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Hamidah is in the house! The juror for Griffin Museum of Photography’s 23rd Juried Show – on view through September 1st, 2017 – is Hamidah Glasgow, Executive Director and Curator at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado since 2009. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bring you my discussion with Hamidah about her background and work, her joy in advocating for photographers and her views about the changing world of photography.
How did you become interested in photography? Was there a particular inspiration or experience that led you into becoming a curator?
My father was a ceramic artist and a photographer. He always had a camera around his neck, and I hated that. Why did he have to take pictures all the time? Why weren’t they normal pictures? Then I took high school photography and fell in love with the process. Of course, I wasn’t very good but loved it anyway. Over the years, photography has been what I gravitated to in the arts. Eventually, I knew it’s what I wanted to do with my life. I’m not sure what the exact point in the journey was, but somewhere along the road, I realized that I was a better advocate for other artists than I am an artist myself. It’s pretty amazing having a job that I love and being able to advocate for the arts and artists.
How do you describe what you do? Is there a particular activity from which you derive the most joy and satisfaction?
Being the CEO, Executive Director, and curator of a non-profit arts organization means I do just about everything. Running a successful organization starts with the company culture and finishes with standing behind every decision. It’s important to me that the Center continues to grow and change with the times, embracing new technology and new ways of looking at and thinking about photography and photo-based art. I enjoy the tasks of financial management, marketing, etc. but love working with artists.
The landscape of the photo world has been changing and morphing, and that is a challenge to keep up with, but it’s an exciting challenge. There are so many elements of my job that I enjoy from selecting artists for exhibition, doing portfolio reviews, meeting our financial and organizational goals, to greeting gallery visitors and talking about the exhibitions. It’s more like, what don’t I like to do? Mostly that is the challenge of funding a dynamic arts organization. While we have a solid base of supporters, we are always looking at ways to improve.
This year, you served as the Juror for the Griffin Museum of Photography’s 23rd Juried Exhibition. What is your approach to such a large “open call”?
When making selections for an open call, I find that the work sorts itself. Usually, I go through all the images to get a sense of what is there to select from, and then I go back through and take out what I know won’t work. From there it is a process of going through the images and responding to what speaks to me. This continues until an exhibition takes shape. Finally, the process begins to be about connections between images and what work will hold together as a group. In the end, if I’ve done my job well, then the work becomes like a piece of music that I can see on the wall.
Can you tell us about the worst experience you ever had putting together a show? What did it teach you and what advice would you offer an aspiring Curator?
I can tell you about the worst day of many other jobs I’ve had but not curating. It’s kind of like that bumper sticker that says something like; ”the worst day fishing is better than the best day at work.” Art emergencies rarely happen, and it’s truly a joy to work with artists and great artwork.
To succeed, every institution must occupy a unique niche within its culture. What do you see as the Center for Fine Art Photography’s special role in the photographic community?
The Center is fortunate to have a beautiful space with three galleries, fantastic staff, and a dedicated support system. This allows us to show the work of approximately 600 artists annually. Our exhibitions are all online and in the galleries. We are always looking at what we do, how we do it and questioning how to improve. What I hear from people is that in addition to being a launching pad for artists’ careers, we show great work, are generous with our time and expertise, are inclusive, and treat people very well. I can stand behind that.
How do you think emerging photographers can best promote their chances of being seen today?
Emerging photographers have to approach the industry with a sense of entrepreneurship, faith in themselves and the understanding that networking is essential. Being true to your vision is key. The landscape is changing, and a strong network will help to navigate the landscape.
In the end, it is all about the work, but we all like to work with people we like. It’s good to remember that the industry is small and your reputation is everything.
What current trend(s) in photography do you find most exciting?
Bold, brave, ambitious work. There are many talented people out there, but the truly brave work stands out. Challenge what we think we know, show us something that blows our minds, and be brave. That’s what I find exciting.
Feature Image: Hamidah Glasgow gives her Curator’s Talk before the Opening Reception for the Griffin Museum’s 23rd Juried Show on July 13th, 2017 (photo by Elin Spring).
To read my review of the Griffin Museum’s 23rd Juried show, juried by Hamidah Glasgow and on view through September 1st, 2017, go to: http://elinspringphotography.com/blog/griffin-museum-of-photography-23rd-juried-show/