Image credit: Jennifer Zwick
The Photographic Center NW > Blog

An Interview with Nancy Libson

Nancy Libson is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


Two Boys Playing, Iceland, 2015
Archival pigment print
$900
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.



Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

I’m originally from CT and live in Wash. DC now. I always loved art and was creative as a kid growing up. My dad gave me a camera in high school I took a photo class at a local college that summer and the rest… history!

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

The photo was taken in Iceland- and on the day the pics were taken I was invited to join a few families on a picnic in the woods. The brothers in the photo were playing and I took a bunch of photos- and liked this one the best.

Is the selected work part of a larger body of work?

For the past 5 years I’ve been working on a project related to community in north and south Iceland during the summer. I’ve gotten to know many Icelanders and part of what I love about photography is the relationships and learning about people in my community and all over the world. I love Iceland!!

Who / what are your biggest influences?

There are many people who have influenced me. I grew up in a creative family. My dad was an architect/painter. Just looking at his paintings on the living room wall was a huge inspiration. A few teachers were big influences on me too- a wonderful high school english teacher and a photo teacher during college. In my late 20’s I had a work scholarship at the Paul Strand Archive. Being so intimately connected to Strand’s work, letters, etc- was such a great learning experience and empowered my photography in many ways- since I am a documentary/art photographer. 

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

Not yet. I think about it a lot- but my love and specialty is photographing people- and relating to them. I did take a phone pic of a bird and the newly created birds nest— outside my window- socially distancing from me! :)

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls?

In submitting my work to different opportunities- it’s about who is jurying the work and the place. From others-I have heard many positive things about PCNW. Personally, I have appreciated our emails back and forth- so thank you. I also value Kris Graves books-and like his viewpoint and many contributions to photography.

An Interview with Lisa Ahlberg

Lisa Ahlberg is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


C Rob, Lead Mechanic, from the series “On the Wing Line,” 2019
Archival pigment print
$400
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.



Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois and spent most of my childhood in a small town called Stillwater, Minnesota. I have been an airplane inspector and structures mechanic for over 20 years at Boeing. Working backwards from that I’ve been a photographer, gardener, floral arranger, truck assembler, textile machine operator, garment worker sewing swimsuits, terry cloth robes, women’s coats, women’s skirts and neck ties, knitting machine operator, sports jacket embroiderer and peanut factory packer. For many years, I was involved in the struggles of working people, unionists and family farmers. These experiences have always informed my work. I have little interest in celebrity culture. I am an industrial worker myself and it is working people I most turn to with my camera. 

I graduated from the Photographic Center Northwest. From 2009 – 2015, I served as a member of its Board of Directors and I continue to be an active member of the community of photographers it serves.

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves. 

This image is from my “On the Wing Line” series, a series of portraits of those I know from the factory floor of Boeing.  Some of them, like C Rob have been part of my life and routine for years. 

Charles Robinson started working at Boeing in 1989 and is now a team lead of mechanics and in his words is, “working with the younger generation encouraging them the value of building the best airplanes for the future to come”. He was born and raised in New Jersey. He said “my mother is and always will be the most significant person of my life. She raised eleven children on her own and kept us all together”.  C Rob joined the army as a young man and ended up at Fort Lewis. Later he was hired at Boeing.

I always knew C Rob was a fancy dresser. A factory is not the place for that. We wear jeans, sweats, leggings or company issued coveralls. But occasionally I would get glimpses of him leaving work all dressed up — ready to catch a plane to go out East to see family or to go golfing. He’d bring in clothes on hangers. He did not disappoint for this portrait. He chose the location as well as his wardrobe. That’s what I like about this series. None of us are defined only by our jobs. I want people to see the human beings I work with in the factory.

Is the selected work part of a larger body of work?

For 14 years I’ve worked on the Wing line in Renton, WA. We building the basic structure of the 737 wing. Up until recently, the factory pace was demanding. The pounding, drilling and blasting of horns were deafeningly loud. We worked hard at a fast pace. Some of us think the pace was too fast. 

These are dark days for Boeing. Of course production is temporarily completely shut down now due to the Covid 19 virus. But even prior to that, it was eerily quiet for those of us left on the assembly line in Renton due to the suspension of the 737 MAX. Production was suspended after two devastating crashes killing all 346 people aboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.  Many of my friends and coworkers were sent north to Boeing’s Everett plant and were working on other planes. We waited for the FAA and international regulators to determine if the Boeing Co. has made sufficient changes necessary to make the 737 MAX safe. Now it seems everything is on hold.

When we get past this moment, there’s a lot of work ahead before trust will be rebuilt. For some it won’t be. Lives were lost due to a series of conscious decisions that put profits before the safety of the airplane. No one wanted or expected this outcome. But still, decisions were made.

These portraits are part of a series that includes some of the people important to me over the years of working on the factory floor.  As I begin to plan for my own retirement, from the life of working a variety of factory jobs, I both can’t wait to get out of there and also fear the loss of relationships and social connections that have been a vital part of my life. Our work is a huge part of our lives. It can, in part, define who were are and how we see ourselves. But we are also more.

Who / what are your biggest influences? 

I have been most influenced by outstanding photographers such as Diane Arbus, Mike Disfarmer, Roy DeCarava, Milton Rogovin and Seydou Keita, artists who have all produced revealing portraits that capture a certain place and time as well as the dignity of their subjects.

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

I’m laid-off and staying at home. I photograph on my daily walks with my dog Sonny. But I’m mostly trying to stay at home and resist the urge to go out and interact with others. So, while I am shooting some I am not working on a body of work that I’d like to share.

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls?

When I consider submitting an entry, I mostly think about the organization that is sponsoring the call and the juror. I submit rarely. I responded to PCNW’s call because it is my community and I care about PCNW’s survival. Entering is not cheap, so I enter where the money I give means something to me. And, of course, I look to see who the juror might be. Is it someone that will even be interested in my portraiture?

An Interview with Laurent Chevalier

Laurent Chevalier is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


Untitled (Iles De Madeleine), 2017
Digital C-print
Film capture (medium format)
Edition 1/2
$850
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

My name is Laurent Chevalier, and I actually grew up right here in the great northwest, attending University of Washington for College. I now live in Brooklyn, New York. My first intro to photography was via a photography history class in college in 2003, and since then I began teaching and exploring the practice myself. In the last about 7 years I began to be more focused on developing my practice and creating the body of work I am here to create. 

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

This image was taken on the west coast of Africa, on an Island just outside of Dakar. This was my first trip to the continent, and I found myself considering my own relationship to this place. I even wondered how close I got to a piece of my own ancestral home, considering Senegal’s French colonization and my own lineage through my family in formerly French Louisiana. Where counts as home, and even if a place is home, what does that mean? Home can be a place of refuge and rest, but it is also often where our brokenness begins. These were some of the thoughts on my mind as I made images on the 10 days my wife and I were in Dakar.

Is the selected work part of a larger body of work?

When initially shot, I was creating in order to explore the space I found myself in, and to explore my mindset at the time. Since creating that group of images, I started collecting some images from that trip with other images from travels to Martha’s Vineyard, for a series currently titled “Between Two Shores”. This series is about the relationship between time and space, and how identity, specifically Black American identity, is a spectrum and amalgamation of experiences.

Who / what are your biggest influences?

My greatest inspiration right now is Roy Decarava. Although this image is shot in color, I usually shoot in black and white, so DeCarava’s work speaks to me greatly in that way. I also am publishing a photobook that is inspired by his book with Langston Hughes. DeCarava’s subtleness with his use of shadows, and the tenderness that came across in the images is tremendously inspirational. Other influences are Lorna Simpson’s growing and expansion of her practice, with the camera as sort of a foundation. Robert Frank is also a huge inspiration, in how he worked to capture the essence contained in a moment, with all its imperfections and perspective.

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

In most ways, I am just trying to take this pandemic a day at a time, and not focusing on being sure I’m making work. In those day to day moments however, I find myself needing to explore where my mind is, and I have been making self portraits to keep track of that.

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls? 

I have been very excited for the proper opportunity to show work of mine in my home state. The energy and foundation I received growing up in Washington is certainly foundational to my approach to my art practice now. That coupled with the opportunity to have work selected by Kris Graves at such a location as yours was perfect.

An Interview with Judith Stenneken

Judith Stenneken is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


Untitled #1, 2012
Archival pigment print
Edition 4/5
 $1800
Courtesy of Marshall Contemporary
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.




Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

I am a visual artist working in photography and video. I grew up in northern Germany, not far from Denmark and close to both the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. I loved growing up in close proximity to waters, with long walks in cool winds. It grounds you. Photography does the same for me. I discovered it in my mid-twenties, when I had to go through a rough patch in my life. I found peace in the observation and focus required to take a good image…and I got hooked. 

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

The image is a self-portrait. I played with capturing body parts and this one stood out. I like how the arm and hand seem to flow alongside the shape of the body, framing it, but also holding on to it. Another important player in this image is the negative space: on first sight, it almost seems the arm floats in space, detached from the body. I like this interplay of connection and disconnection. 

Personally, it is a hard image for me to look at. I have an ambiguous relationship to my hands. As long as I can recall they have always looked like the hands of an old women. Hiding them became a habit and yet some days I think of them as old wise souls, here to teach me something. 

Is the selected work part of a larger body of work?

The image is part of my project “ILLUMINATE NATURALLY IN DARKNESS.” In it I use images of the journey, the voyager and transitory spaces (like hotel rooms) as metaphors to describe transition as the sole constant in life and in-betweenness as the only state of being. The concepts of ‘departure’ and ‘arrival’ dissolve as the traveler keeps moving – a gravity to constant change. The voyager’s home becomes the hotel room and the airplane. Spaces to pause but never to dwell.

I think we are in a phase in which change happens at an accelerating pace. It can leave one dizzy, disoriented and overwhelmed at times – like a loss of control. I think the acceleration of change forces us out of our comfort zones, out of our habits and into adjustments. It forces us to re-act. Coevally it offers a chance to embrace core conditions of life that we usually prefer to ignore: impermanence and uncertainty. This is where Illuminate Naturally In Darkness lives. It asks – how can we embrace this uncertainty? How can we accept living with change?

Who / what are your biggest influences?

It’s hard to single out particular influences. To me it’s one big ocean of influences: the people I meet, the books I read, the conversations I have. They all mingle, interact and hopefully lead to interesting questions and ideas. To favor one or two over the rest would only speak to the amounts not included. That being said, I am happy to share two books I am currently re-reading: Carlo Rovelli’s ’Seven Brief Lessons of Physics’ and ’The Order of Time’.

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

I see an overlap between the current situation and my new body of work ~a mountain is only a slow wave~, which I have been working on since 2016. It deals with our individual and societal potential for adaptability in times of change. When I started this project I was thinking about adaptability due to technology’s role in changing our lives rapidly. There is a good chance that Covid-19 is not necessarily shifting the direction we are moving towards, but instead is an accelerator and therefore a potential eye-opener as to what works and what doesn’t in an interconnected, interdependent, world-wide community that we are. We understand that now, the fact that we are truly interconnected. My actions can literally influence if you live or die and vice versa. If anything, this moment teaches us about the responsibility we have for each other. If we use this moment right, it can be a chance for us to ask ‘how’ we want to live together, what shape our interconnectedness should take. 

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls?

The community aspect has become more important to me over the years. Of course, I am happy to be able to show my work. But as importantly, I love the fact that my participation can help support your programs, which in return help people learn about photography and be encouraged to explore their own creativity. In particular, I am a fan of the variety of scholarships PCNW is offering to young people who do not always have the means to follow their dreams, and I appreciate that you help with that.

An Interview with Jennifer Zwick

Jennifer Zwick is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


Floating Bouquet, 2019
Archival pigment print
Edition 2/10
$1500
Courtesy of J. Rinehart Gallery
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.




Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

Hello! I am a well-meaning multimedia visual artist, currently social distancing in Seattle. Because I like making things in a wide variety of ways, majoring in photography was a good choice since I could make anything at all, and as long as the end result was a photograph, it counted as homework.  

Photography allows for a tightly controlled view of a scene or an object. You can create something which only needs to exist for a fraction of a second, and only has to make sense from the specific vantage point of the camera. This is a very interesting set of parameters to work within, because fragile materials or strange situations can be inhabited by the viewer for far longer than they would otherwise last. I love making things (narratives, objects, etc) that look impossible, but were actually built quite simply. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of how it feels when you realize your brain and your eyes are oversimplifying what you see, getting things just a teeny bit wrong – when you piece apart an optical illusion, so you “get the joke”, and then willfully reconstruct it again – how it keeps working, keeps tricking your mind, even though you know how it’s done.

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

Floating Bouquet exploits how the brain is hard-wired to experience photography’s flat representations of three-dimensional objects as still being three-dimensional. To make this image, I printed a photograph of a bouquet of tulips, mounted it on foam core, and cut out the background. I elevated it slightly over a seamless backdrop, then hung a strawberry from some filament. By lighting the image from above, the rephotographed bouquet has what almost appears to be a drop-shadow photoshop effect, but is in fact just its actual shadow. The strawberry’s shadow and placement create a relationship with the lowest tulip, and the subtle shine of its filament serves as a clue to how this deliberately confusing image was built.

Who / what are your biggest influences?

Some of the artists I’m drawn to right now are: Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Mudede, Haley Morris-Cafiero’s “The Bully Pulpit,” Joseph Park’s Prizmism work, Josef Albers, Jenny Riffle, Claire Cowie, Duane Michals, Jenny Heishman.

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

Like everyone who has young children, I am all of a sudden a homeschool teacher. Then, after school, I’m a parent! I have two kids, ages 5 and 9, and they’re wonderful and weird, but they aren’t conducive to hand-placing thousands of flowers, or large-scale set-based construction, or any number of projects that require more than a few seconds of steady concentration. Especially my constantly inquisitive 5-year old, who never runs out of questions or “helpful” suggestions on what I’m doing. Honestly, I’ve come up with so many project ideas that would be fun to do with them, but I find that this constant caregiving, all day every day, leaves me too tired to be clever with my own art. So that’s on hold for now! However, if you have kids or if you just like coloring, I’ve made some pretty fun coloring books over the years that I encourage you to download and print.  They can be found on my website in the “Social Distancing Content” section (https://jenniferzwick.com/).

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls?

I’m beyond proud to be a part of this show! I have applied many, many times to PCNW’s Juried Exhibitions and this is the first time I’ve been accepted. Sometimes I feel like my catchphrase is “Jenny Zwick: I’m Still Here!”. Rejection is a normal part of any art form, and while I wholeheartedly embrace failure (much of my work is about failure, like https://jenniferzwick.com/works/the-builder and https://jenniferzwick.com/works/what-might-go-wrong and https://jenniferzwick.com/works/you-are-a-disappointment-to-yourself-and-others and https://jenniferzwick.com/works/bed-dress and https://jenniferzwick.com/works/it-will-never-get-better and https://jenniferzwick.com/works/self-portrait-with-raccoon), I still (shockingly) prefer the alternative. I wasn’t going to give up on applying because PCNW is such an exciting place across the board. Their exhibitions are fascinating, and the staff are exactly the kind of photo-obsessed people you’d want to learn from. My first lighting class was at PCNW, taught by “world’s best Bill Finger,” as I think of him, and I recently took a class from genius supermodel Kiliii Yuyan, who demystified drone photography in an approachable yet detailed way. So I say: always keep applying, and absolutely take a class from PCNW, because in doing so, you’re investing in yourself, and you are worthwhile.

An Interview with Clinton Chambers

Clinton Chambers is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


Sangre de Cristo Mountains, 2014
Digital C-print
Digital capture
Edition 2/4
$900
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.


Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

I grew up in Colorado but spent most of my adult life in the Pacific Northwest area.

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

My current artistic practice centers around creating images that depict my most cherished memories. These memories are constructed using common objects and materials that when photographed represent an idealized if not romanticized version of that experience. My approach to photography stems from a road trip from Washington to South Dakota that I embarked on with my closest friend in 2008. I relied on photography to document and imbue meaning on our travels. However, at the end of this road-trip my film was unintentionally destroyed. The sense of loss was so profound that it inspired my motivation for creating photographs that represent the past rather than obstructing my ability to experience fulfillment in the present. After that experience, I no longer viewed photography as a documentary device but rather an artistic tool used to create a perspective of the world that I felt I had lost. This body of work is an ongoing exploration of my memories.

Who / what are your biggest influences?

My most prominent influences are Walter Benjamin’s “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” which enabled me to cultivate a vocabulary for the work I was making. Benjamin’s essay gave me language to describe what I have been trying to permeate into my photographs. To me, the concept of an “aura”, is achieved when an image transcends beyond a latent memory and resonates with a more encompassing emotion such as loss or wonderment. I strive to create images that are signifiers of the emotions. My intention is to create work that embodies this central theme yet is still accessible within multiple iterations of the idea. The photographs of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Uta Barth, and Jeff Wall are also important influences on my aesthetic choices. Attached are some of the images that I have been making in isolation to further this ongoing concept. 

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

Yes! Check it out:

An Interview with Brian Van Lau

Brian Van Lau is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.

Brian Van Lau (b. 1996, Honolulu, HI; lives in Issaquah, WA)
Waco Cowboys, from the series “Lost Boy Scout,” 2019
Giclée print
Film capture (medium format)
$850 



Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

Hey everyone! Thanks for letting me be on here, I’m a conceptual documentary photographer based in Seattle now, but I grew up in Honolulu, HI. I definitely took to photography thanks to my mother, who held all of the family photos dating back to meeting my father, but beyond that, photography became a means of having greatest artistic control (and more importantly, financial control) over making work than that of filmmaking, which is what I had initially sought to do after high school.

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

This image, Waco Cowboys, was made in part of a 3-week road trip from Issaquah to LA, to Austin, and back again for my project “Lost Boy Scout.” This was my first time in Texas, and after spending a day in Smithville, TX and Taylor, TX retracing the steps of Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” I came back to Waco where I had been staying and happened upon a trio of cowboys riding through the suburbs. I pulled over, ran to them, and asked if it’d be ok to take some pictures of their horses, and to my surprise, Chris (the man featured in sunglasses scrolling through his phone) was more than willing to oblige. I photographed him, and his father and his father’s friend off to the side, and when I asked him about what he thought about his son and his friends and their interest, he simply responded, “I’m just glad the boys are doing something productive, riding horses.”

Was the selected work part of a larger body of work?

Yes it is, it’s part of “Lost Boy Scout,” a conceptual documentary portrait of men in America. Combining staged portraits, and typical documentary photographs, as well as pictorial images of the current American landscape, this project is an attempt to portray an increasingly complicated and by extension, more undefined ideation of modern men. Billboards, signs, iconography seem to be the final haunting pieces of a past masculinity no longer apt for the modern-day. In the end, this project has become a portrait of the non-direction this identity can be built upon if it is drawing upon the past for this new mythology. To me, the idea of the “Lost Boy Scout” isn’t necessarily a direct comment on the literal association, but an aimlessness amongst male, male identity, and to a larger extent, the eventual absence of responsibility via social dynamic in an ongoing shift in culture. One of my favorite series of essays while making work for a project prior, was Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life,” and the idea of all social interactions being performative to some extent or to eventually override the “true self,” and how its possible for the opposite – a complete lack of performance for the public – causes great anxiety for the self without an audience to re-affirm one’s identity. Through these interactions, and the remnants of public portrayal via icons, I think I became more and more intrigued by how men choose to portray themselves to each other, and especially myself.

Who / what are your biggest influences?

Photographically speaking, my main influences would have to be McNair Evans, Mark Steinmetz, Ian Kline, Curran Hatleberg, Tierney Gearon, Shane Lavalette, Mike Smith, Matthew Genitempo, Morgan Ashcomb, Lars Tunbjörk, Mary Frey, Joe Leavenworth, Marisa Chafetz, Hailey Heaton, Gus Aronson, Keegan Holden, Mimi Plumb, Jo Ann Walters, Sebastian Cvitanic, Marijane Ceruti, Bradley Marshall, Sophie Barbasch, Jake Reinhart, Tyler Healey, Thomas Gardiner, Matthew Jessie , Eirik Johnson, Lila Barth, and this list is going to keep on going so I’ll stop it here, but for one reason or another, be it their sequencing and theoretical abilities, or subject matter, or visual syntax being similar to my own, I’d definitely have to say my peers and artists above have been integral in developing my own artistic identity. I’d also probably name Hideaki Anno’s “End of Evangelion,” Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s “After Life,” and Edward Yang’s “Yiyi” as supplementary filmic influences if not just off of tone and subject matter alone. I think “After Life” in particular gave a degree of insight into how to look at peripheral as well as intentional memory, as the characters of the movie as well as the film itself stress the details of articulating memory via imagery, and I think that paired with Mark Fischer’s essays on Hauntology gave way to the primary themes of my works: memory via imagery giving way to an indication of our value of said memory, and the trappings of this loop causing a nearly solipsistic world-view as we try to articulate a world no longer existent, but always used as the architecture of the one that does. 

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

Not exactly? I have started a new series to work on during the pandemic however. After my father’s recent passing, I began thinking of a memory of my 23rd birthday in an empty parking lot out of the AMC Theater in Waco, TX, ironically. I was in Waco due to this road trip making work, and thus alone for that night, repeating a ritual my father and I had done last time I had seen him in our hometown of Hawaii. As I was recollecting, I had placed him into the memory and just as easily as he had slipped in, I had deliberately chosen to erase him from it, becoming symbolic of my conflicting feelings towards the whole experience. I’ve begun digging through archives of images I’ve made through the past year-early 2019, and sequencing them in a way similar to a visual poem. Personally I’m really excited to see where it goes, because the criteria for what types of images can be included in this project have become much looser to me now.

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls?

I chose PCNW because there’s not a lot of in-person galleries in Seattle to present work at. I had actually submitted two other times to the PCNW annual show and was rejected, but I had a great experience at last year’s annual show where I had met one of my new favorite artists and mentor, Liz Albert, who was also presenting work relating to affecting memory via text and image. Personally, I wish there were more shows/exhibits not being made or featured by strictly students, due to the whole process of it being very alienating to someone who didn’t have the resources to go to any sort of higher education. My experience had been mostly rejection up to a certain point where I had been curating what to submit to who based on their taste and realizing that being rejected doesn’t necessarily mean the work was poor, but didn’t fit the curator’s taste, or the tone of the show. That being said, I’ve been able to come across more artists and friends in online features/ exhibits than in-person ones, which is both a great thing and a shame to me, as an overwhelmingly majority of these people do not live in the Seattle area.

An Interview with Brian Allen

Brian Allen is an exhibiting artist in PCNW’s 23rd annual juried exhibition, curated by Kris Graves.


Wallingford Fence – 2, from the series “Small Data Project,” 2019/20
Archival pigment print
Digital capture (trail camera with motion detector)
$500
Please contact Erin Spencer at espencer@pcnw.org with questions or to purchase.



Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and when you first discovered your love of photography.

I’m celebrating my 50th year of being involved with photography. I was doing silk screening in high school, and I was inspired to learn photography so that I could do photo silk screening. I guess I still haven’t figured out photography, because I never got back to photo silk screening. 

Tell us about the work that was selected to be included in Distinction by Kris Graves.

If you are wondering why the juror chose rats this year, it is because I only submitted rats. I’m tired of “cute” animals getting all the attention. And the way the rats hold their tails surprised and entertained me. It is a happy coincidence that I finished this group in the Year of the Rat.

Is the selected work part of a larger body of work?

Yes. People talk a lot about “big data” these days, but I am more interested in “small data” that I generate myself and arrange. I often experiment with repeat photographs from my immediate surroundings. I don’t expect to create a narrative with my photos; in fact, I mistrust narratives. But I am looking for patterns.

These photos were taken with a “trail camera”, which has a motion detector, and the ability to photograph at night with infrared light. Hunters and wildlife biologists use them a lot. Usually, my camera took a burst of 3 photos at a time. The camera was fixed to our rear porch and pointed at the fence next to our neighbor’s house. In 5 months, I got about 2500 photos from that identical vantage point.

Most of the photos are empty because the camera is slow to react. To slow the animals down, I added a hurdle, which helps, but does not solve the problem. I sort the photos by animal and position, using keywords, and print the photos in chronological order. Viewers may remember an earlier grid of mine, shown in the 21st Juried Exhibition, which featured raccoons. 

Who / what are your biggest influences?

I have had many influences on this project, including Eadweard Muybridge, Marion Faller & Hollis Frampton, John Baldessari, the Rephotographic Survey Project, Frank Gohlke, Mike Mandel, and my mom, Ann Allen, who taught junior high science.

Are you making work in response to the current pandemic?

I’m continuing with this project, which has always been home based. Now that we are all hunkering down, I guess the meaning of the project has changed, but I’m slow to react to current events. For what it is worth, I think I am still dealing with issues of “Big Data”.

PCNW’s annual juried call for entry provides exhibition opportunities for artists and directly supports our programs, scholarships, and labs at PCNW. This helps ensure access to photography for many future generations of creatives. We know you have many options for submitting your work, so please tell us why you chose PCNW? What are your thoughts and experience with submitting your work to different calls?

I prefer shows that are curated around a theme rather than juried. Among juried shows, I prefer ones that show two or three pieces from each artist (otherwise, it is such a jumble of styles and ideas). But since I’m associated with PCNW, and some people already know my work, I’m sometimes OK with just having one piece shown.

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