Margaret Adams Selects

The premise here is simple: to ask a curator, blogger, editor, photographer or other person involved in contemporary photography to select five portfolios of work that they are currently excited about to recommend to the rest of us, placing emphasis - ideally - on work that hasn't seen heavy rotation online. The portfolios are not presented in any sort of order.

The series comes from a belief that the Internet has a tendency to briefly cohere around certain projects and, longer-term, establish its own canon of photographers, distinct and separate from the gallery and museum canons.

While these dynamics have advantages, they also have the expense of promoting a limited number of projects on a large scale, frequently overshadowing other projects equal in quality. This series, then, seeks in particular to look for great photography that counterbalances heavily distributed projects. It also is part of a general interest I have for this site to go behind the limits of my single vision, personal knowledge and time.

Today's guest is Margaret Adams. Her biography follows the post. For previous posts in this series, please see the site links page.

Nataly Castaño helped organize this post.

Statement from Margaret Adams
I have long thought about my photographic "family tree." How my professors and mentors have led me to become who I am now as a photographer/curator/professor. I learned the most from my professors who were truly working artists. These would include Craig Stevens who taught me about work ethic, passion and how tonality in a print can convey emotion as much as the subject the matter of the print and his wonderful anecdotes relating cooking to photography. Next, Colby Caldwell, who gave me my first teaching position and taught me to trust myself, look to other mediums for inspiration, engage the ideas behind my work in a rigorous manner and the importance of becoming a part of an artist community. I think of Muriel Hasbun and Andy Grundberg who by example showed me the significance of developing a research method for my work. Then there was Christopher James, who believed in me when no one knew who I was and made me his "lab rat" (research assistant) and taught me how to give tough criticism while maintaining compassion. These people gave me access to their process in deeply personal ways as the best mentors do and it is these experiences which inspired my choices for the Selects series.

The photographers who are represented here are professors or former professors of photography who have given back to their medium through endless hours of mentoring young photographers and have still maintained a rich personal practice in the medium of photography. I wanted to take this opportunity to showcase the immense talent of some of the best educators today who are in many ways the unsung heroes of photography whose conceptual and technical "DNA" will (at least in part) inspire the future of the medium.

4086 Electric Road, near Hardee’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chuck E. Cheese, Exxon,
Sportsmans Liquidation, Play It Again Sports, Beauty Bar Nails and Hair, Rancho
, 40 x 32 © Christine Carr

Christine Carr, Assistant Professor of Photography Iowa State University
Statement from the artist
Christine Carr: When I moved to Roanoke, Virginia I first started noticing the smell of cigarette smoke from the cars ahead of me, then I started noticing when cigarette butts were thrown out of cars and finally I realized curbs all over the area have accumulated massive amounts of cigarette debris. For this project I collected the debris from various locations, scanned it in and created large prints. The smaller images are of cars I photographed after witnessing a cigarette being thrown out of the window.

For the opening I created a scavenger hunt and visitors were invited to find items in the images such as a rubber band, a yellow balloon, a toothpaste tube and a tiny snail.

I also included statistics:

- Cigarette filters are not biodegradable. They are made of cellulose acetate (a plastic).
- Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter on earth.
- Toxic chemicals absorbed by the filters are released into water and present a danger to organisms.
- Ingestion by children may cause illness and in small animals may cause death.
- Cigarette-caused fires result in more than 1,000 civilian deaths, 3,000 critical injuries (many among firefighters) and $400 million in direct property damage each year.
- Property values decrease approximately 7% when excessive litter is present in an area.
- Communities that have a high rate of litter suffer from lost tourism revenue, increased costs for ecosystem restoration and the cost of removing litter.
- States, cities, and counties spend $1.3 billion on litter cleanup efforts.
- Businesses spend over $9 billion on litter annually.

Hollins Road and Orange Avenue, 40 x 32 © Christine Carr

Adams: In a departure from her older work Christine Carr takes on the role of artist activist. When revisiting these images I recoiled a bit. These images are hard to look at. I can smell old ashes from the cigarette butts and I want to turn away…but I don't… I become mesmerized by the detail and depth of these weighty images and I become transfixed in an uncomfortable space between fascination and revulsion. It feels like addiction. In that moment I make a silent vow to never again toss a cigarette butt or any other piece of trash on the ground.

From the series "Into the Flatlands and In Cotton" © Kathleen Robbins

From the series "Into the Flatlands and In Cotton" © Kathleen Robbins

Kathleen Robbins, Associate Professor of Photography University of South Carolina

Adams: Kathleen Robbins is a first-rate story teller. When I first saw Kathleen Robbins' work it felt like a gut punch…that was the intensity of visceral depth and profound resonance that I felt. I was instantly propelled into the Mississippi Delta and felt the intangible yet palpable ancestral pull of the land emanating from her photographs. Special note should be taken when viewing her work in book form and reading the titles of her photographs in which she bequeaths little clues that slowly reveal a story of place, family, belonging and the perspective of distance. This work is taken from the bodies of work Into the Flatlands and In Cotton.

Woman Wind Woodard Warehouse, Archival Digital Print and Hand Drawn/Painted Line, 26x13, 2005
From the series "Holding" © Anne Massoni

Girl Bangs Davor Studio, Archival Digital Print and Hand Drawn/Painted Line, 26x13, 2007
From the series "Holding" © Anne Massoni

Anne Massoni, Program Director of Photography at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia

From the series Holding

Adams: I find the use of line intriguing in this work. It is hand drawn on the ink jet print. The line brings into existence a new memory created from two different places in space and time. This act of creation is found through the entire Holding series and makes for a rich viewing experience which invites the viewer to access their own memories and originate their own stories using Massoni's diptychs as catalyst.

New work from the series "gun shy/exit plan" © Colby Caldwell

New work from the series "gun shy/exit plan" © Colby Caldwell

Colby Caldwell, Former Associate Professor at St Mary’s College of Maryland
New work from the "gun shy/exit plan" series

Statement from the artist
While finishing up the final photographs for my "gun shy/exit plan" series over the past year, I began thinking about how the work was engaged by and informed through its connection to the landscape. Much of the work dealt with either the seasonal changes that occurred over the span of five years, or with what transpires upon the landscape via structures and long walks. I came across several abandoned duck blinds scattered around the various areas on the property I inhabit. While photographing them, I noticed - and subsequently gathered - the many spent shotgun shells that signaled its' former (and sometimes current) use. At first, I simply wanted to collect them. I found their various colors, shapes and degrees of decay – curious as objects.

I created a white box hood for a flatbed scanner and lay the actual shell directly on the glass. This gave me a high-resolution image, as well as the subsequent direct effects of the depth of field consequences of a film-based camera. I decided to print them in various sizes, and in doing so, found that the shell inhabited various guises, both anamorphic as well as prescribed. The shells seemed to absorb or reflect meaning depending on its scale, or the juxtaposition of another image hanging next to it. I liked this.

I have spent a great deal of time and thought considering the ideas of nostalgia and memory, and how they are embedded in the practice of photography. This has led me to examine the materiality of the medium. This coincides with what is probably the most significant shift in how photographs are made and shared: digital media. The influx of digital media, and the transfer of information via 1s and 0s, has seriously undermined our understanding of what exactly constitutes the materiality and indeed, the concepts of the photograph.

Is it the tools, the equipment, the paraphernalia such as cameras, film, paper, chemistry, hard drives, monitors, printers, running water and the like, or is it the unique occurrence of time and light in conjunction with the interaction and engagement with a subject? Indeed, are the tools and gadgets the true subject of photography, while what it represents is just residue?

This may seem beside the point, but with the current trend to take all forms of information, whether visual or sound-based, and convert them to 1s and 0s, and push them through the same portal – aka some form of the computer screen - thus rendering everything in the same experiential realm, I feel it is a vital point to carefully consider forms and methods of working.

- Colby Caldwell, winter 2015

Maria nas Pedras, Juazeiro, Pernambuco, 1999 © Susan Sterner

Peregrino, Juazeiro, Pernambuco, 2000 © Susan Sterner

Susan Sterner, Chair and Founder of the New Media Photojournalism (NMPJ) Masters of Arts program at the Corcoran College of Art+Design

Statement from the artist
These images are from a body of work begun in 1998-2000 in the Northeast region of Brazil where together with my husband, photographer Tyrone Turner, I followed threads weaving through questions of community, family and the roles of women. The larger collaborative body of work is part of a forthcoming book: Só uma Vez: Glances from Brasíl.

Adams: Susan Sterner has a unique gift for embedding undercurrents of narrative into her images. I am particularly interested in how Susan references the spirituality and resilience of the culture she follows through the placement of the figure in the landscape.

Margaret Holland Adams is an Assistant Professor of Photography of The Corcoran College of Arts and Design, George Washington University. She is an artist and independent curator whose work cross-pollinates between analog photography and new media. She lives in Baltimore, MD.  She received her BFA in 2001 from The Corcoran College of Art and Design and her MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. She has studied at The Maine Media Workshops and under alternative process masters Jerry Spagnoli, Mark and France Osterman, and Christopher James. Her work is included in both editions of The Book of Alternative Processes by Christopher James. In 2008 she was named “Best Fine Art Photographer” by FotoWeek DC and in 2011 curated Examinations in Light, a large scale new media projection event for PROject/proJECT in Roanoke, Virginia. Margaret was born in Winston-Salem, NC, raised in Statesville, NC and spends her summers photographing on her family farm in Cleveland, NC. She uses an 8x10 view camera, toned silver gelatin prints, appropriation, video and sound to explore portraiture, southern vernacular, family and the legacy of war. Currently she is involved in two projects. She is in the first year of a four year documentary film project entitled Full Cry. This film is an important document of the demise of rural NC due to suburban encroachment. A second installation project involves large scale sculpture comprised of ambrotypes housed in a steel structure This piece incorporates sound and video and addresses the death of her mother and the experience of hospice.