PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

MEED3: New When Photography Ruled the Streets Winner: Eric T. Kunsman

 

Biography

Eric T. Kunsman (b. 1975) was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While in high school, he was heavily influenced by the death of the steel industry and its place in American history. The exposure to the work of Walker Evans during this time hooked Eric onto photography. Eric had the privilege to study under Lou Draper, who became Eric’s most formative mentor. He credits Lou with influencing his approach as an educator, photographer, and contributing human being.

 

Currently, he is a photographer and book artist based out of Rochester, New York. Eric works at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as a Lecturer for the Visual Communications Studies Department at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and is an adjunct professor for the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences.

 

In addition to lectures, he provides workshops on topics including his artistic practice, digital printing, and digital workflow processes. He also provides industry seminars for the highly regarded Printing Applications Lab at RIT. His photographs and books are exhibited internationally and are in several collections. He currently owns Booksmart Studio, which is a fine art digital printing studio, specializing in numerous techniques and services for photographers and book artists on a collaborative basis.

 

Eric holds his MFA in Book Arts/Printmaking from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and holds an MS in Electronic Publishing/Graphic Arts Media, BS in Biomedical Photography, BFA in Fine Art photography all from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

 

There's no “given,” formula for what demands Eric’s focus as a photographer. Eric is as drawn to the landscapes and neglected towns of the American southwest as he is to the tensions of struggling rustbelt cities in the U.S. northeast. Always Eric is attracted to objects left behind, especially those that hint at a unique human narrative, a story waiting to be told. Eric’s current work explores one of those relics: working payphones hidden in plain sight throughout the neighborhood near his studio in Rochester, NY. Associates suggested they signified a high crime area. This project's shown Eric something very different.

 

Statement:

In 2017, I relocated my studio to a different part of Rochester, NY. Colleagues immediately started making comments along the lines of: “...that area's a war zone.” My experience with the new neighborhood was positive, so I wanted to discover what visual cues others might be seeing as indicators of a dangerous environment. Several people had mentioned the number of payphones in the area, inferring that only criminals use payphones these days.

 

Witnessing that type of reflexive judgment from my colleagues drove me to educate myself. I am photographing payphones and mapping their locations, then overlaying them with census maps showing economic status, ethnicity, age and sex, and the city crime map. There is an immediate, direct correlation between the poverty level and location of the payphones. Areas with the most payphones coincide with Rochester neighborhoods where the average family incomes are lower than $20,000 annually. I am not seeing a correlation with high crime neighborhoods.

Work by: Eric T. Kunsman

Meed2 New Abstraction Winner: Chandler Smith

 

Congratulations to our MEED2 winner Chandler Smith, over the course of the year he will be working with Judge Juan Fernandez which will culminate in a solo exhibition here at Gallery19 in July of 2019.

 

Bio:

Chandler Smith is visual artist based in Chicago, IL.  In 2018 he will complete two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in Fine Art Photography and the other in Audio Design & Production.  His practice spans a range of media including photography, video, installation, and audio art. His work has been featured in group exhibitions throughout Chicago since 2015.  From November 2017 through January 2018, the first solo exhibition of his project, An Approximation, was on display at the private residence of Columbia College Chicago’s President, Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim.  Upcoming projects include a second exhibition of An Approximation, as well as his first public installation piece.

 

Artist Statement:

An Approximation reevaluates what a photograph is by exploring the boundaries and intersections between photography, sculpture, and video, while analyzing the relationship between humans and technology.

 

The process by which these pieces are created is akin to that of collage, while also maintaining that traditional notions of medium specific materials and processes are most effective when used as tools for creation rather than as vehicles leading toward a worn-out system of classifications.  In the same way that material in a collage is overlaid, and the process of cutting and pasting are repeated, this body of work uses video, still imagery, digital and physical collage, as well as the surrounding environment as tools for creation.

These pieces are produced by projecting video into the corner of a room; meanwhile, the video is photographed, sometimes for lengths as long as 30 seconds.  This process creates individuality in each form that cannot be replicated due to the randomness and specificity of the period of time during the video that the photograph was taken.  In some of the pieces, adding physicality as well as being non-rectangular in their form further challenges the preconception of a photograph.  After these processes are repeated many times, selections of photographs are used to create an approximation of a figure in an environment.

 

We now live in a world that is inseparable from technology.  Large portions of the world’s population now have “smart phones” that are becoming more of a socially accepted stand-in for reality than anything else in history.  John Lewell points out in his book published in 1985 that, “[Technology] is concerned with how tasks are performed, not with whether they should or should not be performed in the first place”, and later follows up with a warning that, “[The danger] inherent in computer graphics, is the distance that it places between the human operator and the real world.  By enhancing sight at the expense of touch we may literally be losing touch with reality”.  This problem of losing touch with reality and the push to consider reality as subjective has now manifested itself in many aspects of our lives, culture, and politics.

 

These technological advancements have also led to a phenomenon eerily similar to a change in society that Walter Benjamin noticed happening in the early 20th Century in which, “The desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly” caused a shift in perception in which people became obsessed with, “overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction”.  Benjamin then adds, “The adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality is a process of unlimited scope, as much for thinking as for perception”.

Put simply, we have come to a point where we are just as willing, if not more so, to accept a reproduction or representation of reality for the real thing.  We have traded our lovers’ touch in order to grasp aluminum and glass in our hand, the sound of their voice for translations from 0’s and 1’s, and their hazel eyes for pixels of red, blue, and green.  An Approximation is doing the same by replacing a portrait for an approximation, and a reality for a representation.

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Mieke Zuiderweg: Media Director

MIEKE@GALLERY19CHICAGO.COM