Tsuyoshi Ito had difficulties finding a photography workshop in Philly, so he created his own.
After graduating from Temple University Japan, Ito chose to move to the United States in 1996 and do something a bit different with his life. While he was living in Philadelphia, he would commute to New York once a week to take photography classes, simply because he said there were no workshops or spaces for people who weren’t enrolled in college.
He had the idea to begin Project Basho in 2002 as a local photography resource center that focuses on teaching classes and workshops as well as offering rentable dark room space and digital lab access. The original space for the resource center was in Ito’s small living space in Old City.
“Sometimes I even taught classes in my kitchen,” Ito said. Currently the studio space is located on Germantown Avenue, where it has been for the past six years.
Since 2008, Project Basho has hosted a yearly event entitled “ONWARD Summit,” a photography conference for photographers to showcase their work as well as network with other photographers. The importance of this conference overall is to invest in the change between the digital and the print world, Ito said.
“I think we live in a strange world where we can see pictures much easier,” Ito said. “Say that I’m interested in a photographer, I just have to Google them and I can see their pictures instantly. I think that becomes more primary. Digital is the first way people see photos these days rather than print. I want to create an environment that creates a different way to experience photography.”
From April 12 through April 14, photographers locally, nationally and even internationally will be coming to Philadelphia for the 2013 “ONWARD Summit.” Beginning on Friday morning, there will be special workshops taught by professionals about printing and photographic storytelling. On Saturday, there will be a portfolio review at which people sign up to have their work reviewed by professional photographers. Photographers may bring in three pieces of their work and then have one-on-one critiques from their choice of 15 professional photographers. Following the portfolio review will be a reception that is open to the public and there will be photos displayed from a pool of 56 people who had previously submitted their work digitally.
In the evening around 5 p.m., there will be the conference where the judges will have chosen two winners from the pool of applicants who submitted their work. There will also be speeches from three keynote photographers including: Mark Steinmetz, well-known for his powerful black and white photos; Eiji Ina, a prominent Japanese photographer; and Maisie Crow, a multimedia photographer who combines still images and video.
Ito wanted to create a conference that was for photographers, by photographers, he said.
“It’s all about seeing prints, meeting people and hearing what they think in person,” Ito said.
He said he truly feels that the digital age of photography has lessened the importance of printed images.
“I would like people to think of what medium photography is and how it’s changing. This year we have two keynote speakers who are traditional in a sense and one keynote speaker who also does video and sound,” Ito said. “That is kind of like the state of what photography is now, people use it for different purposes.”
Ito also mentioned how he finds the arts of photography and painting similar.
“A painting is the masterpiece because it’s the original work, and the digital file of it is the presentation,” Ito said. “In photography, the digital image is the masterpiece and the print is the presentation. That line is never very clear.”
Onward Summit claims to not be a typical photography conference, for its website boasts that there is nothing else like it that exists in Philadelphia.
“We’re stuck on what photography should be, but should focus on what it can be,” he said.
Project Basho has tickets still available on the website, but the public reception will be held at the space at 1305 Germantown Ave., on April 13 at 2 p.m.
Rachel Barrish can be reached at email@example.com.