The Kiernan Gallery is thrilled to have renowned photography critic Vicki Goldberg as juror for our second annual Portfolio Showcase. In addition to having written about photography for the New York Times for 13 years, she has published several books and the texts for more than 25 photographic monographs. We have asked her a few questions about her work as a critic.
Your role in the photography world is often thought of as an interpreter of art, curating, discussion panels, and writing are all manifestations of this role. Do you or have you ever seen yourself as a maker of art?
No, I don't consider myself a maker of art. What I do when I write I hope I do well, but it's not what I think of as art. Nor do I think I could do two things equally well, and I do love to write most of all. (And during the brief time that I was taking pictures, I realized I had quite a good eye but probably wouldn't be a "great" photographer, and besides, every time I went out with a camera I was late to wherever I was going because there were so many things I wanted to record).
How do you approach a critique? What do you think makes for the best critique experience for both the photographer and reviewer?
The reader of a review mostly wants to know if the show is worth seeing, which a critic can approach in a variety of ways, but 'good' or 'bad' isn't necessarily the critic's major message… I'm very interested in context, relation to culture, history, etc., which can't always be put into the mix. See The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives, or The White House: The President's Home in Photographs and History for my interest in photography's influence on and involvement in history and society.
Putting together a body of work is complex. In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes photographers make in their edits or presentation?
Photographers, like other artists, often include too much rather than editing rigorously. It's particularly hard for them to give up favorite pictures, or pictures that were hard to get, and to acknowledge that effort (or even fondness) doesn't necessarily mean good, and more doesn't necessarily mean better. Generally speaking it helps to have an independent eye, since it's difficult to see what is too close to the self.
As photographers, we often find ourselves being lumped into categories and trends. As a photography critic, how do you respond to “trendy” work?
If the work is really good, that has to be noted, even though its derivative status must also be made clear. Generally what I think you refer to as trendy tends to be boring because you've seen so much of it. Then too, it may be a suspect attempt to jump on a bandwagon. Cultural "trends," however, might be something less obvious that work fits into or reflects, and that can be worth deciphering.
The deadline to submit work for Portfolio Showcase 2013 is May 23