Shoot! Interview: Humble Arts’ Jon Feinstein

I received this “media alert” in my inbox last week and did a triple take. Behold:


Bond Street Gallery, a new gallery for contemporary photography,
located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. The first exhibition opens next
week and is titled Young Curators, New Ideas. A group
exhibition organized by Amani Olu and curated by Alana Celii &
Grant Willing (Fjord Photo), Michael Bühler-Rose, Jon Feinstein (Humble
Arts Foundation), Laurel Ptak (I Heart Photograph), Amy Stein, and Lumi Tan (Why + Wherefore).

The exhibition examines different trends and perspectives in
contemporary art photography through the bias of six new and seasoned
curators. Each curator (or curatorial group), using roughly ten feet of
space, aims to engage viewers in a discussion on where he or she
believes art photography is today.


Um, WHOA. That’s a crazy A-List group of curatorial folk! I decided to have a little chat with one of these curators, specifically, Humble Art Foundation‘s Jon Feinstein, who is also a photographer. I asked him about lots of things, but found the conversation about the rise of mysticism and magic in contemporary photography especially interesting. The photographers Feinstein chose– Hannah Whitaker, Talia
Chetrit, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, and Ann Woo, represent a new canon of
rising stars in art photography.

This is Jon Feinstein.

Jon! This Bond Street show has quite the young curator star list! How did you become part of the show?

I’m psyched to be a part of it! I’ve worked closely with Amani on
Humble Arts Foundation shows for the past few years so it was pretty
natural for him to invite me to participate.

How did you become a curator in the first place– I am a big fan of your
portraiture; how do you balance doing your own work and the curatorial
stuff? Do they feed off of each other?

got into curating while I was still working as a photo editor for Heeb
magazine. While I loved working on editorial and fashion shoots, my
background was in art photography, having studied under Stephen Shore
(and other amazing professors who I won’t name drop at the moment) at
Bard, and I wanted to do something more in line with those interests. I
started working at a stock photo agency and met Amani, who had begun
brainstorming ideas about Humble Arts Foundation.

Jon Feinstein, Bob and Lindsay, 2003

We got to talking about our
backgrounds in magazine editing and photography and came up with the
idea for Humble’s original inception,,
which at that point was a simple monthly showcase for emerging
photographers. It has now grown to include online solo shows,
affordable limited edition prints, a grant program and about four physical
shows per year. We have a big group show coming up in Chelsea in the
fall, as well as our first Humble promoted physical solo show which
will be announced soon. It’s incredibly daunting to be making my own
work simultaneously so I try to keep it as separate from Humble as
possible, but am incredibly inspired by all of the work I’ve been
seeing over the past few years.

Jon Feinstein, Ben, 2003

Where do you think the new interest in photographic mysticism came
from? From NASA’s astronomy picture of the day, to Hannah Whitaker’s
rainbow bunny
, I’m seeing (and loving) this stuff everywhere. Is it
particular to our generation– to our notions of “futurism” and
“fantasy”? Does World of Warcraft play a role, mayhaps?

think this new “photographic mysticism” is incredibly interesting, and
has many more layers than just light, color, prisms,etc. I think the
larger umbrella of new mystical explorations in photography can in some
ways be interpreted as a step beyond postmodern and narrative
photography. While earlier generations of photographers were exploring
identity politics and notions of truth and representation, often through
staged photographs, this new “movement” seems to be focused more on
form and photography’s physical properties, not only for their
aesthetic value, but but for their metaphorical qualities as well.

Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Geode, 2008

Hannah Whitaker, Apple Tree

see both as being incredibly influenced by painting, but while Crewdson
or diCorcia may have been influenced by both Hopper and some of the
surrealists, this group of younger photographers, especially Ann Woo
and Talia Chetrit, seem to be playing with much more abstract ideas of
expressionist painters like Rothko and Barnett Newman. As for trends in
photography, I think the growing attention to this kind of work in some
ways may come from a desire to create work that is as controlled as the
staged work that was studied in college photo classes, but without
relying on excessive budgets and other people’s schedules. I was
talking to a photographer a few weeks ago about how so much of this
work can be made from a photographer’s studio or home, and really takes
the idea of “making” photographs to an entirely new level.

Ann Woo, Lisa, Sunset

Talia Chetrit, Spectrum, 2007, Inkjet, 2007

How do you see your future in the industry? It’s so
interesting to see so many of these young curators multi-tasking as
designers and photographers… do you think there’s a new trend in the curatorial world to make it more accessible, now that things like blogs and
small arts organizations are gaining more of a foothold in the industry?

not quite sure where I see my future in the industry. Much of my
curatorial work will operate through Humble (unless of course a major
institution invites me to curate a show, but that hasn’t happened yet
🙂 ), but my main aim is to continue to curate bodies of work that are
not only pretty to look at, but are informed and challenging and push
the medium of photography forward. I definitely think there’s been a
growing trend in online-based photo organizations, and it has
democratized photography at an amazing rate.

Hannah Whitaker

As long as the editing
and curation is tight, informed and well organized, I think it’s a
wonderful thing. What I think is so great about the development of
new/online curation is that it has allowed new ideas to flourish with
more focus on work that is challenging, and less on what is potentially
saleable. As for my own work, I have a couple new projects that I have
been developing over the past year which will be officially “launched”
within the next few months. Some of this work is going to be  in a
couple shows that will be opening in the fall in NYC and Chicago.

Did you coordinate your image and theme ideas with the other
curators, or were you all on your own? What’s your favorite photo in
the show (will you tell me)?

Gerald Edwards III, Investigation into the Disruption of Power, 2006

were pretty much all on our own. Since there are such unique visions
from the curators involved there has been little overlap and I think
the show will feel incredibly varied. I won’t comment on my favorites
from my own show, but I’ve seen some previews of Laurel’s animated
GIFs presentation and think it’s fantastic. I also love Gerald
Edwards’ image (which was used as the postcard for the show) which is
featured in the Fjord show and Ofer Wolberger’s “Maggie” series, which
is included in Amy Stein’s show. I haven’t seen any of the other work
yet so I can’t really comment at this point, but I’m excited!

Ofer Wolberger, from the Maggie Series

Here are the specs for tomorrow’s opening; If you’re in New York and you like photos and rainbows, it’s pretty much a must:

Young Curators, New Ideas

Opening Reception: Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Press Review: 4 — 6 pm | Public Reception: 6 — 9 pm
On View: Wednesday, August 13 — Saturday, September 6, 2008

Exhibition Artists:

Charles Benton, Alison Brady, Brian Bess, Victor Boullet, Mikaylah
Bowman, Olga Cafiero, Talia Chetrit, Tyler Coburn, Petra Cortright, C.
Coy, Gerald Edwards III, Daniel Everett, Thobias Fäldt & Per
Englund, Martin Fengel, Jason Fulford, Nicolas Grider, Pierre Hourquet,
Konst & Teknik, Eke Kriek, Emily Larned, Bryan Lear, Miranda
Lehman, Seth Lower, Matt MacFarland, Katja Mater, Kelci McIntosh, Mark
McKnight, Erin Jane Nelson, Ilia Ovechkin, Robert Overweg, Alex Prager,
M. River, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Asha Schechter, Trevor Shimizu, Alix
Smith, Jo-ey Tang, Jesper Ulvelius, Anne De Vries, Hannah Whitaker,
Karly Wildenhaus, Ofer Wolberger, Ann Woo and Damon Zucconi

Bond Street Gallery

297 Bond Street, Brooklyn NY
F/G To Carroll St. / R to Union St.

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