Scott B. Davis' fine-art career took off after The New York Times, The New Yorker and Village Voice all reviewed his first solo East Coast exhibition in 2008. In Land of Sunshine, Davis, a night photographer, captured the antithesis of Los Angeles through barren urban landscapes, shot in black and white, that show bleak, suspenseful scenes that appear as though they could have been taken anywhere. Davis attributes the success of his show to New Yorkers' distaste for L.A. and the intrigue of one of its own exposing its sad side.
Like many fine-art photographers, Davis juggles several jobs. He's been the director of exhibitions and design at Balboa Park's Museum of Photographic Arts for the past 10 years, he teaches workshops on the side and, now, he's in the midst of coordinating Southern California's first allout festival dedicated to the art form. The Medium Festival of Photography—Sept. 6 through 8—was born from Davis' success as an internationally known artist and Southern California's need for an event that brings together the photographic community to not only celebrate photography, but also to teach artists how to get their work out there.
"I've been on the other side of the fence," Davis says of his days as a photographer striving for recognition. "There's a lot of unknowns."
Davis has drawn from his success and the connections he's made to design the three-day program of workshops and lectures by internationally renowned and local pro photographers. By doing so, and breaking up the festival into individual events for purchase, Davis hopes to appeal to a wide audience and draw attention to San Diego as a vibrant arts community that happens to be home to one of three independent photography museums in the country.
The keynote lecture will be given by Alec Soth, an American photographer and a member of Magnum Photo, the world-renowned photojournalist co-op that provides images to publishers and media around the globe. Soth will share what it's like to be in Magnum, which was founded in 1947 by a group of photographers, including Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Cartier-Bresson is widely considered to be the father of photojournalism as we know it, and his 1952 essay, Images à la Sauvette (" The Decisive Moment"), in which his philosophy about the split second when a moment is captured, has long been the zeitgeist for aspiring and professional photographers around the world. Tickets for Soth's lecture are available through Medium's website; the event kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7 at the W Hotel, Downtown.
Another lecturer is local photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann, whose work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and nearly 100 public and corporate spaces around the world. He'll discuss his latest body of work that chronicles life along China's Grand Canal, which he says has been seldom photographed.
"China is the biggest story on the planet," Scholz Rittermann says. "Everything that we consume affects them. We read statistics about its size, but I wanted to make visible what explosive growth looks like."
Both Davis and Rittermann, friends who met as night photographers, have attended photography festivals in major cities and agree on Southern California's need for a unifying festival and convention in one.
"Photography festivals are very popular; there are now hundreds all over the globe," Scholz Rittermann says. "It speaks to the hunger for a place that everyone can go to. [Medium] will give [San Diego] exposure to out-of-town speakers. We'll learn from each other and establish a network."
Davis says the portfolio review will be the most valuable experience for photographers at Medium. Museum curators and gallery owners will pair up with artists to review their work, and most important, how it's presented.
"When artists want gallery representation, they should think, How do I want to present myself and my work?" says Jennifer DeCarlo, owner of jdc Fine Art, a contemporary-photography gallery, who'll be reviewing portfolios at Medium. "We're looking for photographers who present themselves professionally with one, two or three bodies of work, and artist statements. It's important for artists to write and communicate about their work."
Not only will photographers get valuable feedback about their portfolios; Davis says that, often times, these kinds of reviews open doors for artists to have their work exhibited at the venues that reviewers represent. The cutoff date for portfolio review registration is Friday, Aug. 17.
In conjunction with Medium, jdc Fine Art will host a release event for Concourse Magazine, a photography publication produced by local artist Michael Mulno, who'll also lecture at the festival. Co-curated by Chantel Paul, assistant curator at MOPA, the inaugural issue features photos by five photographers showing different scenes from their daily lives. Meet the artists at the reception at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Little Italy gallery.
There are two open-portfolio viewings at Medium— Friday from 5 to 6 p.m and Saturday from 7 to 8 p.m., both at the W Hotel; the public is invited to attend and will have an opportunity to see photographs by notable local and national artists. On Saturday, starting at 8 p.m., check out digitally projected images from This Fine City, featuring photos of San Diego shot by locals.