San Diego-based annual festival attracts talented photographers for virtual workshops, lectures and more with several in-person exhibitions and outdoor shows.
The ten-day Medium Festival of Photography kicks off in San Diego this week, with a multi-pronged approach to handling a conference in a pandemic.
Medium Photo was founded in 2012 by Scott B. Davis to bring workshops, lectures and portfolio reviews to the photography world and basing it in San Diego. The annual festival aims to draw talent from across the globe, but remains strongly rooted in San Diego’s photography and art scene.
But how can a conference-style festival, rich with exhibitions, mixers, hands-on portfolio reviews and workshops — manage during the COVID pandemic?
Keynote lecture with Catherine Opie: Saturday March 6 at 4 p.m.
Local keynote simulcasts:
- Art Produce, 3139 University Ave., North Park
- The Photographer’s Eye, 326 E. Grand Ave., Escondido (register here)
Sidewalk portfolio exhibition: March 3-13, Art Produce, 3139 University Ave., North Park
Northern Exposure exhibition: March 1-May 31, Coffee & Tea Collective, 2911 El Cajon Blvd., North Park
Philipp Scholz Rittermann outdoor projection and conversation: Saturday, March 13 at 7 p.m., Lafayette Hotel, 2223 El Cajon Blvd., North Park.
Event information here.
The Medium Festival thrives on in-person interactions, and Davis is trying to make that work by offering multiple ways to be involved despite gathering and travel restrictions, particularly as the weather in San Diego makes outdoor, in-person art more plausible. With online workshops, seminars and portfolio reviews for anyone from established photographers to students, plus lectures, virtual studio tours and keynotes from notable working photographers — the program brings a mix of pedagogy, insight and networking to the digital world. Plus, with lower student rates, they’re hoping to involve emerging artists as well.
Bringing a high quality workshop and networking model to today’s photography landscape is important to Davis.
“I guess it’s sort of rooted in altruism, like I want other people to have the same kinds of experiences that I had, that helped shape my career, and that was primarily workshops with recognized artists and artist lectures. I mean, those two things were really very foundational and fundamental to the development of my own work,” Davis said.
For the lectures, you can buy individual passes to attend even if you’re not attending the full festival. The presentations include a keynote with 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship-recipient Catherine Opie, a celebrated photographer, ceramicist, filmmaker and collage artist who spent some of her childhood in Poway. There’s also a virtual studio tour to get an inside look at her work, and a roundtable student discussion.
Also lecturing is Fatemeh Baigmoradi, who is the Second Sight Award recipient this year. The honor is given to an outstanding portfolio from previous reviews. Baigmoradi, who was born and raised in Iran, studies loss and identity in her work, and her lecture, “It’s Hard to Kill” will dig into manipulated photographs and her current work.
Additional lectures, all spread over the 10-day festival, include the cameraless photography of Farrah Karapetian, the powerful portraiture of Paul Mpagi Sepuya, photojournalism with Abul Aziz, and locals Elizabeth Rooklidge of HereIn Journal and Han Nguyen in conversation.
For the rest of us?
Feast your eyes on several local photography exhibitions, including a special outdoor projection and in-person conversation with Philipp Scholz Rittermann and Kevin Miller. Rittermann’s work will be projected outdoors at the Lafayette Hotel (home of the Medium Festival in non-pandemic years) on Saturday, March 13.
The event will also be streamed, but Davis said that there’ll be an upside to seeing it in person. “Part of the magic of it is that you’re enlarging these pixels to — they’re like an inch or something, they’re very large because they’re projected,” Davis said. “So they’ll be able to walk through this and witness pixels sliding off their faces and things.”
For more passive viewing, the festival will kick off a special local exhibition, too. On view at Coffee and Tea Collective in North Park is the “Northern Exposure” exhibition, featuring the work of five exemplary emerging artists working in border states in Mexico: Alejandra Aragon, Ingrid Hernández, Karina Villalobos, Nahatan Navarro and Adrian Gil. The works will be on view beginning in March through the end of May.
And while you’re at the coffee shop, pick up some limited edition coffee beans, with packaging designed by local artist PANCA. Coffee and Tea Collective, which roasts on-site, designed a custom roast for the exhibition.
At Art Produce, the three sidewalk-facing screens on University Avenue will feature looped presentations of all the photographers participating in this year’s portfolio review, so it’s a great chance to look for up and coming artists and learn about their work — approximately 60 photographers in total.
For others seeking outdoor, COVID-safe in-person events, the Catherine Opie keynote lecture on March 6 will be simulcast on screens at The Photographer’s Eye in Escondido, and at Art Produce in North Park.
As with much of the arts programming in the pandemic, Medium Festival’s organizers are choosing to focus on the silver linings.
“Somebody from Argentina or Germany can easily attend our event in San Diego without incurring the expense and investment in time to shuttle themselves here,” Davis said. “This year we do have paid registrations, we have discounted registrations as well, and we have free registrations through pretty much everything.”
Also, the pandemic has meant that a lot of the public’s engagement with art has been in a learning, workshopping or craft model. Davis recognizes that, and hopes it’s a sign of a shift in the future — one that aligns with Medium Festival’s aims of celebrating local creatives while bringing worldwide attention and talent to the region.
“You know, the eternal optimist in me is always hoping that this thing that we’re living through is going to force people to think more creatively and value the arts more than they do already,” Davis said. “I am hopeful that this introspection is spurring some kind of creative Renaissance in people, and it’s always my hope that Medium is a platform for that.”
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