For our upcoming Workshop: Directions in Contemporary Photography, Part I, Erin Fender sat down with instructor Alex Christopher Williams in his studio to discuss the importance of contemporary art, class expectations, and how to keep up with all things photography in the contemporary art world.
What made you want to teach this class?
Well, I think issues in contemporary photography can be sort of an enigma if you aren't paying close enough attention. Artists are moving photography forward in new and challenging ways while curators are continuing to develop new languages and syntaxes for what photography can be. So, when we're discussing issues in contemporary art, and we don't know how to talk about it, that allows for a lot of interpretation on how to approach the subject. And I think that's both positive and negative, because we can get lost in the subjectivity of everything.
So, I want to create a dialogue that will stretch through multiple classes that continues to address: how did we get here, what is going on, and how do we talk about the issues photographers are dealing with today.
What would you like for participants to take away?
I certainly don't want to instill them with my specific philosophy on what photography is but I do intend on challenging their preconceptions on photography, regardless of what they may be. I want them to be able to create their own opinions that they can stand up for on the issues at hand. Whether I agree with their opinions is up for debate. But if they can walk away with a strong opinion about whether there is such a thing as truth in photography or on how our society deals with issues of representation in imagery, that's what this class will be about.
Where are some of your go-to places to see what's happening in contemporary art?
The New York Art Book Fair was this past weekend. It's one of the biggest events that I go to see what's going on in the contemporary photo book world. There's Conscientious Photo Magazine. Jörg Colberg has been running this for many years and is a treasure trove for great book reviews, contemplations on current events and interviews with photographers. Of course, American Suburb X is really good. It’s an archive for interviews of Evans and Winnogrand from the 80's as well as essays, interviews, reviews and other goodies.
Of course you have blogs, like DER GREIF. Also, Oranbeg, Ain't-Bad, and Instagram. Honestly, Instagram has so many great pages that I follow, that I have been trapped by all of the good work being published on there. Shout out to @gemfletcher, @palmstudios, @photographmag, and @thereservoirconversations.
I'll end with this: I would follow curators. I'm interested in following curators who are specifically interested in the style of documentary that I participate in. If you're interested in an artists' work, and you want to make and show work like them, I would go to their website, view their cv, see where they've shown, and follow those curators/galleries and see what they're doing. Do your homework.
Register now for Directions in Contemporary Photography, Part I
Alex Christopher Williams is a photographer currently living in Atlanta, GA whose work deals with themes of masculinity, race/ethnicity, and identity. He received his MFA in Photography from the University of Hartford and his BFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been exhibited at Whitespec Gallery and Kai Lin Gallery in Atlanta, Con Artist Collective in New York, Rue Saint-Trophime in France and C/O Berlin in Germany. He was an editor on the photo desks at CNN and The Daily Beast and was a teaching assistant at International Center of Photography, New York.