juried by Karen Haas
Filter Photo is pleased to present Context 2023, our ninth annual survey exhibition of contemporary photography. This year's exhibition was juried by Karen Haas of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and features the work of 33 artists from Chicago, the broader Midwest, and across the US.
"As a curator in a large museum with encyclopedic holdings I am most often looking at photographs to either fill a gap in the MFA’s collection or feature in a future exhibition. What I appreciate about jurying an open call like Context 2023 is that I’m not constrained by any of those parameters. I see lots of photography that is new to me and, as a result, I feel as though I have a better understanding of current practice and can consider our field more broadly. Among this year’s more-than 300 very strong submissions I was happy to note new work being made by old friends; to revisit artists I first met at Filter Photo Festival last September; and to be introduced to other—sometimes very far flung—photographers drawn to subjects currently on my mind as well.
I was struck by the exploration of identity and powerful connection to place that pervades so much of the photography submitted. In many instances the concept of place was directly related to memory, impermanence, or recognition of having lost the thread of one’s personal history. For several artists the desire to understand these larger narratives inspired them to trace and retrace paths of their own making, or to follow historic trails and travel through regions both familiar and foreign—from Africa to rural Alabama, and war-torn Ukraine to the Iranian diaspora. Some were moved to document this country’s Rust Belt cities and the people, architecture, and infrastructure of the so-called “flyover” states, which, for a lifelong New Englander like myself, are especially compelling. Others never left their own homes or backyards to create evocative images of people and things that speak to the strange dislocation, distorted sense of time, and enforced stillness that so many of us experienced during the Covid shutdown.
Several of the most thought-provoking photographs in this year’s Context exhibition also center on our fragile relationship to the land and the effects that urban sprawl, extractive technologies, global warming, drought, and forest fires have had on the environment. These images of human-altered landscapes stand as potent reminders, not only of these terrible impacts on the natural world, but also the invisible layered histories of so many of these sites—whether land once worked by enslaved people, the historic homelands of indigenous communities, or the sidewalks of neighborhoods inhabited by recent immigrants to this country.
Artists that celebrate the tangible materiality of photographs, bypassing the digital vs. analog conversation and choosing not to use a camera at all, are steadily growing in number and stood out as well. The clearly handmade—sometimes ephemeral—qualities of photograms, lumen, and Mordencage prints seem in many ways the ideal response to a world in which so many of us now only experience photography on screens. Others have turned with great effect to appropriated imagery—yearbook pictures, family albums, and archives—as source material for images that tackle broad issues, from youth and aging, to class and racial segregation.
Thanks to Filter Photo for organizing this exhibition and to all the artists who shared their work with me on this occasion. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to jury this show and it was a great pleasure!"
—Karen Haas, Lane Senior Curator of Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Jonathan Michael Castillo
Stephan Reza Jahanshahi-Ghajar
Lyn Swett Miller
Diana Cheren Nygren
Parker James Reinecker
Jose Ibarra Rizo
Kathleen Tunnell Handel
About the Juror
Karen Haas has been the Lane Curator of Photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston since 2001, where she is responsible for a large collection of photographs by American modernists, Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and Imogen Cunningham. Before coming to the MFA, she held various curatorial positions in Boston-area museums and private collections, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Boston University Art Gallery, and the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover. She has a BA in Art History from Connecticut College; an MA in the History of Photography at Boston University; and has taught the history of photography at both Boston University and Boston College. She has recently completed a book on the early work of Edward Weston, and her other publications include An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection; Common Wealth: Art by African Americans in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Ansel Adams; and The Photography of Charles Sheeler: American Modernist.
This exhibition was partially sponsored by The Illinois Arts Council Agency.
Exhibition Dates: March 10th - April 20th, 2023
Location: Filter Space | 1821 W Hubbard St, Suite 207