When Photomedia Center started out in 2004, the online photography landscape was very different. The internet itself was quite a different experience then. Images loading over dial-up connections were slow, the thought of a "gallery in cyberspace" was something that brick-and-mortar spaces weren't too interested in yet.
Cut to now, nearly ten years later and that landscape has changed drastically in a relatively short span of time. Users are able to stream high definition video easily online and there isn't a gallery out there not leveraging the global reach of the web.
The Center started with a very simple idea: to connect emerging artists working in the photographic arts and to share their work to a wider audience. With modest state grants, we built "a gallery without walls" as one newspaper reporter called us in a review. And we used those new online tools to promote work we thought was exciting but, for lack of a way to reach a larger audience, went frequently unnoticed.
However, online tools now have become ubiquitous, and are squarely in the hands of photographers themselves. We celebrate this: working photographers with their own websites, Facebook groups like the Flak Photo Network, and photo blogs and Tumblrs abound. These are fully carrying out (and surpassing!) the vision we had for the photographic community years ago, realizing the potential we saw in online promotion and conversation for artists.
Since there are now a wealth of organizations and tools to provide what was nonexistent in 2004, what contribution can Photomedia Center give to artists today? We took the summer off to grapple with this question.
After eight successful annual juried competitions, we thought it was time to shake up the way things were done: this year, we're reducing the barriers to entry to encourage fuller participation in all our programs and find more effective ways to highlight compelling work. This blog will feature regular updates from the Contemporary Imagemakers submissions process, which will result in a yearly printed catalog, documenting the artists who've shown their work with us. We'll provide support along the way, in the form of small seed grants, photo equipment, training opportunities, and more.
We will continue to stay true to our mission focusing on artist support, education, and community building. But where we can make a real difference in 2012 is not only providing a space to exhibit work as we've done for the past eight years, but also in making sense the explosion of information out there. We sharpened our marketing, criticism, and curatorial skills by finding brilliant contemporary artists out there largely before they had an online presence. We want to find the best ways to consistently present something fresh and compelling to look at and react to.
It's hard to imagine what changes will take place a decade ahead of now, but if we keep pushing ourselves, opening doors for artists to show their work to a wider audience, helping to forge connections, and creating conversations around exciting images, we'll be in the right place. We hope you continue with us on this journey.