FlakPhoto, a website which has been promoting the discovery of photographers from around the world for the past 10 years, is hosting a Midwest Print Show, opening tomorrow. It features 42 photographers living and working in the 12 states of the American Midwest. The prints will be on view at the Diane Endres Gallery at the Central Library in downtown Madison, Wisconsin through October 30, 2014. American Photo spoke with Andy Adams, editor of FlakPhoto and host of the FlakPhoto Network, about contempory photography in the region.
Given the amount of images you encounter from around the world each day, and the amount of submissions you culled through for this print show (about 500), what would you say, in brief, is the state of contemporary photography in the Midwest? What did you notice during this process?
Without a doubt, it’s alive and well! In America, there’s this idea that the best photographers are on the coasts—in New York City or Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong; these are vibrant, exciting cities with incredible photographic communities. But there’s something unique about the middle of the country—the pace and rhythms are different and that dynamic lends itself to a particular kind of creative life. There’s an enormous amount of talent here in the Midwest and, now that the Internet has connected us, it’s much easier to see it.
How did you go about curating the show? What did you look for and why?
I put out a free, open call on the Web asking for submissions from photographers living and working in the American Midwest and made selections by reviewing website portfolios. From the beginning my goal has been to highlight the diversity of work being produced in this part of the world and I’ve done my best to highlight a cross-section of photographers from around the region. This isn’t a definitive survey—it’s a personal selection of photographers I admire. There are some terrific pictures in the show.
Why frame it around the American Midwest region?
To begin with, I live in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m a Midwesterner! I’ve been publishing FlakPhoto for 10 years with an emphasis on digital exhibitions designed for global, web-based audiences but I’ve never produced anything locally and I’m interested in growing the photo community here. The Society for Photographic Education Midwest Conference will take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus October 16-18, 2014 and that weekend is designed so people can share their passion for pictures together. Lots of Midwestern photographers will be in Madison for the proceedings and it seemed like the perfect occasion to bring the FlakPhoto project offline to celebrate the place we live by looking at pictures together in person.
What might a regional photographer from the Midwest bring to an image or a story that a photographer who travels to the Midwest on assignment or for a project might not?
I suppose living in a place changes the way you see it and that impacts the pictures you make. An outsider’s perspective will always be different than a native’s. How we look at things is relative to our experience.
In many of the 42 images included in the show, subjects have their faces obscured, turned away from the camera, eyes covered. It reminded me of W.M. Hunt’s Unseen Eye collection. What draws you to these kinds of photographs?
I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it! One of the great things about a photograph is the conversation it sparks. “The eyes are the window to the soul,” right? There’s something mysterious about not being able to gaze into the eyes of the subject and that’s inherently interesting. With photography you’re always on the outside looking in.