The name Atlanta Celebrates Photography is dead. Long live the Atlanta Center for Photography.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the photography and lens-based media festival is re-inventing itself again. The nonprofit is rebranding itself as Atlanta Center for Photography this month, without losing any letters of its acronym ACP, becoming officially a “center” for photography.
For the first time in its history, the organization will host exhibitions and live events in its own space, a 500 square-foot, street-level “jewel box space,” as its new director, Lindsey O’Connor, describes it. In the past, the nonprofit has partnered with art galleries and venues to host its events.
The new space, named the Atlanta Center for Photography Project Lab, will open Oct. 26 with a solo installation by photography-based artist Kalee Appleton. The Fort Worth, Texas, artist uses photography, sculpture and drawing to create immersive, digitally manipulated landscapes. The work, according to O’Connor, is representative of the new direction the center wants to embrace — giving lens-based artists a space where they can “take risks, experiment with creative approaches and push the boundaries of the medium’s impact.”
Instead of the organization’s familiar monthlong, citywide festival, this year’s programming will be minimal, in part to give time for the new staff to consolidate its new direction. The Atlanta Center for Photography will continue to expand its core programs, including the emerging artist fellowship. Chelsea Mukenya is the 2023 recipient, and her exhibition is on view through Oct. 29 at the Mint gallery.
Fans of the annual festival, portfolio reviews and public art installations will have to wait until spring.
But worth noting is an upcoming exhibition “Ghosts of Segregation: Photographs of Rich Frishman,” in collaboration with the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. The show opens Monday, Oct. 16, and will feature an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19.
ArtsATL talked recently with O’Connor to learn more about this new chapter and the work in progress.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you envision your new position as executive director?
A: I was previously at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York for six years, working as the biennial coordinator. My role was to coordinate the artists, curators and the museum staff to realize projects. I coordinated the exhibitions and film programs of three biennials in 2017, 2019 and 2022. In that time, the total number of artists from the American South that I worked with was three, maybe five. There were a lot of artists from Puerto Rico, but, from the mainland, the global South, there were very few.
In New York, there’s so much white noise, so much happening in the art world all the time. I felt (coming to Atlanta) was an interesting opportunity to have an impact somewhere else. Here there are a lot of incredible working artists, and interest in and potentially money for the arts. I think we can provide a platform and open up paths of exchange that ultimately will get more artists on a larger platform than just our region.
Q: This year marks a huge transition for the organization with the opening of a brick-and-mortar space on Edgewood Avenue. What motivated this transformation?
A: The transition to having a physical space had been discussed with the board and many community members before I was hired as executive director. A lot of interviews were done to take the temperature of different key stakeholders throughout the Atlanta arts community. Everybody agreed that this was the right next step. I think the community felt it was time for the organization to make a shift, make a bigger splash and have a more year-round presence.
Q: What are the benefits of having your own space?
A: Many people think of us as just an October festival. This new space will give us the flexibility to not only commission new works from artists living in the South, which is the thrust of our curatorial program, but also to curate public programs and to host lectures and screenings. This will give us a lot more flexibility to create programming on a year-round basis.
Our inaugural exhibit is a good example of what we’re trying to do, which is to push the boundaries of the medium and consider the preconceived notions of what the limitations of photography might be. As people who love photography and lens-based media, we don’t want people to feel pigeonholed. So we’re working with artists who are interested in filling a space in a fresh way.
Q: Atlanta Center for Photography has this unique DNA in the photo festival world, inviting everybody — artists but also non-professionals and amateurs — to find a venue and to exhibit work. Are we going to lose this democratic aspect of the festival?
A: We definitely want to keep the community-driven aspect. We plan to condense it into a tighter, more focused, multiday festival in 2024 with keynote speakers, workshops and artist presentations. There will definitely be community programming at organizations all over the city. We still want to do an open call for everybody to get their exhibition, their screening, their talk on a shared calendar. We will still have a rich feeling of collective work and a shared goal.
Q: Public art was a center point in the years past with “The FENCE,” the Phoenix installation and, last year, Jess T. Duncan’s large-scale photographs exhibited during the Atlanta Pride parade on the windows of the Hyatt Centric in Midtown. Do you have plans for public art this year or next?
A: We are definitely still interested in our public art activation. Photography lends itself well to public installation, We don’t have any activation planned immediately. I have some ideas, but we need to get the exhibition program up and running and make sure that our core programs are well-considered. Then we will start to fold in more public art activations.
“Ghosts of Segregation: Photographs of Rich Frishman”
Through May 24. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursdays. Free. David J. Sencer CDC Museum, 1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta. 404-639-0830, cdc.gov/museum.
Rich Frishman artist talk
5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19. Free. Sencer CDC Museum. Calendly.com/cdcmuseum/rich-frishman-artist-talk
Virginie Kippelen is a photographer, multimedia producer and writer specializing in editorial and documentary projects. She has contributed to ArtsATL’s Art+Design section since 2014, writing mostly about photography. And after living 25 years in the United States, she still has a French accent.
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