The Society for Photographic Education‘s 47th Annual National Conference in Philadelphia, PA was by far amazing! It was my first time attending the conference and definitely one that was unforgettable. I met lots of interesting people from all over the US, from photo educators, volunteer workers, presenters, students, and local Philadelphians. The conference (thanks to SPE, En Foco and Light Work) provided a variety of events gear toward the issue of diversity in the photography field. And yes they did, the four days I was there was jammed packed with workshops, lectures, panel discussions, portfolio critiques, meetings, and importantly presentations by keynote/featured speakers. From 8am to 10pm everyday we were listening and continuously learning about new material, processes, and emerging artists in photography.
Thursday started with a very informative workshop about copyright, presented by Susan Carr and Richard Kelly, which was generously sponsored by The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). What Every Photographer Should Know About Copyright was a fabulous introduction to the conference, the seminar gave a basic overview of copyright law and how it relates to working visual artists*. I highly recommend every artist to register their images and join ASMP as soon as possible.
After the seminar, I had some time to tour downtown Philly and took full advantage of the locals.
Photo of photographer taking a photo of herself
Around city hall
I walked down Market Street to City Hall and there I met an incredible performer who graciously entertained me with some outrageous skateboarding moves.
After walking around Philly some more I went back to the Marriott for the keynote speaker, Kip Fulbeck. I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Asking, But…presented his images of over 1,200 individuals who fell into this ubiquitous “other” category, and bring these images and personal stories to SPE in this captivating, comedic, and poignant multimedia performance. His talk was extremely compelling and revealing*. He opened with a Pop Quiz, and then showed his awarding winning short films Sex, Love, & Kung Fu and Lilo & Me. He also addressed his book Part Asian, 100% Hapa and his new book Permanence: Tattoo Portraits, you can read more about his work on his website
- Hannah Frieser, director of Light Work and Miriam Romais, Executive Director of En Foco
- Keynote Speaker Kip Fulbeck
Taking photos at Kip Fulbeck lecture
- Adrian, Logan, and Alicia
Friday was the start of the Student Portfolio Reviews. My first reviewer was Sejal Patel, who is an assistant professor of photography at New England Institute of Art in Massachusetts. My second reviewer was Rachelle Mozman who is an internationally exhibited artist and Fulbright Fellowship Award. And finally, my last reviewer was Myra Greene who is an assistant professor of photography at Columbia College in Chicago. All reviewer were tremendously HELPFUL and honest but notably supportive, I definitely recommend all students participate in this event! Not just SPE’s but any portfolio reviews that you can.
- My review time and reviewer, Sejal Patel
- Other students checking for their time and reviewer
After the reviews, I was able to make it to the Southwest Regional meeting and then rushed myself to what was left of a panel discussion comprised of Deborah Willis with Wafaa Bilal, Coco Fusco, Phyllis Galembo, David Graham, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carla Williams: “Unexpected Desire” which looks beyond the obvious in locating beauty and desire. This panel discusses and shows works that refer to their own art practices and critical thinking in experimenting with the notion of desire*.
The last lecture of the day was the most important talk of the night! Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Veronica Passalacqua’s lecture of Visual Sovereignty: International Indigenous Photography, sponsored by Spirit Systems of Photography, discussed historical photographs of Native American and global Indigenous communities have, and in some cases continue, to contribute to the construction of perceived identities and visual stereotypes of native peoples. However, this outsider’s perspective reveals more about the non-native photographers that the subject when compared to the works of Indigenous photographers who are visually documenting their own communities and regions. From as early as 1899, Native American photographers have been working in the medium; commissioned for portraits, documenting events, and recording daily life and community in this early form of sovereignty. Indigenous photographers and their sitters had the agency to choose when, where and the manner in which they wished to be imaged and documented*. Their talks were motivational, and will profoundly influence my work, Ahe’hee.
- Visual Sovereignty – Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Veronica Passalacqua
- ASU photo club listening to Hulleah
- After the talk I decided to leave my business cards out for people to take. Networking is KEY!
Saturday was even busier! I started the day with the Multicultural Causus meeting which was very beneficial. Then I went straight into the following panel discussion given by Jane Noel with Cybele Clark-Mendes and Sonseree Verdise Gibson: “Bend Me, Shape Me: Self Portraiture and Stereotype.” Jane Noel opened the talk with the question do you stereotype? Definitely something everyone in the room was thinking about, this leading into each artist’s topics of prejudices, comments on race, identity and social issues in America.
- Multicultural Caucus
Next, we made it to the Member Meeting/New Members Orientation. We were welcomed by the SPE elected board members:
Tom Fischer, Chair
Richard Gray, Vice Chair
Joann Brennan, Secretary
Nancy Stuart, Treasurer
Then onward to another important panel discussion given by Jolene Rickard with Erica Lord, Kimowan Metchewais and Will WilsonMy : “Visual Sovereignty: Contemporary Native American Photography and The Politics of Imagination, which brings together the innovative visions of four Native American artist who employ photography. Central to this panel is the notion that indigenous imagination has functioned as a site of resistance and critical cultural production. Each artist on the panel has used photography to represent what it means to live in contemporary Native North America through stories as diverse and complex issues of indigenous representation, self-determination, and visual sovereignty*.
- Panel discussion – Kimowan Metchewais, Erica Lord and Jolene Rickard
- Will Wilson
And finally, we snagged a few tables for the Curator Portfolio Walk-Through. It was unbelievable; I met some wonderful people and witness first hand where photography is headed by the remarkable work displayed by other students around the country, wow!
- Photo by Alicia Tokoph, curator walk through
- Photo by Alicia Tokoph, some more photos of curator walk through
Photo by Alicia Tokoph, my portfolio
SPE overall was memorable, I made some great friends and got closer to others. I can’t wait for next year’s conference in Atlanta.
Also, I don’t want to forget but I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me and always encouraging me to follow my goals. Ahe’hee!
*credit SPE Conference Itinerary