“reFramed” is a feature showcasing fine art photography and vision-forward photojournalism. It is curated by Los Angeles Times staff photographer Barbara Davidson. twitter@photospice
Andy Adams is an independent Web producer and photo publisher whose work blends aspects of digital communication, online audience engagement and Web-based creative collaboration to explore contemporary ideas in photography. Recent projects include “The Future of Photobooks,” a cross-blog conversation that considered the impact of Internet culture on photographic production, exhibition and distribution, and “100 Portraits – 100 Photographers,” a digital exhibition of contemporary portraiture that has shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Australian Centre for Photography and numerous festivals in the U.S. and abroad. His latest project is “Looking at the Land — 21st Century American Views,” a Web-based survey exploring the evolving landscape photo tradition. In his spare time he publishes FlakPhoto.com, an online art space that promotes the discovery of artists, bookmakers and photo organizations from around the world.
Q: You produce two really interesting online sites, which help photographers, curators and bookmakers gain a larger online audience. Can you tell me about what inspired you to develop FlakPhoto.com and Flak Photo Network, and what your goals for these resource online sites are?
A: I love looking at and talking about images. For the past six years, I’ve been publishing FlakPhoto.com, a website that promotes contemporary photography from an international community of contributors. In addition to promoting photographers, I collaborate with book publishers, art galleries and photo organizations to produce a continuous program of community “happenings” using social networking sites. The scope of the project is continuously evolving and has roots in online publishing, broadcast media and arts exhibition, and it’s becoming more “social” every day.
One of the best parts about producing the site is connecting with photographers, curators and bookmakers I admire — and helping them get their work seen by a wider audience online. Flak Photo is just a small part of a vast, interconnected and global photographic community that’s growing larger every day. In addition to publishing our respective blogs and websites, many of us have flocked to Facebook to connect with each other, ask questions and discover photography every day. So in March 2011, I launched the Flak Photo Network on Facebook. Something really special is evolving there. The group has grown to more than 5,600 members, each of them helping to make the space a vibrant community hub brimming with ideas about the current state of photography. My hope is that by hosting online photo conversations in a single place, the FPN makes it easier to share ideas and meet photography colleagues using Facebook.
Certainly plenty of photographers see the site, and there’s a solid cross-section from within the photo industry who watch it too — I regularly get emails from curators, editors, publishers and gallery dealers who enjoy the work they find there, and I make professional connections between colleagues when I can. A big part of my mission is to help artists get their work seen, and my contributors are always updating me with news about exhibitions and publication opportunities that have come out of their work being discovered on FlakPhoto.com.
Q: Your Web exhibition “Looking at the Land” explores people’s relationship to landscapes. How did this idea — to curate a show about modern landscape photography — come about?
A: A key part of my photo work is promoting contemporary image-makers and archiving their work in the Flak Photo Collection. Not surprisingly, many of those pictures reflect my personal interest in the environment and how humans respond to the land. Last year Jan Howard, curator of prints, drawings and photographs at the RISD Museum of Art, invited me to produce a projection of 21st century landscapes to complement a historical overview of the genre she was organizing. The projection debuted at the RISD Museum of Art in September and showed in Providence, R.I., through Jan. 13, 2013. Internet culture and digital media play key roles in my photo work, so it was a natural decision to present this show publicly online. In addition to the projection, our team designed a robust website featuring interviews with our 88 contributors. The response has been amazing — at this writing “Looking at the Land” has been viewed more than 12,000 times.
Q: How did you select photographers to be a part of the project?
A: In the spirit of inclusivity — and with hopes for serendipitous discovery — I extended a public call on the Internet for “photographs depicting landscape in the United States since 2000.” That request was broad, by design, the aim being to crowd-source a visual definition of present-day photographic landscape. Artists from around the globe submitted more than 5,500 images in response, yet many of them were reluctant to assign the genre to their work. Clearly, the idea of landscape photography is in as much flux today as it ever was.
Q: Do you feel the photographers’ comments about their images are as important as the images themselves?
A: Absolutely! These are representations — photographic perspectives that describe the American landscape and the way these photographers feel about it. “Looking at the Land” is about more than the pictures it presents; it’s about the ideas and experiences that move the people who made them. Early in the process of organizing these images, I interviewed each of the contributing photographers to understand the motivations that drove their work. I realized that these first-person accounts added new meaning to my viewing experience and should therefore accompany the pictures they inspired. We designed the website accordingly, making room to include these stories alongside the images. Some of the responses are quite lengthy; we never would have been able to include these extended conversations in a physical space. I’m interested in experimenting with the Web browser as a unique exhibition venue unto itself.
Q: What do you think the pros and cons are about producing a project exclusively for online content in terms of archival concerns and being about to find the work online down the road – wayyyyy down the road?
A: From the beginning, I hoped these images would travel — across the Web and the world. Naturally, more people have been able to experience these images online than would ever have been possible in an independent exhibition space. There are obvious concerns with archiving exhibitions online. We plan to keep the digital exhibition online in perpetuity.
Q: Where does your love of photography stem from? How did your interest in curating develop?
A: Like a lot of people my age, I grew up reading comic books and watching lots of TV and movies — those experiences taught me to understand the world in visual terms. About 10 years ago I got interested in the Web and started following a community of photobloggers, people who were sharing their images on personal websites. I do make pictures for myself but I’ve always loved magazines, so I taught myself how to blog. The decision to promote other image-makers was natural and has been very fulfilling. Photo publishing is a creative act.
I don’t actually come from a traditional photography background — I studied filmmaking, broadcasting and mass media in college. It’s funny how similar photography and cinema have become in our digital culture. We all consume so many images onscreen now and that’s significant. I would never argue that looking at pictures on a monitor is the same as experiencing physical prints in a traditional exhibition. But I’m actually more interested in exploring the Web browser as an exhibition space, if only because an online show is likely to be seen by more people. The social nature of the Web continues to inspire me, so I plan to keep working with that in-between space, presenting experiences for a global, online audience while providing a platform for them to interact with and learn from each other.