Jackanory: That was the NYPH08 that was
I was pretty much wiped out by the time the weekend rolled around. I feel like I have overdosed on everything photography and am ready for a stint in rehab. That being said though one took a more relaxed approach to Saturday and Sundays schedule following the hyperbole that was day 1 and day 2. Yes I know I can be like the annoying excited kid who has just run up to tell you everything before he can catch his breath; that’s just the way we roll from time to time. I have been trying to manage my sentence structure a little better but I don’t really have any formal training in the written word.
It’s been a blast to check out of the real world for a few days and enter the bubble that was my NYPH08. I had some purpose to being embedded though it feels like I was M.I.A. from reality for an age. It was all pretty anti climactic slinking away from the festival on Sunday afternoon well before closing time. Dumbo is only 3 subway stops from home but it seemed like a world away as I ascended the steps to Houston street to resume my life proper again. Thanks Foto 8 I had a lot of fun and am grateful for the opportunity and the challenge. Don’t forget folks I am a photographer after all, this blogging thing is just a sidebar.
So yeah that was my original mission when I got my festival briefing. What would an editorial and commercial photographer like myself get out of NYPH08 ? Well apart from being a lot of fun, it was of course inspiring, overwhelming and frustrating. I think the fact that the festival had a smattering of all genres was welcoming for someone like myself. A fan of the art I need a mixed bag. The relaxed environs made for the easy mingle too; photographers of every persuasion were out and about and this was particularly evident on the gorgeous day that was Saturday. After Fridays rain out I steered clear of most of the seminars and just wandered the streets and took in some of the other attractions. The William Greiner show at the KlompChing gallery was a stand out. Shame on you if you missed the opportunity. Its up till June the 27th. Oh that’s my birthday by the way so if you want to get me one of the prints to go that would be aok with me.
The Ballen and Gill (although I didn’t see it but the word was) seminars were the standouts from the first 2 days but then Simon Norfolk brought his shock and awe show to the St Ann’s Warehouse arena. Boy oh boy did he serve up a real treat on Saturday afternoon. We got ourselves a proper schooling. I walked away questioning my own art, what the f**k am I doing, even on a good day I don’t deserve to shine this guy’s shoes. Yeah man this was another one you just had to be at. Where were you when Simon Norfolk took the stage at NYPH08. Well I was there and left feeling like a peon wallowing in the backward divisions of the lower conferences constantly fighting the relegation battle. And you know what I wasn’t the only one. As the packed house decamped the darkened auditorium and made its way out on to the sun splashed street it’s as if we had all just discovered the light and then the depression of our own inadequacies set in.
Norfolk was scary good, not only the work of course but his presentation was hypnotic. Yes we all love the 8×10 enviro porn but he’s on a mission baby, all is not as it seems. I had no idea prior really what was involved in his thought process. Oh and of course he brought it during the Q&A, his stage craft is all master and commander with a dose of irony and British humor. Just as Norfolk had deftly knocked all comers out the park here comes the humdinger we are all waiting for but hope we never hear when the middle aged weekend warrior / Sunday driver came out with the prerequisite doozy ! “Do you prefer film or digital” Can’t f**ckn believe it myself. I was waiting but thought we had managed to live for another seminar. I was cringing with the embarrassment but Norfolk handled it deftly I don’t think the questioner even knew what hit her. Well played Sir, you put her in her place swiftly ! And did anyone even notice that amongst all the warmongering talk he sported a natty shirt with skulls and roses, that’s styling !
Sunday morning we took in a little of the VII seminar at their off site location. Would have been better if this were located closer to festival central. I have no idea why not but they had a rather sizeable auditorium and I think this was the closest available venue. There was quite a crowd on hand. If you wanted to meet some of the finest photo journalists in the world this was the place to be. They were all just hanging around and all extremely approachable. The program was running behind when I hit the scene. I had been hoping to see the incredibly talented Benjamin Lowy presentation which I did followed by the Christopher Morris presentation which I did not as I decamped the late running schedule to run down the hill for the Kathy Ryan led panel discussion on the future of photography.
Oh and in case you were wondering the big daddy James Nachtwey did in fact make his originally planned appearance although he had been scratched from the mornings line up card.
I was a little late and missed the first 15 minutes of the panel only to find no KR but the (Martin) Parrster himself running the show. Looks like there was a last minute change in plan much to the audiences chagrin. There were a lot of disgruntled punters on the street after as the rain returned. They had been there from the beginning and there was no announcement made as to the change in format. Most I am sure were hoping to steal a nugget or two and get an insight into where KR thinks its all going and how they could land themselves a plum assignment for the New York Times magazine.
Yes the general consensus was that the festival was indeed a great success. You know you will never please all the people all the time no matter what. It was in fact the ideal venue although I do wonder for next year because some of the spaces used are retail/commercial and are presently for let; what with the neighborhood thriving this square footage might not be available. At times some of the organization left a lot to be desired but some aspects improved as the days went on. All of a sudden on the Saturday there were signs and banners everywhere with arrows and stuff pointing you in the right directions.
I spoke to one French photographer taking part in the Chisel pavilion (play the guessing game) and his overall impression was very positive as a veteran of many festivals. We did agree however that maybe an outdoor café/bar on a pedestrianized Main street from the powerHouse arena down to the water front mark park might have been a stellar idea. He even thought a party in the park on one of the evening would have been super cool with a DJ and dancing, away from the books and merchandise. So yeah don’t forget to knock me up for ideas organizing committee NYPH09. I am guessing there will be a festival next year, I hope so although there was an official press conference which I missed so no idea what the plan is sorry. Oh and yeah another note to the organizing committee maybe a restroom in the media lounge next time would be a choice idea.
And a big AND ! Does anyone know if the seminars were audio and visually recorded. I didn’t see any evidence and forgot to get any sort of official confirmation or not. It will be a crying shame if this is not the case. What a waste.
As I have said before I could probably cut and paste all the earlier sightings because they were mostly all on site again. Although we did spot a few new faces over the weekend including photographers: Martin Schoeller, Gregory Crewdson lining up and paying for his ticket just like everyone else, Jessica Bacchaus, Kevin Cooley, Arun Kuplas, Ofer Wolberger, Michelle Pedone and Megan Maloy.
So there you had it all in all a most enjoyable and satisfying experience. Personal highlights include the Ballen, Wylie, Norfolk, Parr & Kessells presentations, the parties, the sun when it shone, Stefan Ruiz introducing me to just about everyone; this man knows just about everyone much respect, meeting Michel Mallard, Mr Phillip Toledano, Steve Pyke, Michael David Murphy, drinking with Vincent Laforet, Chase Jarvis, Joerg Colberg, the David Alan Harvey loft party, being chauffered home after by Vincent Laforet oh and of course all the other I met along the way photographers and most of the photography. Many thanks to everyone who saw my picture and said they liked it. Oh and many thanks again for reading the ramblings it was a real treat to have you along I hope you have found it somewhat educational if not entertaining.
Andrew Hetherington is a freelance editorial and commercial photographer. Originally from Dublin, Ireland he has lived in New York City for the past 13 years. A Photo District News emerging photographer to watch in 2003 he has also won awards for his work from American Photography, Communication Arts and American Photo. A contributing photographer to Wired and ESPN the Magazine he also works for GQ, Details, Esquire, Conde Nast Portfolio, Mens Health and Fortune. He is the author of the popular photo blog ‘Whats the jackanory ? ’.