Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Museum of Contemporary Photography curator Karen Irvine, who organized the museum's book signing party today from 5 to 7 p.m., for six photographers with ties to Chicago.
How did this event come about?
We’ve been doing this sort of book signing for a few years now. It works well to have multiple artists in the room, and to allow our visitors to talk to the artists themselves. It’s also the perfect time of year for a holiday book bazaar.
Which photographers will be at the event, and what kind of work do they do?
There are six: Jason Reblando, Jay Wolke, Paul D’Amato, Dana Fritz, Natalie Krick, and Julie Weber. They all have some connection to Chicago, whether they grew up here, went to school here, or are based here now. Their books address different issues and themes. All of the books have come out in the past few months.
Jay Wolke’s book is called Same Dream Another Time. It’s a collection of photos he made in the ’80s and ’90s looking at gambling centers in the U.S.—Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City.
Jason Reblando’s book, New Deal Utopias, examines three planned communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Maryland, called Greenbelt Towns. They were built by the U.S. government during the Great Depression. It explores the idea of utopia in the past, and how it continues in the American mind.
Paul D’Amato’s book, here/still/now, looks at poverty on the West Side of Chicago.
Dana Fritz’s book, The World Under Glass, looks at three enclosed landscapes where the natural elements—temperature, humidity—are heavily controlled by humans. It’s an examination of humans’ relationship with the natural world.
Natalie Krick’s book, Natural Deceptions, includes these highly stylized photos she’s taken of herself, her mother and her sister. They’re inspired by pop culture images of beauty—magazine spreads, celebrity pinups. She’s exploring femininity, the beauty ideal, pop culture and aging in our society and the photos have somewhat of a critical edge to them.
Lastly, Julie Weber’s book, Remnants, works with abstract imagery. She’s examining the materiality of photographs after the moment when technology has transitioned from analog to digital. Her book is beautifully designed: 12 unbound sheets, images on both sides. You can look at them one by one, put them all together to form a matrix, or you can frame them individually. It’s a very flexible and fun piece.
What can people attending the signing expect?
The artists will be stationed at a table with their books, and available to sign them. They’ll also have some time to speak about their projects and answer questions. We’ll have refreshments—beer, wine, snacks. It will be a festive atmosphere, but there will also be an educational component.
Why would these photo books make good gifts?
Not only are they beautiful objects, but they also reveal things about the world around us. The act of sitting with this series of images on paper can be rewarding, as opposed to the way we usually experience images now—on a screen. That experience of sitting with the photos themselves is becoming more and more rare, and it’s a gift to be able to revisit it.