"... humanistic traditions recognize that our commonality lies not just in our similarities, but in our multiplicity, and that this multiplicity cannot be contained within any one country, culture or ideology. We can value each other although we are not the same. We can experience one another through one or another aspect of our own multifaceted selves."
—Kerry Tremain, "Seeing and Believing," Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers (Smithsonian Institution Press: 2000)
Like all big things in life, the idea for the 2010 conference on diversity started in a series of events over time rather than a precise moment. The idea began to emerge during the reenergized meetings of SPE's Multicultural Caucus; it became a possibility through the lively discussions with artists and the exquisite work currently being produced by them on the subject; and it finally took shape when we put our heads together, informed by our respective work with Light Work and En Foco, Inc—each bringing particular insights to the subject.
There are many reasons to want to see a conference like this take place: to showcase artists, whose work has not always been equally represented in galleries, classrooms, or publications; to explore why issues of diversity are still relevant today; and to discuss the rich history of photographers of diverse background.
The conference title, "Facing Diversity: Leveling the Playing Field in Photographic Arts," was chosen to take another look at diversity and to put into artistic context recent events that have set new milestones in a struggle for equality. So much has happened in the political realm alone, from the election of the first black president in the US to the first openly gay president of Iceland. And yet while great strides have been made in some areas, there is still a silence surrounding the topic in the photographic arts as if we as a country are beyond needing to talk about it, as if we have indeed "overcome." PDN's article, Confronting the Photo Industry's Lack of Diversity (June 09), is a mainstream reminder that this is not the case.
The topic of diversity was purposely defined as broadly as it has been examined by photographers, as a first step in breaking away from its usual implications or stereotypes. Meaningful work is still being created on ethnicity, race, age, religion, sexual preference, politics, class and more.
But above all, this conference is about artists and the right to representation. It highlights artists who may not have received the attention they deserved and artists who are digging deep in the questions of diversity. A new generation of artists is now emerging on the national art scene, informed by discussions of melting pot and multiculturalism. At the same time, we also have artists from a previous generation, who have barely received their dues and who are still going strongly in their artistic endeavors.
This four-day conference program is packed with excellent lectures, panel discussions, and image-maker presentations that will turn the topic of diversity inside and out. It will look at the playing field, but even more so it will look at the many artists who have made difference. Please join us in their celebration.
Our deepest gratitude to all that have made this conference possible, especially our fabulous committees: the conference committee, peer review panel, the regional committee, and the national conference staff.
Hannah Frieser (Light Work) + Miriam Romais (En Foco)
2010 Conference Co-Chairs
CPG cover: Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, Dad and the Wall, 2009
Conference postcard: Priya Kambli, Muma and Me (Cast Shadow), 2008
The Society for Photographic Education is a non-profit membership organization that provides a forum for the discussion of photography and related media as a means of creative expression and cultural insight. Through its interdisciplinary programs, services and publications, the society seeks to promote a broader understanding of the medium in all its forms, and to foster the development of its practice, teaching, scholarship and criticism. www.spenational.org
Light Work was founded in 1973 by a group of artists who came together to create a facility to provide community access to photographic lab equipment and to expand the dialogue of photography as an art, science, and medium of social change. The combination of the need for access to equipment, education, and dialogue resulted in the formation of Light Work. www.lightwork.org
En Foco supports the creation and dissemination of work by photographers of diverse cultures, primarily U.S. residents of Latino, African and Asian heritage, and Native Peoples of the Americas and the Pacific. It makes their work visible to the art world while remaining accessible to under-serviced communities. Through exhibitions, workshops, events and publications, En Foco uses the photographic arts as an approachable means to promote cultural equity. www.enfoco.org