For over 10 years, Photolucida’s Critical Mass has provided a key platform of exposure for emerging and mid-career artists. To take part, photographers at any level, from anywhere in the world, submit a portfolio of 10 images. From there, the field is narrowed to a group of 200 finalists who have their work viewed and voted on by over 200 esteemed international photography professionals. In the end, a carefully chosen list of the Top 50 photographers emerges.
This year, David Rosenberg, the editor of Slate Magazine’s photography blog Behold, will be curating the Critical Mass Top 50 exhibition. In the past, Rosenberg has published many Critical Mass photographers’ portfolios—a number of which have “gone viral.”
Laura Moya, Photolucida’s Executive Director, spoke with David about Behold and the state of the photo world. This is an edited transcript of their exchange:
LM: What type of imagery/content are you interested in putting forth? What type of photography does Slate Magazine’s readership most respond to?
DR: Since we started Behold, my thought was to make sure we didn’t place tight parameters on what we wanted to run. A great fine art story is just as important as a personal series or something whimsical. Our readers, however, seem to respond most to nostalgic stories. Anything about New York in the 1970s is sure to be a hit.
LM: You have always been a great advocate of publishing the work you see while jurying Critical Mass—thank you! Can you talk about some of the portfolios you published from Critical Mass over the past few years?
DR: Critical Mass is a fantastic resource for someone like myself, who is always looking to find new and relevant work. A few of the stories that I ran after first seeing them on Critical Mass include Kevin Horan’s goat and sheep portraits (“Chattel”) and Dianne Yudelson’s poignant work on miscarriage. A couple of years ago I ran Liz Obert’s profound work about what it’s like to live with bipolar II disorder. The story went viral and I believe is the most popular post we have ever run on Behold.
LM: Can you say more on the term “going viral”—how does that tend to work?
DR: I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the years. Sometimes you really know when something is going to be popular: provocative work but also other subjects in the cultural zeitgeist—such as race or gender. For example, both Yudelson’s and Obert’s work touched on subjects that many people find taboo: the loss of a baby and mental illness. Simply bringing up the conversation helps but when the work is also good—that can create the formula for something to turn viral.
To everyone with a photographic series they are passionate about, don’t miss your opportunity to enter Critical Mass! While jurying Critical Mass, David Rosenberg was exposed to my series ”Lost.” Mr. Rosenberg published an article about the series on Slate and within four weeks my series went viral—being published in over 50 countries on 6 continents!
Dianne Yudelson, Critical Mass Finalist
LM: In what ways have you seen the online photo community evolve/expand/communicate in the last few years? What have the shifts been on the editorial side?
DR: I bet a lot of how I would answer this question would be disputed by many members in the community—which I think is a good thing! There are now so many fantastic places online for photographers to share their work…[but] I think that one of the biggest things that has shifted is an attempt to lift the curtain of secrecy that has covered the photography community for years.
For example, I led a couple of panels at the Unseen Photo festival in Amsterdam that was titled “Making Photography Transparent.” The discussion consisted of a few of us sitting on stage and answering questions from recent graduates about how to get their work out there. So I think festivals and portfolio reviews—face-to-face events—are still very relevant to the community.
—David Rosenberg, interviewed by Laura Moya
Editors’ Note: Critical Mass is accepting entries until July 19, 2016. Don’t miss out on your chance to enter!