Dec 6, 2019 - Feb 15, 2020
About This Exhibition
Now in its 49th year, Alaska Positive is a statewide juried photographic exhibition organized and toured by the Alaska State Museum. Its purpose is to encourage the practice of photography as an art form in Alaska. Alaska Positive was on exhibit at the Alaska State Museum December 6, 2019 through February 15, 2020. A statewide tour follows, the exhibition will travel to museums throughout Alaska.
The juror for Alaska Positive was David Michael Kennedy, whose photographic career spans over 50 years. His works are held in museum collections including the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institute. Kennedy selected 38 photographs by 26 photographers for the exhibit. Overall, 202 photographs were submitted by Alaskan photographers for the competition. The top award, the Juror’s Choice, went to Cody Swanson of Anchorage for the photograph titled Dipnetters. The Awards of Recognition went to Mike Gates of Ketchikan for Self, and Iris Korhonen-Penn of Juneau for Auke Lake, Bunchberry, Eagle Beach, and Lincoln Island. These awards are sponsored by the Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum.
Alaska Positive juror, David Michael Kennedy gave a lecture at the Alaska State Museum on Friday, November 15. The lecture was recorded for later broadcast by 360North in partnership with our local radio station KTOO.
I want to thank all the artists who submitted work for the 2019 Alaska Positive Show. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing all the images and found it extremely difficult to make the final selections. Working with the staff at the Museum was a remarkable adventure. The care they put into all aspects of the show, lecture and workshop made what I thought might be a difficult experience one of pure joy. Thank you all for making my time in Juneau extremely rewarding.
After over fifty years working in photography, both as an artist and educator, I am still intrigued by how people see and how they interpret their vision through the photographic process.
I find “art-speak” difficult, at best. I cannot go into a long-winded discussion of composition, design, the use of positive and negative space, etc. To me a photograph simply speaks to you, giving you a visceral response, sometimes immediately, and at other times in a more subtle, quiet way. To quote Duane Michals “The question that we should be asking is, does the image make you feel something?”
The first round of judging was on the internet. Seeing an image on the screen is always a challenge for me. Being an old analogue photographer I like to view the physical prints. It was extremely gratifying for me to judge the second round as actual final prints and I want to emphasize that almost every submission I reviewed had positive attributes, in fact many of great merit, which made the final selections quite difficult.
When I am photographing and I see something that intrigues me, I look through the viewfinder and keep moving closer and closer until the image in the viewfinder reflects the essence of what I am feeling. Then I look at all four corners and the overall composition to be sure it is balanced, and then - only then - do I make the exposure. When I am curating an exhibition, I try to approach it in the same way, first looking at the images from a distance and then going closer to the ones that draw me in. Additionally, I look at the marriage of the techniques used and visual imagery, and that they work together to help convey the emotional response. Finally, I look at the design and balance of the image along with the visceral feeling it brings to me. With the advances in Photoshop, Lightroom and other photo programs it is far too easy to overdo use of the tools that are now available. It is extremely important to me that whatever manipulation is done has a purpose and meaning.
Jurying an exhibition is always a challenge. Within a short period of time I am asked to make many difficult decisions. I have to not only take into account the final image but also the photographer’s intent and level of expertise. Please know that if you didn’t get in the show it is not a reflection on the lack of quality of your photography, and I encourage you to keep working. My background, aesthetics, and personal prejudices played a role in my selections. I am sure other jurors would have made different decisions.
David Michael Kennedy