Anniversaries and birthdays are times to look back, but most importantly times to look forward. In 1976, Chris Enos, Jeff Weiss, and A. D. Coleman launched an idea in Enos's loft—born of late nights and sheer verve—that has lasted for three decades. Operating on the Boston University campus since 1979, the Photographic Resource Center became a gallery for the first time in 1985. Writing on this occasion, Enos put forth challenge. She avowed: "It is my belief that it is now time for the PRC to play an even greater role in the real exploration, and possibly some redefinition, of photography."1
This unique collaborative endeavor answers Enos's "call to action" and directs attention to new and novel ideas in photography and related media. Over the past five years, the PRC has refocused its attention on this community, education, and emerging trends, and has acquired a new energy. In honor of the organization's founding, PRC/POV: Photography Now and The Next 30 Years pays tribute to our (and photography's) past, present, and future.
To create PRC/POV, the PRC solicited current and former staff, board, and other luminaries for nominations of emerging artists, scholars, organizations, publications, and the like, that are just getting attention (or deserve more) as well as those that will make a significant contribution over the next 30 years. Final selections were primarily informed by our mission as a "vital forum for the exploration and interpretation of new work, ideas, and methods in photography and related media." Conceived as one generation shaking the hand of another, the exhibition and its title honors all of our nominators' "points of view" as well as the former PRC publication, VIEWS: A New England Journal of Photography. It was anticipated that the "PRC 30" would reflect the insights of this impressive roster of photographic luminaries and each pairing (as well as the exhibition itself) would be a unique product of its parts. We hope that this offering will be a true snapshot of "photography now" and, if we are correct collectively, a benchmark for the next 30 years.
Numerous themes have emerged in PRC/POV that speak to current photographic practices and larger artworld issues. Media and genre boundaries continue to blur and frontiers, international and virtual, are ever expanding. As underscored by the work within the gallery walls and online, photography is now sculptural, conceptual, performative, video as well as installation-based, and more. Photography itself has also gone back to basics, with many of the artists here addressing the inherent characteristics of the medium or referencing historical processes. In addition, several young photographers in the exhibition epitomize a new generation of documentary photographers who bridge the worlds of fine art, photojournalism, and commercial.
In an increasingly tough art market, photographers must wear many hats—from adjunct professor, art critic, curator, designer, to freelancer—in order to make ends meet. As an alternative to commercial galleries, artists have banded together to form collectives to exhibit and promote themselves as well as offer a creative and emotional support system. With artists in part leading the way, new forms of criticism and scholarship have also emerged, exploiting new and alternative formats. Moreover, photography and related media work, exhibitions, and criticism can now be seen universally via the Internet and viewers and readers can reside anywhere.
New words and categories often demarcate cultural change. When the PRC was five years old, its tagline was "and still developing". Now, many colleges are converting to "lightrooms"; instead of silver halides, we talk about histograms, raw files, and actions. Within art departments, catchphrases such as "light sensitive media" and "lens-based arts" are used regularly. I invite you to visit the exhibition and learn more about the PRC's 30 and their nominators and discover further connections for yourself.
It seems fitting to conclude with a sentiment from the PRC's 20th anniversary Founders' Lecture—"Do It Yourself: Towards a Responsible Audience"—by A. D. Coleman:
"By the way, go right ahead and transform the PRC itself whenever that proves necessary. Help it move into the new millennium as a vital force and a flexible resource for this region. Shape it to your needs. Trust me when I tell you that Enos, Weiss and I did not intend it to be a static monument to anything—not a monument to one or another approach to photography, not in any way a monument to us, and definitely not a monument to itself.... This place, its possibilities, are yours. I know I speak for Jeff and Chris too when I say: Treat it like you own it."2
Now, we have the privilege to ask: what will develop next?
We would like to acknowledge the support of many generous and community-minded people, past and present, who have given and continue to give so willingly of their time and expertise. Thank you to our PRC/POV nominators and nominees, our Board of Directors as well as our staff, volunteers, members, and photographic community.
The PRC is for all who love photography, not just photographers. For more information about joining and supporting this vital organization and community, click here for a special $30 membership drive running during the PRC/POV exhibition. The PRC is supported in part by Boston University, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, numerous private foundations and individuals, and the ongoing generosity of its members.
Open six days a week, the PRC is located at 832 Commonwealth Avenue, on the B-Green line, BU West T-stop, 4 stops West of Kenmore Square. For information on our hours, directions, and more, click here.
Photographic Resource Center at Boston University
832 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Board of Directors: Rick Grossman, President; David Gordenstein, Vice President. Cathy England, Andrew D. Epstein, Roger Farrington, Peter Fiedler, Michael Jacobson, Lou Jones, Emily Kahn, Rodger Kingston, Gary Leopold, Susan Lewinnek, Walt Meissner, Elliot Salloway, Kim Sichel, Jonathan Singer. Staff: Jim Fitts, Acting Executive Director; Leslie K. Brown, Curator; Michael Christiano, Education Manager; Emily Gabrian, Programs Coordinator; Alice Hall, Librarian, and numerous work-study students and interns.
This website was designed by Paulo Lopez (www.paulolopez.com) and developed by Brian Tamm (www.briantamm.com). The PRC/POV mark, newsletter, and special insert were designed by Todd Fairchild (www.toddfairchild.com). Donated graphics and printing support was provided by Bruce Myren/ BeeDigital (www.brucemyren.com and www.beedigital.com).
1) Chris Enos, "Reflections on the PRC," Art New England 6: 3 (February 1985), 25.
2) A. D. Coleman, From "Do It Yourself: Towards a Responsible Audience," the "Founders' Lecture" given at Boston University on the night of October 9, 1996, as part of the Photographic Resource Center's 20th Anniversary Celebration. Copyright © 1996 by A. D. Coleman. All rights reserved, Complete text online at http://nearbycafe.com/artandphoto/cspeed/writings.html.