Benefits of Attending FOCUS
After the inaugural FOCUS meeting in Portland, Oregon, the organizers asked participants what they felt the benefits of attending had been. Here are the comments from some of the 2012 participants.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
On the professional side of things, it was wonderful to meet so many fellow-emerging curators and academics, many of whom I've known only by name or email. I love the idea that we will all "grow up together" in this business, which makes networking among us now invaluable. It was thrilling to hear about the research, publication, and exhibition projects that members of this group are developing. I've already made plans for collaboration with several people from the meeting. Without this opportunity to meet and exchange ideas, that collaboration would not have taken shape. Thank you for making FOCUS happen and for offering me a seat at the table! Looking forward to New Orleans in 2013.
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Kathryn Del Boccio
Wilson Center for Photography
- The opportunity to network with peers without the influence of top-level professionals (as in: past, current, and future bosses) in setting the agenda.
- Candid, first-person conversations about possibilities for collaboration on future projects. The absence of written record allows for more open and spontaneous discussion.
- Immersion in a diverse and vibrant regional photo community and contact with its practitioners through visits to not-for profit spaces, museums and private homes.
- Food! (joking! but seriously, the food was lovely)
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Andrés Mario Zervigón
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
What a great weekend! I'd say that the benefits were, speaking more broadly, learning of new developments and strategies in the field from photo curators and fellow photo historians. This was already tremendously beneficial when there are so few of us spread around the country. But equally helpful was meeting you all. I'd heard or read most of your names but had yet to meet the majority of the attendees in person. This was quite exciting and I'm already benefiting from connections that may prove essential for my current book project.
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Yale University Art Gallery
How did FOCUS:PDX benefit me? I'm still processing all that took place, but for now I can tell you that it created an optimal environment for deeper connections and possible collaborations with valued colleagues, connections that might otherwise have taken many years to forge. It widened my perspective of the field, frankly brightening it. I came back to the office inspired and energized, ready to be more productive and brimming with new ideas. The sense of community fostered this weekend will undoubtedly enrich the quality of my work.
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Center for Creative Photography / Phoenix Art Museum
It’s hard to summarize the benefits of FOCUS, as they feel so numerous! Naturally, it was wonderful to learn about a number of Portland’s non-profit spaces and learn more about the photography program at the Portland Art Museum. It was incredibly powerful to meet and make more meaningful connections with colleagues from around the county, about whom I had heard but had never had the chance to meet. In one case, a colleague and I were able to catch up in person on progress of a project we’re already collaborating on. I think the session that was most impactful for me, was the one where each of us talked about current and upcoming projects. There were 8 to 10 of those where I had a specific suggestion, could help make a connection between people, learned about an exhibition I might like to take at my museum, or found out about a book project to which I think I can contribute. Without that formal session of reporting out about our work, I would have missed those opportunities. And having had it, I’m certain that projects will happen because we were able come together and share our ideas, future plans, and prospects. Another benefit, I think, was the empowerment that came from creating a new organization designed to meet the needs of professionals like me. After years of thinking about a group and a meeting structure that could benefit emerging professionals, it was amazing to be a part of making it happen!
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Saint Louis Art Museum
I can’t thank you enough for the work that you did in organizing the conference. It was an exciting opportunity to be a part of the founding of an important new group for photographic studies. Overall, it was a very enjoyable and beneficial experience. It not only exposed me to the many many cultural venues and resources of Portland, but I was able to network with colleagues in the field, most of whom I had not known previously and probably would not have had the opportunity to meet in person. You and Julia created such a pleasant environment for interacting, both formally and informally, with these colleagues. And don’t even get me started about the Cheese and Crack appetizers …
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University of Toronto
As a university professor, I often emphasize to my students the necessity of developing links with the curators who collect, interpret, and display the objects that constitute our discipline. FOCUS was an extraordinary opportunity for me to take that very advice. I was able to meet many of the leading young curators of photography in the world, to exchange ideas, and to develop the groundwork for future collaborations. FOCUS will yield important benefits for photography studies, both in the academy and in the institutions through which the public interacts with photographs. Together, the group that came together in Portland will write the future of the history of photography.
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University of Arizona
Far and away the most valuable piece of the trip for me was meeting my colleagues and having the chance to exchange ideas with them about projects we are working on. At this stage in my career, I may know someone as the author of an article or the curator of a show, but getting to talk to the actual person was invaluable. It gave me an optimism about the state of our field and (I hope) several seeds were planted for future collaborations.
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Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts
As a curator who is relatively new to working with photographs, FOCUS Portland was an incredible experience. It enabled me to begin establishing a professional network that I know I will develop and call on for the rest of my career. That is no small thing. Already I have been emailing with other attendants--where else would I have met so many of them? In addition to having the opportunity to better know the museum and galleries in Portland, I have a better sense of who my peers are and who I can look forward to working with in the future.
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Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Without a doubt, junior members of departments do not have the networking opportunities that our senior members have, and networking is invaluable to the development of our careers and to the development of our field. FOCUS allowed us a unique opportunity - to meet other emerging professionals, discuss collaborations, and get a broader picture of the state of photography all with a group of friendly and fun peers. Also, I feel that Portland was the perfect location for this inaugural year. With a strong arts community, friendly people, a walkable downtown, and of course terrific food, the city helped make FOCUS a wonderful experience from start to finish.
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FOCUS provided me with the invaluable opportunity to meet and network with colleagues from across the country who share my passion for photography. The people who attended will be colleagues in this field for many years to come, and learning about one another's interests, challenges and goals will help us help each other and work together in the future. It was an incredibly collegial and upbeat group, and being a part of it was a great shot in the arm for me.
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Dalia H. Linssen
Rhode Island School of Design
Attending FOCUS provided a novel and promising opportunity to engage with other emerging professionals on a range of topics from recent scholarship in photographic histories and theories, upcoming exhibitions and conferences, as well as an understanding for important archival resources. The conference also served as a valuable introduction to Portland's vibrant artistic energies through both the Portland Art Museum and area galleries.
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Harvard Art Museums / Busch-Reisinger Museum
FOCUS was incredibly important to me as an opportunity to meet colleagues at similar stages in their careers from across the country. In bringing together both academics and curators, it stands apart from other groups and to my mind has greater potential to further the field and our thinking about photography and the various ways in which we engage with it. It was valuable to learn about each other’s ongoing projects and research interests and to be able think about future collaborations. Finally, it provided a wonderful introduction to the collections, art spaces, curators, and photo-related programming in Portland, much of which was new to me and many of the participants. Thank you!
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George Eastman House
International Museum of Photography and Film
Many thanks to you and Julia for hosting the first FOCUS meeting in Portland. Attending FOCUS was of great value to me as an emerging curator of photography. The opportunity to meet over 30 colleagues in the field and learn about their interests and projects was of great benefit. It was also a good opportunity to see the thriving photography scene in Portland through the museum, galleries and collections that we visited.
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Harvard Art Museums
First, I just want to thank you for a great conference and a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of business, art viewing, discussion, and social activities (and food, of course!). I felt that the size of the group worked really well and enabled everyone to participate. I think one of the problems with larger groups is that many people aren’t comfortable speaking in a big group with a handful of dominant voices. Thankfully, that was not the case at FOCUS. Perhaps if the group grows (which no doubt it will), there could be breakout sessions and then a designee to report on the discussion. I also felt that the goal of meeting colleagues and exchanging knowledge and project ideas was very well-served. Lastly, I very much appreciated being a part of something that felt very proactive, i.e. our generation of photography professionals taking an active role in charting a course for our field(s) and the medium moving forward. So thanks for including me, and I look forward to the next one!
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Stacey McCarroll Cutshaw
Society for Photographic Education / Exposure
As an emerging photography professional, I found FOCUS in Portland to be a tremendously successful and valuable event. It allowed me the opportunity to network with familiar and new colleagues, to get a clearer sense of new intellectual developments and the important issues on the minds of curators and academics, and to share in the benefits of collaborative collegial conversation. Most importantly, I was able to meet interesting and engaged colleagues who I would not normally have the opportunity to connect with through my other professional networking groups. The weekend created a cozy occasion to meet with a broad range of emerging professionals from across the field and across the country. Thank you for including me.
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The Art Institute of Chicago
In the eight years I have been a professional curator, I have never before attended a conference/symposium/gathering where it was so clear that there was relevance, importance, and even urgency to the event. When I left the last session of Focus:PDX, I shared a taxi to the airport with two fellow attendees; we turned to each other immediately and declared, with much gratitude, that we had just participated in something remarkable and ground-breaking. That gratitude might only be surpassed by the career-long connections I suspect we all forged with our colleagues over the weekend, connections that will carry us forward another twenty, thirty, or forty years. Thank you!