Festival of Light sheds International light on local artists By Kate Awtrey | January 2, 2011

new Photographer Art Streiber lectured in the 4C space of SCAD-Atlanta in October as part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
Credit Ben Dashwood courtesy of SCAD-Atlanta Photos (4) Credit Ben Dashwood courtesy of SCAD-Atlanta Credit Kate Awtrey

Twelve years after Atlanta Celebrates Photography was founded, it now finds itself on the International platform for photography events with the recent acceptance into "Festival of Light." Founded in 1994, The Festival of Light is a collaborative effort of photographers worldwide. The goals of the organization are to help with sponsorship, collaboration and the promotion of high quality photography throughout different cultures. Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP) was founded by a group of local Atlantans in 1998, and has since grown to a month-long celebration held each year in October. ACP was designed to educate and help local artists and the art community. ACP offers classes year round and has a city full of supportive galleries that participate with special exhibitions in the annual festival, as well as show ACP member's work throughout the year. Each year, ACP brings in big name photographers to lecture throughout the city. Guests from previous ACP festivals included lectures by Danny Clinch, Jerry Uelsmann, Elliott Erwitt and Art Streiber. ACP also offers portfolio reviews that allow participants to meet one-on-one with art dealers, photo editors and curators. Executive director for ACP, Amy Miller believes the acceptance into the Festival of Light will help the festival grow as "now we have a wider net to cast when making our selections (for festival lecturers)," she said.

Midtown photographer Rashaad Freeman's interest was piqued when he learned ACP will have a wider list to choose from due to the festival acceptance. "I would love to see Solve Sundsbo. [He is a] great fashion photographer," said Freeman. Photographer Patrick Heagney, who is represented by Kai Lin Art in Midtown, fully supports ACP's acceptance into Festival of Light. "I'm hoping ACP's acceptance into FoL will cause it to gain even more local attention and help it begin to get some significant national and international attention." Heagney explained that for the local Midtown photographers it will mean more opportunity but will require artists to put forth more effort. "It means both an increased opportunity to get noticed by an out-of-town crowd, and it means that we'll all have to step our game up to take full advantage of the increased exposure," said Heagney. Midtown photographer and recent SCAD-Atlanta photography graduate Taylor Lupton responded to ACP's announcement of the acceptance positively, "I feel this will allow a viable outlet for our local artists to gain global exposure. Hopefully we will be able to use this recognition to bring more artists to the Atlanta area," he said. Miller believes that because of acceptance it will allow for more collaboration, "Through the course of developing meaningful networks with other photo festivals around the world, we foresee opportunities to partner on projects and initiatives that were not available to us before," she said. The response has been strong from local artists. "I think it's very validating for our local event to be included in this international association," said Heagney. "Fine art photography in Atlanta has struggled to get the same acceptance and respect as other more traditional mediums, such as painting, and I think some international recognition will help move us in that direction." Lupton doesn't believe the acceptance into ACP will cut into the local growth of the festival but instead open other doors that might not have been previously available. "This is a wonderful opportunity for students and amateurs to rub elbows with the elite community. Not to mention recent graduates have the ability to see, meet and discuss projects with artists that we would otherwise not have the ability to contact," said Lupton. Freeman believes that the festival will open several doors that Atlanta and its photographers might not have been privy to prior to the acceptance. "ACP is already recognized nationally, so this type of exposure is great for not only the city of Atlanta, but for photographers in Atlanta," he said. The potential impact and exposure of the festival excites Freeman. "It's a great opportunity for local photographers to be recognized internationally. This will absolutely be something positive for local photographers," he said. Miller explained that ACP will also boost the city's economy. "We will have more international guests coming to visit Atlanta, and while they are here, they will get to experience this great city through visiting local photography exhibitions, collector's homes, dining in Midtown restaurants," said Miller. Miller is confident that the acceptance to the festival is Midtown's gain. "(It) will do nothing but improve our ability to do more for this city and its photographers," said Miller.