Jon Feinstein: The States Project: Washington
Jon Feinstein has been a prominent figure in the photography community for well over the last ten years. Co-founder of Humble Arts Foundation, independent curator, and an artist himself, Jon continues to be a strong voice when it comes to sharing and supporting contemporary art. Actually, it was HAFNY’s second book—and required textbook for my Junior year in undergrad—The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography: v. 2 that introduced me to photography within a contemporary art sphere. It is exciting to have Jon’s aforementioned perspective with us this week as he takes over for the The States Project. But before he shares an enlightening line up of Washington-based image makers, Jon and I talk about his curatorial projects and the many other masks he wears.
Jon Feinstein is a curator, photographer, the Co-Founder of Humble Arts Foundation, and Senior Partnerships Manager at Shutterstock. Jon has curated numerous exhibitions, most recently including Another New York, a collaboration with Mickalene Thomas for Art-Bridge at Barclay’s Arena; Aneta Bartos’ “Boys” at the Carlton Arms Hotel; and “31 Women in Art Photography” at Hasted Kraetleur.
His curatorial projects have been covered in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Hyperallergic, Dossier Journal, The New York Observer, Daily Candy, PDN, The Daily Beast, Modern Painters, and Time Magazine.
Jon is highly active in the photographic community and regularly contributes to Whitewall, Good Magazine and numerous blogs, while actively jurying for a range of photography exhibitions including the New York Photo Awards, Photolucida’s Critical Mass, Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Festival, The Lucie Awards, and Sony’s World Photography Awards.
His own photography has been widely exhibited and has been published in Slate, Huffington Post, Gizmodo, FoxNews.com, Bon Appetit, Mashable, Peta Pixel, Design Taxi, Vice, Flakphoto, Beautiful Decay, Capricious, booooooom.com and Good Magazine.
Since moving to Seattle, he has become active with Photographic Center Northwest, both as a teacher and residency organizer.
Paint a picture of the photo scene in Washington. What is like to be a photographer there?
I’m still figuring that out. In general, as you might expect, it’s a bit of a “small pond” compared to NYC. NYC was always incredibly supportive, but I feel like it was a lot more competitive, at least when I was there, than Seattle is. I see a lot of overlap in genres and galleries working with photography – less of a “photo ghetto” than I’ve seen elsewhere. Photographic Center Northwest is one of the main hubs for photography – their Executive Director is Michelle Dunn Marsh, who also runs Minor Matters Books, and I’d met years ago in NYC though her work with Aperture. G. Gibson, Greg Kucera, Platform Gallery (which recently moved from a brick and mortar space to an online project), Glassbox Gallery, Foster and White, Soil, James Harris and Mariane Ibraham are some of my favorites. 4-Culture has an amazing grant/ residency program that has featured some solid photography as well. There’s also an amazing roving project called Vignettes, run by Sierra Stinson and Serrah Russell – they show a range of media, but have a great eye for photography.
How long have you lived in the state, and has living there effected-inspired-transformed your work?
I moved to Seattle in 2013. My own photography has taken a bit of a back seat over the past few years as I’ve been focusing on working with other photographers, and I’ve gotten involved with a few local collaborative projects. Last year I co-led Photographic Center Northwest’s first experimental residency called “RIFFS” which paired artists with a range of disciplines and culminated in a collaborative exhibition. I also joined PCNW faculty this past fall when I taught Visual Literacy, and will be teaching Senior Seminar there this spring. Aside from a few workshops/lectures I hadn’t taught in this capacity before moving to Seattle — it’s been inspiring and eye-opening.
I love it when two blogs collide! Thank you for bringing your energy to us for the week. Humble Arts Foundation has been around for 10+ years now. How did it all begin, and what would you say the focus of the blog is now?
Me too. I’ve been a fan of Lenscratch for years. Aline was actually included in some of our early online shows and a collaboration we did with Slideluck in 2006. We started Humble a few months prior when Amani and I were working together at Shutterstock (where I still work). Shutterstock’s CEO Jon Oringer introduced us because of our shared interest in “art photography.” Back then there were few online projects focusing on photography – our goal was to create an environment where unknown photographers could show on a level platform with “famous photographers” like Alec Soth and Todd Hido. Over the years, our projects have taken various forms – from big box gallery exhibitions at NYC’s Hasted Kraeutler, to collaborations with auctions like Phillips de Pury, to a book project called the Collector’s Guide To New Art Photography, to a twice annual grant project (now on hold for the time being). Today, the blog focuses on stories and interviews with individual photographers, with occasional larger features related to trends or dialogue in the larger photographic community. We’ve also begun working with Roula Seikaly, an amazing writer who did a stellar interview with Charlotte Cotton, and has written exploratory pieces on MFA programs, among other great work. We keep the blog to one or two pieces a week to give each a longer shelf life. A couple years ago we also launched Instagram residencies and Instagram-Only group shows.
Can you talk about your most recent curatorial projects?
I continue to lead Humble’s online exhibitions — we’re working on our next show/ open call right now called “Alternative Facts” – looking at work that signals the historical question of truth in photography and its relationship to contemporary politics/ culture. My latest gallery show, Future Isms just opened at Seattle’s Glassbox Gallery. It’s a pared down version of Humble’s last online exhibition, with a few Seattle artists added to the mix. All photography based work that looks at the uncertainty of the future, curated through a lens of the 2016 US presidential election. While both of these shows have charged political undercurrents, I prefer to keep things a bit ambiguous to avoid a heavy handed approach. Also, we’re very excited to be collaborating with Jennifer Schwartz at YOFFY Press. Jennifer reached out to Amani and I a few months ago about publishing a book of our 2014 online exhibition New Cats in Art Photography, and we’re moving forward! Stay tuned!
Editor, reviewer, curator—how do you balance these titles and jobs with your personal practice?
While I have a few of my own photographic projects in early stages, I’ve come to think of my curating, writing, etc as being the heart of my personal practice. I should also note that the majority of my time is spent at Shutterstock, my full time job, where I manage relationships with amazing organizations like TED, CreativeMornings, Art Directors Club and D&AD, to name a few. I’ve been with the company for years and continued working with them when I moved to Seattle. I work East Coast hours, which gives me much of the afternoon to work on Humble and other curatorial work.
Are you currently working on any Washington related projects?
I have a top secret photo series in early stages. I will leave it at that!
Finally, describe your perfect day.
Hiking w/ my wife at Mt. St. Helens. You can see mountains from almost any vantage point in Seattle.
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