Though individual images don’t particularly stand out much, the first time I went to Fotofest in Houston was a revelation for me. I had never seen such a sprawling and diverse collection of photography in my life, and the various ways in which the work was presented helped me discover the many ways which work can be viewed.
Viewing photos in galleries was nothing new to me, but viewing them in warehouses, large hotel lobbies and other seemingly unlikely places was a great experience for me. Seeing how the art commanded and complimented spaces made me think about presentation in ways I never had before.
In addition to the interesting locations that are part of the Fotofest Biennial, I also took note of the interesting and very different work. A video installation of someone driving would have been laughable to me until I saw it in person among other art, but I really thought about how it worked for the first time. The photographs washed in ear wax were not only way out there for me, but I also noticed the relevance to the subject matter.
I finally embraced the large print when viewing several large pieces. I was amused and intrigued by photographs of an adult Spencer Elden, better known as the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Seeing the huge images in the warehouse space made a deep impression on me. Another image that made a distinct impression on me was William Eggleston’s untitled image known as “The Red Room.” The red was so intense, and I understood something new about color I could not yet explain.
Just seeing photography marketed so broadly helped me realize how large of an audience I could hope to try to reach, and it showed me the depth of the voice I could have as a photographer. Social issues could be addressed in innovative and interesting ways, the limits of taste and accepted expression could be pushed and ignored.
Thinking back on this makes me excited to experience the biennial again next year. The subsequent years haven't had the same impact on me as the first time, but I'm hoping that's also a sign of growth on my behalf. Regardless, I always hope to be pleasantly surprised.
On a side note: I noticed how much I wish I had taken notes and maybe wish I had taken iPhone photos of this experience. I'll have to keep that in mind for the future. Even the 2010 Fotofest website doesn't really seem to offer as much detail as I would like.