Laura Moya is the director of the acclaimed Photolucida, a dynamic institution recognized for its exceptional portfolio reviews and an annual online program, Critical Mass. In addition to this primary role, Moya organizes major events like Portland Photo Month, all while maintaining a number of curatorial and publishing projects around the world.
We are delighted that Moya is a member of our jury for our first-ever Art Photography Awards. As a respected figure in the international photography community, Moya has developed expansive insight into the importance of fostering relationships between photographers as well as between photographers and industry professionals.
Curious to learn more about her background and experience in the photo world, LensCulture editor Cat Lachowskyj reached out to Moya to chat about the importance of cultivating dialogue between emerging photographers and industry professionals, and why it’s important to extend this network to the international photography community.
Cover image © Kyra Schmidt/Photolucida
LensCulture: Tell me a bit about your career leading up to this point. Why did Photolucida seem like a logical next step in your professional growth?
Laura Moya: Professionally, I have worked in both the film and photography worlds—my original career aspiration years ago was to be a photojournalist or documentary filmmaker. Storytelling is very important to me. I have worked for the Sundance Institute, the Northwest Film Center, and Sockeye Creative. The last photography-related job I had before Photolucida was working for Photo-eye. As Director of Photolucida for twelve years, I am still striving to get people’s stories told in a myriad of ways.
LC: In your mind, why are portfolio reviews important, and how do you see them benefiting photographers as well as reviewers?
LM: Having an in-person connection is paramount for developing professional relationships. Portfolio reviews are, without a doubt, the most efficient way to get your work out there and to connect with people who can offer you opportunities. Remember, reviewers are there to meet the people that make the work.
Portfolio reviews also involve a layer of networking between photographers that is very neat to see – people share work, trade prints, and are excited to meet each other after only knowing of one other online. After the reviews, I know that photographers work as advocates for their peers, often passing on information about opportunities that they learn about. Portfolio reviews are community-builders of the highest order.
LC: You also collaborate with institutions and events outside of your home base in the United States. How does this international participation in the photography world inform your perception of the medium?
LM: I am very invested in collaboration with organizations outside the United States—cross-cultural dialogue benefits everyone. Photolucida has given Critical Mass “scholarships” to specific geographic groups of photographers from different countries, including Poland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Georgia, Guatemala, Japan and Finland. We have been involved in bringing exhibitions (and curators and photographers) to various photography festivals in China, and we strive to bring a strong roster of international jurors onto our Critical Mass juror list. Now, more than ever, different cultures need to be sharing different visual realities with each other.
LC: How do you think your work as a curator impacts your engagement with portfolio reviews, and vice versa?
LM: One can see work at a portfolio review or in a jurying situation that will spark an idea for an exhibition. I think good curators have little seeds of possible ideas in the backs of their minds that get nurtured, perhaps subconsciously, by exposure to different work over time. Quite honestly, the imagery I sourced for the last few shows I curated came from work I was familiar with from Photolucida’s Reviews event and jurying Critical Mass – and this goes back to why reviews and calls-for-entry situations are effective for both curators and photographers.
LC: You’ve curated on topics that range from art to science photography. Tell me a bit about this. What excites you about tackling such a range of different subject matter?
LM: I would say I love the challenge of expressing an idea that examines an aspect of photography from a different angle. I want to give the audience pause, or at least make them leave their viewing experience with a feeling or emotion that sticks with them for a little while. Some of my early curatorial endeavors showcased work done in alternative processes, when a smaller group of photographers were exploring antiquarian methods. I have also been interested in and written about bodies of work that came from people living in or documenting alternative or non-traditional communities—this interest comes from my personal childhood, and in a larger sense wanting to feed my past education in cultural anthropology.
LC: As a juror for the LensCulture Art Photography Award, what are you most excited about? What will you be looking for when sifting through the submissions? What do you think will stand out?
LM: I have been thinking a lot about the photographer Robert Adams lately, and this specific quote by him:
“Why is Form beautiful? Because, I think, it helps us confront our worst fear, the suspicion that life may be chaos and that therefore our suffering is without meaning.”
I will be looking for work that somehow relates to this quote. Jurying is a subjective experience, absolutely, but I will be looking for images that carry some kind of universal truth—work that explores any kind of new terrain of vision and spirit.
—Laura Moya, interviewed by Cat Lachowskyj
Our Art Photography Awards are open for entries! Submit your work to have it seen by jurors like Moya as well as international museum curators, gallery owners, and magazine editors. Deadline: July 3, 2018.