Sunday, December 8, 2013

PhotoNOLA and the Great Picture

The Great Picture, below, on view at the CAC, is billed as the biggest photograph ever made. How big? At over 107 feet wide and over 31 feet tall, its total of 3,375 square feet is a number more associated with buildings than photographs. In fact, it was made in an aircraft hanger that was turned into a giant pin hole camera and darkroom for the occasion. The image itself is a stark military airport rendered as a vast black and white negative on photo-sensitive cloth. Dark and ghostly, it recalls photography's early  days, when most photos were dark and ghostly, but it took almost two more centuries to make one this big, a final salute, perhaps, to the old darkroom photography process in an overwhelmingly digital age.

 This exhibition of the world's biggest photograph coincides with the annual December PhotoNOLA festival, which gets bigger each year. Founded by the New Orleans Photo Alliance in the dark days of 2006 when the survival of the city itself was still uncertain, PhotoNola was featuring workshops and portfolio reviews by 2007, and since then local galleries and museums have increasingly participated with their own photo exhibitions in conjunction with the event's official offerings. Under the dedicated leadership of Jennifer Shaw, the scale of these events has increased dramatically as the number of related exhibitions has now reached staggering proportions with over 60 gallery and museum photo shows in addition to the Dec. 12--15 workshops and lectures. All this activity has turned PhotoNOLA into a national event, and how such a low key organization has managed to orchestrate it with mainly grass roots, volunteer support is one of those mysteries that make Nola one of the DIY capitals of the universe. This year's fund raising offerings include Josephine Sacabo's gorgeous limited edition print, Las Estrellas, top, and the new Luna Press book, Inventing Reality: New Orleans Visionary Photography. (See Below.)

The Great Picture: The World's Largest Photograph, Through Dec. 15, Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528.3805; 8th Annual PhotoNOLA: Photography Festival, Workshops and Exhibitions, Through Dec. 31, Multiple Venues Throughout the City.