Palm Springs is more the golf course of the retired than the playground of the stars that it was during its heyday in the middle of last century, but the past decade has seen a resurgence in the California desert town. And making the most of this renaissance is the Palm Springs Photo Festival.
The festival, founded last year by photographer Jeff Dunas, is an American translation of European festivals such as Visa pour l’Image and Recontres d’Arles. “I’ve been attending major festivals in Europe for 20 years and I’ve always thought it would be an interesting event in America if a wonderful festival was put together — an international festival where we could count on great weather and have great landscapes and geography and architecture,” he says. “And Palm Springs was always on my mind as the place that fit that bill.”
Held at the Korakia Hotel, the festival is a four-day, five-pronged lineup of workshops, seminars, symposiums, portfolio reviews and evening presentations featuring the likes of Juergen Nogai, Antonin Kratochvil, Jock Sturges, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Colin Finlay, Michael Grecco, Robert Maxwell and the featured participant, Eikoh Hosoe, Japan’s grand master. (“After being in this business for as long as I have, I really know a lot of people,” Dunas says.)
He scheduled the intensive workshops — which range in topic from photojournalism to nude photography to landscape photography — so they would not overlap with the daily seminars and symposiums. Attendees are able to mix and match their chosen workshops (four days in one workshop, one day in four different workshops or two days each in two workshops), but no matter what route they decide on, Dunas says they should be prepared. “It’s pretty intensive,” he says. “The participants in this year’s festival are major curators, major galleries, major magazine editors and art directors, and major industry leaders. We’ve put together a group of people who are very influential in the intricacies of the world of photography. This is a festival that is entirely based around advanced amateurs and professionals — people seriously passionate about photography.”
The festival, scheduled for May 6 to 11, is also set up in such a way that, if they choose, attendees can be occupied constantly from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day. If they choose not to attend the workshops, they can spend the day having their portfolio critiqued by a panel of experts that includes David Fahey of the Fahey Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, Tim B. Wride of the No Strings Foundation and former curator of photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and our own David Schonauer, editor-in-chief of American Photo. Attendees can also take advantage of the many symposiums and seminars, the highlight of which is “Using Adobe Lightroom,” a how-to guide for the next generation professional-photography software.
But with running from workshop to seminar to symposium, is there any time to relax and enjoy the beauty of Palm Springs? “Every night, we set up a 30-foot screen and we have 300 people sitting under the stars looking at presentations by great artists,” says Dunas, “and those are the things I wouldn’t want to miss.”
For more information and to register for the Palm Springs Photo Festival, go to palmspringsphotofestival.com. Workshops should fill up fast, so Dunas recommends registering in advance.