The Laura Pressley Mixtape
I’m so thrilled to share today’s Mixtape celebrating CENTER’s Executive Director, Laura Pressley. Laura holds a special place in my photographic heart and is a long time friend who for nearly a decade has truly made an impact on my life and career, and for a longer span, impacted the careers of hundreds of photographers around the globe. I had the good fortune to meet Laura when I first attended Review Santa Fe and work with her in Los Angeles when Review LA was a regular event. I have been able to witness first hand, from both sides of the reviewing table, Laura and CENTER’s commitment to creating opportunities for photographers through annual prizes, through the prestigious Review Santa Fe, and through numerous programs that nurture, champion, and celebrate photography and photographers. Over the years I have observed Laura’s continuing desire to take CENTER’s programming to new levels and significantly help photographers move their careers forward.
Founded in 1994, CENTER is not-for-profit public service organization that honors, supports, and provides opportunities to gifted and committed photographers. It is the aim of CENTER to help photographers identify their creative goals and accomplish them through feedback, support and opportunities. The annual programs include the Project Competition, the Choice Awards, Santa Fe Prize, Excellence in Teaching Award, Review LA, Review Santa Fe, Portfolio Bootcamp and the CENTER website. Public exhibitions, educational presentations and expositions of the work are held in conjunction with the Awards and Portfolio Reviews. Beyond the programming, their website is also rich with resources.
It gives me great pleasure to present The Laura Pressley Mixtape!
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography.
I believe it started with a subscription of National Geographic where, as a middle-America suburban girl, I learned to love looking at pictures of windows into other cultures. I took photography class in high school and I fell in love with the magic of the darkroom and the creative process. At the time I was also excited by ceramics and metalworks, jewelry. So the ability to create with fire, water, chemistry, and the alchemy of those processes was seductive.
I went to Columbia in Chicago and then transferred to the College of Santa Fe to be at a small arts based school in the West, where I received my BFA. I wanted to be part of the rich tradition of excellence in photography in NM. Although my focus was photography BFA students were trained in painting, sculpture, everything. After college I moved to San Francisco where something important happened, I worked with the Richmond Art Center Artists-in-Schools programs. I witnessed the transformative effects of art on kids, on schools, on communities and that I felt a great deal of fulfillment and connections working in the public service sector. Since then I have sought out and participate in Arts Centers everywhere I lived and will continue to do so probably for the rest of my life.
What is your title and job description and tell us about a typical day?
(Executive Director, implements the mission of the organization with a programmatic strategy that ensures sustainability.) I try to imagine what the community looks like when the mission is implemented and through ongoing conversations with our target audience I start putting the pieces of the puzzle in place to make that image a reality. It requires constant strategizing about how best to use our resources and requires ongoing creative resourcefulness as we must work within the parameters of available funding.
What that means is that we can’t be all things to all people, and despite a move toward regionalism, it doesn’t make sense for us to duplicate efforts and programs that already exist out there, so we focus our resources on what is needed, what our target audience wants, and use our mission (honoring, supporting and providing opportunities for gifted and committed photographers) as a the North Star to guide us.
A recent day starts out with me negotiating with myself about the caloric ramifications of the various cookies while reading my few dozen emails in my box. I spend a few minutes on Facebook and try to hop off before it takes too much out of me. Then I put on my many hats – Executive, Marketing, Development, and Operations Director to accomplish the following:
• Researching who is using photography in interesting ways for potential reviewers
• Grant writing/reporting
• Cultivating next year’s program collaborators
• 20th Anniversary Campaign planning
• Fine tuning our custom database
• Budget updates and Board reports
• Concepting and design of marketing piece
What are some of your proudest achievements?
– Increasing our grant income 150%, greatly expanding our scholarship funding making programs more accessible.
– Creating a sound infrastructure because having productive and positive working relationship with the board and staff makes all the difference in the world.
– One of our photographer’s was on broadcast network television, Billy Hunt on the Today Show last year, as a direct result of Review Santa Fe.
– Launching a residency program, CENTER Artists Labs, dedicated to experimenting with new ways to engage audiences
– Last but not least, our alumni list are some of the best working today. Many of them Review Santa Fe launched their careers, including Alec Soth, Julie Blackmon, more recently Tamas Dezso and Cristina de Middel and the list is dozens and dozens of people. CENTER is truly a place where opportunity and preparation meet. I’m proud of that.
What should you look for when attending a portfolio review?
A sense of community, interaction, a mood or a certain state of mind. Is it inclusive, are there strong lines between the reviewers and photographers? Is there anything new happening with the programming? Are the reviewers invested? Ultimately, I’m looking for insights, either coming from photographers works, seminars, or directors.
When I have the opportunity to review, I like to see a strong artists hand in the creation of images. I also appreciate projects that include a multi-sensorial experience as part of the presentation of the work. I want to hear about artist produced platforms and forums for the interaction with the artist concepts. I’m really excited by artists who create the work and new spaces to experience the work.
More than anything, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have an authentic conversation with an artist or reviewer deeply committed to an idea or mission.
Any advice for photographers coming to a review event?
Know what work has preceded you. Show the edgy work. Get others to edit the work. You will be judged by your weakest image, not your strongest. Be very aware of your bedside manner. Stable, consistent positive attitude and ease of working with others is equally important as the work.
Share your work with the other photographers and ask to see their work. Your colleagues may be aware of opportunities that could also be relevant for you. Go in with the mindset that this is not a competition, everyone benefits from the strong healthy community.
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
My personal photographic projects have led me to meet with some of the world’s most powerful, prominent, and published witches.
And since it’s a Mixtape, what is your favorite song, band, and do you dance?
If you had to pin me down to one song it would be Bolero by Maurice Ravel as it permeated my mind as a child and continued to punctuate my life at meaningful moments.
I am drawn to music that has an element of chaos magic to it, so jazz, currently 30s and 40s. I started going to clubs when I was 16 (Meduas, Berlin, Metro) was first awakened by industrial music at that time, danced like crazy, still love to bust out KMFDM, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Lords of Acid, Krafrtwerk, and Trent Reznor can do no wrong to this day. I participated in the early rave scene, appreciate house music and the evolution of it and like a lot of white girls of a certain age, I love Mos Def. And being a Chicago girl, the blues that makes me feel most at home.
On a more formal level, I have been trained as a flamenco dancer. Alé!
And now, because this is a Mixtape, I turn the turntables over to Laura….
This year, CENTER is celebrating its 20th Anniversary and we are charged to do even more for photographers to honor this special moment in our history. We are currently working on enhancing our flagship event, Review Santa Fe – the juried portfolio review – by working with several event partners including a new media festival Currents, as well as the Santa Fe University of Art & Design, the Center for Contemporary Art, there will also be ongoing presentations, a gallery tour and more. Each year there is a underlying theme to Review Santa Fe and this year will be infused with presentations and ideas surrounding Creating your own Platforms.
I am also working on expanding our programmatic strategy to provide more opportunities for mid-career practitioners representing the photographic vanguard. We will be unveiling the Santa Fe Fellows(hip) in 2014, and we are planning on the second year of the artist residency program, CENTER Artist Labs which was highly productive platform for experimenting with new ways of engaging audiences. We are working on going further with this idea, creating additional outreach programs that invite viewers to have a deeper engagement through community based arts projects and other outreach efforts. For those of you who are interested, the Santa Fe Fellows as well as future Artist Labs Residents will be chosen from the Review Santa Fe alumni.
If your readers are interested, there are the two opportunities to get involved in our professional development programs. Right now we have the annual Call for Entries open CENTER prides itself in our pioneering support for photographic projects; awards that have exposed under-recognized talent; and our reviewers mutual investment in the portfolio review process. We require jurors to write statements and shed light on their choices. Most distinctively, we track how far one advances through our judging system to offer feedback to the applicants to the satisfaction of many of our applicants. Entering the Call for Entries is worth it because of the process, the exposure to top-notch jurors AND because your work is entered into the database that may later lead to additional opportunities. One such instance, an applicant didn’t place among the winners but was invited to be part of an exhibition at the Tate.
The deadlines are:
January 22, 2014: Review Santa Fe & Project Launch
March 12, 2014: The choice Awards & Project Development
Please feel free to call us and ask questions at 1-844-CENTER-1 during regular business hours Tuesday-Friday. All questions are welcome, including:
• The submission process
• Artist Statements
• Why you should participate in Review Santa Fe
• Existential questions
Call and we will answer your questions as best we can or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help.
Best wishes to you and your creative endeavors in 2014, we hope to see your work!
I’d like to finish my Mixtape by celebrating twelve Prize Winners….
Thank you Laura, for all you do for photography!
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