An early critique at the Camera Club of NY

(This post is cross-posted on the Camera Club of New York blog)

Last weekend, I looked through the Camera Club of New York's historical archives. They are safely kept in 18 boxes under Bryant park at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, also known as New York Public Library's main building. I will return over the next few months to dig around and choose a few pieces from the archive for this blog.

One of the first pieces I ran across was a clipped article by Theodore Dreiser on the Camera Club from Ainslee's Magazine.

One of this images in the article is this one by Camera Club of NY member and the Club's Vice President, Alfred Stieglitz.

Alfred Stieglitz, The Letter Box, 1894

Alfred Stieglitz, The Letter Box, 1894

The article describes an early account of a photography critique (circa 1899)—not dissimilar to those of today. I love the details and the phrasing:

Very few photos are perfect, and the critical zeal of the camera masters is exacting far beyond the pale of humble human accomplishment.

And yet it occasionally serves to make an humble student of a self-opinionated and self-exaggerated individuality. A case in point is a now distinguished member who came from Brooklyn.

"I was fine in Brooklyn," he remarked one time. "My experience there gave me a good opinion of my work. I began to make lantern slides and exercised my individual taste, with the result that my work was admired. Gradually I began to exhibit it more and more. I joined a local club whose fad was lantern slides and became a star member. Finally I gained such repute that I decided to come to New York and astonish them. I decided that I would quietly enter my plates for exhibition, and, in the vernacular, 'sweep 'em off their feet.'"

"Well?" I inquired as he mused reflectively.

"Oh, I exhibited. They walked on me. One of my pictures made them laugh, and it was intended to be sad. There were twenty-seven objections made to another. My best one came off easy with three criticisms, and all valid. Oh, lord! I thought I would never get out alive."

"Were they fair?"

"Yes; that was the bitter thing. I could realize that it was all kindly said and meant, and was good for me. After it was all over, one gentleman, who noted my crest-fallen state, came up and told me that my work was not bad. It was only the high standard of the club that laid it open to so much criticism. This was too much, and I went home in despair."

"And yet you profited by it."

"It was the best thing that could have happened. I began studying in earnest after that, merely to blot out my terrible defeat. In another year I exhibited again, and the whole set passed the 'test' audience with only a few suggestions."

Below is a photograph from this article and possibly the room that this critique took place.

Here are some pictures from some more recent critiques:

Ansel Adams – Conducting A Critique Session, Courtesy the  Ansel Adams Gallery .

Ansel Adams – Conducting A Critique Session, Courtesy the Ansel Adams Gallery.

A recent critique at the  Yale School of Art's Photography Department . The panel:  John Pilson  making a point on the left,  Lisa Kereszi ,  Shirin Neshat  and  Richard Prince . Image  from this post  by Photographer  Davin Ellicson .

A recent critique at the Yale School of Art's Photography Department. The panel: John Pilson making a point on the left, Lisa KeresziShirin Neshat and Richard Prince. Image from this post by Photographer Davin Ellicson.

OPENING TOMORROW: Fringe Economies: Sarina Finkelstein & Maureen Drennan at the Newspace Center for Photography

Fringe Economies

Sarina Finkelstein & Maureen Drennan

May 6th – 29th Opening Reception: Friday, May 6th 6-9pm Artist Lecture: Saturday, May 7th 1pm

Maureen Drennan, Adam, 2008

My friend and fellow SVA Alum, Maureen Drennan is in a two person show at the Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, OR. I had the pleasure of watching this body of work develop. It is a fascinating series and quite a relevant body of work to show on the west coast. If you are around be sure to get out there and see the opening and artist lecture.

from the press release:


Maureen Drennan will be presenting work from her series “Meet Me in the Green Glen.” The series documents the life of Ben, a marijuana farmer in California. Though it is legal to grow marijuana in California, it is still an activity that carries heavy social and political stigma. Drennan’s photographs of Ben’s life, his lands, and his plants is an intimate look at a seldom seen lifestyle.

Maureen Drennan is a photographer born and based in New York City. Since receiving her MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2009, her photographs have been included in numerous group exhibitions including the Chelsea Art Museum, New York City, Silvereye Center for Photography, Pittsburg and Rayko Gallery, San Francisco. Maureen has received honors from Aperture, The Photo Review, PDN, The Photographic Resource Center of Boston, Humble Arts, and Artist as Citizen. Her photographs were included in The Collector’ s Guide to New Art Photography, Volume 2. Maureen currently teaches photography at the City University of New York.


Sarina Finkelstein will be presenting work from her series “The New 49ers.” The series is an investigation of the re-emergence of gold prospectors in California. The New 49ers are recently laid-off workers, veterans, retirees, ex-convicts and freelancers in between gigs—all dependent on the income they derive from gold prospecting. Finkelstein’s project draws a comparison between the original Gold Rush, the lesser-known surge of gold prospecting during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the modern-day wave of gold prospectors in California during the Great Recession.

Sarina Finkelstein earned her BFA from Washington University and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her work has been featured as the cover story forThe Daily, in SEVEN, and on and She has been a guest speaker for Professional Women Photographers and a speaker and award recipient at the Society for Photographic Education National Conference. Finkelstein lives in New York.

OPENING TONIGHT: Debbie Grossman's My Pie Town at Julie Saul Gallery.

Debbie Grossman, My Pie Town "Jessie Evans-Whinery, homesteader, with her wife Edith Evans-Whinery and their baby." 2009-10, 10 1/2 x 14 inches

Tonight is the opening for friend and fellow SVA Alum, Debbie Grossman's project, My Pie Town. I really enjoyed her project when I first saw it at the MFA Thesis show. They popped up again at Pulse in Miami this past winter. I'm looking forward to seeing the collection of images together. The project does a good job of combining appropriated images with a seamless Photoshop collaging that results in a interesting new narrative. Also, in conjunction with the show the gallery has published a monograph of My Pie Town in an edition 100.

Statement: My Pie Town is a project by Debbie Grossman in which she reworks and re-imagines a body of images originally photographed by Russell Lee for the United States Farm Security Administration in 1940. Using Photoshop to modify Lee’s pictures, she created an imaginary, parallel world - a Pie Town populated exclusively by women. The images are revised in subtle ways, making the reading of them very complicated and compelling. The sixteen images in the series are both color and black and white, and are all based on Lee’s unpublished series on Pietown, a homesteaded community in New Mexico.

The original photographs are available either through the Library of Congress or through the Web. Grossman says of the project "I’ve begun to think of Photoshop as my medium – I’m fascinated by the fact this it shares qualities with both photography and drawing…..I enjoy imagining My Pie Town working as its own kind of (lighthearted) propaganda".

In conjunction with the show, the gallery is publishing a small monograph of My Pie Town in a limited edition 100 copies.

Debbie Grossman My Pie Town April 14-May 21, 2011 further information

For further information contact the gallery


Also opening at Julie Saul Gallery tonight:

Jeff Whetstone Seducing Birds, Snakes, Men April 14-May 21, 2011 further information