Gallery

FELICIFIC CALCULUS

TECHNOLOGY AS A SOCIAL MARKER OF RACE, CLASS, & ECONOMICS IN ROCHESTER, NY

Eric Kunsman

MARCH 12 TO JUNE 10, 2021

The felicific calculus is an algorithm formulated by jurist and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) for calculating the moral rightness of an action by balancing the probable pleasures and pains that it would produce.

Bentham, a utilitarian philosopher, believed this calculus could, in principle, help determine the moral status of any considered act.

In 2017, I relocated my studio to a different part of Rochester, NY. Colleagues immediately started making comments along the lines of: “…that area’s a war zone.” My experience with the new neighborhood was positive, so I wanted to discover what visual cues others might be seeing as indicators of a dangerous environment. Several people had mentioned the number of payphones in the area, inferring that only criminals use payphones these days.

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There really were a lot of payphones in my neighborhood. I began documenting them, and quickly saw that far from being used by criminals, these phones served as a lifeline for some of the poorest residents in the area. 

Looking deeper, I found the story behind Rochester’s payphones reflected an unusually altruistic ‘felicific calculus’ by Frontier Communications. Instead of focusing on profits, they had decided to maintain the payphones in poorer neighborhoods for the good of the community.

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Many policy makers have opted to view payphones as a social indicator of crime, unfortunately leading to ignorant or even dangerous decisions.

In Detroit, Michigan, politicians had all public payphones removed without studying or surveying their actual use. They simply assumed the criminal connection. This decision was based on a further assumption that everyone today must own a mobile phone. Decision-makers lacking facts or any real understanding of issues facing citizens from a different economic class just acted on a misperception.

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Witnessing that type of reflexive judgement from my colleagues drove me to educate myself. I photographed payphones and mapped their locations, then overlaid them with census maps showing economic status, ethnicity, age and sex, and the city crime map. There was an immediate, direct correlation between the poverty level and location of the payphones. Areas with the most payphones coincided with Rochester neighborhoods where the average family incomes are lower than $20,000 annually. There was also no correlation with high crime neighborhoods.

Through Felicific Calculus I hope to challenge negative perceptions of social markers that conflate poverty with crime. Though they are relics to most of us, payphones remain important for residents trapped in lower economic circumstances.

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My method for photographing is working with film and digital as a backup. I utilize film because it genuinely slows me down, as many photographers state, and allows me to visualize the intended goal for each location

Interview published on the Atlanta Photography Group | July 2020

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For Felicific Calculus, I only hope that people start to realize that as we progress with technology, we often leave behind less fortunate individuals. As a society, we use social markers such as older technology, corner stores, neighborhood bars, and ethnicity to create labels of areas and people we do not understand. My one hope is that before one applies a label to a location or people that they take one or two seconds to question; Why they have a certain feeling? What is the label based on? Do they have any supporting information? I am proud of the recognition the body of work is capturing, with it only being 50% complete. I am also enjoying the social dialogue that is starting not only within Rochester, NY, but other individuals that see the work at exhibitions or portfolio reviews.

Interview published on the Atlanta Photography Group | July 2020

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ERIC

KUNSMAN

Eric T. Kunsman (b. 1975) was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While in high school, he was heavily influenced by the death of the steel industry and its place in American history. The exposure to the work of Walker Evans during this time hooked Eric onto photography. Eric had the privilege to study under Lou Draper, who became Eric’s most formative mentor. He credits Lou with influencing his approach as an educator, photographer, and contributing human being.

Eric holds his MFA in Book Arts/Printmaking from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and holds an MS in Electronic Publishing/Graphic Arts Media, BS in Biomedical Photography, BFA in Fine Art photography all from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

Currently, he is a photographer and book artist based out of Rochester, New York. Eric works at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as a Lecturer for the Visual Communications Studies Department at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and is an adjunct professor for the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences.

In addition to lectures, he provides workshops on topics including his artistic practice, digital printing, and digital workflow processes. He also provides industry seminars for the highly regarded Printing Applications Lab at RIT. His photographs and books are exhibited internationally and are in several collections. He currently owns Booksmart Studio, which is a fine art digital printing studio, specializing in numerous techniques and services for photographers and book artists on a collaborative basis.

Currently, he is a photographer and book artist based out of Rochester, New York. Eric works at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as a Lecturer for the Visual Communications Studies Department at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and is an adjunct professor for the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences.

In addition to lectures, he provides workshops on topics including his artistic practice, digital printing, and digital workflow processes. He also provides industry seminars for the highly regarded Printing Applications Lab at RIT. His photographs and books are exhibited internationally and are in several collections. He currently owns Booksmart Studio, which is a fine art digital printing studio, specializing in numerous techniques and services for photographers and book artists on a collaborative basis.

Eric’s work has been exhibited in over 35 solo exhibitions at such venues as Nicolaysen Art Museum, Hoyt Institute of Fine Art, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, and numerous university galleries. His work has also been a part of over 150 group exhibitions over the past 4 four years including exhibitions at the Center for Photography, A. Smith Gallery, SPIVA, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, Spartanburg Museum of Art, Atlanta Photography Group, CEPA Gallery, Site:Brooklyn, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, and many more.

Eric was named one of 10 B&W photographers to watch of 2018 by BWGallerist, B&W Best Photographers of the Year 2019 by Dodho Magazine, and won the Association of Photography (UK) Gold Award for Open Series in 2019, Finalist, Top 200 Critical Mass 2019, Top 15 Photographers for the Rust Belt Biennial. His Project Felicific Calculus was also awarded a Warhol Foundations Grant through CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, NY. Eric’s work has also been published in magazines such as; LensWork, Dodho, B&W Photography, All About Photo, Dek Unu along with online articles by Analog Forever Magazine, Catalyst: Interview, Texas Photo Society, and others. He is currently represented by HOTE Gallery in Los Angeles, CA and Malamegi in San Daniele del Friuli (Udine), Italy.

There’s no “given,” formula for what demands Eric’s focus as a photographer. Eric is as drawn to the landscapes and neglected towns of the American southwest as he is to the tensions of struggling rustbelt cities in the U.S. northeast. Eric is attracted to objects left behind, especially those that hint at a unique human narrative, a story waiting to be told. Eric’s current work explores one of those relics: working payphones hidden in plain sight throughout the neighborhood near his studio in Rochester, NY. Associates suggested they signified a high crime area. This project’s shown Eric something very different.

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

ERIC KUNSMAN

2021

RHODE ISLAND CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY, Providence, RI– Thou Art… Will Give…. 

CEPA GALLERY, Buffalo, NY– Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Rochester, NY 

2020

FOUNDRY ART CENTRE, St. Charles, MO- Thou Art… Will Give… 

MARGARET COLACINO GALLERY, NAZARETH COLLEGE, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

GALLERY 19, Chicago, IL– Lifelines: Throughout the United States

GALLERY 120, Clover, SC– Thou Art… Will Give… *Canceled due to COVID-19

CULTIVATE 7 TWELVE, Waco, TX– Fake News: UnGlued (Re)Broadcast News Event *Community Participatory Event 

A SMITH GALLERY, Johnson City, TX– Fake News: UnGlued (Re)Broadcast News Event *Community Participatory Event

POOL ART CENTER, DRURY UNIVERSITY, Springfield, MO– Thou Art… Will Give…. 

NORTH CENTRAL COLLEGE, Naperville, IL– Thou Art… Will Give… 

GALLERY ROUTE ONE, Point Reyes Station, CA– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2019

EAST CENTRAL COLLEGE, Union, MO– Thou Art… Will Give… 

FLOWER CITY ARTS CENTER, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

HOYT MUSEUM, New Castle, PA– Thou Art… Will Give… 

KIRKLAND ART CENTER, Clinton, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2018

CAMERAWORK GALLERY, Scranton, PA– Thou Art… Will Give… 

LANE COMMUNITY COLLEGE ART GALLERY, Eugene, OR– Thou Art… Will Give… 

RED FILTER GALLERY, New Hope, PA *Online– Thou Art… Will Give… 

PITTSBURG STATE UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ART, University of Pittsburg, Pittsburg, KS– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2017

SRO PHOTO GALLERY, Texas Tech University School of Art, Lubbock, TX– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2016

SUNKEN GALLERY, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY– A 9/11 Project, Reflections & Memories 

DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE GALLERY, Rochester, NY– A 9/11 Project, Reflections & Memories 

GALLERY R, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY– A 9/11 Project, Reflections & Memories 

STAN MCKENZIE CONFERENCE CENTER, College of Liberal Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2014

DYER ARTS CENTER, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2013

PASSAGE GALLERY, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

JOE BEAN GALLERY, Joe Bean, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2012

THE GEORGE SCHOOL, Newton, PA– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2011

GALLERY KUNSTLER, Booksmart Studio, Rochester, NY– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2009

GALLERY KUNSTLER, Booksmart Studio, Rochester, NY– Peripheral Visions 

2007

NICOLAYSEN ART MUSEUM, Casper, WY– Peripheral Visions 

LEXINGTON ART LEAGUE, Lexington, KY– Thou Art… Will Give…

2006

GROUNDS FOR SCULPTURE, Hamilton, NJ– Images of the Southwest 

LOS ANGELES CENTER FOR DIGITAL ART, Los Angeles, CA– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2005

SPIRIT LODGE- FAIRMOUNT PARK, Spirit-The 7th Fire, Philadelphia, PA– Peripheral Visions 

ARTWORKS GALLERY, Trenton, NJ– Thou Art… Will Give… 

2004

SYLVA GALLERY, Pennington, NJ– Four Corners: Photographs by Eric T. Kunsman 

THE CONFERENCE CENTER, Hamilton, NJ– Images of the Southwest 

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Dodho Magazine accepts submissions from emerging and professional photographers from around the world.
Their projects can be published among the best photographers and be viewed by the best professionals in the industry and thousands of photography enthusiasts. Dodho magazine reserves the right to accept or reject any submitted project. Due to the large number of presentations received daily and the need to treat them with the greatest respect and the time necessary for a correct interpretation our average response time is around 5/10 business days in the case of being accepted. This is the information you need to start preparing your project for its presentation.
To send it, you must compress the folder in .ZIP format and use our Wetransfer channel specially dedicated to the reception of works. Links or projects in PDF format will not be accepted. All presentations are carefully reviewed based on their content and final quality of the project or portfolio. If your work is selected for publication in the online version, it will be communicated to you via email and subsequently it will be published.
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