Volume 75, Number 22 | October 19 - 22, 2005

Art + Commerce 2005
Festival of Emerging Photographers
October 15-25
The Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn
A, C to High St., F to York St., or
New York Water Taxi at Fulton Ferry Landing

Alexandra Catiere’s photography, above, is among the most striking work on view at the Art + Commerce 2005 Festival of Emerging Photographers.

Exhibiting brings photographers closer to exposure

By Aileen Torres

Since it was founded in the early 1980s, the downtown photo agency Art + Commerce has been synonymous with individuals in the fashion and beauty industries it represents, like esteemed photographers Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, and Ellen von Unwerth. Beginning last year, however, the agency has begun in earnest to go beyond its commercial work—through a ten-day photography festival in DUMBO.

On Oct. 14, the second annual Festival of Emerging Photographers opened at the Tobacco Warehouse in the park beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Featuring 24 artists picked from more than 1,000 individuals in the tri-state area—none of who are currently represented by a gallery or agency—the festival has become a vehicle for the agency’s attempt to transcend the boundaries between editorial, advertising and fine art.

Its genesis begins in Brooklyn, where Jim Moffat, one of the three co-founders of Art + Commerce, lives with his family near the Tobacco Warehouse. There, he often ran into his friend Marianna Koval, the director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Koval wanted to attract arts and cultural events to bring more attention to the park, and Moffat was interested in starting a festival to promote emerging talent separately from Art + Commerce’s work with its regular stable of photographers. It was a perfect fit.

“I wasn’t aware of a regular exhibit in a public space in New York,” said Moffat, who was keen on having people be able to come and see art “in a similar way to how Europe has photography exhibitions in public spaces, and not inside of a museum or gallery.” Access to the park is free, and so is admission to the exhibit.

“We’re not making money—we’re spending money to do this,” said Moffat. “It’s an incredible space and the art is available to anyone who enters the park on any given day,” said Moffat.

Last year, the festival focused on individual images from 60 artists. This year, the jury decided to highlight individual artists’ visions, hence the smaller number of artists, several of whom appeared in last year’s festival, too.

“Actually, I was surprised that I was chosen again this year,” says Christian Erroi, who still does not have an agent or gallery representing him. His featured works include sparse images of thin branches and plant tendrils that look very simple at a glance, but are informed, in fact, by a very personal, traumatic experience. Erroi suffered several strokes that left him paralyzed and temporarily blind from 1988 to 2000, and his MRIs inspired him to create this set of photos, which, for Erroi, evoke the brain’s super-structure. The delicate nature of the plants in the pictures also parallel Erroi’s physical state at the time.

Though he would like to find representation, it’s not his main concern. The opportunity to be a part of this show is intended to help the artists build momentum, motivation and inspiration for other projects and possibly get work shown in other places (As it happens, Erroi is now focused on a new project, a series of sculptures, and getting ready for his next show in Switzerland.)

This year, the character of the exhibit is more of “looking at the world,” as Moffat described, but the way these artists document the world around them is far from the perspective of passive viewers. Each artist has a definite statement he or she attempts to convey through his or her photos, one that is infused with coherent ideas and sometimes, emotion.

Jake Rowland, for instance, created a series of portraits by merging photos of himself with those of his wife to comment on how personalities come to merge in the context of a marriage. Alexandra Catiere’s black and white photos, taken in her native Belarus, are some of the most striking at the festival. The haunting, stark portraits of people captured through bus windows are softened by a faded effect evident on the prints, which hearkens back to an older period. Though contemporary, they’re suggestive of the 1920s or 1940s, partly because of the somber expressions of the individuals pictured and distance from them created by the windowpanes, whose presence is highlighted by streaks of water.

Says Moffat, “There are so many people out there doing great things that need a boost and a leg up.” The artists represented here certainly deserve the exposure.

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