Photography has every right and every merit to claim our attention as the art of our age
Alexander Rodchenko, Russian artist and photographer
I wanted to write about the LIGHT gallery in NYC in the 1970s because it reminds me a little about what PhotoNexus is all about — a place where people meet, discuss and share ideas about photography. PhotoNexus 2020 will go live in the next few weeks. This is based on the Center For Creative Photography recent symposium about the LIGHT gallery
Legacies of LIGHT, a pioneering New York City Gallery: Imagine in the 1970s a new gallery devoted to photography opening in the heart of New York City’s gallery district. They call The New York Times to get listed in the arts section and are told photography is not art. Few commercial galleries included photography.
At that time, Fern and Tennyson Schad had a vision to make photography an accessible and collectable art through a gallery devoted to photographers and their photographs. Photographers would be at the center of all they did. They lured Harold Jones away from the Eastman Kodak House to build the gallery — which was premised on modern photographers, monthly exhibits of new work that was matted, framed in standard silver aluminum frames, and hung beautifully in the gallery. Exhibit openings became parties and part of the evolving New York Art scene. It was a place where both staff and visitors learned about photography from the photographers. The gallery was known for the flat file cabinets which made the gallery inventory accessible for visitors to peruse.
LIGHT became more than a gallery. It became the epicenter for the photography community. It was a place where people could meet, discuss ideas and feel a sense of camaraderie. Its impact touched artists, institutions, curators, writers and critics and existing and future photography galleries, such as Peter MacGill, Robert Mann, Laurence Miller and Rick Wester.
The early Market: LIGHT was also at the center of building the market to make photographs collectible. Staff often filled boxes with photographs and went across the country to meet museum directors and private collectors – encouraging them to buy prints or complete portfolios from the photographers LIGHT represented. When LIGHT opened, Harry Callahan’s pictures were sold for $75.00 – $150.00. In the late 1970s his photographs started selling for $750, following his exhibit at MOMA. “Young people started buying photographs” – 10 photos at $300.00 paid off monthly through LIGHT’s installment program (see the 1:56 minute point of this video). Today, in one gallery Callahan’s work starts at $15,000.00. At auction he has commanded $25,000,00.
For more context, you can check out this video from the live stream of The “Legacies of LIGHT” symposium at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona which I was thrilled to attend earlier this month. More videos here)
Image of Light Gallery via Charles H. Traub
Explore Photography at PhotoNexus 2020
One of the reasons I was excited to attend the LIGHT symposium at the Center For Creative Photography at the University of Arizona was because in its own very small way, PhotoNexus is a little bit like LIGHT, without the gallery component. PhotoNexus brings together people interested in exploring the art of photography and those who want to buy photographs with the people behind the art — including curators, educators, galleries and photographers. It is an opportunity for photography enthusiasts to learn and share about photography while taking advantage of the small group setting to gain insights and personal perspectives from the people behind the art.
PhotoNexus 2020 will include several new components including:
Collecting American Snapshots: It is all about the Image an evening with a well known collector discussing his collection and what makes for powerful photographs. His collection has been part of exhibits at the National Gallery and other galleries across the country;
Ansel Adams and Advocacy for American Photography a lecture from a person who worked with Ansel Adams and is a prominent consultant in the marketplace today. This session will look at the impact of Ansel Adams on the growth of the fine photographic print market and its evolution to new buyers and new paths to purchasing collectible art;
Photo Books a visit and discussion with the pioneering book store in this field
PhotoNexus also includes salon-like discussions and experiences, such as: a photo walk with photographers to gain insight into what they are shooting; gallery and studio visits with discussions about how they choose to mount shows and work with photographers; a photographers panel; a look at trends in photography; and, a panel about the photographic print.
PhotoNexus 2020: The Art of Photography
Behind the camera. Behind the print. Behind the art.
Save the dates and plan to join us in Santa Fe, NM, July 23-25, 2020.
You can see last years program online. The PhotoNexus 2020 webpage will replace the current page in the next few weeks.