The Laura Moya Mixtape
I first met the indefatigable Laura Moya almost a decade ago when I first attended Photolucida, one of the best portfolio review events in the world. Like every other photographer in attendance, I was nervous and not on secure footing. As Director of Photolucida, Laura was a shining light of calm and enthusiasm and if I could define her with one word, it would be: Grace. Sophisticated, knowledgable, and very, very capable, Laura (and the Photolucida team) has created programming for photographers that changes lives and launches careers. After numerous experiences attending the Photolucida portfolio reviews, I was asked to attend as a reviewer and that same level of organization, care, and consideration were evident on the other side of the table. It has given me great pleasure to be a juror for Critical Mass over the years, and that experience too, is at the highest levels. I cannot say enough about Photolucida and Laura Moya, as the names are synonymous with all that is good in photography–commitment, future thinking, community, and a level of excellence that is hard to match.
Applications for the Critical Mass competition are underway, with a deadline of July 16th. Photographers are asked to submit ten images and a statement, and if their work makes it into the top 200 portfolios, their work will find their way under the eyes of 200 movers and shakers in the photo world. The amazing Photolucida Portfolio Review will open up for sign-ups in September 2014, and the reviews will take place in April 22-25th, 2015.
I spent my early childhood years as a typical 1970’s latchkey kid in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I would come home from school and watch The Partridge Family, and my early cultural icon was Susan Dey. After Susan Dey, my role model became Amelia Earhart, and in high school, Lee Miller.
Midway through elementary school, my family moved to northern New Mexico – the Santa Fe/Taos area. At that time there was a migration of people wanting to live “alternatively” who moved into old adobe houses in the traditional Hispanic communities. Branded as hippies, these people wanted to try living in an outside-the-mainstream way. Part of this experience as a child was interesting, part of it difficult. As an adult, I acknowledge that my interest in photography projects exploring alternative ways of living has a direct link back to this experience. I admire the idealism of people attempting to re-work the pattern of their daily lives, but I also recognize fallacies in many of the ideologies, and this dichotomy continues to be interesting to me.
As such, I have followed the work of, and either interviewed/ written pieces on the work of Lucas Foglia, Taj Forer, Lisa Law, and Marjolaine Ryley. Photographer Irwin Klein (1933-1974) has a great portfolio of images from the late 60’s – early 70’s called The New Settlers of New Mexico that are a wonderful visual record of this era. I think Klein’s series would make a pretty fabulous book.
I started taking photographs in elementary school, with a Polaroid Color Pack Land Camera. I have photos of my stuffed animals, pets, my brothers riding their Big Wheels in their pajamas, etc. I got the bug early – photography was like magic to me.
This early photography engagement lead to a curatorial project I did with Laura Valenti Jelen called ‘The Early Works Project’. We paired photographs taken by contemporary photographers as children with written narrative by the photographer about the image and how photography captured their imaginations at a young age. The call-for-entries response floored us – so many incredible images and poignant stories. The project (includes Roger Ballen, Corey Arnold, Jesse Burke, Richard S. Chow, Maureen Drennan, Traer Scott…) was exhibited at the New Space Center for Photography, RayKo Photo Center, and the Center for Fine Art Photography. The whole exhibition is online on The Early Works Project website. It was pretty cool to see how the photography community embraced this idea, and the exhibits.
In college (St. Mary’s College of Maryland), I saw Richard Avedon’s series In the American West in all it’s large scale glory at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and that marked some kind of turning point for me. But I can say that being exposed to the work of Sally Mann was what totally threw me into wanting to really commit to photography – her work pulled me into another world that I was utterly fascinated with. I still remember the specific image – The Perfect Tomato – that did it for me. I wanted in.
After college, I studied at the Aegean Center for Fine Arts, on the Greek island of Paros, which was a pivotal artistic experience for me. I travelled around Italy, Greece and Egypt, taking images and building a portfolio with the intent of getting into graduate school.
Professionally, I have existed in the realm of both film and photography, working for Photo-eye in Santa Fe (bookstore and gallery), the Sundance Institute (managing “The House of Docs”, which gave documentary filmmakers a platform during the Sundance Film Festival), the Northwest Film Center (as marketing director), and Sockeye Creative (doing film production work for clients). I have been Director at Photolucida for eight years.
What is your title and job description and tell us about a typical day?
As Director of Photolucida, I am responsible for keeping our non-profit programming sustainable financially and true to our mission statement. Photolucida has a staff of two and a lot of programming to wrangle! And we love it.
On a typical day in the office, Laura Valenti Jelen (Outreach Director) and I work with general administration: budgets, accounting, board communications, grant writing, sponsorship research, social media, blog and website updates. And administration around our programming: researching potential jurors and reviewers, tracking success stories, working with our programmer, event registrations, scholarship administration, travelling exhibition logistics, etc.
We do a lot of book mailings, sending about 1000 books and DVDs out internationally to entrants and jurors that participate in Critical Mass each year. As part of our ‘Photography Resources Program’, we donate Critical Mass books and DVDs to over 200 libraries and photography educators. The people at the post office know us well – they usually put their “out to lunch” sign up when they see us in line.
I truly enjoy project-managing the publishing of our Critical Mass books award titles. Photolucida has published 16 monographs thus far and I have been involved in varying degrees with almost every publication. I assist with the sequencing and design, communication with preface writers and the copy editors, communication with the printing house, proofing adjustments, and the shipping and distribution logistics. It is such a joy on everyone’s part to see the finished product once the process is done!
Registration for Critical Mass 2014 is open until July 16th. Critical Mass boasts a juror list of 200 great photography industry people, which equates great exposure for the entrants. Of course there is a competition element to Critical Mass, but equally important to us is getting the entrants work in front of these 200 people, who can possibly offer opportunities to people.
As such, Photolucida is offering the book award again and we are also very excited about a new Critical Mass award! In collaboration with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, we will award a residency to a photographer from the finalist group. The one-month residency takes place on the Captiva Island (Florida) property where Robert Rauschenberg lived and worked. Ten residencies happen simultaneously, and each resident brings a different artistic focus to the space, and the theory is that creative boundaries will be pushed because of the multi-disciplinary nature of the program. Residents receive a stipend, transportation, meals, housing, and studio space – studios can accommodate both digital and non-digital practice for photographers. We are very psyched to bring this award into our Critical Mass programming!
This year, Rebecca Senf, Curator at the Center for Creative Photography, will curate the Critical Mass 2014 TOP 50 exhibition and it will be a primary exhibit at the GuatePhoto International Photography Festival in Guatemala City in September, 2015. I was fortunate to be invited to visit GuatePhoto in 2012 and was really impressed with the scope and content of the contemporary exhibits, hung in a great variety of venues: galleries with 40 foot high ceilings, underground parking garages, gorgeous historic former tile factories. This year’s venue will be our first outside the United States, and the first during a Festival environment, with a lot of international exposure.
The wonderful Critical Mass 2013 exhibition, curated by Jessica Johnson of the George Eastman House, is currently up until July 6th at the Houston Center for Photography, after starting out at the Cordon/Potts Gallery in San Francisco.
But wait, there’s more!Photolucida’s Portfolio Reviews event happens every other April (next event is April 22-25th, 2015, registration opens in September) as part of Portland Photo Month, and things get crazy busy. We welcome 60 reviewers and 160 photographers to Portland, for four intense days of Portfolio Reviews, informal roving reviews, lunchtime chats, a stellar guest lecturer (past speakers have been Abelardo Morrell, Todd Hido, and Alec Soth), great photography exhibits around Portland, and the Portfolio Walk happens in the grand Sunken Ballroom in the Portland Art Museum. We have our closing party at the beautiful Blue Sky Gallery, where this April, the Critical Mass 2014 solo show award winner will have his/her exhibition up.
What do you look for when attending a portfolio review?
Organization and comparative structure! I love going to the Reviews of other organizations and seeing how they do things. It is such an intense time for everyone involved, and it is always a learning experience for me to be on the other side of things as a reviewer instead of an organizer. European Reviews have a very different feeling than American Reviews events.
As far as reviewing work, it is wonderful to see work that stretches a boundary, either in content or in execution, no matter what the genre. To be genuinely surprised and delighted by a strong project is the best feeling, and truly motivates one to do one’s best to support the photographers work. I love trying to connect the dots in the database of my mind to find relevant pathways for the work.
I am very appreciative of projects that are reflective of a substantial amount of time spent with one’s subject, be it a landscape, a community, a person, or a situation. True time spent and obvious emotional investment usually equates a really strong body of work.
I am a sucker for a nicely produced “leave-behind” as well, I have a drawer specifically for these, and will re-visit it when I see an opportunity that makes sense for the photographer, even if it is a few years after the meeting. It is also wonderful to finally meet face-to-face photographers whose work I have followed for a while, or have seen previously only in an online contextAny advice for photographers coming to a review event?
Photolucida produces a handbook chock full of advice for attending our Reviews – other Reviews may have different perimeters. Just e-mail us and we will send you the PDF!
Aside from the across-the-board logistics of meetings with Reviewers, don’t underestimate time spent with your peers – this is just as valuable. Ask to see work as well as show your work to people – you are building a network that is very valuable, both personally and professionally. A Reviews event is like a camp experience for grownups – have a good attitude, make friends, and connections you make will be worthwhile!
I am occasionally asked to jury competitions or curate exhibitions. Often, content for exhibitions come from people I have met with at Reviews events or through Critical Mass. I have had a long standing interest in Alternative Process Work, and curated two shows at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland (Photo Alchemy: An Exhibition of Alternative Process Photography, and Resurrection: A New Look at Old Photographic Processes). I have been to China twice, once curating a show at the Lishui International Photo Festival (Borderline: Desiree Edkins, Lori Vrba), as well as a curating show for the Xiang Sha Wan Photo Festival in Outer Mongolia (Folk Culture and Non-Material Heritage: Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin, Nancy Newberry, Jane Alden Stevens). I remember camels being involved, and the artist talk was in a yurt that must have been 120 degrees inside.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
I am very proud of a little independent film I did with filmmaker Braden King many years ago, Dutch Harbor – Where the Sea Breaks It’s Back. Dutch Harbor is a little frozen island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands – the epicenter for the crab fishing industry. It was shot in B & W 16mm film with virtually no budget. It ended up showing at over 30 US and European film Festivals, including the Margaret Mead Film Festival, London International Film Festival, Double Take Documentary Film Festival, and the Rotterdam International Film Festival.
It did several tours across Europe with musicians that were on the film’s soundtrack (The Boxhead Ensemble, The Dirty Three, Will Oldham) where the musicians played live to screenings of the film in venues that ranged from little smoky bars to giant three story screens. It eventually got released on DVD and distributed in France. It was truly a great testament to creative collaboration, naiveté, and good luck.But, I am most proud of our 10-year old daughter, Seren. Not that parenthood is an achievement per se, but if one is able to wrangle motherhood gracefully with conscious involvement, it is. Seren is always a great sport about being put into photographic situations on my whim!
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
I can whistle really loudly! The two-finger kind of whistle, most likely developed throughout the years of owning a husky who was always running away from us. I use “the whistle” during the Reviews event – it comes in handy in getting people’s attention.
Here is something quirky, at least for people living in a major metropolitan area: we recently got five chicks, who are now teenage chickens. We had great fun naming them: “Cola”, “Luna”, “Katy Perry”, “Roxy”, and “Vivienne Maier”. I wanted to name one “Lovechild”, but no one else liked that idea.
And since this is a Mixtape, what is your favorite song, band, and do you dance?
I wish I had the focus these days to seek out what is new and interesting in the music world, but I don’t, so I default to old favorites – Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Bob Mould, Nirvana, Beck. Seren and I do have dance parties, listening to the B-52’s (Roam and Loveshack), Dee-Light’s Groove is In the Heart, and Parliament’s Give Up the Funk are favorites! And like millions of other parents, I now have songs from “Frozen” etched into my brain on continuous play – I will listen to anything to edge those out.
Thank you Laura! Because this is a Mixtape, I now put down my headphones and hand the turntables over to you….!
Aline, thank you for unfathomable amount of work you do for the photographic community! And for this opportunity to note some of the photographers I admire, having seen their work recently either at Photolucida’s 2013 Reviews event or in Critical Mass:
Thank You Laura…looking forward to all the upcoming programing and wishing you a wonderful summer!
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