Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012: The End of the Universe

With the election now just twenty-four hours behind us, a cursory glance at Facebook, Twitter, or national news outlets reveals one thing: because of what happened last night, we are edging closer to the end of the universe.

It's not America that's dying. It's not the destruction of Liberty. The election didn't usher in a dark day for the country; within the next four years, the universe—everything as we know it, as well as everything we don't know and cannot possibly comprehend—will cease to exist.

Before November 8th, 2016, everything will go away. And we won't even know that it's happened. The universe will disappear, and it will take Democrats and Republicans, pundits and laypeople with it. Maybe it will all be one big implosion. Or maybe a fire will ignite from somewhere light years away and blow everything apart.

Whatever it is, by the time we hit November in four years, nothing will be here. And it's apparently all our fault.


Monday, November 5, 2012

SPE Northwest - Eugene, OR

For me, November means dropping everything for a weekend and heading to the Northwest Region of the Society for Photographic Education's annual conference. The various regions in the country hold annual conferences for artists, theorists, educators, and students to present their work and ideas, and there are opportunities to have portfolios reviewed, rub shoulders with the heavy hitters in photography, that sort of thing.

This year, the University of Oregon hosted the conference down in Eugene. Though the trip was a long one, it was well worth it. I presented the images and theories behind the UFCK photo project—which, after discussions with and encouragement from colleagues, I've decided to press on and continue—and the work was met with many positive questions and responses. It was a good feeling, especially in the face of the head cold I was getting over. 

This year's lineup of presenters and panels was the most solid since I started attending SPENW when I moved to Oregon in 2009. Amjad Faur addressed the current state of contemporary Arab photography, and Justyna Badach showcased her Bachelor Portraits series—and what stood out most to me was her process similar to the way in which I worked for the UFCK photos. Ted Hiebert spoke about the psychic photography of Ted Serios, and Hiebert works with his beginning photography students in psychic experimentation in order to address the tension between information and imagination within the medium. 

Southern Oregon University's Erik Palmer (follow him on Twitter! He commands it!) concentrated an entire talk on social networking and social media, and how these new avenues of connecting allow a photographer to reach a large audience much more easily in the past. He stressed that this is an important paradigm shift in how we teach students, and he also might have mentioned that everything we're doing now is probably not ideal, and we should completely overhaul how we teach photography curriculum. 

Mary Goodwin's presentation about Minor White was hilarious, frightening, and uplifting. If I could get just one student to stare at a photograph for a half hour before responding to it, it'd be an accomplishment no matter what the student said. And that's without incorporating anything having to to with Zen Buddhism. 

Other exceptional presentations included, but certainly weren't limited to: Lucas Foglia, "plain communities," and the "Frontcountry"; Allie Mount and her long-distance collaboration with Irish photographer Gary O'Neill; Christine Garceau and the Kodak Girl; and U of O grad student Ian Clark, who showcased five short films from up-and-coming filmmakers. The whole thing was capped by a quirky and moving presentation by Honored Educator Dan Powell, who overwhelmed me with his poignancy and poetic explanations of his photography and the slippage therein. 

The U of O campus was really a sight to see, even in the light rain that fell almost the entire trip. Eugene is kind of a strange little town—as little as a city of 150,000 can be, I suppose—but full of fantastic food and drink. The conference was held together by its volunteers, its presenters, and the U of O itself. Here's hoping that future conferences are as put-together as this one was, because it was certainly a great experience. 

Now go and vote or something, nerds.