We are back with another round of membership spotlights. Due to a large number of submissions, we have decided to showcase three talented members this month: Ryder Collins, Julia Kuskin, and Anna Sapek. We thank them for their contributions.
If you are a PCNW member, we encourage you to submit your images here before the 15th of every month.
Also, please stop by our member’s portfolio walk on Sunday, April 2nd from 12:00 – 4:00 pm. This is a great opportunity to connect with our members and see what they are up to creatively.
Not a member? You can sign up here. Aside from member benefits, you are supporting our free public programs, and scholarships. A win for everyone!
What are you working on?
My Project Seattleites is about candidly documenting the people of Seattle – how they live, find excitement and resiliency in this city that feels equal parts anxiety and hope.
Life is unscripted and I find myself reacting with my camera to what I see in front of me. I’m attracted to photographing the emotions of people and the oftentimes absurd nature of the human experience because it mirrors the fleeting and unpredictable aspects of my inner self.
I love portraiture. Finding the balance, not over directing, making sure the sitter is comfortable, not ignoring or overlooking glaring issues, finding the person within the person on that individual day, being aware of my feelings as well… Sometimes the first shot is the strongest, at times I have to work through several set ups, moving around, re-thinking, taking a break. I concentrate on light, expression, and feeling, and I do my best to photograph what I see. I’m not conceptual. At times, I wonder if I’ve been taking the same photo for years, but when I compare from one day to the next, or one year to the next, I see the subtle differences which comes with age, and experience, both mine and the sitters’. I love the clear personalities which defy time and the ways in which we all change.
I visit PCNW a couple times a month to work in the B&W darkroom. I rotate between printing from negatives in my archive (2+ decades of film), and more recent shots.
These past few months, I’ve been experimenting with different types of paper, learning how to dodge and burn my prints, and improving exposure estimates for prints made at different sizes.
Some of my favorite photos were taken over a decade ago in Bodie, a ghost mining town in California. I’ve printed these on Ilford MG Art 300, which gives them a unique appearance, almost like a graphite drawing.
I’ve also been working on a few shots of the Yosemite Valley from the same trip that show the immense scale of the mountains.
Some of my more recent favorite photos include portraits of my sister, and a high-contrast snow-covered tree in Marsh Park, Kirkland.
We send a big thank you to Ryder Collins, Julia Kuskin, and Anna Sapek for submitting their work this month! If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your creative endeavors, we’d love to hear from you. Complete our online form by the 15th of every month and a jury will review your work for consideration. Not a PCNW Member yet? You can join online today!
What motivates you to photograph what you photograph? The subject matter that attracts me most is landscape and architecture. How the manmade environment intersects with both landscape and architecture seems to continue to draw me to explore seeing the world from this perspective.
What was the inspiration for the work showcased here? Is it part of a larger body of work? I’ve been exploring the desert for some time. I noticed Eastern Washington had similar geographic features to the California desert (Mojave, Death Valley), and wanted a closer location to continue to explore. After several trips, I learned of massive prehistoric floods that carved out much of the Eastern Washington landscape and began shooting it. I’m currently tracing the flow of these floods from their source (ancient Lake Missoula) out to the Columbia River.
Tell us about your process for this project:
I’ve been recording scenes from the flood using a cross processing technique where you shoot transparencies (slide film) and cross process (develop) in C41 chemistry, used for color negative film. The effect causes a warping of the image colors and added grain texture. You lose the ability to get color-accurate images which I wanted to help transport viewers back in time 10,000 years. I am also shooting the manmade environment in B&W negative film at the same time, something analogous to a topographic exploration of the modern landscape. With all the discussion around climate change, I think it’s interesting to think about other major past cataclysmic events to the landscape and how we live around those impacts.
I understand you make photographs in black and white and color analog, as well as teach color analog at PCNW. What is it about color analog that intrigues you and motivates you to seek out and use color analog printers?
With respect to color analog in particular, I love its simplicity. Film shooting and development is straight forward. Cut your ASA in half and process at standard temp/ times for C41. Then for printing, there is no contrast control. What’s in the negative and what can be seen in RA4 paper is your contrast level. So, all you’re doing in the darkroom is finding your density (exposure) and color settings. Color correcting is especially simple. It’s a subtractive process, so you simply move along three color dimensions and work in opposites (yellow/blue, magenta/green, red/cyan). You make one color change at a time and then look at a new print. Rinse and repeat until you have a final print. It’s a really lovely process. In a group printing setting, it’s especially fun because you get to see other photographers’ work as it comes out of the processor and up on the viewing board. Very fun conversations when sharing the darkroom with other printers. It’s a very communal experience, whereas photography is often quite solitary.
Is it a preference of film over digital that is a motivator?
I’m an analog image maker because that’s how I like to work. It’s really as simple as that. I like working with my hands and working with a physical process of making images. I sit behind a computer all day at work. I don’t want more computer work when making my art.
Are the final prints significantly different?
I do think it’s easier to get higher quality level of prints from analog printing methods than digital, not because analog is inherently better. But to become a proficient digital printer is hard, in my opinion. Computer image making controls and workflows can be quite complex and are not intuitive at all. I’ve seen many shows of major photographers’ work printed as inkjet prints that were mediocre to poor in quality compared to the quality of their previous work as silver or RA4 prints.
What are the challenges of printing color analog today?
The primary challenge is there are no facilities to print RA4 color. In theory one can use rotary drums or even trays to print at home. But the most difficult thing to learn in printing color analog is how to color correct your images. To learn that skill, it’s really helpful to print via a RA4 processor. It’s a controlled chemistry and printing environment which allows for stability, and one can apply very fine color corrections to images. I know of one place in LA and several in NYC that have color processors for public color rental. One of the reasons I’ve started to teach color workshops at PCNW is to help promote analog color printing and perhaps help see color facilities return to the facility.
Exhibits, presentations, and photographic engagement with communities, etc., since graduation?
I have had some images in group shows and publications. I like to continue learning, so I’ve tried to spend time with master image makers and learning their techniques. I also continue to take classes and workshops at PCNW. Finally, I participate in an art collective called Push / Pull where we get together to critique work and put together shows/events of the group’s work.
In 2023 I’ll be continuing to work on my project in Eastern Washington. There may be a color analog workshop or two I teach at PCNW as well!
Do you begin with the desire to work with a particular process first? Or do you choose the imagery or subject matter first and then decide on the process?
For me a project can start either way. Sometimes I realize that a new process is possible and begin to search for an appropriate subject and other times I become obsessed with a subject and begin to think about what types of materials could be used in a body of work. I like to keep things as open as possible in the beginning since many ideas don’t actually work out in the end.
How does the process you chose enhance the intent of the image?
Most of these images involve site specific materials that get incorporated into the photographic process. It is my belief that by doing this we are able to begin to understand the links between history, materials, and the photographic process. In a world awash with stunning images I am asking the viewer to consider meta questions about the medium itself.
Are these images part of a larger body of work? What was the inspiration?
All of these work samples are part of a larger series. Most of the time my process begins by thinking about sites/locations that I would like to photograph and then investigating what combination of process and materials would best serve to outline some of the ideas listed above.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to begin exploring a new process?
I always advise folks to dive in and make mistakes right away. These lessons are invaluable and difficult to forget. There is nothing worse than someone who is on the sidelines obsessing about “mistake avoidance”! It is really difficult to learn about how materials work by thinking about them.
What have you’ve done since graduating? Any upcoming exhibits, books or projects to share?
I am very rooted in the PNW and since graduating I have worked with many processes from wet plate to digital negatives. I am very interested/invested in collaborations and have had the opportunity to do this both locally and internationally in recent years.
I just recently returned from an artist’s residency in Montenegro working with Saint Genet, whom I have collaborated with for many years (www.saintgenet.org). I have also been printing a great deal of work with Steven Miller (www.smiller555.com). He has been developing a series of infrared prints that are lith printed using digital negatives, and I have been acting as technical support.
I was born and raised in Long Island, New York, and currently living in Capitol Hill, Seattle. My educational background is in chemical engineering, which is what I do at my day job. I love being able to combine my love of experimentation and chemistry, and interest in materials into my photographic work and really love making anything with my hands. Outside of work and photography, I love crossword puzzles, reading, and going on long aimless walks.
Tell us about the work you decided to share. Why did you choose this process?
The work that I decided to share represents some of the pieces that I’ve been making since the start of the pandemic. With all of my normal outlets for dealing with stress/anxiety closed, I tried to pick up other creative pursuits like drawing, painting, collage making that I could do from my tiny apartment. It really started with no expectations. Just a placeholder to keep my hands busy and my brain shut off until I could get back into the darkroom, and I am still not sure it is anything that I will pursue other than for my own benefit. This is the first time I have shared the work with other folks in my photographic community so that’s a bit strange and exciting.
You seem to be very much a “maker” of photographs with process being key. Why?
On being a “maker” of photographs – I agree with you completely. I find a real escape in making things with my hands and getting into that “flow” state by doing things over and over again. It’s how I best process my thoughts and emotions. I also really love exploring materiality and the interaction between different materials – letting their inherent properties and chance really drive the outcome.
You’ve produced work with lith, created lumen prints, cyanotypes. What else? Can you tell us about your journey with alternative process?
Oh boy, yes, there would be a lot to list here, but some of the highlights: lith, cyanotypes (and a lot of the other coated paper process — van dyke, albumin, platinum, kallitype, etc.), lumen prints, bromoil, chemigrams, and wet plate collodion. I first really started going down the alternative process road because of a PCNW class that I took with Dan Hawkins and Laurel Shultz in 2012 called “DIY Photography: Experimental and Alternative Projects”. It was an amazing survey course where we got to play around with a new process each week, making our own pinhole cameras, digital negatives, laser print gel transfers, cyanotypes, etc. I loved it! I was completely hooked by how freeing it was, especially after coming from engineering graduate school where everything felt so rigid and prescribed. It was a great example of being in the right place at the right time in my life.
You’ve been leading the Chase the Light workshops on alternative process with Gina White in recent years. Most participants submit digital images, what kind of images have come out of the workshops?
The Chase the Light workshops have been a blast over the last few years! Absolutely, you are right, most participants submit digital work; in years past, with the truncated time frame, it was really difficult to do anything other than digital. Luckily that has been changing! The workshops that Gina and I have been doing have tried to show the participants a range of processes that they can experiment with and embrace the sunshine! They have been largely cyanotypes, lumen prints, and chemigrams that have come out of the workshops. It is intentionally open-ended so that the participants can learn whatever process that they are interested in and just spend the time experimenting and playing.
What motivates you to photograph what you photograph?
I am really drawn to abstract images and let the processes that I work in drive the outcome. I love the idea that 100 different viewers would have 100 different interpretations of a piece depending on their personal histories and what they bring to the viewing experience.
How has your work evolved since graduating from PCNW?
I graduated in 2018 from PCNW and since going through the thesis year and finishing, I think it really helped me grow in confidence to embrace more experimentation and harness my scientific background more. That and the pandemic have made me reach for more everyday objects and processes that are 1-bedroom apartment friendly, but I have some big plans for 2023.
I have been working on some new pieces that are going to take some of my paintings into the darkroom. I am really excited about it. I hopefully will have more to share soon!
After two solo exhibitions, a theater residency and a series of graphic novellas in the works, Jenn Reidel continues to create her art under the auspices of a fictional unknown photographer in her on-going multidisciplinary project “Rodin’s Photographer.”
In her latest work, Reidel hired diverse thinkers in costume design, dance and video to help her foster new perspectives. Last fall, she was awarded a 2021 Arts Incubator Residency by Cornish College of the Arts to further the development of “The Phoenix” as an art dance that will be part of a future exhibit of “Rodin’s Photographer.” Learn more at jennreidelart.myportfolio.com.
The photo detail above is from one of her recent underwater concepts of “The Phoenix” performed on the last day of summer 2022 in the Salish Sea. It will be featured in “3Elements Literary Review” Issue No. 37 Winter 2023. The free issue will be available February 1st: 3elementsreview.com
Here’s a note from the SAM Gallery: Artists create contrast with light and shadow around their subjects in this featured collection for Seeing Light. Against a wall, along the street, from above or below, these local photographers capture light play while considering the energy of their subject and reminding us to look closer or to look again. Dramatic beauty prevails throughout these works in this inspiring look at how we experience light.
Rachel Demy has been busy with an exhibit of her photos at Leica Gallery in Bellevue and book signings celebrating the release of her book. According to Rachel’s publisher, Minor Matters, “The photographs comprising Between, Everywhere were made over a five-year period touring with Death Cab for Cutie, a band she met first as a fan, and eventually joined as family. Demy’s wry and poignant photographs take viewers behind the scenes and on a journey full of the quiet, the beauty, the monotony and the exhilaration of a veteran band on tour.”
Selena Kearney’s book, Every Object has a Ritualis in pre-sales with Minor Matters. We highlighted Selena for the September 2022 Alumni News, and had this to say about the book, “Object / Ritual was born out of Selena’s pre-thesis classes at PCNW; the work is inspired by the growing national condemnation of non-indigenous people donning Native American costumes for Halloween and other national celebrations, and by the use of stereotypical Native American imagery in branding for sports teams.”
Thanks to the incredible turn out from alumni, Golden Hour: PCNW’s 2022 Benefit was a huge success — raising nearly $210,000!
13 alumni donated work, 17 attended in person, many others tuned in virtually, and a few served on the Event Committee/PCNW Board, all in support of PCNW. We are deeply grateful for your continued engagement!
We hope the holiday season is treating you well. In the spirit of the holidays and shopping local, we put together a list of some of our favorite photo-based books, prints, and zines that are available this season. We love online shopping on a hyper-local level, so please take a moment to browse and support these talented artists if you can. Remember, we also have a PCNW holiday gift guide that includes limited edition prints by Richard Renaldi and Jenny Riffle, the ever-coveted PCNW t-shirt, and so much more. We hope you like our favorite things!
PCNW Scholarship Recipient Leobardo Banuelos just released a fabulous book entitled Wanda Terrace, where Leo documents drag performers both on and off stage (his book release party/exhibition was fun!). This book showcases over 30 performers and boasts over 100 pages filled with bright colors and expressive portraits. We love it! You can place an order here.
PCNW Member Ellen Sollod creates beautiful books with an attention to detail. We found her series of books in Bush Creek Chronicles. These accordion-style books contain pinhole camera images created during her time as an artist-in-resident at Bush Creek Arts Foundation. You can purchase Ellen’s book and others here.
Kirk Hostetter, a seattle based photographer, and PCNW Zine & Book fair contributor has a series of books and magazines for sale via Blurb. One worthy of noting is Duwamish Remains, a working version of Kirk’s photographs and research on the history of the Duwamish River Watershed in and around Seattle, Washington. You can find this magazine and others here.
Our zine workshop instructor, Craig Mammano, just put out a grouping of his zines and books for sale. Craig’s work embodies the DIY spirit, and creates beautiful handmade books with creative binding techniques. His book It’s Hard to Die contains compelling and tender images, coupled with solid handmade book making techniques. You can purchase Craig’s books and zines here.
Sand and Gravel Press participated in our Zine and Book fair, and they are offering an array of books on their website. Our favorite one of the bunch is DISCOVER/Y by Jody Poorwill and Meghan Hanlon. The book documents a trip both photographers took to New Mexico in 2018. You can purchase the book here
As we enter the season of gratitude and giving, I’m excited to take a moment to say hello to our community as the new Development and Outreach Associate here at Photographic Center Northwest. Many of you have been greeted by me during my time working at the front desk at PCNW. Now I’m looking forward to sending my gratitude to you all during my first year-end campaign this December. Like many of you I have a long history with PCNW, and while taking classes years ago discovered how unique and crucial PCNW is to our artistic community at large. Photography has been a vital creative practice for much of my life, and PCNW has helped me explore the depth, importance, history, challenges, and the possibilities that it presents.
I had the privilege of being introduced to the arts at a young age, and nurtured by parents that encouraged me to create. My older two older siblings and father were actively creating some form of art, and I had a strong desire to have the drive and skill I saw in them. That drive came when I picked up a camera.
Photographs quickly became a way for me to document family events, and whatever else I felt was important in my immediate life. My education in photography persisted throughout my high school and community college years where I learned darkroom processes and photographic history. This was also a time when I started becoming aware of the different parts of my life that made up my identity. I am a second-generation immigrant, I aligned myself with subcultures that deviated from social norms, and I come from a working-class background. All of these aspects of my life started to inform my photographic practice. I was determined to create photographs no matter what setbacks or challenges arose. I had to make photographs. I realized that people started connecting to my work the more honest I was, and that putting myself “out there” allowed me to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. This was when I realized that photography was a bigger community beyond what I had initially thought. It is bigger than me.
Later in my life, I came across an opportunity to go back to school on the University level, and made the decision to continue to study photography. This was when I was introduced to Photographic Center Northwest. I was in awe that there was a building solely dedicated to photography in the city I had recently moved to. PCNW taught me to expand on my skills and helped me have a better understanding of what I was trying to express visually. I still carry the ethos of my early experiences in photography, but with a sense of greater creative possibilities through my time spent at PCNW.
Zine by Paulo Gonzales
Moreover, I have witnessed how PCNW is a place for community connection and creative growth. During my time at the front desk I met countless new faces eager to immerse themselves in photography, coming with questions about where to begin. I was excited to tell them all about the many different opportunities we offer—many took advantage of our scholarship program and have since found a new home at PCNW. We believe that arts education should be accessible to all, and our scholarships help cultivate photographic visions and works from artists that normally wouldn’t have a chance to express due to financial constraints.
These opportunities have been possible because of your generosity, and we have been fortunate enough to award $25,000 in scholarships this year to students in need.
On this Giving Tuesday will you help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 by December 31st to ensure our programming and photographic excellency is accessible to those that need it in 2023? Donations not only fund our scholarships, but help subsidize facilities access, class materials, and free public programs.
Thank you for being here and considering supporting PCNW this season. I can’t wait to say hello the next time you’re at the Center.
Photographic Center Northwest is offering something for everyone this holiday season. Whether it’s a print for your collection, a book to engage with, or a new skill to learn, PCNW is proud to bring our photographic excellency to you or someone in your life.
Another way to show support is through our memberships! Give the gift of a PCNW Membership or the opportunity to take a class or workshop to someone in your life who is looking for a creative, supportive community. Gift certificates do not expire and can be used on a variety of education offerings, while PCNW Members receive benefits including discounts on education offerings, facilities rentals and gallery purchases; opportunities for professional development and invitations to special member events.
A deeper look into the art of collecting photography with PCNW community members
Continuing our On Collecting series, Lisa Ahlberg, PCNW alumni and Benefit Committee member, spoke with Steve Hoedemaker and Tim Pfeiffer, business partners at Hoedemaker/Pfeiffer, an architecture and interior design business and Housewright, a home store and gallery.
Interviewer: Lisa Ahlberg
Interviewee: Steve Hoedemaker
Interviewee: Tim Pfeiffer
Lisa: Let’s begin with you telling me about yourselves and your connection to photography and the Photo Center Northwest.
Steve: I grew up in a household where art was an important part of how we understood the world around us, and where service to the art community was important. I’m currently the chair of the Henry Art Museum, and formerly the president of the PCNW board. My husband and I are avid amateur collectors.
Tim: I have played designer on many fronts. I curate the collections that we put together for Housewright, our home store and gallery, and better, have had the really nice opportunity to curate family collections for many of our clients. I too am a life long amateur collector. I have co-chaired the PCNW benefit auction a couple times and our firm is once again sponsoring the event with a table of guests.
I grew up in household that valued the stories found in work that hung on the wall. Whether that was a painting by a great grandmother, or old family portraits from our early history in the Northwest, I was super intrigued in the arts from a really young age and graduated in studio arts at the UW. I first studied architecture but also painted, sculpted, and took three years of photography. I went on to be more of a collector than a producer. Collecting work is like putting the bed cover on your bed, instead of sleeping under a sheet.
Tim and Jackpot (Tim’s Dog)
Lisa: You both create beautiful living spaces. Can you tell me what role art plays in a living space?
Steve: There’s a question that I like to ask myself and we often ask our clients: What stories do you want to tell yourself about who you are and what stories do you want to tell the world about who you are? The way you put together your living space, and especially your artwork, tells a big story to you and to the world around you about who you are and how you see the world.
Tim: We so often take a home, build a beautiful space, create these environments that are specific to ways of living within them. Then we start to layer in. The furniture is a piece of that certainly. Anybody could sit down and see a blank wall or see a television sitting on a wall. But art offers another dimension. You don’t need to have a moving screen to have a story being told in front of you. I think that’s so often what I find in any piece of art, whether that’s three dimensional sculpture, a beautiful photograph or a painting or wall relief. There’s a story that’s unfolding for you as you study it and really begin to see it. The work is always evocative of something. It brings memory, it brings new experience. It sets a time and place. I think it’s that final layer that makes a home a home and not just a beautiful house.
Lisa: Who has influenced you as a collector?
Tim: I’ve told this story before in different ways. The key influencer in my life was my grandmother, who was a major collector though a bit of a hoarder. At the same time, she was a woman who had come out of another era, a pre-depression era, where she had lived in a huge house with all kinds of gorgeous things that were connected to family. She treasured “the intrinsic nature of things.” This included a hallway of portraits because that was just the era. You didn’t have photographs necessarily, but you had some beautiful family portraits that had been painted over time.
When I was a little kid, she would take me around her very cramped, smaller home that she lived in then, where everything had come from this big other life. She would tell me what was important. She’d say, “This is a Serapi rug. Look at the patterns here. Then she’d take me into the little library zone. “These are first edition books.” When I looked at them, I could see what was important is that it was the first time I really saw them and oftentimes they had the original covers. She would show me every little kind of funny detail; ways of looking at everyday things such as silver. How to tell the marks on English silver versus American sterling? All the ways of finding out where china came from. I was a kid that just soaked it up and was constantly kind of the treasure hunter with her. Every single piece would have a story within. When I would find something and pick it up, she’d tell me a little tale about it. It was always about the things that man had made somewhere, somehow. That was usually within the realm of the decorative arts and that’s what got me going as a 10 year old.
Lisa: What advice would you give to somebody who’s starting an art collection or starting to buy art?
Steve: There is some wisdom that I have not myself adhered too much, but that I appreciate: Always collect the best possible piece you can from an artist or the best piece from a show or collection of an artist. I think there’s a lot of merit in that and particularly when you think about the potential future economics of well collected pieces.
I think the thing that has resonated for me is finding pieces that I can have a personal conversation with. That conversation is something that’s abstract enough that it can change and evolve over time so that a piece that may have meant one thing to me at a certain time can mean something else at a different point in the future.
Tim: I think work needs to speak to you. If you’re just getting going and you really don’t know where to look, start with Museum shows and gallery openings. there’s always going to be opportunities to study what is seen as collectible work. I believe you have to see something and desire it. There’s got to be a desire, a connection within you to live with that piece, to really feel as though you would want to live with it and love it. I have collected pieces here and there that I no longer have on the wall but are now in storage. But there’s nothing that I regret ever picking up — whether it was an inexpensive or expensive piece that spoke to me at the time.
I love walking around my house looking at each piece. Each tells a story, not just of the artist, and their intention but a reminder of the place and time where I acquired it or how it came home with me.
Tim: I think one of the best things anyone can do is take a picture immediately when you see something that captures your eye. Then walk away from it. Study. This can happen at art fairs or galleries or openings. Step away from it long enough to consider it. Consider it small in your hand and then imagine living with it in life scale. I think that’s always a really important thing to be able to do. At auctions, preview the work if you can.
Lisa Ahlberg: Do you buy much art online?
Tim: We look online when creating presentations for our clients. We do buy online and it’s a pretty deep dive into each one of those pieces. We use imagery that is available and then we’ll ask for further details and contextual imagery. I think those close detailed shots help to understand more clearly what it is that you’re looking at and how it’s been either layered or constructed. I think that’s always important. I’m not afraid of online art buying.
Tim: We have had a great focus at Housewright Gallery on Northwest Art, in particular Northwest School art. We’re having our first show of an East Coast artist, Alfredo Paredes with a collection debut and opening reception on October 13th from 5 pm – 7 pm.
Lisa: I loved the recent exhibit. Housewright is a dangerously tempting place to go in and I should let our readers know that it’s a beautiful curated store in addition to a gallery. I always appreciate the photography books you carry.
Is there an emphasis to what you collect personally? Do you collect photography?
Tim: I collect photography and have had an emphasis on painterly paintings. I like moody storytelling photography. I’m not much for just beautiful. I’m always captivated by the narrative within the context of the photograph. What am I seeing in it? It can be beautifully constructed, beautiful lighting, color, black and white. But I love when it actually tells me something, graphically telling a tale. I like mood. So I have a lot of work that is in darker, really deeper tones. I don’t mean dark in energy, it’s more just dark in its construct.
Steve: There was interesting beautiful Pacific Northwest art and photography in my house growing up. That work has continued to resonate for me. I’ve tried to find not only the work of some of those artists, but the other people who were practicing around the same time or who might have been their lovers. Or the work of those artists that was in a medium they didn’t often practice in. It’s just been fun to go back to something that meant something to me as a child and find different manifestations of it as adult.
Tim: I started collecting Northwest School work. There was obviously the iconic top four or five artists and then all of the people that were working in and around them, sometimes including students. I love early work before the artists have fully come to what they were most known for. The Picasso Museum in the middle of Paris is this small museum. It’s like this work is insane. It’s so beautiful, but it’s almost not recognizable. But it’s the purest, simplest forms of what he would later really become famous for.
Tim: I have a very beautiful early work by Margaret Tompkins, Guy Anderson and Kenneth Callahan. I like paintings by Paul Horiuchi, work he did before collage work that he was best known for. Oftentimes these earlier works are more attainable because they are not seen as the iconic body of work. But some of them were the predecessors to the iconic work. So that’s always really fascinating to me.
I love portraiture too, whether photography or painting. I have some that are incredibly abstract that can be difficult to call portraiture. The earliest one is from 1887. One portrait I have was a gift for my 60th birthday – a portrait of an auburn haired, red mustached Spanish man and was the best painting I ever found. I fell in love with it! It took quite a negotiation to get the family that owned it for generations to release it to me.
But that guy is sitting next to a portrait from Paris. You can barely see form to the face and is a very abstract portrait of a man. They are on one either end of the dining room. I love that whole nature of capture. That’s what I think is so interesting about photography — the figure in photography.
Lisa: You both have attended several PCNW auctions. Can you tell me about some of the photographic work you love that is still with you?
Tim: A favorite is Cindy Sherman, 2014 by Doug Keyes. He had photographed multiple Cindy Sherman’s and layered them together to create this concept of Cindy Sherman. It’s the most beautiful photograph.
I have another beautiful piece by Annabel Clarke that kind of predates the pandemic and homelessness. It’s this young couple in a tent, with a just a few possessions sitting on pallets. They are homeless and yet there’s some joy about the whole situation.
I’m a huge Jenny Riffle fan and I’ve always picked up her work. A favorite is from her Scavenger series of a young man sitting in a room smoking a cigar and counting change in a pot. It’s so magical to me. It’s hanging in my living room. I look at it like every day and every day I find some kind of wonder in it.
I think that’s what collections should do for you – enable you to wander around, look at your pieces, and feel something each time and not just pass it like wallpaper.
Steve: I live with many photographs from PCNW auctions. A few photographs in my collection include the great Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide and Pacific Northwest photographers Eirik Johnson, Jock Sturges, Rafael Soldi and James Lockwood. A favorite photograph comes from my childhood, a photograph by Mary Randlett that belonged to my parents.
Lisa: I loved the Mary Randlett photographic portraits you had alongside the paintings in the last exhibit at Housewright Gallery of the Northwest Influencers.
Housewright Gallery NW Influencer Exhibition
Tim: That was so cool to be able to find as many of those as we did. Those were all gifts to the show. What’s even more remarkable, as I ran across all the books that accompanied the exhibit, every single one of those Northwest School were all inscribed by Mary Randlett, telling the stories of when she photographed those people and how she met them.
Lisa: As we approach the PCNW Benefit Auction can you comment on what role an auction can play in helping to build an art collection?
Steve: I think that Photo Center auction specifically helped me feel like a collector because so much of collecting is just opportunity. You have the chance to be with the art and the artists in the space. It is a big first step in terms of getting you down the path. The worst thing that’s gonna happen is you buy a piece you might not be certain about, but you’re going to support an organization that you care about.
Tim: I think institutional auctions particularly give you a sense that everything has been accepted by the institution as works of quality and integrity. So in many ways the work has already been vetted for you. That is something you can really enjoy at an auction — it’s a very safe place to collect.
In continuation with our On Collectingseries, Lisa Ahlberg, PCNW alumni and Benefit Committee member spoke with collector and PCNW community member Nancy Edelstein.
Nancy Edelstein was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and has lived in Seattle for more than 40 years. She received her BFA from the University of Michigan, and enjoyed a career in marketing and design for the fashion industry. Later, she became known for her one of a kind custom books, honoring the lives and accomplishments of others. Recently, Nancy completed a four year MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Studio Practice. She went on to receive a month long artist residency at MASS MoCA last fall, and was invited to return this October to continue her interests there.
Nancy has been connected to the Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) for several decades, first as a student, taking classes in studio lighting with Claire Garoutte, color printing with Seth Thompson, personal projects seminars with Nancy Levine, and many more. She was a PCNW board member from 2005-2009, and with others, created the first PCNW Auction, which has become an annual event to support the many amazing opportunities it offers. Nancy appreciates the rare gift that the Photocenter is to our community, and supports its continued contribution to our city and beyond.
Lisa: What were the early influences that led you to become a collector?
Nancy: Both of my parents had a passion for style and taste, which fit right in with the minimal modernism of the 60’s. My father’s office was very cool-decorated in Knoll furniture and photorealism imagery. Eventually, this chrome and glass style infiltrated our home, which slowly became filled with contemporary art.
Lisa: What was the experience of your first purchase?
Nancy: My own first art purchase was in the 80’s- predicated on a wish and a dare. I was trained as a photographer and followed the work of the dynamic photographers of the time. Silver Image Gallery was the only photography gallery in Seattle then, and it was there that I fell in love with a Richard Misrach split tone silver print from his Desert Cantos series- images of cactus at night in the desert. While I never dreamed of owning one, and couldn’t afford it, especially at that time when I was just starting a design and marketing firm, I was so smitten I just decided to ‘go for it’ as an outrageous declaration of my commitment to quality and the success of my business. It took months of payments, but eventually my first treasure came home.
Lisa: How did your collection develop?
Nancy: My passion for photography fueled the core of my slowly expanding collection. As my business grew, I traveled to New York frequently and became familiar with the photographic work in the museums. The Whitney Biennial was where I was first exposed to work by the Starn Twins, and will never forget their installation of a beautifully distressed, torn and fragmented photographic collage of Jesus, laying full scale, full body, face up flat in a clear plexiglass box. A similarly distressed piece of their work now hangs in my dining room.
Lisa: Do you believe photography is a good investment?
Nancy: Yes I do, but I have never been motivated to purchase photographs for that reason. I buy something only out of a strong connection to the work itself. While I don’t have much empty wall space any more to add to my collection, I am still moved to acquire that ‘special’ piece when it comes along. At one of the last Photo Center’s annual auctions, I deliberated bidding on a Paul Berger photographic silver print from his earlier series that I had seen and loved for a long time. As an influential teacher at the University of Washington for 35 years, expanding the direction of the medium of photography with his own work, I knew I would like to own one of his smart and beautifully executed images before they were no longer available. Unfortunately, I vacillated at the auction for a minute too long, and it was gone! Luckily, there was a retrospective at G. Gibson Gallery of his work in conjunction with the launching of his Minor Matters Press monograph, and I found something there that I equally loved, and this time didn’t hesitate for a second.
Lisa: What is your experience of living with art?
Nancy: A calm personal space is important to me, and in my home I resonate with a variety of photographic works that collectively create this mood which always enfolds me. Living with art that I love, whatever it is, is a fantastic gift to myself that I never tire of. My Misrach is still as full of wonder to me now as it was at first sight.
Lisa: Any advice or favorite practice as a collector you would suggest to others?
Nancy: A habit I developed from the start that has been very useful has been to keep a section on my bookshelf designated specifically for manuals or books related to the pieces or artists hanging on my walls. Often when guests want to know more, these come in handy to give a broader sense of the artist and the work, and to help me remember some of the details myself.
Lisa: What is your vision for your collection in the future?
Nancy: I am aware of the responsibility of legacy that is inherent in creating any collection. Recently, I inherited some of my parents artwork, which offered the challenge and opportunity of incorporating their non-photographic artwork into my space. While I had collected only photography over the years, integrating some new forms of art has made the visual experience even richer. I now have a full-size cement and bronze sheep named Claude in my entry! All I can say is, if you’re an art lover, don’t hesitate, find a way to bring art that you love into your home and share it with others.
As we approach PCNW’s Golden Hour Benefit Auction, we talked with some of our supporters about the art they’ve chosen to live with in their homes. Lisa Ahlberg, PCNW alumni and Benefit Committee member spoke with Rafael Soldi and Jerry O’Leary.
Rafael Soldi is a Seattle artist and former PCNW staff member.
Jerry O’Leary is retired and lives in Tacoma after living in Seattle for over 35 years. He says he has had the great fortune to live in many parts of the world which has spurred his interest and excitement in learning how other people see things and the ways they express their understanding of the world.
Lisa: Jerry, you mentioned you both have a history of looking at art together, so I thought that would be a good place to start.
Jerry: I have lived with art for several years. I actually started with an Edward Curtis gold type that my father’s parents bought from Edward Curtis himself. Over the years my taste has expanded but I never had a practiced eye. I was very impulsive. I met Rafael, through the Photo Center Northwest (PCNW) when he was working there. It was just a revelation to me that somebody with art training could communicate to me in a way that allowed me to experience art on a whole deeper level.
Rafael: It’s been fun to share these experiences with Jerry. We share a lot of tastes, but we also gravitate toward things that are very different sometimes. The fun part is to foster curiosity about why we like certain things, and through those questions find out what those leanings may reveal about ourselves.
Lisa: Where have you gone to look at art together?
Jerry: Early on I was given private guided tours of the exhibits at the Photo Center. Later we visited the first Seattle Art Fair together. This experience was extraordinary because of that interaction with Rafael. The ability to be directed to look at things that I might have walked past and able to share my excitement. As he said, there were pieces I was excited about that were not on his radar particularly. But he could help me express why I liked it. It wasn’t important to him whether he liked it or not. It was important that I had the ability to understand why I liked it.
Rafael:Once we bought the same piece, a photograph by CJ Heyliger titled Dead West, from the Gallery Luisotti booth at the Seattle Art Fair!
Jerry:Yeah we did. We both tend to rotate our art a fair amount in our houses. Seeing what he’s hung at this moment, how he’s grouped it, saying, “Oh, this is extraordinary. Tell me about it.”
Rafael: I love going to Jerry’s house and noticing something new and asking, “Tell me about that!”
Lisa: Do you both consider yourselves collectors?
Jerry: I don’t, because the word collector to me implies a focus that I don’t think I have, other than being focused on what I like. It’s about surrounding myself with things that inspire me. To me, a collector is somebody who really wants to build something additive.
Rafael:I think of myself as an artist who loves to live with other artists’ work. I’ve been lucky to build relationships with many fellow artists that have resulted in an intimate and personal collection. I just think of myself as a caretaker of these artworks that I have the privilege to live with.
Jerry: Additionally, I live alone. But I don’t feel like I do because every time I walk by a piece of art that I got from somebody I have some kind of personal relationship with, it’s almost like I have a bunch of roommates.
Lisa: I so love that.
Rafael:Jerry and I—and you as well Lisa—live with a lot of portraits. I also feel a kinship with these subjects. Someone once asked me, how do you sleep at night with all these people looking at you? I thought it was so poetic, this idea of …
Jerry: … being looked over.
Lisa: Rafael you’re an artist, a curator and you are part of the photographic community. How has that helped you develop your sense of what you choose to put on your walls?
Rafael: A lot. I’ve been lucky to do a lot of trades, which has resulted in bringing artworks I love into my home but also placing my work in the homes of other artists. It’s a creative exchange. I also have a bit of an early access to seeing works in progress and early ideas, by nature of my relationship with artists who are friends and colleagues. I also have many things in my collection that are “uncharacteristic” of the artist, such as “rejects,” artist proofs, one-offs, early prototypes, test prints, etc.
Lisa: Is there an emphasis to what you collect? Do you specifically collect photography?
Jerry:I have focused on photography, not because I don’t love other things, but because I have a relationship with the Tacoma Art Museum. They have what I think to be a nascent photography collection compared to the depth they enjoy in other mediums such as paintings and glass. They’re not able financially to collect contemporary works. And there’s a lot of really amazing stuff being produced that I think needs to be in the public. That speaks very much to the mission of what Tacoma Art Museum is doing. Their curator, Margaret Bullock is an amazing woman. Their director, David Setford, is an amazing man. They’ve been very generous in communicating with me when there’s particular things they want or that I can acquire for them or directions they’d like to see the collection go. So I can acquire things, live with them for a while and then donate them. I’m trying to have purpose behind the spend so I know it will end up in a place that honors both the creator of the art and will speak to the broader community of people who will get to enjoy it.
Rafael: Early on I collected a lot of photography. Because I love it, because it’s often smaller and more affordable. In recent years I decided to shift my focus to buying larger works—my house was full of small prints. So I decided to save up to instead invest in larger-scale works. I’m also trying to step away from traditional photography, which I have a lot of, and looking for paintings, drawings, and unique takes on photography. For example, this piece behind me is a photographic woven jacquard tapestry by Peruvian artist Gonzalo Hernandez. Lastly, I noticed that I owned a lot of depictions of artists’ partners or lovers, so I’ve started collecting intentionally within that theme as well.
Jerry:I tend to like things that are pretty strongly graphic. The black and white dynamic appeals to me. Strong shape appeals to me. People appeal to me a lot. I had several Carrie Mae Weems photographs that I donated to the museum. But the thing that drew them to me was the intimacy of African-American life that she portrayed across the spectrum of settings. Obviously, I don’t live that life and am privileged to see it through the eyes of somebody who does live it. I think in some ways, that’s sort of what Raf is saying about the images of lovers or partners, is that you’re getting a real insight into somebody else’s life experience.
Rafael:I would say there’s a very clear aesthetic to the work that you like in that there is a muted, but rich, palette. There’s always elegance and warmth.
Jerry: Yeah. For instance, of the Northwest artists, Guy Anderson’s work has always been the one I most admire. I used to live in London and I have a fairly large collection of English art. They just reflect that time in my life and are a wonderful reminder.
I have several Henry Moores, I have Gilbert and George, things like that that are fairly graphic and fairly strong. As Raf said, they have a lot of warm tones in them. For whatever reason, the pieces I have are comfortable for me to live with. I do have one photograph by Huma Bhabha. It’s amazing. It’s a big statement against war and it’s a constructed pair of boots with a metal calf, part of the legs and the rest of the body is gone in what obviously was a blown-out war scene where a bomb went off. It’s about the life of a person. It’s very out of character compared to most of the pieces. But for some reason, I needed to live with that.
I also have some abstract works. Rafael introduced me to the work of Serrah Russell, a local artist. I really like her work and have four pieces.
Lisa: I recently saw the exhibit at Housewright Gallery Northwest Influencers, a lovely exhibit of pre-and post war works by Northwest artists. I’m curious if Northwest photographers figure into your collections in any way?
Jerry: For me, yes, because it started with relationships. Besides Rafael’s work, I had several pieces by Mel Curtis. My initial art purchases in Seattle were via the Lisa Harris Gallery that represented Mel Curtis. She had a sculptor, John Sisko, whose work I love and I have several of his pieces. Tom Woods, who does both amazing prints and also oil paintings. I have a couple of his pieces. I was really drawn to their art, but more to them as people. I like supporting contemporary, producing artists. I think that should be a big part of anybody who can afford to buy art; not just buying history. That to me is a really important aspect of how I spend my collecting dollars. Is it going to live on beyond me by being something a museum or somebody would want? But secondly, am I supporting an artist?
Rafael: This is something I admire so much about Jerry. I know not everybody’s in a position to do that, but there are so few true patrons these days. People who are really interested in supporting the development of artists. There is such a strong secondary market because every time something is sold, a collector gets richer. There are very few people who are just deeply committed to supporting artists. Jerry is the type of person who’ll ask an artist, “How can I support this big milestone for you? How can my collecting support the trajectory of an artist in a meaningful way?” I just admire that about you so much and it’s really important to think about that every time you buy something from an artist. It makes a huge difference in their lives, you know?
Lisa:Rafael, what are your ideas on how one can find art on a limited budget?
Rafael: Books can be very collectible! Many artists also produce special editions of their books that will come with a print. You can look at non-profits and arts organizations, many of them have print programs or fundraisers. And don’t forget about students! Going to student exhibits, like PCNW’s thesis shows—making a sale can be so meaningful for a student. You can also purchase directly from artists’ studios, either by going to art walks and open studio events, or by reaching out to them via social media. Lastly, never be afraid to ask for a payment plan, I’ve bought so many things on a payment plan!
Lisa: Is there a favorite piece in your collections that you got through the Photographic Center Northwest, either an auction or some other way?
Rafael:There are definitely a few that got away. But I got a beautiful piece by Jesse Burke that I still love.
Jerry: I think my first Michael Kenna came through the PCNW auction. I enjoy Michael Kenna’s landscapes.
Lisa: I also have acquired two of his landscapes through past PCNW benefit auctions and I see he has generously donated the image Snow Parfait Tree, 2004 for the upcoming auction.
Jerry: I think my first one came from the auction, but then I got tied in to G. Gibson Gallery. When you talk about people like Gail Gibson and their commitment to photography and PCNW, it really says so much. PCNW has drawn people in with such fidelity and commitment to inclusiveness and excellence. That’s a huge part of what the Photo Center is to me. Its success is that it’s not exclusive, it’s not a private club.
Rafael: Gail has truly been such a champion of PCNW. The last photograph I bought was from G. Gibson Gallery, an image by Marion Post Wolcott that I just couldn’t get out of my mind.
Jerry: The generosity of educating people that Rafael, Gail Gibson and Terry Novak (Executive Director, PCNW), and all the other people I’ve met through the Photo Center is a huge gift to us. In a world where art is not taught in schools and it’s really hard to not be intimidated walking into a gallery, to have a place where you can be exposed to art in a really accessible and consumable way is just a treat.