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Humble Arts Foundation’s Founders Discuss Photography, Cats and New Trends

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© Jamie Campbell, from ‘New Cats in Art Photography’

Since 2005, the Humble Arts Foundation has been a resource and supporter for new photography, showcasing and promoting fresh ideas and artists around the globe. The site features regular group shows and artists’ profiles. Humble Arts also serves the photo community through exhibitions, grant making and educational programming.

Jon Feinstein and Amani Olu are the men behind the helm of this venture, both no stranger to fine art curation and publishing. Based in Seattle (Feinstein) and New York City (Olu), the pair directs Humble Arts long distance. Olu is an independent curator, writer and chief organizer of Young Curators, New Ideas, an annual exhibition that concentrates on curatorial practice. He has also interviewed the likes of William Eggleston and Gottfried Helnwein. Feinstein is a curator, photographer and Manager of Marketing and Partnerships at Shutterstock. Curating numerous exhibitions, Feinstein has lent his expertise to judging various contests including the New York Photo Awards, Photolucinda’s Critical Mass and Feature Shoot’s Emerging Photography Awards, to name a few. We asked the pair jointly about their love of photography, new trends they are excited about and how Squarespace made sharing great artists even easier.

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© Rebecca Smeyne, from ‘Tough Turf: New Directions in Street Photography Part 2/2’

Humble Arts Foundation took a bit of a break and now you guys are back!  Tell us a bit about why you reformed.
“We began putting shows together at Humble again because we felt like there was more we could add to the conversation about contemporary art photography. There are a lot of great websites that exist that promote photography, but we wanted to reintroduce a weirder, more bizarre, but still sincere element back into the mix such as our Instagram show, ‘New Cats in Art Photography’ and our most current show, ‘Occultisms‘.”

What are some of the ways photographers can get involved with Humble Arts? What are you looking for in submissions?
“We’re continuously looking for new work to feature in our online group shows, and on our blog, and to consider for brick and mortar exhibitions down the line. We’re looking for thoughtful work ranging from long term, cohesive, narrative driven projects, to somewhat discordant non-linear work. For us, what’s most important is showcasing work that grips us emotionally and intellectually and has a strong aesthetic and comes from photographers who are genuinely passionate about what they do.”

Are you seeing any interesting trends in photography lately? What are some trends you are tired of seeing?
“There’s definitely been an upsurge to what many critics are calling ‘The New Formalism’ – work that pays close attention to process and the physicality of the image. Despite a lot of criticism it has received, I personally love this kind of work. It works best when it’s thoughtful and comes from the heart or gut, but I’ve found that many photographers are making work in a vein that is purely derivative of photographers like Lucas Blalock and Jessica Eaton (two of my favorites). As long as the work gets below the surface (or in some smart way, is purely ‘about’ the surface), I think it can be effective. What inspires me about some of my favorite photographers is their ability to riff on, and bring something new to trends and historical tropes.”

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© Maury Gortemiller

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© David Williams, from ‘New Cats in Art Photography’

You dedicated an entire group show to ‘New Cats in Art Photography’, which was amazing and hilarious. What made you decide on that particular theme?
“Thank you! Aside from just loving cats, over the past few years we’ve noticed cats making their way here and there into the work of some of our favorite photographers. Not necessarily with projects entirely devoted to cats, but it’s been interesting to see how they float in as a kind of quiet muse. I wanted to create an exhibition of serious, engaging photography that countered the Internet’s abundance of ironic, or overly sentimental cat photos. That’s not to say that the show isn’t free of irony, but my hope is that it goes beyond the meme!”

What (or who) has you really excited about contemporary photography now?
“There’s so much! I think what I’m most excited about is that as the Internet has democratized photography- so many photographers are opening themselves up, becoming more experimental, pulling in a wider range of influences, borrowing, stealing, etc. at a more accelerated capacity than ever before. In its best examples, it has allowed ideas to develop a lot quicker than ever before, and I find this refreshing. Several photographers who I think are making particularly wonderful and varied work are Ben Alper, Kristine Potter, Maureen Drennan, Timothy Briner, Amy Elkins, Rachel Stern and Alexander Binder. I could list a thousand more!”

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© Michael Marcelle, from ‘Occultisms’

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© Clarissa Bonet, from ‘Tough Turf: New Directions in Street Photography Part 1/2’

Why did you choose Squarespace to build your site?
“Amani Olu, who handles the design and creative direction for Humble, began using it for various projects back in 2012, so when we began thinking about Humble’s redesign, it became the natural choice since it is relatively easy to use and navigate.”

What template did you choose? Did you make any design changes or customize it in any way?
“We used Takk. It’s perfect. We didn’t need to make any design changes, though Amani has the skills to do so. He actually designed our old site from scratch before we decided to move over to Squarespace’s platform.”

What are your favorite features of the site?
“The drag and drop features, especially when uploading our group exhibitions. It takes seconds.”

Talk a little bit about the Humble Arts blog and the Squarespace blog platform. Do you find it easy to integrate and update?
“As an arts organization, it is important that the work of the artists we serve is the focus. With the Takk blog, it was easy to achieve this goal because the format is already designed to do so.”

What makes a Squarespace site the best fit for you?
“It’s just super easy to use. Even with the design skills that we could employ, they’re not necessary because Squarespace has already made a great product. They’ve already done all the heavy lifting.”

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© Jin Lee, from ‘Tough Turf: New Directions in Street Photography Part 1/2’

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© Pelle Cass, from ‘Tough Turf: New Directions in Street Photography Part 2/2’

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