LOOKbetween and “TREES” fill in for photo fest downtime

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Joel Sartore’s “Photo Ark,” featuring endangered wildlife, is this year’s “TREES” exhibition on the Downtown Mall. Photo credit: Joel Sartore Joel Sartore’s “Photo Ark,” featuring endangered wildlife, is this year’s “TREES” exhibition on the Downtown Mall. Photo credit: Joel Sartore

It’s that time of year again when dazzling photographs of exotic wildlife hang from the willow oaks running along the Downtown Mall. Dubbed “TREES,” the exhibition of large, double-sided images is the most visible and popular aspect of LOOK3, the nonprofit organization that celebrates the vision of extraordinary photographers, ignites critical conversations about the subjects the photography presents, and fosters the next generation.

This year, the focus of “TREES” is National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s “Photo Ark.” Sartore has devoted his life to publicizing the crisis of species endangerment and the importance of conserving biodiversity; as he points out, in saving these creatures, we are really saving ourselves. Sartore’s lushly beautiful, sometimes playful, always magical photographs allow the viewer to closely examine these captive species, many of which would have gone extinct without the heroic efforts of zoos and aquariums. Sartore will speak about this work and its implications on June 18 at the Paramount. The photographs will remain in place through July 8.

LOOK3 operates on a four-year cycle: three consecutive years of festivals followed by one year of LOOKbetween, a mentorship program targeted at international early-career photographers. Though the festival is on hiatus this year, “TREES” and the popular nighttime projection events remain.

LOOK3 can trace its roots to “Hot Shots,” an annual one-night extravaganza of projected images that National Geographic magazine Editor-at-Large Michael “Nick” Nichols held in his Berkeley, California loft beginning in 1982. When Nichols moved to the Charlottesville area he continued the tradition, eventually drawing 400-500 people to an al fresco night of slides at his home in Sugar Hollow in 2005. Inspired by the popularity of the event, Nichols, together with Jessica Nagle, Will Kerner, and Jon Golden founded the LOOK3 Festival of Photography. 

The purpose of LOOKbetween is to identify early-career photographers with exceptional skill, commitment, and vision—and to advance their growth by uniting them with leaders in the field. This year’s event includes James Wellford, a photography editor and curator based in New York who was the former international photo editor at Newsweek, Alice Gabriner, senior photo editor at National Geographic magazine, Yukiko Yamagata, associate director of the Documentary Photography Project at Open Society Foundations, and New York-based, British photographer Philip Toledano among a dozen others of equal stature.

The 75 emerging visionaries were drawn from a pool of over 230 candidates, and were nominated by 70 distinguished photography professionals worldwide. LOOKbetween attendees come from 22 countries and 15 U.S. states. “Our goal is to create an environment that supports exploration,” said LOOK3 Director, Victoria Hindley. “Helping attendees deepen craft while provoking new ways of seeing. In this way, we think of ‘inbetweeness’ as a rich territory for experimentation beyond boundaries.”

The group will congregate June 13-15 at Deep Rock Farm in White Hall, camping onsite, sharing meals, and presenting work under the stars. “With voices represented from all over the U.S. and as far as Tanzania, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Brazil, we expect and encourage a dynamic and diverse dialogue which we hope will build a community of photographers from all over the world,” said Hindley.

Deep Rock Farm provides a spectacular setting for the celebratory dinner party and projection events. These wildly popular evenings feature everything from fine art photography to international photojournalism to human interest stories from across the United States projected outdoors on a big screen. 

“Photography is a technology-driven art, and so it’s the nature of the craft to undergo radical transformations. From glass plates to film; from film to digital; and now the mobile phone is shifting the landscape of visual culture in untold ways given the unprecedented quantity of images it brings,” said Hindley. “In response, photographic practices are shifting in ways that make this a pivotal moment in history.”

If you go, you’re in for a treat, mingling with a crowd made up of people passionate about photography, and seeing some of the most relevant, provocative, and meaningful work being made today.

The goals of LOOKbetween are certainly ambitious, but Hindley’s background in visual culture with an emphasis on literature and photography, make her up to the challenge. For the last 15 years, Hindley has directed arts organizations and arts initiatives both in the States and abroad.

Before coming to Charlottesville, Hindley was based in Vienna, Austria for almost five years, developing initiatives such as the Shelter Project and the Right to the City and consulting for Soho in Ottakring, an artist-led platform that has had a powerful impact on the community. Spending summers in Berlin, she worked with Transart Institute (her graduate alma mater), teaching graduate seminars and advising graduate students.

Prior to that, Hindley managed the Fine Press Program, developing award-winning editions with Booker Prize author Salman Rushdie, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and visionary architect William McDonough, while she directed a multiyear initiative with the International Institute of Modern Letters to combat censorship worldwide.

Through it all, Hindley has maintained her practice as an artist, working mainly with photography, installations, and the book form—and as often as she can, in collaboration with others around the world.

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