While most people are busy working on New Year’s resolutions, the local photographic community wants to sit back and celebrate the past year.
On Jan. 21, the Center for Public Interest Journalism will be hosting the annual Photo Night Year-End Spectacular at the Pen & Pencil Club where attendees will get a chance to see what Philadelphia photographers and photojournalists were up to in 2014.
The free presentation is being curated and produced by Daily News and Inquirer photojournalist David Maialetti. Rather than just making a slideshow of pictures from local photographers, he said he is striving to create a synergy among the photos.
“I think what I try to do is find images that work and play off of each other,” Maialetti said.
With the highest turnout of submitted photos he’s ever gotten from more than 50 photographers, Maialetti said he has got his work cut out for him until the big day.
“It’s a big challenge to take so many different photographers’ work and try to find themes and a way to make them connect,” Maialetti said.
But he has plenty of experience with curating this event, harkening back to the ‘90s when Maialetti and a small number of other Daily News photographers started regular get-togethers, like Photo Night, to help foster the Philadelphia photo community.
The starting group included Jim MacMillan, who is now the assistant director of CPIJ and the treasurer for the Pen & Pencil Club. Being a photojournalist for 30 years, MacMillan, along with the director and former Temple Journalism Department Chair Andrew Mendelson, didn’t want to see Photo Night abandoned.
Since three such nights this past fall, CPIJ has taken over Photo Night, with plans to bring in esteemed photographers to show off and discuss their work.
“I have very deep roots there so that’s the motivation for me,” MacMillan said. “It’s a critical time for many facets of journalism and it’s great to get together and talk about it.”
The upcoming Photo Night is different from the usual format with the Year-End Spectacular being more about celebrating the accomplishments and experiences of photography culture rather than the discussion of it.
In fact, the only guidelines for submitted photos to this event were that they had to be of presentable quality and taken sometime in 2014.
One participant, Kevin Cook, a Temple alumnus, spent most of this past year working on his master’s thesis in photojournalism documenting the effects of urban gun violence in the city, on top of teaching photography at Solebury School of New Hope, Pennsylvania.
Having his work published in the Washington Post, Al Jazeera and MSNBC is definitely a plus, but Cook said the experience of telling peoples’ stories through his photos is something he cherishes.
“I love being able to spend a lot of time with my subjects, just really getting to know them and getting them to feel comfortable with me, and making the most honest, intimate pictures I can make,” Cook said.
“For me, it’s about the end product, how the picture looks, how the picture makes someone feels and elicits a response,” he added.
Melissa Meade, an SMC graduate student, Ph.D. candidate in the Media and Communication program and teaching assistant, has spent the last few years working on a dissertation covering her hometown, the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Meade said the last year has been busy due to the changes in the area brought about by the community moving away from its founding industry of mineral extraction. One big moment that Meade captured on film and submitted is the tearing down of the very last coal breakers, which was a giant structure used in the mining of anthracite coal.
The use of photography has been very impactful, not only for her personal work, but also for the halting of the mining industry’s past use of child laborers, of which her grandfather was a part of.
“Photography is big for this,” Meade said. “I have a story that I’m telling with these photographs.”
“I think it speaks to creating that sense of photographic community,” Maialetti said. “I think that was the whole idea of doing these photo nights and really trying to bring photographers, who normally might not see each other, in social situations to just be out and appreciate what everybody brings to photography.”
Albert Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org