The Palm Springs Photo Festival—which started last Sunday and finished today—has been a wonderful surprise. In the middle of the tsunami of bad news (closings, sellings, disappearings, and firings), the festival seemed to be an oasis of hope and faith in photography. It was the forth year for the festival, the baby of photographer Jeff Dunas. I have known Jeff for 35 years, and I know most of his faces: the erotic photographer in the beginning and the portrait and documentary photographer he has become. Here, though, I discovered the face of a crusader for the survival of photography.
His budget was scarce—just $350,000, coming from 57 sponsors and attendance fees—to fund the festival which was organized by 60 staff members as well as volunteers. This year more than 1,625 people came to the various workshops, seminars, portfolio reviews, daily symposiums, and evening presentations. The most surprising, touching, and inspiring thing about the festival was the passion of these people for photography. It’s quite rare to see such enthusiasm, conviviality, and kindness, or such an unpretentious approach. It almost resembled a photo club of the past.
Most of the attendees were not professional photographers but were willing to give up everything to fulfill their passion. Coincidentally, most of them had a financial background (I met two bankers, a lawyer, and a waitress). There were no intellectual speeches about photography and no disparate seminars about change in the photographic world; on the contrary, the motto of the festival was “how to”: How to meet a picture editor. How to approach a photo gallery. How to present a picture. How to publish your own book. And every evening, seminars were offered to explain the best use of new technologies.
The three guests of honor this year were Duane Michals, Greg Gorman, and Steve McCurry (the three also conducted a workshop), and Laurie Kratochvil, David Fahey, Jimmy Colton, and Holly Hughes were the most successful photo reviewers. The parties were great, and since Jeff Dunas and Greg Gorman are wine enthusiasts, the wine was absolutely gorgeous.
How many of the attendees will succeed, I don’t know, but at least they are pursuing their dreams.
—Jean-Jacques Naudet, American Photo editor at large
(Photo: © Steve McCurry, one of the guests of honor at the Palm Springs Photo Festival)