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Spiva Center for the Arts Joplin MO


March 20 – May 15, 2021

PhotoSpiva 2021

Sponsored by Freeman Health System


Juror’s Statement | Adam Finkelston

From my point of view, the history of photography is the history of the democratization
of storytelling. Photography so rapidly advanced the ease with which people could record their existence, that the order of the world changed forever. It was possible to see the effects of natural disasters in far off places, the flora and fauna of exotic locales, and the plight of people who lived not very far at all geographically, but who nevertheless lived a completely different existence than even their own countrymen. As an educator, artist, publisher, and as a juror, I feel strongly that the advancement of human beings – that is, the way we treat each other and the quality of our lives – is dependent upon two things: telling stories and listening to them.

As an educator, I try to teach students that making things – photographs, yes, but also furniture, bridges, paper towels, and spaceships – is part of the human instinct. We “need” to make things. Artmaking is a way for us to tell our own stories and describe our own experiences; to show others the world as we see it. We describe, interpret, explain, opine, and illustrate our experiences. As a publisher, I try my hardest to provide a platform for people from all over the world to get their stories in front of as many eyes as I can. The ability to collect these stories from so many points of view and put them in front of people who see something new, is immensely satisfying. As a juror, I try to do the same. As an artist, I try to be true to my experience and depict my own ideas, my life, in my way. And it is true for me, at least – and I think for others too – that the more I make, the more I want to see, and the more I see, the
more I want to make.

Photography is a democratic medium. For one of its pioneers, William Henry Fox Talbot,
“drawing with light” was a way for him (unskilled in drawing and painting as he was) to record his surroundings. The major advances of photography – wet and dry plate collodion, roll film, handheld cameras, color film, instant film, and now digital imaging – have made that recording easier and easier, more and more accessible. In some ways, digital imaging has started to reverse that march towards democracy and accessibility. The cost of software and cameras effectively prices many people out of making high quality images. But the fact that every cell phone has increasingly high-quality cameras has made nearly everyone into a photographer. There are arguments to be made about the perceived diminishing of quality of photography in general. Personally, I love the fact that nearly everyone is now a photographer. Democracy and accessibility are important. But I do think that artistry is important too. That is the reason I am so interested in the hand-made print. The image – the story itself – is paramount, but the style and skill in telling the story matter too. I tried to choose images that told me a new story. One I
had not heard before. One that was personal to the artist and showed me their unique point of view. But I also tried to choose images that are carefully made. I like to see a specific size, a texture to the paper, a depth to the layers of emulsion, a shine on the metallic surface. I like photographs that are also objects because to me they express something more about the artist.

The reason that telling our stories is truly important is that those who feel heard are
more likely to listen. It’s a two-way street. I like to think I got to know the many wonderful
artists who submitted to this call for entries, even if just a little bit. I want to thank the gallery, its directors and employees, and the artists who contributed to this exhibition for allowing me to tell my own story through my jurying of the show, and who shared their own stories with me through the work at the gallery and through the 1,000-plus images that were submitted to this call. It was truly a pleasure. I hear you. Keep talking. But don’t forget to listen too.






“Celebrate the creative experience – be a community catalyst.”