Fine Art Photography Daily

Click Photo Festival in North Carolina


Bryce Lankard shows off the fancy Click! event banner. photo by Lori Vrba.

I recently received an invitation to attend the Click Photo Festival in Durham, North Carolina to review portfolios. Without hesitation, I said yes to the opportunity, not only to soak in Southern hospitality and see wonderful friends (can’t wait, Alexa Dilworth!), but to experience this multi-faceted platform to celebrate all things photography. The organizers state: “The CLICK! Photography Festival celebrates the medium of photography and its cultural influence by engaging the (North Carolina) Triangle community with exceptional photo-based works and artists. The month-long festival in October brings together exhibitions and programming while fostering dialogue between photographers and community members, all in hopes of inspiring artistic excellence, supporting professional development and promoting community engagement.”

Tomorrow, at 10AM, EST, the Click Portfolio Reviews open for registration, and since there are ONLY 20 slots, don’t wait! This time, they are being done a little differently, with 30 minute times slots. Check it out here.

An interview with one of the organizers, Lori Vrba, follows.

Click! 2016 Wrap from Lori Vrba on Vimeo.

I’m so excited to be reviewing at the Click Photo Festival in North Carolina in October. I hate to admit it, but Click wasn’t on my radar until now. How, when and why did it get started?

We are thrilled and honored to have you Aline!

This is actually our sixth festival but last year we blew it up and out and we couldn’t be happier about the attention. We cover a lot of territory with venues throughout Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. And the idea of October=Photography is catching on with events now being planned all over the state.

Our core committee, Team Click! is a small but mighty group of five. Bryce Lankard is our newly appointed Executive Director. Frank Konhaus -Assistant Pot Stirrer. Ray Pfeiffer-Chief Raconteur. Stephen J. Fletcher -Left Fielder. And me (Lori Vrba) -Fire Eater, I’m privileged to work with these guys.

Our events are free so our sponsors are the only reason we can produce a festival. 21c Museum Hotel in Durham is our Presenting Sponsor. VAE -Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh is our Fiscal Sponsor. And we wouldn’t be alive without the donations large and small from corporations, institutions, universities, local mom & pop shops and kind-hearted individuals. We have morphed significantly since the first festival in 2012. We weren’t even called Click! in the early days but the mission has always been pretty much the same… We strive to celebrate the medium of photography by engaging our community with exceptional photo-based works and artists. The month-long festival in October brings together exhibitions and programming in hopes of inspiring artistic excellence, supporting professional development and promoting community engagement.


Jerry Uelsmann slays the audience at his 2016 Keynote address at the Nasher Museum at Duke University. photo by Barbara Tyroler.


The audience for the2016 David Hilliard artist’s talk at Cassilhaus. photo by Zanele Muholi.

Is there a significant photography community in the Raleigh/Durham area?

This community is rich with artists of every medium. And we are extremely fortunate to have the world renowned Center for Documentary Studies in Durham (with the very fine Alexa Dilworth reviewing this year -she is as good as it gets). Another gem is Cassilhaus, the baby of Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus. They are serious collectors and true patrons with an artist-in-residency program that gives back to our entire region. I moved to Chapel Hill 10 years ago and met them shortly thereafter. As a self-taught artist, their generosity and love for photography has been a tremendous part of my photographic education.


Roger May, Bryce Lankard and Lori Vrba with Susan Worsham and Keliy Anderson Staley at their 2016 exhibition “Relative Distance” at KONTEK Systems. photo by Frank Konhaus.

As someone who maintains a very active practice as an amazing photographic artist, what propelled you to take on something of this scope?

There are a couple of reasons. I love living here. This place has absolutely shaped my creative sensibilities and I am profoundly grateful. But I have felt that culturally, the photographic community here has had a fairly insular mindset. And one of the greatest things about our medium is how connected we are all over the world. I wanted to foster that connection in my own town, my own region; invite the cool kids over to our playground and throw a photo party. I hope this expands the collective mindset. Also, I have spent the last ten years taking a great deal of support, inspiration, knowledge and fellowship from the festivals, reviews, workshops and retreats that I’ve attended. I wouldn’t have stayed alive as an artist without the hard work of others. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be one who facilitates that for others. This is my second year to work for Click! and let me tell you…it feels good.


Lori Vrba’s “Midnight Sun” at Through this Lens Gallery. photo by Bryce Lankard.


Jerry Uelsmann visits the nest at Lori Vrba’s home studio in 2016. photo by Bryce Lankard

Tell us about some of the events at the festival…

October=Photography. The festival is for the month with events throughout the triangle. But this year we are stoked to launch the “Fest within a Fest” Click120 – 120 hours of programming Oct. 4th-8th! We have a crazy art bus tour for the 120 pass holders with programming ON the bus!

We have three keynote superstars this year. The Reigning Queen –Anne Wilkes Tucker and rumor has it that this will be her last public lecture because she’s so busy with projects in retirement. We have The Force of Nature –Louie Palu who will also be doing workshops and an exhibition in a forest. (Yes, you read that right) And The Can’t Get Any Hotter –Matthew Brandt! Pretty sexy lineup right?


2017 Keynote speaker Anne Wilkes-Tucker. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

We are kicking off Click Academy this year and we have Mary Virginia Swanson to thank for that. She’s been a tremendous support in building this idea where we’ve partnered with universities throughout the state and will offer MVS seminars and one-on-one sessions for students from near and far.


Dennis Kiel, Maggie Triplette, Bill Schwab, Mary Virginia Swanson, Rick Wester and moderator Lori Vrba during the 2016 Best Practices panel “Is the Gallery Model Broken?” photo by Bryce Lankard.

OMG. THE FENCE! We have THE FENCE in Durham with a variety of events to celebrate! This is a major score for our festival and we can’t wait. Congratulations by the way! I’m proud to be hanging with you woman!

We’re sliding into home on October 27th when the big ass 20 x 24 Polaroid camera rolls into town. We’ll have it for three days in Raleigh where, if you are so inclined, you can relax with your perfect martini in the Polaroid Lounge while you await your shooting session. I’m as excited about the crazy lounge, as I am for the camera.

There will be exhibitions, pop-ups, artist talks, film screenings, projection events, book signings and pig pickins’. And a traveling art truck with the PIC-Grant recipient Leah Sobsey in the driver’s seat making on-site wet plate portraits.


Susan Worsham and Keliy Anderson Staley at Lori Vrba’s “Midnight Sun” show at Through this Lens Gallery. photo by Lori Vrba.


Georges Rousse works on his 2016 photo-installation at The Fruit.


Shiela Pree Bright with the Zanele Muholi crew at Bright’s 2016 pop up show.


Pop up installation of Cassilhaus Artist-In-Residence Zanele Muholi at the Fruit. photo by Stephen Fletcher.


Volunteers Tim Walters and Frank Konhaus install the Zanele Muholi pop up exhibition at the Fruit. photo by Bryce Lankard.

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Diane Davis and Lori Vrba taking in the “Blue Room” Georges Rousse installation. photo by Bryce Lankard.


Click! presents the North American debut of the film “Kouldelka in the Holy Land” at the historic Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, NC. photo by Bryce Lankard.

What can photographers expect coming to the portfolio reviews?

I am particularly invested in the portfolio review and I’ve worked hard to build a world-class reviewer panel. And I think we’ve got one. We’ve tweaked the traditional review model for the better and I hope everyone agrees. 21c Ballroom. One day. 12 Reviewers. 20 Reviewees. 30 minute sessions with a 5 minute break between every session. We’re bringing in a massage therapist for the holding pen. (Last year we brought in warm cookies and cold milk when our 20 art warriors looked a little bleary.) And the portfolio walk will take place in the atrium of the Nasher Museum just prior to Anne Wilkes Tucker’s lecture. Killer. Registration opens tomorrow August 1st at 10a.m. EST and it’s first come, first serve. Check it out here!


Gatekeepers Stephen Fletcher, Bryce Lankard and the 21c Penguin at the 2016 portfolio reviews in the 21c Ballroom. photo by Lori Vrba.


Roylee Duvall of Through this Lens Gallery reviews Susan Keiser during the 2016 portfolio reviews at 21c Museum Hotel. photo by Bryce Lankard


Ray Pfeiffer and reviewer Bill Schwab of Northlight Press get their heads together over work during the 2016 Reviews at 21c Museum Hotel. photo by Bryce Lankard.


Sara Silks, Anne Berry, Jane Wiley, Tama Hochbaum, and Lori Vrba share work in the holding pen between reviews at 21c Museum Hotel. photo by Bryce Lankard.


Dennis Kiel, curator at the Dishman Museum of Lamar University gives sage advice to Yousuf Zafar during the 2016 portfolio reviews. photo by Bryce Lankard.


Tama Hochbaum shares work with Alicia Lange, director of Spectre Arts Gallery during the 2016 portfolio reviews at 21c Museum Hotel. photo by Bryce Lankard.


Artist Karen Healy gets feedback from the 21c penguin in the holding pen at the portfolio reviews. photo by Bryce Lankard.

What is unique about your festival?

I’m going to speak from my gut and say…We are. This little group of five. We are working so hard and so well together. And we know we are doing important work for our community and our medium. So we’re going full tilt with no reservations and chasing every idea to fruition. I think our synergy and trust for each other translates into a festival that is loaded with intention, surprise, enthusiasm, excellence and hope. That is my warm and fuzzy truth. And let me say this clearly…I wouldn’t be a part of this team if not for Bryce Lankard. He asked until I said yes. I owe him, my teammates, and the festival my best. Let’s roll.


The Click! core team: Stephen Fletcher, Lori Vrba, Ray Pfeiffer, Bryce Lankard and Frank Konhaus at David Hilliard reception at Cassilhaus. photo by David Hilliard.

Lori Vrba’s bio: i’m a daddy’s girl.  i am ridiculously sentimental about snow.  i cry every day, not because i am sad but because i am moved.  i dance well.  i dance often.  i play guitar often, but not well.  i collect sea glass, curious objects, fine photographs and brave people.  i am a good mother.  i am a good friend.  i will be making art until my very last day which i hope is about 50 years from now where they’ll find me at the ocean with a pocket full of seaglass, my last roll of film and a look of contentment.

i was raised in a small, back-woods southeast texas town.  i did not grow up with an exposure to art.  i did not have an uncle with a darkroom.  i didn’t really hold a camera until i was a grown woman.  i am a self-taught artist committed to film and the traditional wet darkroom.  i work intuitively in every creative element of my medium with an acute awareness of what and who has come before me.  my life experiences have brought me to this place where i find myself overwhelmed with the drive to make photographs about who i am…what moves me, what i feel inside, what i believe to be sacred and enduring.  i make pictures to challenge, calm, excite and satisfy my mind and heart.  i share my work in hopes of leaving some permanent, telling mark on the world…that i was here.

“lori vrba’s imagery is rooted in themes of memory, illusion, loss and revival.  her assemblage works combine found objects with original photographs that speak to the southern sensibilities of storytelling.  her solo shows have been met nationally and internationally with great acclaim.  her work is held in permanent as well as private collections through out the world.   she is the co-founder of pigs fly retreats.  vrba is curator for the 2018 fox talbot museum  exhibition “tribe”.  her first monograph published by daylight was named one of the top ten photo books of 2015 by american photo magazine.

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