2023 Review Selection Committee Statements
Members of the photographic and arts communities comprise the Review Santa Fe Selection Committee. Their responses to the experience selecting the work for the Review Santa Fe Photo Symposium are below.
Photography is a chameleon. It is so ingrained within the development of our personal and collective identities that the depths of its influence can be difficult to discern at times. As consumers, we have the freedom to navigate a variety of media streams, engaging with a range of imagery, and spending time with the content that we find to be the most compelling. The challenge then, as image-makers, lies in creating dynamic bodies of work that hold the viewer’s attention, effectively communicate ideas, and prompt broader conversation. It was an honor to view the complete 2023 Review Santa Fe submission catalog, where a plethora of photographers were up to such a task, each through their own unique approach.
I had the pleasure of spending time with widely-varied implementations of contemporary photographic practice; each series created as a means for positioning broader personal, social, cultural, ethical, or political concerns. I was struck not only with the high level of craft and the variety of aesthetic styles amongst the submissions, but also in the clarity that was present in many of the portfolios. We look to contemporary image-makers to take the pulse of the larger world around them, and to reflect back their observations, critiques, joys, and pains through their own creative lens. In the strongest works, the photographer was effective from the inception of a project through its presentation, with a driving force in terms of theme and content that was carried through by a tight edit, a thoughtful sequence, and a visual rhythm. I am grateful for the opportunity to view so many powerful projects, and I admire the contemporary practitioners who are using the medium in a vast array of potent applications.
Editor, Fraction Magazine, & Assistant Professor of Photography, New Mexico State University
I had the immense privilege to review photographic work and read project statements that were incredibly passionate, intelligent, and open. It is humbling to see how photography’s power to connect us, is also a conduit for some to find healing from deep personal losses such as the death of a loved one, or coping with the personal aftermath from the height of a global pandemic, and even serving as a refuge to simply be seen and exist against all odds.
Photography has arguably never been more accessible than it is now. On view were historical processes from the medium’s earliest experiments, the most advanced digital tools, cell phones, analog, installation, appropriation, moving images, books, and everything in between. Photographers today are willing to use and combine everything available to them in order to fulfill their visions.
However, as most photographers know, tools alone are not enough, and it’s clear that photography and the creative process can also lead to sensitivity and concerns that affect us all. It was a pleasure to see the work of makers from such a wide range of diverse experiences and voices. Photography as a powerful tool for advocacy and awareness is more important than ever. Climate change, environmental issues, racial, gender, and economic-based injustices, the horrors of war, immigration, and a threatening political landscape were among the many important issues at the forefront of awareness and in seeking positive change.
And sometimes, perhaps because our modern world can seem too interconnected and overwhelming, there also appears to be a desire for some to return to the very simplest of pleasures. Walking, gardening, and other meditative approaches that look closely at small things in order to make sense of the big things, seem to be a powerful creative practice for many.
What is common regardless of the approach is that photography, when it’s at its best, can transcend the machines and chemistry it relies on. It can express and reflect our deepest ideas and emotions, and ultimately connect us in a very human way. This does not happen easily, or without a great deal of courage, dedication, and vulnerability. Finding these qualities in the work of so many other photographers, confirms for me our photographic community’s interest in using photography to learn about ourselves, and from each other.
Photographer, Associate Professor, Emerson College • Review Santa Fe Alum
As a member of the selection committee for Review Santa Fe, I found the jurying process to be exceptionally rewarding. It was a rare opportunity to see into the minds and hearts of a collective group of storytellers and artists.
In a world where we communicate constantly through imagery, photography remains the one form of expression that requires no language, and that builds its meaning from individual understanding and experience of the human condition. Its empathetic power is limitless.
This power is also possibly what gives photography its universality, and in the hundreds of entries for Review Santa Fe, all the honored projects illuminated a human connection.
For example, some personal projects about family, memory, and identity illustrated new approaches through recontextualizing old family photo archives in an act of healing. In the environmental, social, and cultural themes, photographers presented new angles with an intellectual and philosophical curiosity. They found a unique entry point into widely covered topics, that we see covered in the news daily, by adding their own spin and personal aesthetic and technique. Purely artistic bodies of work added an element of imagination and beauty, even humor at times, that left me wanting to see more.
Projects that offered a variety of entryways into a topic were particularly interesting. For example, some content showed potential to be packaged for a variety of platforms to engage the public in discourse about critical sociopolitical issues, which I found very appealing. Some projects were built upon historical references or on the premise of finding solutions to ensure a better future. Mostly I was impressed with the level of investigation that the photographers devoted to a given topic or technique. Clearly, they had spent long periods of time in communities, getting to know their subjects and the challenges they faced. The artistic projects had clearly undergone a process of experimentation, stretching the limits of the creative process. Some revealed important issues through straight documentary work mixed with a conceptual twist (or approach) to draw the viewer in on a more poetic level.
At a time when artists/storytellers are faced with the advancement of technology, an unstable economy, and wars looming in the background, it’s more important than ever for them to take risks and make work that continues to evolve our understanding of visual literacy. Also, to make visible what we cannot see. It is an honorable profession to dedicate oneself to highlighting the world’s injustices or making artistic work that often can provide respite not only to the viewers but to the artists making that work.
Being a photographer is not an easy path and the act of sharing work is courageous. It takes enormous effort and time to make relevant work that will bring awareness to an issue or simply engage the viewer on a purely artistic and aesthetic level. Review Santa Fe includes a mix of art and documentary work. Looking at the range of work, all the selected submissions succeeded in producing meaningful, provocative projects that cast light on something deeply meaningful or purely aesthetic. I look forward to seeing how the RSF 100 will continue to use their platforms to investigate their own complex voices and amplify those of their subjects.
Photo Director, Educator, & Visual Arts Producer
New York & New Mexico