All photographs are about the past. Every photographically-based image ever made has recorded something that no longer exists, but carries with it the traces of what once was. As soon as the camera’s shutter closes, the moment that caused the photographer to press the button is gone, never to be seen in that exact way again.
It was with that thought that I set about reviewing the diverse assortment of images that were submitted for the “Traces” exhibition, and then finally selected photographs that reflected the many ways this theme could be seen and shared. The variety of the ways photographers responded to this theme was truly delightful to see, with fantastic ideas coming in from many genres of the medium. In every great photograph, both idea and execution are of paramount importance, so while an interesting conceptual approach was important in the images I selected, so was both visual and technical excellence.
In almost all of the photographs I chose, there is evidence of human presence. We see the traces of bodies in a space, at a table, in a bed, at work or at play. Or, we are shown the way humans treat - and mistreat - the environment that we live in - making marks on the land to enhance or debase it.
Some of the submitted images referenced the medium itself. Several of my favorite photographs included other photographs, reminding the viewer of the camera’s ability to help us remember, mark time or even give us a sense of a life well-lived and well-loved.
Many entries depicted the ravages of the passage of time in places that have been abandoned or neglected. Other images recorded deeply personal objects that were once loved and are now discarded. Still others showed us the left-behind trace of a touch, a breath, a gesture or a plan that may or may not have been realized.
The photograph I chose for the Juror’s Award incorporates several of these themes. We have the transitory moment of a shadow, leaving behind a human presence in a scene with tables set for others who will arrive — perhaps soon. It’s the past, the present and the future all in one.
The Director’s Award image is similarly layered. Certainly the passage of time is shown in the worn woodwork and the fallen leaves, but the glass of wine (half-full or half-empty?) suggests a presence — a trace of someone’s hand.
I owe a great debt of thanks to all the photographers who submitted work to Traces. The combination of the theme and your response to it was thoroughly thought-provoking and interesting to me and I really enjoyed my time with your photographs.
Call for Entries
Even the most mundane of human activities leaves evidence of its existence. Old letters and shopping lists, a once-loved stuffed animal left on the swing set, fragments of an old wedding dress, traces of writing on a long-since erased chalk board, all speak of the passage of time. Larger human activities leave boarded-up storefronts, crumbling infrastructure and repurposed structures. No matter the scale, they all leave a nostalgic hint of irretrievable past and, ultimately, of our mortality.
For this exhibition, we seek images that hint of humans come and gone by the evidence left behind.
We are very pleased that Jeff Curto will be jurying and curating this exhibition. He will select approximately 35 images for exhibition in the gallery, and 40 for our Online Gallery. All 75 selected images will be reproduced in the exhibition print catalog and remain permanently on our website, with links to photographer’s URL.
Information about our printing service and free matting and framing here.
Banner image: Sonja Stich
Click to enlarge image.
About the Juror
Jeff Curto is Professor Emeritus of Photography at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where he taught from 1984 to 2014. He was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1981 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College in Vermont in 1983. He had the good fortune to attend Ansel Adams’ last workshop in Carmel, California in 1983. Inspired by that workshop and the potential for learning the workshop environment, in 2009, he began leading annual photography workshops in Italy.
An early adopter of podcasting as a form of instruction and communication, Curto recorded his History of Photography class sessions for online use. His Camera Position podcast, which discusses photography’s creative aspects, can be also be found online.