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I Heart Photograph by Kerry Adams

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture at MICA by Laurel Ptak. Ptak is the founder and curator of iheartphotograph.com. Before attending the lecture, I looked through her blog which consists of images by different photographers, the image information, and links to each artist’s website. Upon looking through this website I couldn’t help but follow the links attached to photographs that I found interesting; after all, there wasn’t any other information so if I wanted to know more, I had no choice. For me the initial visit to the blog fell flat, perhaps because I am more used to blogs that offer more information and opinions like bmoreart.com. With skepticism, I attend MICA’s lecture and two hours later I left with a better understanding and appreciation.

In December 2006, Ptak started the blog iheartphotograph.com as a personal project. Tired of seeing the same things in all the galleries, she started surfing the web for work that she found interesting and started the blog as a “personal visual rolodex” of this work. At first, she was surprised that anyone checked the blog or paid any attention to what she was posting. Now, just over two years later, she has over 1,000 visitors check her blog each day, and it has lead to online as well as “real world” opportunities to curate, thus showing her a career path she never would have imagined but is very excited about.

During the lecture, Ptak spent time talking about her blog as well as shows she was invited to curate in actual gallery spaces. Some of theses projects can be seen at letsmeetinreallife.com and aphotographofnewjersey.com. What I found interesting about her approach to these gallery shows was her continued connection to the digital format. For instance, she likened her a Photograph of New Jersey show to a google image search for New Jersey, where all works are included, sizes varied, and images originated all over the world. She even employed digital technology: all works had to be submitted digitally, she used online professional printing companies, and exhibited some works on computers and digital photo frames in one room of the show. For her, a major benefit of doing gallery shows is being able to be in the excitement of a space where everyone is interacting about the work without the delay of digital interaction.


However, most interesting to me, was when Ptak was talking about why she likes working in the digital world. She feels that the digital world does not have the same rules as the infrastructure of the non-digital art world. For example, her e-mail address is posted right on the top of her blog, but if an artist wanted to contact the head curator of a well-known museum to show their work, it would be pretty hard to do. Ptak believes that through self-publishing platforms and digital curating, the artists and the art world are starting to take the institution out of the way as the main space for connections. Therefore, she feels that the Internet is making a more democratic art world where the transgression of commercial-spaces is allowing for a reshaping of the discourse on art. Ptak sees the digital realm as a space that is not bound by personal relationships and a sense of hierarchy. It is with these ideas and ideals that she has formatted iheartphotograph.com, where she likes to let the images speak for themselves. Although she often feels a desire to give more information or thoughts on the work, she decided that giving the link directly to the artists’ websites was the best way to connect artists to each other and to an interested audience. As curator and blogger she is putting the responsibility and curiosity back into our hands, even in the fast paced digital world where we expect the information to be handed to us.

Ptak uses artist’s websites as primary source material, though at this point lots of images also are e-mailed to her daily. In Ptak’s mind, an “artist website is equivalent to a studio”. As I think more and more about the digital world, I am going to take another look at iheartphotograph.com and possibly a fresh look at my own website if it is to be thought of as an extension of my studio.

Kerry Adams is a graduate student in MICA’s MFAST program.

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