Capturing the Creative Lens: Medium Festival of Photography 2014
Article by Sherehe Hollins
San Diego’s Medium Festival of Photography returns for its third year to celebrate innovative photography by bringing together local and internationally renowned artists, curators, collectors, and aficionados of the art form. The four-day event, which kicks off on October 23, 2014 at North Park’s Lafayette Hotel, is designed to strengthen the local photography community; and provide resources to help photographers develop their craft, market themselves and get published.
Scott B. Davis, Medium festival’s creator and director of the grassroots organization, stated that the heart of the festival is, “expanding the dialogue on how to create unique and passionate images that push against the boundaries of civilization as we know it by bringing new meaning and new language to the medium.” In short, Davis describes innovative photography as, photography that constantly raises the bar.
Davis is a highly acclaimed photographer with 20 years of experience; a former Director of Exhibitions and Design at Balboa Park’s Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA), where he curated exhibits for 13 years; and a photography instructor with UCSD’s Extension program. Davis’ personal and professional passion for the medium, as well a solid list of industry connections, have helped paved the way for Medium’s growing success.
This year’s festival features a keynote lecture by world-class contemporary artist, Duane Michals, who will reflect on a career, which spans 50 years. Medium’s “Present Tense” lecture series is designed to incite thought provoking conversations by some of the fields’ leading artists. During the “Eye to Eye” portfolio reviews, artists will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with gallery owners and museum curators, to share their work.
From year to year Davis ensures the festival’s programming reflects the diversity, complexity and changing nature of photography. To this end the festival features a cross sector of figurative work, portraits, landscapes, 3D sculptural images, and works by artists who utilize 19th century, as well as digital processes. Although the roster of presenters for the lecture series is 50% women artists’, Davis affirms, “ It’s not about gender, it’s about the work that’s being created.”
Davis’ desire to make inclusion an important part of the festival’s theme is evidenced by the name itself. “Medium”, which is a word commonly used in the industry to refer to the art form, is also used by Davis as a metaphor. In the figurative sense, “Medium” refers to, “a meeting place or middle ground, where no one is ranked above anyone else.” The festival is, “committed to breaking down barriers by valuing and upholding a no velvet ropes policy.” In no better way can this be illustrated than through an anecdote that Davis shared from last year’s festival.
Each year, an artist who participates in the portfolio review is invited back the following year to present a lecture on their work, during the “Second Sight” lecture series. Last year’s featured artist, a photographer in his early twenties, was both honored and intimidated to present amongst the likes of keynote, Abelardo Morell, who is known as a legend within the industry.
The artist was both shocked and elated to discover that Morell, who had familiarized himself with the artist’s work, was fascinated, intrigued and excited to be in the presence of the budding talent. Davis recounts the unforgettable moment when both artists met to express mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work and to exchange contact information.
The story of Morell and the young artist speaks to what Medium is all about: accessibility. Davis asserts that, “what sets Medium festival a part from most photography festivals is that it really is about nurturing relationships.” Whereas most of the 140 festivals that happen annually across the country focus on exhibiting commercial photographers, Medium, which has no exhibition component to date, focuses on developing artists.
Davis points out that Medium festival is unique because it is the only photography festival in all of California’s urban cities that is dedicated solely to the medium. This is a noteworthy accomplishment for San Diego given the solid reputations of Los Angeles and San Francisco as being California’s artist hubs. Davis proudly asserts that, “San Diego is a flip flop and fish taco town with a unique flair and sense of flavor.” Davis has found that this allows for a more, “relaxed vibe where famous and unknown artists can chat and relax pool side.”
Medium is undoubtedly putting San Diego on the map of “go to” festivals, as international travelers prepare to come from neighboring México, and as far as Japan to experience this year’s exciting line up. Davis believes the festival continues to grow in recognition because of the organization’s commitment to bringing world-class artists to San Diego, while keeping local artists at the focal point. As an independent organization Medium is bringing greater awareness to San Diego’s photography community by giving greater visibility to artists, and shining light upon the city’s wealth of cultural resources, which collectively are breathing new life into a timeless art form. For more information about the festival and online registration, visit: www.mediumsandiego.org
(photo credit: © nicole espina)