Fine Art Photography Daily

2014 in the Rear View Mirror

rearview mirror

Road Trip 2014 ©Aline Smithson

At the end of every year, I like to take a little time to reflect and digest the past twelve months and consider what I have learned, what images I have made, and remember all the people who crossed my path. My apologies in advance for this rambling post!

To say that 2014 was a very good year would be an understatement. In some ways, all the years of putting one foot in front of another, of trying and failing, of small successes and hopes dashed, of just working hard, came to fruition this year. I think it’s important to remember that this is a journey and that some years are fertile and some years are fallow, and to my surprise, this year the soil was rich. There were some wonderful career markers in 2014–getting a call from the Magenta Foundation telling me they would like to publish a book of my work (coming out in 2015), the PDN Photo AnnualCritical Mass Top 50, attending Review Santa Fe, and receiving the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award from CENTER complete with a spectacular dinner in Santa Fe on a snowy night two weeks ago which was an other-wordly and humbling experience.


Santa Fe, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

All fantastic validations that just inspire me to work harder, but truly the best part has been participating in this remarkable community we dwell in, meeting and celebrating inspiring image makers, making new friends and seeing familiar faces. We are so lucky to share a common language no matter where we call home. When Jiehao Su came to visit me in Los Angeles this fall, on a visit from Beijing, I was reminded that what we have in common is that we are all seers and seekers and it truly doesn’t matter if we live 14 hours by plane apart, as we are connected through our desire to tell our stories.

I traveled to a lot of places this year, most trips for photo related events, but many others for sheer pleasure.

Sequoia Mountain 9031

Sequoia Mountain, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

Restaurant Stool

Stool, from Sequoia, 2014 ©Aline Smithson


Coachella sand storm, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

Life Guard Tower 3

Lake Lure, North Carolina, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

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Screen Door, Massachusetts, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

Los Angeles Vista

Los Angeles Hike, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

I went to the South four times–once for a wedding, to the Slow Exposures Festival in Zebulon, Georgia where I met the most fantastic people, all who showed me Southern hospitality on a whole new level (and I was so lucky to be pared with Alexa Dilworth as a juror,) to the Southeast SPE conference spearheaded by the talented Angela Frank Wells and Daniel Kariko, where I came away with new relationships that I know will last a lifetime, and finally to New Orleans for the amazing PhotoNOLA festival where I was a reviewer and had work in two exhibitions. Needless to say, photography is alive and well in the Southern states with so many terrific image makers marking not only their territory, but so many are deeply engaged in historic processes and pushing the boundaries of presenting work.

Georgia Road

Georgia Road, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

I had a wonderful trip to Boston to open the 20th Juried Exhibition at the Griffin Museum, a show that I was lucky enough to juror and was so happy to see the Boston photo community come out in force to celebrate photography. It was great to meet Journalist/Photographer Elin Spring who brings a voice to photography in the Northeast with her blog, What Will We Remember and of course spend time with the remarkable Griffin Museum curator Paula Tognarelli. I had a fascinating day photographing the taxidermy and doll collection at the Boston Children’s Museum and also journeyed up to the Drift Gallery in New Hampshire with photographer friends to meet Ali Goodwin and see the terrific Portrait Exhibition.


Owl, from the Boston Children’s Museum Collection, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

Shirley Temple copy

Shirley Temple, from the Boston Children’s Museum Collection, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

I went to NYC twice. Earlier in the Spring, I flew to New York for my opening at the Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, New York, sharing the event with Meg Birnbaum and meeting wonderful photographers who lived near the area, plus had a hilarious and bizarre airbnb experience. I spent 9 days in the city over Thanksgiving and got to see some terrific shows and visited with a great group of photographers–new friends that I made at Review Santa Fe, old friends, and especially happy to meet in person, Pixy Liao and Hye-Ryoung Min, both who have been Lenscratch Guest Editors.

In the summer I taught in Northern California for the Summer Arts Program at California State Monterrey and got to relive sleeping in a dorm room and eating at the dining hall, but more importantly bonded with fellow educators and a group of terrific students. I taught at the Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon and was welcomed by the generous Portland photo community who knows who to eat, drink, take photographs, and support each other. In the fall, I taught in San Diego in preparation for the Medium Festival of Photography and met a slew of photographers that were ready to take their first step into the portfolio review process.

After 14 years, I still teach at the Los Angeles Center of Photography where I continue to be so impressed with the level of photographic articulation. My students opened two stellar exhibitions this year and needless to say, I was very proud of their efforts.

I attended two portfolio reviews as a photographer–the Palm Springs Photo Festival and Review Santa Fe and it felt great to be back in the photographer’s seat again. In the Fall, I attended two portfolio reviews as a reviewer–the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego and PhotoNOLA in New Orleans, always so wonderful to meet photographers and be inspired by their work.

So after a year of feeling the pulse of photographers all over the country, I have to say we are making work in an interesting time in photography. Historic processes seem to be drawing more and more enthusiasts, with so many photographers dipping their fingers into wet plate collodion, encaustic, and many more. Photographers are building dark rooms again. Art photography is alive and well, where a photograph is more than just what is in the viewfinder, celebrating not only the image but the concept behind the image. iPhone images are finding validity in the market and The Photo Book has become a massively important form of expression, not just a marker of a body of work. I annually attend the LA Art Book Fair and am always blown away and inspired by the creativity of artist’s books and zines, and the celebration of the printed page.

I also feel like the level of support for photography is at an all time high–with so many outlets for exposure, portfolio review opportunities, and ways of garnering attention for one’s work. But it’s important that photographers make intelligent choices about where they place their marketing dollars. Support the institutions and organizations that you believe in and look for jurors that will help move your career forward.

All I can say is get going. The level of photographic expression has reached new heights and the more articulate you are about your work and the more professionally you present that work, the further it will go. My friend Eliot Dudik is a perfect example of living a photographic life, hauling an 8×20 large format camera across the country to make his work, and then presenting that work in beautifully crafted portfolio boxes. For PhotoNOLA he created, hands down, the most spectacular leave-behind I have ever seen. And speaking of Eliot, the exhibition he created, Breaking Ground: Contemporary Photography, to inaugurate the photography department at William and Mary, truly spoke to not only new ways of showing work, but to the incredible support this community shows to one another.


Eliot Dudik’s custom made portfolio box with miniature leave-behind box

Make things happen for yourself.  Don’t wait for someone else to create the magic.  Think outside the box. Mine your life for subject matter.  Reach out to other photographers. Make friends. Compliment their work. Celebrate this community. It’s filled with amazing people. More has come to me from connections to other photographers than from anywhere else.  SuitcaseAs so, as I unpack the 2014  suitcase full of memories filled with good times, good food, adventures, laughter, photographs, the kindness of so so many people, and the overwhelming sense that we are truly a remarkable community, I look forward to 2015 with equal enthusiasm. Thank you for your friendships, for supporting Lenscratch and me.

LA at night

Flying Home, 2014 ©Aline Smithson

I wish you all an amazing year ahead, filled with success and failure, and creating work so riveting that it keeps you awake at night.  Happy, Happy New Year.

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