It is early June, and the Charlottesville Downtown Mall is bustling. Business-suited professionals make their way to mid-day meetings while teenagers, having recently wrapped up school for the summer, gather in small groups outside coffee shops. Tourists and retirees stroll along the sidewalks, stopping occasionally to tip a street musician or talk to a vendor. Dogs on leashes call out to one another, and small children squeal with joy as they go round on carousel horses outside the Virginia Discovery Museum. Once again, the trees lining the brick-laid blocks from the Omni Hotel to the Pavilion are exploding with the fruits of late spring — lush green leaves and massive multi-colored photographs. Yes…photographs “In the TREES.”
For the 10th year — as part of LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph — the city’s popular pedestrian mall has become a walking photographic installation, with colossal wildlife images dangling from leafy tree branches. This year’s exhibition — which will remain in place for over a month — features the work of one of the great, award-winning nature photographers, Frans Lanting. Described as having “the mind of a scientist, the heart of a hunter, and the eyes of a poet,” Lanting’s photographs promote an understanding about the Earth’s natural history and create a sense of wonder about our planet’s wildlife.
LOOK3 takes place June 13-19 in art spaces and venues throughout the community and features the work of world-class photographers, free exhibitions and outdoor evening projections, artist talks and presentations, seminars, and numerous educational events.
The Festival was founded in the belief that “photography not only has the power to deepen awareness about the forces that shape our world—it can change it for the better. “ Artists invited to present this year share their passion for people and for the planet — from community engagement to global issues that impact all of us. In addition to Lanting, other featured artists include Nick Brandt, Olivia Bee, Sheila Pree Bright, Mary F. Calvert, Binh Danh, Doug Dubois, Graciela Iturbide, Christopher Morris, Ruddy Roye, and Joe Riis.
Subjects range from Nick Brandt’s work capturing the vanishing animals and natural world of East Africa to Sheila Pree Bright’s examination of race, gender and generational divide as seen through the eyes of millennials. Binh Danh’s daguerreotype images explore our powerful connection to National Parks, and Olivia Bee — the youngest artist ever shown at the festival — was commissioned by Converse at the age of 15 to shoot her first advertisement. At 22, she’s already shot for Nike, Levi's, Adidas, and Valentino, to name just a few.
Celebrating and sharing the vision of extraordinary photographers has always been a focus for LOOK3. An additional exciting aspect of this year’s Festival relates to community outreach. It was LOOK3’s new executive director, Mary Virginia Swanson’s brainchild to include more events this year that are free and open to the public. She beams as she talks about upcoming opportunities to tie an internationally recognized photography Festival directly to the people living in the city serving as its host, Charlottesville, VA.
On June 13, LOOK3 kicks off with “Community Print Share” at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC), inviting photographers to showcase five of their finest photographs for the community to enjoy. (Photographers must RSVP.) On Thursday, June 14, also at JSAAHC, the public is invited to “PDN’s 30 2016: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch” and hear from selected artists as they share insights about what they’ve learned in launching their own careers. “Evening Projections” at the Sprint Pavilion takes place on June 17, curated by the photography editors of TIME magazine. And on June 19, LOOK3 inaugurates Family Photo Day, offering professional photo shoots and photography-related activities for children.
Swanson’s enthusiasm for the entire seven-days of events stems from both an artist’s and educator’s perspective. Holding an MFA in Photography from Arizona State University, and having worked as an advisor to artists and arts organizations around the world, she comes to LOOK3 with a firm knowledge of the art form, as well as an equally strong understanding of the importance marketing plays in the success of an artist. Recognized with the 2015 Honored Educator Award from the Society for Photographic Education and also the 2014 Susan Carr Award for Education from the American Society of Media Photographers, it is no surprise that the educational component of this year’s Festival is a priority for Swanson. She understands how difficult it is to work and survive as an artist in today’s world, and it is crucial to her to provide festival participants with as much knowledge as possible to help them succeed in a highly competitive market.
On June 14, the Festival hosts the “Artists Meet Your Markets” seminar and portfolio-sharing session giving participants an opportunity to hear from artists, agents, editors, curators, and producers. Representatives from respected media outlets — including National Geographic, TIME, Media Storm, Forbes Magazine, Photo District News (or PDN) and more — will be talking with participants about various markets for photography, licensing rights, and grant writing.
On June 15, LOOK3 hosts the all-day “Creativity Meets Technology” seminar, covering subjects such as, “Instagram as a Tool for Social Engagement,” “Atypical Publishing,” and “Virtual Reality: A New Way to Tell Stories.”
The Festival’s educational component extends to youth in the community through a partner project with The Bridge PAI and LOOK3 artist, Ruddy Roye. Inspired by the “raw and gritty lives of grass-root people,” Roye strives to “tell the stories of their victories and ills by bringing their voices to social media and matte-fiber paper.” He’ll lead Charlottesville teenagers as they walk through their own neighborhoods documenting and telling the story of their community. The two-day project will culminate with an exhibition at The Bridge.
Inspired by an annual photo sharing slideshow hosted in his backyard for 20 years, LOOK3 was founded in 2006 by Albemarle County resident and then National Geographic photographer, “Nick” Nichols. Over the past nine years, the Festival has featured the work of more than 100 luminaries in the field of photography, including: William Albert Allard, Larry Fink, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Josef Koudelka, Tim Laman, Tom Mangelsen, Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark, Richard Misrach, Zanele Muholi, Martin Parr, Sylvia Plachy, Eugene Richards, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems.
Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer, an artist, an art lover or simply a curious member of the community, you don’t have to look far to explore some of the world’s most striking and deeply moving photography. Once again, for seven days in June on the Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall, you need only look up “In the TREES!”