N.Y. Photo Curator Call for Entry: 'Monsters' with curator Anne Eder.


The responses to this call for MONSTERS proved just how broadly the idea may be construed and visualized, and served as affirmation of the theory that monsters perform a good deal of cultural work as well as providing a platform for contemplation of our complex and at times, binary, natures.

The submitted images were diverse in both concept and execution, ranging from the classically creepy to the quietly contemplative, from darkly imaginative and elaborately staged scenarios, to the application of the word “monster” to less literal and often invisible demons such as depression, imposter syndrome, and body dysmorphic disorder. Many entries were abstract, leaving the construction of the monstrous to the viewer’s imagination.

Others took as their inspiration the human desire to control and tame the natural world, looking at systems of classification and modification, and employing older printing methods and frameworks of presentation consistent with that point of entry. Some submissions implied mysterious narratives, firing the imagination and asking the viewer to fill in the blanks.
I quickly realized that I would have to put aside the notion of curating the group according to a unified aesthetic, or even in a manner consistent with my personal tastes or understanding of the idea of “monster”.

The connecting thread became instead the astounding diversity of responses to the prompt. It is my feeling that my choices, including the honorable mentions, are difficult to stratify in any sort of hierarchy, and are actually equally worthy as distinct interpretations of one theme.
I would like to thank all of you who shared your work and the personal stories that inspired your images. It was my privilege to view and be impacted by your submissions. They challenged me and gave me new insight into MONSTERS.
FIRST PLACE: 'Seaside Dino' by Amy Becker
In first place is Amy Becker's Seaside Dino, selected for its contextualizing of the monster in the mundane with empathy and gentle humor. Seaside Dino is quietly affectionate, and deceptively commonplace, but this juxtaposition of the monstrous with the ordinary is exactly why I chose it. The ubiquity of monsters is such that they go almost unnoticed---we are used to them being present, we take them for granted. They appear in advertising and in all sorts of media from books to movies to video games. Living in the open, out of the shadows, as in this image, they are at once both strange and familiar. This image taps into my own fondness for photographs of a vernacular sort that display a suburban ownership and domestication of the monstrous, and though the expression on the dinosaur’s face is fierce, there is also something quite vulnerable about this prehistoric giant. It is unclear if the creature caused the destruction pictured, or was simply left behind with the detritus of an environment built and forsaken in the larger cycle of trends and fashion, in vogue for a moment and then forgotten. I feel sympathy for the creature whose time and purpose seems to have passed, who might, perhaps, even be lonely. Empathy with the monster is a primary function of the monstrous; it is through empathy that we gain access to our own darkness, fears, rage, fragility, and in this case, eventual extinction or death. In looking at this image, I feel the genuine affection of the photographer for the creature and for its familiar surroundings, and this tenderness serves to underpin and give depth to the notion of MONSTER.

SECOND PLACE: 'Dysmorphia 2' by Rachel Britton
In second place is Rachel Britton’s Dysmorphia 2. In making this choice, I was forced to abandon my own aesthetic preferences in favor of acknowledging a visceral emotional reaction to the content of the image. I will be honest, this is not typically my aesthetic, and heavy-handed digital manipulations are generally not something I am drawn to, however, the image elicited a strong gut response of horror and repulsion, which given the specifications of the CFE and the subject matter, makes it successful! It is a challenging photograph, offering a precise and compelling execution of the call for entry, and an externalized rendering of an unseen, internal monster. It finds its place in the current zeitgeist and among issues in the spotlight; in addressing dysmorphia it speaks to a large number of people, disproportionately women, affected by this socially constructed obstacle to health and happiness that may be described as a monster within.
'Nostalgia' by Angelique Benicio
'Fishman' by Shine Huang
'Oscillator in Tualatin Hills Nature Park' by Pato Hebert
'He Lived Under the Tracks' by Sarah Manriquez

Because of the radical diversity of approaches, the juror has selected honorable mentions of note in several subcategories.

BEST SERIES: Andrew Repcik
Andrew Repcik’s series of blue images references the origins of monsters in the natural world and human intervention as a means of gaining power over nature. Repcik’s statement says that the work is inspired by a 20th century Russian scientist, Dzhon Dou. It triggers connections to archived stories of genetic engineering, mutations, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and other examples of human overreach resulting in the creation of the monstrous. The use of cyanotype pairs the printing method with the historical time frame, providing a concise syntax.
A good photograph often extends beyond its frame, leaving the viewer with questions regarding the before and after. Several submissions implied narratives beyond the still image, getting the imagination going and the fiction flowing.
Angelique Benecio’s Nostalgia made me laugh out loud when I first saw it despite the darker implications of the title and the frightening fly people in red dresses. I love that these fanciful monsters also seem ornery and gleeful, lending them a more fleshed out persona and adding intrigue and interest.
Shine Huang’s Fishman is a gorgeous image in black and white, and while perhaps connecting to the theme of monsters somewhat tangentially, it feels folkloric and makes use of symbolism such as water, the fish, the moon, and the tower, all related to the unconscious and what may emerge from it, be that beauty or horror.
Pato Hebert’s Oscillator series is at its best in Oscillator in Tualatin Hills Nature Park, where the complicated composition of green woods and posture of the figure extends an invitation to try and piece together the story behind the creature’s mood and circumstances.
Sarah Manriqez’ He Lived Under The Tracks has a nicely narrative feel; the very tall, thin character in the foreground calling to mind the creepiness of the internet phenomenon, the Slender Man.
BEST ABSTRACT: 'A Portion of the Universe/The Bright and Hallowed Sky 2-14-17-1' by M. Apparition

Among the abstract submissions, M. Apparition’s elegant image from her series, A Portion of the Universe/The Bright and Hallowed Sky 2-14-17-1, stood apart, offering a glimpse into what appears to be the beating heart of the world---primal energy glowing red, neither evil nor benevolent, perhaps both---monstrous or divine, this image offers the viewer a satisfying mystery and accrued time spent engaged with it yields proportionate rewards. 

Eder says, "Teratology. Cryptozoology. Therianthropy. All of these terms are related to the study of monsters. Monsters are at once foreign and familiar, and they take on a good deal of cultural work, reflecting back to us our own monstrous side as well as representing “otherness”. Protectors or destroyers, they elicit reflection on the complexities of our nature. The notion of a monster is open to construal, and is often a response to dealing with archetypal fears---fears of an uncontrollable natural world, of science, change, contagion, or the repressed self. These may manifest as fantastical or mythological creatures or the word “monster” may be metaphorically applied to humans capable of terrible evil. 
As a society, we consume monster-centric media in mass quantities, from volumes of fairy tales to horror flicks to serial killers presented on screen and in podcasts. From Totoro to Pan’s Labyrinth, be they gentle or malicious, monsters demonstrate a broad and intensely creative diversity of form, and there is a rich art historical archive of images and sculpture dating back centuries and reaching across cultural boundaries. As artists frequently find themselves in the position of channeling our darkest imagination, it comes as no surprise that this has included visual exploration of the concept of the monstrous.
This is a CALL FOR ALL MONSTERS, whatever your interpretation of that may be! I can’t wait to see these entries!

Anne Eder is an interdisciplinary artist and educator from Philadelphia. She holds an MFA in Photography and Integrated Media from Lesley University College of Art and Design where she studied with Christopher James and has been employed as an adjunct professor. Eder teaches courses in alternative and material processes in photography and in interdisciplinary projects, and will be joining the roster of educators at Harvard University and at Penumbra Foundation in NYC this spring. She is also a reviewer for Lensculture.
“Her work encompasses photography, sculpture, and installation and has deep roots in folklore and fairy tales, taking a numinous approach to the natural world. She has a keen interest in the role of nature in the development of our core mythologies, and in the cultural significance of monsters in our literature and media. Her practice includes a commitment to the creation of public art and she has long been an advocate for increased arts access. No slouch at monster making herself, her creatures and interactive installations have been on view in a range of venues, from galleries to public parks to shopping centers. Images have been exhibited internationally and are held in both public and private collections. Curator Susan Bright presented her work this year at Unseen Amsterdam Photo Festival and at the Phoenix Art Museum. She has won numerous competitions for alternative photographic processes resulting in exhibitions including Texas Photographic Society, Soho Photo Gallery/NYC, Arts Intersection/AZ, LOOK15 / Liverpool, UK, The Griffin Museum of Photography/ Boston and the Halide Project / Philadelphia.
She has been awarded a Natalie Leaf Foundation Fellowship for Education in Arts, Crafts, and Trades, a solo exhibition in the Delaware State Building, and her series 10 Green Gums With Monsters is featured, along with an interview about her practice, in Gum Printing: A Step-By- Step Manual Highlighting Artists And Their Creative Practice, by Christina Z. Anderson, published in 2016. She cofounded and managed the Philadelphia artist cooperatives, Gallery X, and performance venue, The Space.
She currently lives in Boston making monsters, writing fairy tales, and catering to her fabulous chihuahua, The Brain.
Link to The Poetry of the Surface: Craftsmanship and Materiality in Photography  www.academia.edu/1805729/The_Poetry_of_the_Surface_Craftsmanship_and_Materiality_in_Photography

20% of artist fees go to charity. 10% to the curator's charity and 10% to the first place winner's charity.
Eder chooses the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia as her charity. She says,  "Their mission statement really resonates with me and no matter where I live, Philly will always be home and will always be scrapping and needing all the help it can get. 

First Place Winner Amy Becker's charity will get 10% of artist entry fees. Becker has chosen The Wae Center (Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled.)