Thursday, August 20, 2009

Collector Correspondents

In the slow days of summer (no auctions, few new gallery and museum shows of note), I've been spending some time gearing up for the Fall and thinking about how to make what we're doing here more useful and comprehensive. Regular readers will know that we have been particularly concerned with the woeful state of available reviews for gallery shows (related post here); many, many people have shared their concerns over this reality. The most common answer to the problem is that we as collectors need to step up and fill the void being left by the disappearance of the traditional media.

In a perfect world, we would like to significantly increase our coverage of gallery shows, so that we get out to the edges a bit more, rather than simply covering the mainstream offerings of the most obvious photography galleries; my crazy dream is to double the number of gallery shows we review in a year. While we feel like we have a decent handle on the New York scene, gallery shows in other places around the world are getting zero attention here. I'd like to change that in the coming year.

So in the spirit of yet another experiment, I'd like to try to enlist a few intrepid collectors from various locales to contribute a gallery review from time to time. While we would welcome contributions from virtually anywhere, I am particularly interested in finding volunteer "correspondents" for the following cities:

San Francisco
Los Angeles

Will this idea open a can of worms that is hard to control? I hope not, and so I've come up with a few guidelines to help guide the effort. The primary and most important criteria is that the reviewer be a serious (and knowledgeable) photography collector. No exceptions. Second, the contributed reviews need to come in our standard format: installation pictures (if available), exhibit facts, commentary/criticism, prices and collector favorites, rating (using the same system/criteria we use), and useful transit links; we want the reviews to look and feel exactly like our own reviews (I can provide a little cheat sheet of questions that need answers that we use when visiting a show if it would be helpful). Third, all reviews would be published anonymously, so collectors can feel safe in truth telling; while a few collectors might potentially feel comfortable reviewing under their own real byline, there will be no exceptions to the anonymity rule. Last, and perhaps most obviously, we require a high standard of professionalism and integrity in all the reviews we will publish; no jackass, poorly written flames or diatribes will ever find their way onto this site.

Before you rush off to start reviewing the shows in your local galleries, please email me first at so we can discuss whether the show is already being reviewed by someone else and/or is a good fit for this site. I'd like to get to the point that we have at least one solid contributed review each week, so that we can all get a broader picture for what is happening in photography worldwide. At some level, we will act as editor and perform some quality control to ensure some consistency, but in the end, the writers will be the ones that have seen the shows first hand, so we will err on the side of trusting their judgment, whether we "like" their conclusions or not.

The goal here is to develop a broad and deep net that catches as much as possible of what is happening in the grassroots photography gallery world today; a big audacious goal I realize. We can only do it with the help of other like minded collectors. But if you find yourself in one of our target cities (or elsewhere for that matter), please think about taking the time to contribute a review for a show that you were already planning to visit anyway. The rest of us will certainly benefit from your generosity, and I can say from experience, it will sharpen your experience of seeing the work on view and surprisingly might actually be fun.

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