As part of the F295 ongoing series of interviews with photo-industry people I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Blue Mitchell. Blue is based in Portland, OR and is the founder of Diffusion and Plates to Pixels, publisher at One Twelve publishing, and a practicing and exhibiting photographer.
TP: Can you tell us about your background and the origins of your interest in photography?
BM: Most of my youth involved image capture, but it was motion for the most part. I started my still photographic career in 1997 after taking a photography class while studying film at Montana State University in Bozeman. I rounded out my education at the Oregon College of Art & Craft here in Portland where I still occasionally teach studio classes.
TP: What path did you take to founding Diffusion?
BM: Originally it was the culmination of several things, including my (then) interest in alternative processes as well as the art of print books and magazines. It was a marriage of all the things I love and do: design, photography, and curation as well as talking with and learning from others.
TP: How do you decide what work to show in Diffusion?
BM: There is no absolute methodology to the selection process. It’s mostly based on gut level response to the work. Meaning, I am drawn to images that I provide a visceral or maybe even an emotional response. The artist hand is important to me and often provides a sense of a larger purpose to the work. I intentionally define that term broadly and that allows Diffusion to escape being pigeonholed in any particular medium or style.
TP: Are there particular criteria or things you look for when a photographer reaches out to you?
BM: Passion, persistence, playfulness and prolificacy. In Diffusion we recognize and feature artists that have a clear and strong voice in the medium they’re working. This includes a balance of technical skill and concept. I also just like to work with nice people… good personality goes a long way in this business.
TP: What are your feelings regarding the multiple ways – online, phones, prints, books, in a gallery, etc – the public consumes images today?
BM: Image consumption is personal. I love that there are so many opportunities for viewing work, but I have a love/hate relationship with the internet… who doesn’t, right? To be fair I have a similar relationship with photography I suppose but that’s another story. (TP note: we’ll follow up on this another time…)
TP: How do you prefer to look at images – and why?
BM: There’s nothing better than holding a print in your hands, seeing all the nuances of the paper (or plate), the object’s sheen, texture, etc. Ideally, when looking at a print or object you are looking at an artifact in the way the artist intended it to be seen. There are those who intends for their work to be seen online and in that case, I suppose the digital file is their artifact.
TP: What is on your/Diffusion’s horizon?
BM: I have many pans in the fire, but in the near future my publishing company, One Twelve Publishing, is branching out and we’re working on our first monograph. Our first book Jake Shivery: Contact Portraits will include 35-40 plates and an extensive essay by the artist. This latest writing venture will adopt the tone of his successful presentation to the Portland Art Museum wherein he will spin tales, relate anecdotes, and generally dissect the technology and philosophy of photography.
We’ll see a new issue of Diffusion published in the fall and I’m currently going through entries from the Matter of Light call for art. Truly inspiring stuff I can’t wait to pass them off to my co-juror Katherine Ware.
Plates to Pixels celebrated it’s seventh year online in July with a website facelift and various upgrades.
On a personal note I will be showing some of my new work in a landscape themed show at Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, NM in the Fall (see our interview with Jennifer Schlesinger-Hanson, Verve’s Gallery director here). It’s a great gallery, with great artists and run by lovely people… a good combination.
TP: What drives you to do this work?
BM: I pedal my bike to work a lot, drive the Accord, or maybe take the truck. Truth be told, for this work I just walk downstairs to the studio. Seriously though, if I actually had to answer this question I probably wouldn’t still be doing it. It’s a quest and when I understand what drives me, it will probably be over and time for a new chapter.
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