A nationwide series of events for sharing food and photography.
The twist: an open-door policy for both amateurs and pros. Where else can amateurs show their work alongside the heavy hitters? This can be a heady experience. SLPS has moved many nascent photographers deeper into the medium and helped some start wriggling free of amateur status. One contributor says he never once showed work publicly in his 35 years of shooting until SLPS came to town. Dave Reichert debuted at SLPS in December 2009, in his hometown of Santa Fe. Recently laid off from an architectural design firm, Reichert, 54, decided it was finally time to advance his long-held photography dream. SLPS was an important first step.
What moved Reichert to go public now? SLPS might be a short cut to recognition. “I hope it will add to my credibility,” he says. “My credentials are that I shoot. I don’t have an MFA, just a few photo courses from 30 years ago.” Perhaps it will “bring some traffic to my website and opportunities for gallery representation.”
Back east, New York banker Yasmina Belkacem’s fast-track progress is tied directly to SLPS. She was an ambitious point-and-shooter frustrated by the limits of her camera and knowledge when she went to a 2006 Slideluck event. Motivated by what she saw, Belkacem, now 32, used some of her first banker’s bonus for a DSLR in early 2007 and then took an introductory photo class.
She presented her SLPS show, “Solo Travels,” at friend Kelbaugh’s urging—and with his editing help—last summer. The experience was so inspiring, she’s now taking advanced courses and has even won four International Aperture Awards (Silver and Bronze). Belkacem hopes to advance enough to consider a change of career, leaving international banking—and those annual bonus checks—for photojournalism.
New Mexico-based fine-art photographer Marilyn Maxwell, 60, presented powerful images of daily life in Guatemala at the Santa Fe event, and the response brought a “significant boost in confidence,” she says. SLPS will be the one of the first items on her new gallery-focused resume. She’s since made another trip to Guatemala and was moving on to shoot in Cuba at press time.
Why let utter newbies present along with more seasoned amateurs and the greats? Simple: Because there’s tremendous nonprofessional talent out there.
“I think back to when I was starting out—a lot of my friends who were really creative ended up as bankers or lawyers,” Kelbaugh laments, without apparent irony. “They do photography as a hobby. Here’s a chance to bring them into the fold, and that’s really exciting.”
The newcomers add something fresh, a sometimes unschooled but invigorating dimension, he notes with pride. “Whatever the photography scene, people are used to knowing everyone in the room,” but seeing the work of unknowns “creates a different kind of buzz and energy.”