Fotoseptiembre IXX: Artists in Color, Black & White

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Artist: Rebecca Dietz. Exhibition: Wonder Worlds. Venue: Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Hall Gallery, San Antonio.

Artist: Rebecca Dietz. Exhibition: Wonder Worlds. Venue: Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Hall Gallery, San Antonio.

(U.S. Air Force Photo/ Staff Sgt. John Bainter)This year marks the 19th celebration of Fotoseptiembre USA, the annual community-based photography festival, founded by Michael Mehl and his wife, Ann Kinser.

And while many annual events may boast of rising attendance figures, a growing number of entries and a host of corporate sponsors, Fotoseptiembre is having none of that carnival atmosphere, thank you very much.

“Fotoseptiembre is artist driven, artist centric, artist organized,” stressed Mehl. “We’ve gone through many incarnations and we’re always looking at how to improve. We’d like to see the quality of exhibits elevated.”

Artist: Geoff Winningham. Exhibition: In The Eye Of The Sun. Venue: COSAS, Boerne.

Artist: Geoff Winningham. Exhibition: In The Eye Of The Sun. Venue: COSAS, Boerne. All photos courtesy of featured photographers and Fotoseptiembre USA.

A step in that direction took effect this year, and is one of the biggest changes the event has undergone – no more free exhibits.

“When something is free, people take it for granted,” Mehl said.  “There’s no impetus to push up.”

The fee structure was first introduced around 2004. When given the choice between paying $200 or nothing, it was a no-brainer for many. The problem was many of the free exhibitors weren’t taking the event seriously.

Visitors enjoy the “Point The Compass” exhibition, works by Josh Trudell, at the San Antonio Central Library Gallery during the opening Aug. 28. Courtesy photo.

Visitors enjoy the “Point The Compass” exhibition, works by Josh Trudell, at the San Antonio Central Library Gallery during the opening Aug. 28. Courtesy photo.

With Mehl and Kinser footing the bill for the entire festival, they knew they had to make some changes. Fotoseptiembre is an expensive venture. The free exhibits were nixed, but to soften the blow, the entry fee has now been dropped to $100 per artist or event.

Another change that Mehl believes will heighten artists’ interests are the newly created Choice Awards. Up to four Fotoseptiembre exhibits will be chosen to receive an award of $500. An exhibit must meet strict criteria for excellence in order to be considered for a Choice Award. Presentations will be made at the end of the festival.

Artist: Melanie Rush Davis. Exhibition: Layers Of Light. Venue: Northwest Vista College, Palmetto Center For The Arts Gallery, San Antonio.

Artist: Melanie Rush Davis. Exhibition: Layers Of Light. Venue: Northwest Vista College, Palmetto Center For The Arts Gallery, San Antonio.

Mehl is an artist on many different levels. He’s a photographer and musician, a digital and video artist, a writer and composer … but you won’t find his work at Fotoseptiembre.

Artist: Polly Harrison. Exhibition: Jazz Ensemble. Venue: St. Mary’s University, Louis J. Blume Library Art Gallery, San Antonio.

Artist: Polly Harrison. Exhibition: Jazz Ensemble. Venue: St. Mary’s University, Louis J. Blume Library Art Gallery, San Antonio.

“I find producing the work is much more satisfying than exhibiting it,” he said.

For those who do want to exhibit, Mehl said the festival is basically a plug and play setup.

“Anyone can join if they meet certain requirements,” he said.

One of those requirements is a July 1 deadline to submit an application and at least three images. Mehl’s found that enforcing that deadline is another way to separate the serious artists from the dabblers.

Fotoseptiembre exhibits are planned throughout San Antonio and also in Austin, Kerrville, Boerne, Pleasanton and New Braunfels. In addition, there are SAFOTO Web Galleries that Mehl says “offer a different level of expectation” for both the artist and the audience.

Two exhibits have already opened pre-September: the Villa Finale Visitor Center  with “Somos San Antonio – We are San Antonio: Places That Once Were,” and Josh Trudell’s “Point the Compass” at the San Antonio Central Library Gallery. The others will debut in a rolling start from Sept. 4 until Sept. 28. Some of the exhibits will be open until early November. See the 2013 Quick Sheet for a complete listing.

Tony Cantu stands next to his photograph of Audry’s Mexican Restaurant

Tony Cantu stands next to his photograph of Audry’s Mexican Restaurant

 

Annette Crawford is a public affairs officer at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. She is also the house photographer for the Majestic Theatre and Sam’s Burger Joint & Music Hall. You can read her music and travel blog at www.thegroovygringa.com or follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @thegroovygringa.

 

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