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On Collecting with John Jenkins III and Stephen Lyons

A deeper look into the art of collecting photography with PCNW community members

“The only emphasis I have is I collect things that I want to look at for a long time, either because the work is simply beautiful or because I sense I will see something new in a piece over time,” – Stephen Lyons, Platform Gallery.

Ann Pallesen, a former PCNW staff member and 2021 Benefit Committee Member, recently talked with longtime supporters John Jenkins III and Stephen Lyons about collecting art and how anyone interested can get started. Read more from Ann, John and Stephen below and be on the lookout for additional conversations coming soon.

Interviewer: Ann Pallesen

Interviewee: John Jenkins III

Interviewee: Stephen Lyons

Ann: John, We met in the 90s at PCNW! I remember you using the color machine regularly and working on your series that you showed with G. Gibson Gallery. Such nice work! 

John: Thanks! I started taking photo classes to learn how to print in color back when PCNW was on 5th Avenue. I remember the gallery was on the first floor and there was that spiral staircase to get down to the darkrooms. The facilities vastly improved with the building on 12th Avenue.

Ann: How did you become interested in photography? 

John: I started getting interested in photography when I was a teenager and I got a used Nikkormat to use. I set up a black and white darkroom in our basement and learned how to print. In high school I worked for the newspaper and yearbook taking photos and decided to major in photography in college.

Ann: When and how did your love of collecting art/photography start?

John: During college my photography teacher taught us about the history of photography and I guess that was the beginning. After I graduated and was living in Chicago I used to go to New York for the photography auctions at Sotheby’s and Christies. You could see a range of work by photographers that you couldn’t find in any books. I started buying photos during those trips. The first photo I bought at auction was Diane Arbus’s Boy with Straw Hat Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade. And then a couple Harry Callahan photos of his wife Eleanor came back with me to Chicago.

Diane Arbus , Boy with Straw Hat Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade, NYC, 1967

Stephen: I was somewhat influenced by John’s method of researching and buying artwork. When I realized that I could actually bid on work by Robert Rauschenberg at an auction house, I gave it a try and I’ve been successful in purchasing several pieces that I still look at frequently. I realized I needed to make my moves before the artist passed away (which he did in 2008) otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay the increase in the prices of his work. 

I also made work for a number of years, mostly mixed media and assemblage, and showed in a few group shows around town. That was how I got a call to meet several other artists to discuss the possibility of opening a new gallery which eventually became Platform Gallery which happened in 2004 founded by Carol Bolt, Blake Haygood, Dirk Park, and me. 

Ann: John, you’re an accomplished artist and publisher of photo books (Decode Books), and Stephen is an art dealer (Platform Gallery): How does your familiarity with the art industry enhance or inform your interests in collecting? 

Stephen: Not sure that it does other than I typically want to own most of what I’ve shown in the gallery!

Ann: Is there an emphasis/theme to what you collect?

John: I never set out to collect with a particular emphasis or theme, but I did realize after about 10 years into it, that almost everything I collected was a portrait. It was an odd realization since I don’t make portraits in my own work. When I collect now I don’t limit myself to portraits but they usually are.

Stephen: The only “emphasis” I have is I collect things that I want to look at for a long time, either because the work is simply beautiful or because I sense I will see something new in a piece over time.

Ann: Favorite mediums or themes in your collection?

John: There are no favorite themes, but when I like someone’s work, I tend to collect more than a single image. I have ten Arbus prints now, a number of images by Harry Callahan, Joel Peter Witkin, William Christenberry, Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as many local and emerging artists. 

Stephen: I am more eclectic in the work I have collected, some of it photography, some of it works on paper, a few sculptures.

Ann: How many pieces starts a collection? Three? Do you have a sense of how many pieces you have at this point?

John: I would say three to five — enough that together they start to say something together. Stephen and I probably have several hundred pieces in our collection, but I really have never counted. 

Stephen: Agreed

Ann: Describe what compels you to collect a piece?

John: I’m not impulsive when I buy a piece – it is either an image that I’ve seen before and have always loved, or one that after I see it once I keep thinking about it and can’t get it out of my head. 

Stephen: I am impulsive which, only a few times, has resulted in work that I initially was drawn to but doesn’t hold my attention over time. It’s rare, but it has happened.

Ann: What are the parameters between the two of you on collecting pieces? Do you choose things together or separately? 

John: We’ve always bought pieces individually. Our rule is that if you are using your own money you can buy anything you like and can put it up in the house. I don’t buy strictly for investment, but there is a secondary market for many of the people I buy, so if I ever decide to downsize there would be a way to sell the work.

Ann: Which was the first piece that made you feel like a collector? 

John: I’ve always been a big Warhol fan and his pieces would always come up for auction when I was in New York. I first bought a Marilyn silkscreen print, and then a Liz Taylor. Then I had to have a Campbell Soup can. And I knew I would never sell the pieces. I guess it was about that time I realized I was a collector. 

Stephen: When I made a successful bid at an auction for Robert Rauschenberg’s “Star Quarters,” an editioned suite of four 48 inch by 48 inch screen prints on mirrored plexiglass. 

Ann: Where do you find your art most often?

John: I’ve always looked at what is being offered at auctions. Today they make it so easy – a little too easy – you can see everything online. You don’t have to go to the auction and sit through it all waiting for your lot to come up for sale. You can watch it on your screen and do other things until it’s time to bid. I’ve also bought a fair amount through galleries, here in Seattle and around the country. It all depends on who or what I am trying to buy. I look to auctions for artists that are no longer living or that are well established and have a secondary market. I look to galleries for very contemporary work.

Stephen: I actually have stopped looking for work to purchase. We have work wrapped and stored in closets that I don’t see enough of so I have put the brakes on buying. For the time being.

Ann: Do you hang in themes? and/or for dinner parties?  

John: We have enough work that we can’t hang everything at once, so we rotate the pieces on the walls. We haven’t had any during Covid, but we used to use dinner parties as an excuse to switch out pieces to “freshen up” the house. We have a stairway going upstairs that can hold 15-20 pieces and we might switch it from black and white work to all color. It’s great because you get to fall in love with these “new” pieces all over again!

Ann: What piece(s) gets a big response from visitors in your house? 

John: Everyone knows Warhol, so I guess they get the biggest response. And people are interested in Stephen’s Raushenberg prints and objects as well. 

Ann: What advice would you give newcomers to art collecting?

John: I know everyone says it, but collect what you love and you’ll never go wrong. I still love the first Arbus I bought and I have seen it virtually everyday for the past 30+ years. 

Stephen: Be open to trusting yourself and trusting your eyes. Also most galleries are happy to let you purchase work on layaway. I have sold many artworks to people who can’t swing the purchase price in one swoop but can pay over time. Don’t be afraid to ask a gallerist if they would work with you on making a purchase.

Ann: How have you found art on a limited budget? 

John: You can sometimes get a bargain at the high end auction houses, but don’t count on it. There are smaller auction houses – like Swanns or Heritage – that sell less “important” work by the same artists and at lower price points. Fundraising auctions like the PCNW auction coming up is another good place to look. When a monograph of a photographer’s work comes out there is usually a Collector’s Edition where you get a signed print with the book – I’ve bought a number of photos – and books! – that way. Emerging artists sometimes have studio open houses where you can find cool stuff.

Ann: Is there anything else you want to share about your photography collection?

John: It’s interesting how your collection becomes a timeline of your life over the years. The pieces you buy mark what you were doing at that time, what you were interested in and looking at, and even remind you of where you were living. 

Thanks, Ann, this has been fun!

More info on PCNW’s 2021 Benefit Auction and how you can start your own collection can be found here: https://www.pcnwbenefit.org/

August 2021 Member Showcase

For this month’s Member Showcase, we are featuring the creative work of Robert Rodriguez-Lawson. Read below to learn more about his photography projects these days.

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ-LAWSON – member since 2018

What are you working on?

My objective over the last few months was to complete a set of 12 prints that reflect how COVID-19 has changed my perspective on my city.

Artist Statement

COVID-19 hit us all like a bomb. In an instant, my city shrank to my neighborhood. I lost inspiration. I spent months walking the same circle. Daily. Without a camera. Without purpose. I was unmoored attempting to navigate this new normal of safety requirements, non-stop news, and nowhere to go. 

I needed to find incremental ways of phasing back into interactions with people and places and to reconnect with making art. Pinholes provided a new approach to photography and helped me to rediscover the city that is waking up from a long, painful sleep. There is an aspect of the unknown using a pinhole camera – it’s just a box. I needed to let go of precision and experiment. The distorted view and the long exposures require a new perspective and a reorientation to a city slowly regained.

See more of Robert’s photography online at: https://www.instagram.com/rr_lawson/


Thanks again to Robert for his submission to our Member Showcase. If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, 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!

July 2021 Member Showcase

For this month’s Member Showcase, we are featuring the creative work of Christy Rey and Barbara Strigel. Read below to learn more about their current photography projects.

CHRISTY REY – member since 2021

What are you working on?

In 2020, I began several online photography classes that focus on telling a subject’s story and finding my voice. The main emphasis is on Environmental Portrait photography. A genre using lighting, photographic techniques and a comprehensive understanding of the subject to create inspirational stories about people, places or things.

Artist statement

Photography infuses my life with interest, magic and compassion. It guides me to “see” a subject beyond first impression and pause with the focused lens to discover a deeper reality. My desire is to reveal a “subjects” story. My tools are digital, black & white film and vintage photography processes. The equipment list spans my maturity, interest and a seasoned sense of wonder. The partnership between myself and the subject is a trusted intimate connection and the hope is for the audience to feel involved. This journey into the creative stimulates my energy as much as the passionate final presentation of the subject’s story.

Learn more about Christy’s work here


BARBARA STRIGEL – member since 2020

What are you working on?

I have begun a series I am tentatively calling “If we were to talk about architecture.” My practice, a hybrid of analogue and digital collage, is an exploration of separation, connection and visual grace in urban space. While creating this series of architectural re-positionings, I am reading the autobiographical writings of Aldo Rossi and finding parallels between his ideas about architecture and my experience with the process of collage.

Learn more about Barbara’s work at: www.barbarastrigel.com


Thanks again to Christy and Barbara for their submission to our Member Showcase. If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, 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!

April 2021 Member Showcase

For this month’s membership showcase, we are pleased to share the work of David Chui, a member since 2013. We thank David and hope that you enjoy his images.

DAVID CHUI – member since 2013

What are you working on?

A U.S. Forest Services Voices of the Wilderness Alaskan Artist In Resident application

Artist Statement 

The six images are part of the body of work called Broken Windows. They are the exterior windows of Books to Prisoners, located on N 76th St and Greenwood Ave N, next to Versatile Arts. Shot on Kodak TX400 120 film with a Rollei Magic II, an antique camera I bought in a Hong Kong flea market.

I enjoy finding beauty in things that people generally ignore. Each glass panel is like a piece of jewel shining under the Seattle cloudy sky.

I processed the film and then printed them in the traditional darkroom on archival warm-tone fiber paper. The framed photograph is 20″x20″.

You can find more about David’s photography by clicking here


Thanks again to David for his submission to our membership showcase..

If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, 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!

March 2021 Member Showcase

For this month’s membership showcase, we are pleased to share the work of Joan Dinkelspiel and Janet Heineck. We thank them for their submissions, and we hope you enjoy what they have shared.

JOAN DINKELSPIEL – member since 2011

What are you working on?

A project entitled, “Safe Travels in Covid Time.”

Artist Statement 

Elders are known to reminisce and reflect; I fit the demographic. In my mid-70’s and at high risk during a global Covid pandemic, I hunker down, limiting travel to daily neighborhood walks and monthly forays nearby for provisions. Many Americans dream of retiring and taking trips away from familiar places. Instead, I make images with what is close at hand. I dig in my Seattle basement to excavate an old carousel projector and 35mm film slides I made many decades ago. I travel in my garden and in my laundry room by overlaying images that conjure up memories of times past. Projections from my deck to the neighbors’ trees remind me of a frigid 1971 December in Chartres Cathedral or in a Loire Valley chateau. Overlays on the washer take me to an intact Notre Dame Cathedral decades before the 2019 fire. Others in the laundry to a 1973 boat trip through the Golden Gate, and on the water heater to the summit of Mt. Tateyama, Japan, at sunrise. Safe travels with renewed gratitude for home and memory.

You can find more about Joan’s photography by clicking here


JANET HEINECK – member since 2014

What are you working on?

At the moment, I am working on informal portraits with a particularly contrasty ASA 400 film. This film will teach me a lot about controlling the range of lights and shadows both in exposure and in printing. In Spring quarter’s “Black and White Photography Projects”, I hope to improve these and other darkroom skills and, through much more experience with the camera, to refine ideas for my project for the course.

Artist Statement 

I am drawn to the lines, textures, subtle tones, highlights, and shadows found in nature. Natural light both brilliant and quiet, captured in black and white, can bring new life to ordinary scenes and objects. Such light suggests memory, reflection, and time passing for me: a means of seeing what is right before me, perhaps meditatively but always in a new way. 


Thanks again to Joan and Janet for submitting their work for this month’s showcase.

If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, 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!

February 2021 Member Showcase

This month, we feature two members for our showcase. Scott Kuehner who has been a member since 2005, and Angshuman Sarkar who recently became a member this year. We thank them for their engagement with PCNW and their contributions to this month’s showcase.

Scott Kuehner – Member since 2005

What are you working on?

I consider myself a Large Format Black and White film photographer and as such my ‘work’ has been on hold since PCNW closed last March. So, until COVID passes and PCNW can re-open to rental folks, I’ll continue to study (ie., look at) photography books, B/W photographs, and contemplate topics such as solarization, masking, toning, and lighting, and importantly, how I can use these techniques to help express my vision. Basically, I miss the darkroom.

Having said that, the images included here are color digital photos from last summer’s PCNW Still Life Class. Even so, I think my personal ‘style’ is apparent

Artist Statement

When I first started taking B/W film classes at PCNW I was attracted to the photographic vision of Brett Weston and Don Worth. But as my experience and skills expanded, photographic books about Blumenfeld, Man Ray, Ralph Gibson and their ilk, now also populate my bookshelves. 

I believe that the common thread that connects these photographic artists and resonates with my vision is their use of contrast, form, simplicity, and ‘extraction’ as Brett Weston would say, rather than abstraction. In my case, whether photographing trees, chipped paint, models in the studio or flowers on my living room table, I see compositions in terms of the organization of objects, contrast, balance and symmetry. And, simplicity.  

As part of an Advanced Black and White Photography class at PCNW, I was able to interview Don Worth. While explaining his printing style, he used a theatrical analogy of how actors exaggerate their emotions so as to ‘project beyond the footlights’. As such, Worth’s compositions are printed so that the viewer makes no mistake as to what the subject of the photograph is. I found this not only an affirmation of what I was trying to do (but didn’t know it at the time), but also as permission to be even more dramatic with my printing. Consequently, I print with the white whites and black blacks only to define the middle grays.

You can find more about Scott’s photography by clicking here.


Angshuman Sarkar – member since 2021

What are you working on?

I recently became a member of your organization. I have been doing landscapes in Black and White for many years now. My website is at www.angshuman.net.

Artist Statement

I try to capture a sense of attachment and intimacy to the landscape through my images. I am drawn to textures because I feel that the textures tell a story of time and the evolution of the land. Be it the erosion of the rocks over millions of years from flooding, or a seasonal harvest that leaves its mark on the field, I try to capture a part of that story and a connection to the land.

I moved to the Pacific North-West about five years back, from Kolkata, India. My formal education is in Computer Science which brings me to this area. But I have always been close to art and have been making images for a long time. 

Angshuman has limited edition prints, signed and numbered, on archival material. You can find out more about his photography by clicking here.


A big thank you to Scott and Angshuman for sharing their work, and showing support for PCNW. 

If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, 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!

January 2021 Member Showcase

Happy New Year! This month we are showcasing  Kirk Hostetter. Kirk has been a PCNW Member since 2019. He has been working on two exciting projects involving the Duwamish River and living in times of quarantine.

Kirk Hostetter – Member since 2019

What are you working on?

I am currently working on a project involving the Duwamish River, which originated as a collaboration with Wittman Estes Architecture (https://www.duwamishcrossing.net). I am examining the River as an historical, social, and psychological geography by considering the implications of its reduced watershed; its industrialization, urbanization, and alterations; the various attempts made toward recovery; and the evolving access to its banks by the people who live there. As an explorer I have been seeking out the many moments along the water, and along its original meandering path, that allow us to slip between the layers of what was, what is, and what might be.

Selected images here: https://www.kirkhostetter.com/duwamish

My recently completed book, Quarantine Portraits (An Isolated Collaboration of Friends and Objects), compiles portraits of friends and colleagues with objects of their choosing that gained significance to them during COVID’s strange quarantined spring of 2020. These socially distanced photographs represent a directly personal investigation of people’s connections to the items with which they choose to surround themselves. In the book I have paired my portraits with my subject’s text and their own images.

Book here: https://www.blurb.com/b/10481101-quarantine-portraits
Online version here: https://www.kirkhostetter.com/quarantine-portraits

Artist Statement

As an architect I am interested in environments that humans construct for themselves, their uses, intimacies and implications, and how time imprints and alters these relationships. My ongoing project on the Duwamish River is a direct result of these interests, as well as an extension of years spent on the industrialized rivers of my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

To learn more about Kirk’s photography, click here


Many thanks to Kirk for submitting work this month! If you’re a member of PCNW and would like to share your photographs, 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!

PCNW’s Holiday Gift Guide

LOOKING FOR HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS?

Give the gift of photography! Whether you’re looking to learn a new skill, add a print to your collection, or support the burgeoning photographer in your home we have something for everyone. Winter is a great time to dive into a creative practice and Photographic Center  Northwest (PCNW) offers many ways to learn and engage with photography, including through many online classes and workshops, so we hope you’ll make PCNW your resource this season.

GIVE THE GIFT OF ART!

To Survive on this Shore book cover. Cover photo by Jess T. Dugan


BOOKS

Shop the PCNW book store! Staff recommendations include To Survive on This Shore, by Jess T. Dugan & Vanessa Fabbre (PCNW’s upcoming winter exhibition), Natural Deceptions, by Natalie Krick, and A Brave New Normal – Photographic Zine

Detail of Henry Horenstein limited edition print



PRINTS

By shopping our selection of limited edition prints, you will be supporting both PCNW and the artist! Staff favorites include Erin Shafkind, King Kong Fancy Pants, 2008 and Richard Renaldi, Faith, Newark, New Jersey, 2001

GIVE A CUSTOM PRINT!

Photo by Sandy King

CUSTOM PRINTS FROM OUR PRINT SERVICE

Did you know that PCNW offers online printing services through our Digital Lab? This service allows users to e‐mail files directly to our Digital Lab to be printed by our staff.


**HOLIDAY SPECIAL!**

11×14 print size w/ matte board and sleeve
$25 each, shipping included
Submit files to printing@pcnw.org via WeTransfer

Deadline for holiday delivery:
Sunday, December 13th
*

*barring any unforeseen or COVID-19 related delays by shipping carriers

GIVE THE GIFT OF EXPERIENCE

Photo by Robert Wade

GIFT A MEMBERSHIP!

Members receive benefits including discounts on education offerings, facilities rentals and gallery purchases; opportunities for professional development and exhibition, and invitations to special member events.



**LIMITED TIME OFFER!**

20% discount on winter quarter class tuition for PCNW members. 

Ends November 30th!

GIFT CERTIFICATES!

Have a fellow photo-enthusiast in your life, or wondering what to tell others to get you? PCNW has gift certificates available!

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