Published on Sunday, September 9, 2018
Layers of Meaning: Contemporary Photography’s Place in History
Matthew Brandt, Gold Medal O KYCM, 2018
courtesy Weinstein Hammons Gallery
Since 1996, Weinstein Gallery (now Weinstein Hammons Gallery), has worked with internationally recognized artists in all media, focusing specifically on modern and contemporary photography.
Leslie Hammons began working at Weinstein Gallery, an AIPAD member gallery, right out of graduate school, and was the director for seven years before officially becoming a partner in 2018. She earned an M.A. in art history from Penn State, and brings her love for the subject to her work by organizing important historical group shows that have added to the scholarly dialogue surrounding photography. Here, Leslie discusses contemporary photography buying, new artists in the space, and more.
It can be more difficult for collectors to feel confident making an investment in prints from newer photographers. Do you have advice for these collectors?
It is absolutely more difficult to feel confident when purchasing works by emerging photographers when they don’t have an exhibition history.
My advice is to always buy what you love so no matter the trajectory of the artist, you will enjoy living with the work.
I would also recommend finding a gallery whose program resonates with you because you could potentially benefit from their knowledge and resources.
Why is it important for collectors and museums to work with AIPAD members when considering modern/contemporary photography? Why is it better to work with a knowledgeable dealer rather than go it alone as a new collector of contemporary/modern photography?
You can learn so much more about photographs and the nuanced art market from an afternoon of chatting with someone with years of experience and knowledge of photography than you can from hours of researching at home.
From the early days of photography dealers driving from museum to museum to share photographs with curators, to The Photography Show every spring in New York, the buying and selling of photographs has always been a face-to-face business.
We see an emergence of new, diverse voices in contemporary fine art photography (examples: Mickalene Thomas, Nona Faustine, John Edmonds, Amos Mac, etc.). Can you speak to the history of inclusion in photography?
The recognition of diverse voices in photography, especially in museums and galleries, has been long overdue. We were very proud to work with the Gordon Parks Foundation to exhibit Parks’ color photographs taken in the segregated South in 1956. They were powerful photographs on their own, but knowing that Parks traveled to dangerous areas (he often had to shoot from a moving car to avoid questions and/or conflict) added additional layers of meaning. During his lifetime, Parks received accolades for his significant contributions to photography, film and poetry. Unfortunately, his recognition was an exception and not the norm. We still have a long way to go, and it’s about time that more diverse voices are being recognized and entering the canon.
Installation View of Matthew Brandt: Gold Medal, 2018
photo courtesy Matthew Brandt
Weinstein Hammons Gallery
Can you name some contemporary artists who have been exciting you recently? And are there any alternative photographic processes you’ve been drawn to?
We recently opened an exhibition with Matthew Brandt, a young Los Angeles photographer who is part of the new(ish) revitalization of process photography. I’ve been fascinated with Brandt’s work for quite some time, especially his ability to connect his images to place in very direct ways. For our exhibition, he came to Minneapolis in February of this year and shot along the Mississippi River. His attraction to shooting the river was based on his early appreciation of Alec Soth’s seminal project, Sleeping by the Mississippi. Upon his return to Los Angeles, Brandt incorporated Mississippi River water, as well as Gold Medal Flour, in the printing technique, producing unique and dreamy landscapes.
Installation View of Robert Mapplethorpe's Minamalism, 2018
photo courtesy Galen Fletcher, © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.
Weinstein Hammons Gallery
What drew you to study art history? Did your love for art history inspire some of your gallery shows?
I always had an affinity for art, but really fell into it as an undergraduate after taking an art history class. I loved seeing the connections with history (social, political, etc.), and I was lucky to have professors in undergraduate and graduate school who were inspiring and supportive.
The gallery has always strived to have a balanced program of work by contemporary artists (Vera Lutter, Alec Soth, Edward Burtynsky) and more historical artists (Gordon Parks, Robert Mapplethorpe and August Sander). In that same vein, the gallery has curated special group exhibitions over the years, including “The Pyramids: 150 Years of Photographic Fascination,” “The Rite of Assembly” and “The Fashion Show.” Not only are these exhibitions thrilling to put together (both researching for the exhibition and locating the prints), but they also provide our audience perspective into the history of the medium. For instance, in our exhibition "The Fashion Show," we had early fashion photographs by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Frances McLaughlin-Gill and Tony Frisell hanging alongside more contemporary work by Sarah Moon, Sheila Metzner, Deborah Turbeville and Cass Bird. The show was exquisite and we were very pleased to be shining a light on the work of female fashion photographers. It was the first exhibition of its kind to focus exclusively on the important contributions by these women.
What do you find valuable about attending fairs throughout the year?
National and international art fairs, like The Photography Show, are an important way to stay connected to existing collectors and develop new relationships outside of Minneapolis. Staying in touch with other dealers and seeing the work they bring has shaped the gallery’s program immensely.
For instance, we were very familiar with Edward Burtynsky’s work, but when we saw prints from the Water series in person at Nicolas Metivier’s booth in Chicago, we felt they would be absolutely terrific for our Minneapolis audience. For the Water series, Burtynsky photographed aerially from helicopters, and the resulting images were abstract and bordering on painterly. The Water exhibition at the gallery was very successful, and we are looking forward to opening his new body of work, Anthropocene, this October.
What do you find rewarding in your work?
I enjoy going into the gallery every day and feel incredibly fortunate to work with and represent our artists. Working with Martin Weinstein over the years has been one of the great joys of my life. He’s been a mentor in so many ways.