)

  1. What is the current state of photography as an art form? As a form that has value and meaning to our culture?
  2. Where do you see photography heading?
  3. Is the PRC in its current state still relevant? If so, how do we keep it relevant? If not, how to make it relevant again (if it every was)?
  4. What do you want or need from an organization dedicated to photography? Are you getting it?
  5. If you are not a member, what would induce you to become one?
  6. How do you envision the PRC in five years? Farther out (15 years)?

Just for reference, here’s our existing mission statement:

The Photographic Resource Center (PRC) at Boston University is an independent, non-profit organization that serves as a vital forum for the exploration and interpretation of new work, ideas, and methods in photography and related media.

Thank you for helping us envision the new PRC.

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There’s AIPAD, of course. Thursday through Sunday at the Park Avenue Armory. Knock yourself out looking for the best and brightest.

And some major shows at MoMA (and another), the Met (one, two), ICP (four shows there). I’d love to go the PS 1 to see the Winogrand animals on exhibit there.

If I was going to be in the city this weekend, and AIPAD wasn’t there (or if I had loads of time between strolls through the booths), here’s the south-to-north itinerary I’d make up for myself.

  • Lisa M. Robinson at Klompching 111 Front Street, #206 (DUMBO)
  • Michelle Bates at Soho Photo 15 White Street
  • Massimo Grimaldi at Team 83 Grand Street
  • Karlheinz Weinberger at Swiss Institute 495 Broadway (KW also in Chelsea, below)
  • Colleen Plumb at Jen Bekman 6 Spring Street
  • Frederick Sommer at Ricco/Maresca 529 W 20th (FS also at Silverstein on 24th)
  • Karlheinz Weinberger at Anna Kustera 520 W 21st
  • Sambunaris and Yamamoto at Yancey Richardson 535 W 22nd
  • Andrea Robbins & Max Becher at Sonnabend 536 W 22nd
  • “The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Vol. 2” at Chelsea Art Museum 556 W 22nd
  • Phyllis Galembo at Kasher 521 W 23rd
  • Shinichi Maruyama and Frederick Sommer at Bruce Silverstein 535 W 24th
  • Sandi Haber Fifield (Boston local!) at RWFA Fine Art 511 W 25th
  • Sze Tsung Leong at Yossi Milo 525 W 25th
  • Seton Smith at Winston Wachter Fine Art 530 W 25th
  • Michael Eastman at Barry Friedman Ltd 515 W 26th
  • Alina & Jeff Bliumis at Andrea Meislin 526 W 26th, suite 214
  • David Nadel at Sasha Wolf 548 W 28th
  • Philip Jones Griffiths at Howard Greenberg 41 E 57, 14th fl.
  • Karine Laval at Bonni Benrubi 41 E 57, 13th fl.
  • Mark Power at Amador 41 E 57, 6th fl.
  • Suzanne Opton at Robert Anderson 24 W 57, #503
  • Jean Pagliuso at Marlborough 40 W 57
  • Raphael Dellaporta at L. Parker Stephenson 764 Madison Avenue 4F (bet. 65th and 66th Streets)
  • Charles H. Traub at Gitterman 170 E 75th
  • Rachelle Mozman at En Foco at Aguilar Library, 174 E 110th

Then I’d have to decide what to do on Sunday.

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Among Photo District News‘ list of 30 “new and emerging photographers to watch” published in the April 2011 issue are several with New England connections:

  • Rachel Barrett, born in Cambridge, MA, attended School of Visual Arts and Tishc School of the Arts at NYU, lives in New York
  • Justin Fantl, born in Hanover, NH, attended San Francisco Studio School and Academy of Art, San Francisco, lives in Brooklyn
  • Dima Gavrysh, born in Kiev, Ukraine, attended RISD, lives in New York and Providence
  • Ryan Heffernan, born in Berkeley, CA, attended Bates College, lives in San Francisco
  • Joel Micah Miller, born in Silver Spring, MD, attended Northeastern University and Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart, Germany, lives in Stuttgart

See their work, and that of others worth watching, at’s gallery site, here.

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You are probably aware that the PRC is using social media to disseminate news about its own programming and other events happening in New England. You will currently find the Wall on our Facebook Page to be functioning as a virtual bulletin board (and we still have an analogue version just inside our front door on Commonwealth); we also use Twitter to circulate appropriate and timely announcements, and Flickr for collections of photographs relating to our programs.

In the past, Boston Photography Focus (BPF) has also had a smattering of calls for entry and listings of opportunities for photographers. These categories were among the many you could search on the blog.

We want to use each of our discursive spaces effectively and provide our readers with information where and when it may benefit them most. Toward this end, all future-oriented news items, including exhibitions, talks, calls, deadlines, and the like will be announced in our biweekly newsletters and posted in the listings on our web site. Please look there to read about events and opportunities in the coming weeks and months.

For your convenience, instead of having to send something to us and then wait for us to post it on Facebook and/or in the next e-newsletter, you can just pin it up on our Facebook Wall, with a link to your site. And while you’re there, scroll down the list and see who else is posting, and give them a thumbs up or leave a comment. Web 2.0 is a two-way street, after all.

BPF, then, will be a chronicle, a space for reflection and commentary on things that have taken place or have been generated specifically for the blog. In the coming weeks look for interviews with Tara Sellios and Brian Doan, and content designed to expand on the articles in Loupe (issue two of which should arrive in your box very soon). BPF is a space for dialogue; please know that we welcome your comments and hope that the PRC provides a stream of information in all of its vehicles that enlightens and engages your interests in contemporary photographic work. Feel free to let us know when we fall short of that goal.

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Cover of Seydel's forthcoming book, to be published in April by Siglio

Robert Seydel, director of programming at the PRC from 1992 to 1997 and an associate professor of visual art at Hampshire College, died yesterday in Amherst. His colleague, former PRC executive director John Jacob, offered the following reminiscence and comments about Seydel.

Dear Friends of the PRC,

I am deeply saddened to write to you of the death of Robert Seydel, of a massive heart attack, while preparing for his classes at Hampshire College yesterday morning.

Robert and I came to the PRC at the same time, in the early 1990s. During a period of financial crisis soon after our arrival, there came a day when we were its last two employees. Standing together in its darkened galleries, we conceived of a plan to save the PRC, with Robert taking on the curatorial responsibilities and me the administrative. Enlisting the support of artists and community members, as well as celebrities such as Dennis Hopper and Patti Smith, Robert organized a visionary program for the PRC while I negotiated forgiveness for its debts. A new organization, with a square green logo and a growing focus on the region, emerged. During the years that followed, Robert and I never tired of marveling at our unlikely success.

A truly gentle man, after leaving the PRC Robert found his calling as a teacher at Hampshire College. There, his colleague Sandra Matthews has written to me, “Robert had a deep impact on so many people; he was such a completely unique and amazing person and a phenomenal teacher.” Robert was also exceedingly modest, perhaps most of all about his artistic talents. He presented an exhibition of excerpts from his Book of Saul at the Cue Art Foundation, New York, in 2007, and his untimely death precedes by months the publication of his Book of Ruth; both projects had engaged him for many years. About his work Robert wrote:

Art, as creation and as sign of primary Imagination, is not objects but a state, a kind of fluid. It is revelation of a sort that both objects and figures are the excess of… The wind is what comes through, barely glued down, sign of what maker here.

Robert was a cherished work-mate and a dear friend. His passing is a loss to me and my family; to his students and colleagues among whom he was beloved; and to the community, for and about whom his hesitant voice expressed an extraordinary graciousness and wisdom.


John Jacob

A local article about Seydel’s death can be found here. Leslie Brown published the following writing by Seydel, with a brief bio attached, in conjunction with her 2006 exhibition PRC P.O.V.: Photography Now and the Next 30 Years link.

Click here for a link to the CUE Art Foundation web site featuring Seydel’s statement about his Book of Saul project.

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