Gallery show

A photographer amidst writers: venturing into the Muse in the Marketplace writers' conference

My booth and the exhibitor's area and bookstore at the Muse in the Marketplace at Boston's Park Plaza Hotel

A table spread with photographs and a fishbowl in front of me, three seven-foot banners dwarfing me from behind, I prepared myself to meet hundreds of writers over three days at Boston's Park Plaza Hotel with a 50/50 mix of exuberance and uncertainty. This scenario lay before me earlier this month when I had decided to take a stab at being a sponsor/exhibitor (party of one) at the Muse in the Marketplace writers' conference organized by GrubStreet, one of the nation's leading creative writing centers (and where my show, the Boston Authors Project, resides). My expectations were fairly low-key; connect with writers, and see how I could help them prepare their book jacket and publicity photography for their upcoming releases. 

In truth, I wasn't sure what to expect. I generally work with folks one-on-one, with the exception of gallery openings and speaking at events, so I was equal parts hesitant and excited to take this on. For the first time, I had put together a fishbowl-type of raffle for an author to win a portrait sitting, which was a lot of fun and led to a full fishbowl (won by the lovely Kelly Ford - expect a blog post of Ms. Ford in the soon future). There were photographs in place for people to pick up and examine, a large screen with a slideshow of author images for attendees to peruse, and the requisite marketing materials (livened up by the fabulous faces of past clients). 

The wonderful thing about authors as clients is that they uniformly have interesting lives to draw from; at the Muse, I met writers who were art historians, writers who were vets, writers who were professors, writers who fundraise, and writers who work at bookstores. Fiction writers, poets, business writers, all who had come both to get inspired and to learn the intricacies of how to get a book out into the world. While many of the folks I spoke with were from the Northeast, I met a good handful who had certainly gotten their frequent flier milage in - some from California, the Midwest, one from Ireland, all happy to take in as much as they could in three days.

Snapshots of registration table and the morning breakfast briefings at the Muse in the Marketplace

Snapshots of registration table and the morning breakfast briefings at the Muse in the Marketplace

Many of my conversations revolved around the following points:

  • Are you a writer? (Not really, unless maintaining this blog counts. And academic articles.)
  • What made you want to photograph writers? (Answer: here.)
  • Jokes with the punchline being that I only photograph people who hate to be in the spotlight. (It's mostly true!)
  • Tell me about how the publicity process works when a book comes out. (I did, very happy to help with that, as it can seem a bit overwhelming, especially to newly-published authors.)
  • Where are the photos you create used? (Book jackets, book publicity, editorial/magazine use, webpages, social media.)
  • Do you photograph anything but portraits? (I specialize just in commercial/editorial portraiture.)
  • Your work is beautiful (Thank you - who doesn't feel good about hearing that?!)
Snapshots behind the booth at the Muse in the Marketplace. From left, celebrating the last day of Passover, and right, my loot from Porter Square Books

Snapshots behind the booth at the Muse in the Marketplace. From left, celebrating the last day of Passover, and right, my loot from Porter Square Books

Some of the highlights of my time:

  • Seeing beautiful artwork by an author/collage artist
  • Reconnecting with past clients and current friends, like the glorious Lara Wilson and Rita Zoey Chin (who also spoke about the essentials of dialogue and is one of the kindest human beings on the planet), and the super-delightful Whitney Scharer
  • Stopping by the panels of distinguished writers Jennifer Haigh (Topic: Building the World of the Novel - who is also lovely and a fantastic writer - check out her newest novel), and new-to-me writers Anjali Mitter Duva (Topic: You're the Boss! Taking control of your book promotion plan) and Crystal King (Topic: How to use social media for self-promotion and not be annoying) - though sadly I couldn't stay long, as I had to get back down to the exhibitor's room
  • Buying books at the Porter Square books table, run by the delightful and wickedly funny Robert Smyth
  • Getting hugs from GrubStreet staff and friends like Eve Bridburg and Sonya Larson, who with Christopher Castellani did a wonderful job running the event
  • Making connections with the other vendors - I kibitzed with the beautifully-named Jana Van der Veer from Lesley University, and Jenn Scheck-Kahn of GrubStreet and Journal of the Month
  • Eating matzoh behind my booth as I finished out Passover in the most crumbly manner possible

All-in-all, it was a delightful way to meet some fascinating people! I slept well afterwards, too.

Writers and presenters  Anjali Mitter Duva  (Topic: You're the Boss! Taking control of your book promotion plan) and  Crystal King  (Topic: How to use social media for self-promotion and not be annoying)

Writers and presenters Anjali Mitter Duva (Topic: You're the Boss! Taking control of your book promotion plan) and Crystal King (Topic: How to use social media for self-promotion and not be annoying)

BNY Mellon | PFLAG Pride Portrait Project

Last week, I blogged about Manuel and Joe, two men I photographed for BNY Mellon and PFLAG, to showcase portraits of members of the LGBTQ community in order to raise awareness about Pride Month. Peter Tenggren, my contact at BNY Mellon who asked me to create this small group of work, sent me the below picture of the portraits, (printed by Bob Korn Imaging) now settled in the first of its four traveling stops throughout the Boston area for the month of June. I thought I'd share with you all the images, and very importantly, the words behind each person photographed, below.

 

The Pride Project
Artist’s Statement

I’m delighted to work with BNY Mellon and PFLAG, as a proud ally, to present this collection of five portraits of vibrant members of the LGBT community in honor of Pride Month. With each photograph, I worked to display the humanity, warmth, and intelligence of the person pictured; to show both their inner world as well as to document each person’s features, relationships, and character. Part of the process to create these images was to get to know what was important to each person, and to create a safe and warm environment so that each man and woman pictured would feel at ease to truly be themselves. My goal with each person photographed was to foster a genuine friendship and alliance enabling the viewer of the portrait to feel as though they had somehow already known the person in the photograph. As a portrait photographer, storyteller, and former psychotherapist, it is vital to me that each portrait creates a narrative and sense of recognition between the viewer and the viewed.

- Sharona Jacobs, June 4, 2015 www.sharonaphoto.com

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Amy and Lori, 2012
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 30 inches

Amy:

“This portrait was taken hours before I married my best friend. It was amazing to have one of the best days of my life documented in such intimate and lovely detail. To me Pride is confidently walking down the street, holding hands with my wife while pushing our 18-month-old twins in their stroller. In the past 20 years my Prideful life has shifted from bar-fueled weekends to Saturday Gymboree outings. What hasn’t changed is me going about my out life in the most honest way possible.”

Lori:

"Pride is raising our children to know that Different doesn't mean Lesser. Differences are a good thing and we should always try to embrace what is different about ourselves and others. Our family might look a little different to some people, but it is full of love and laughter and both the family we were born with AND the family we chose." 

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Mark, 2012
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 30 inches

This portrait of Mark was taken the day Lori and Amy were married, and he and his partner hosted their celebration. Amy: "There’s the family you’re born with and the family you choose. Our chosen family includes two of the kindest, most generous people on the planet who opened their home to host our fabulous wedding.”

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Robin Lippincott, 2015
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 27.4 inches

Robin: "I am a writer of literary fiction and nonfiction. I have two books coming out: Blue Territory: A Mediation on the Life and Work of Joan Mitchell (November 2015), and Rufus + Syd, a young adult novel co-written with Julia Watts (Spring 2016). I am also the author of the novels In the Meantime, Our Arcadia, and Mr. Dalloway, and the short story collection The 'I' Rejected. My fiction/nonfiction has appeared in over 30 journals, including "The Paris Review," "American Short Fiction," "Fence," "Memorious," "The Literary Review," "The New York Times Book Review," and others. I teach in the low-residency MFA Program at Spalding University. Simply put, pride means having the self-respect to be fully myself.”

Manuel and Joseph, Pride Portrait Project, BNY Mellon and PFLAG
Manuel and Joseph, Pride Portrait Project, BNY Mellon and PFLAG

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Manuel and Joseph, 2015
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 26.5 inches

Manuel: "We are constantly making each other laugh. A common scene would include me talking about my day, but in Sofia Vergara's voice, followed by Joe bursting out laughing with his eyes shut, probably thinking to himself, "I hope this is only part of today's show, and not what I actually signed up for!" The roles reverse when Joe starts walking around the kitchen imitating a praying mantis while re-enacting a scene from Isabella Rossellini’s, "Green Porno" (which we went to see on our first Valentine). But life is not all about laughter and smiles. With our highly sensitive and introspective personalities, we often find ourseleves having to support and uplift each other, especially after reading one article too many about some form of injustice in the world. In this higly curated society driven by selfies and social media, we are proud to show all sides of our love, from laughter to tears. And as Milennials, we are thankful that we can safely show this connection outside of our private spaces (even if Joe sometimes shrugs off one too many of my PDAs)."

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project Joseph, 2012
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 30 inches

Joe: "I have an innate fear of photographs. Perhaps it's from a youth deeply concerned with judgement and being misunderstood. Or perhaps it's because I've spent my life seeking out difference and broadening my knowledge, skills, experiences, and connections into the multi-faceted person I am today; I feared a portrait could not distill this. Yet Pride, for me, is an inversion of that fear. It is acceptance, celebration, and love for the diversity both within and outside ourselves. And it is in this light that I couldn't be more proud to show--at least an aspect of--our selves and our love.”