Art and Art History to host Midwest photo conference

Conference speakers Christian Patterson and John Pfahl.
Conference speakers Christian Patterson and John Pfahl.

Art and Art History to host Midwest photo conference

calendar icon20 Sep 2013    

Hundreds of photographers will converge in Lincoln when the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Art and Art History hosts the Midwest Society for Photographic Education (SPE) 2013 Conference Oct. 24-27.

Professor of Art Dana Fritz, who teaches photography at UNL, is co-chairing the conference, along with Larry Gawel, area head of photography at Metro Community College in Omaha.

“We are doing some things similar to the national conference,” Fritz said. “We’re offering workshops, portfolio reviews and some national speakers, but we’re also trying to emphasize what we have here in Lincoln, such as the amazing collection at Sheldon Museum of Art.”

Two events are free and open to the public. The first is a keynote address by Christian Patterson on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Embassy Suites Ballroom at 11th and Q sts.

2013 Guggenheim Fellow Patterson will discuss his project, “Redheaded Peckenwood,” much of which was researched and photographed in Nebraska during artist residencies at Art Farm, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Art and the Lincoln Arts Council.

“Redheaded Peckenwood” is a work with a tragic underlying narrative of the story of 19-year-old Charles Starkweather and 14-year-old Caril Ann Fugate, who murdered 10 people, including Fugate’s family, during a three-day killing spree across Nebraska to the point of their capture in Douglas, Wyo. Patterson’s book was awarded the prestigious 2012 Arles Rencontres Author Book Award and is now in its third edition.

“Patterson spent a lot of time in Nebraska and put together this extraordinary book that is a blend of fact and fiction,” Fritz said. “There are archival photographs and facsimiles of artifacts in the book blended with photographs he’s made that may be from actual locations or may not be. We don’t know. It’s a new way of working that’s very fluid between fact and fiction.”

The other free event is the Portfolio Walkthrough on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 8-10 p.m., also in the Embassy Suites Ballroom, where photographers of all levels will show their work.

“We all open our portfolios on the table and visitors and conference participants walk around and look,” Fritz said. “You get to see all kinds of work. If it’s not interesting, you keep walking. If it’s interesting, you stop.”

Other conference speakers include:

• John Pfahl, a photographer based in Buffalo, N.Y., who has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally. An exhibition “John Pfahl: Points of View” will be on display at Sheldon.

• Jeff Curto, professor and coordinator of the photography program at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., who is the honored educator. Curto also teaches workshops in Italy and has a series of podcasts on photography.

• April Watson and Keith F. Davis, who are curators at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Davis’ book, “An American Century of Photography: From Dry Plate to Digital” will be given to registrants of the conference.

• UNL Professor of Practice Marissa Vigneault will present “Between Subject and Object: Photographs of Artists by Artists.” Vigneault received a Notable Proposal Award from the conference for this presentation.

Fritz said her photography students at UNL are required to attend the conference and will certainly benefit from attending.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity that will only happen one time in their student career to see this many lectures and hear from so many different people. It gives them exposure to so many photographers and so many points of view. It’s just a broad spectrum of the state of photography, and they get it all in two and a half days. It’s super concentrated, and it’s just amazing.”

Fritz is also eager to show off the Department of Art and Art History, UNL and Lincoln to conference participants.

“I’m thrilled to bring people here to see not only our facilities in photography, but we’re having some exhibitions in the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery and MEDICI Gallery,” she said. “And, of course, I want everyone to see the Sheldon, which is a real gem. This is a really exciting time to be in Lincoln.”

For a full schedule of events and registration information on the conference, please visit

The conference is supported, in part, with a grant from the Hixson-Lied Endowment.