AmericaDnaSarah Koenig Wagner; Exhibitions manager for Medium Festival

Sarah Koenig Wagner is a photographic artist and fine arts advocate who holds degrees in photography and art history from the University of Arizona.

Sarah Koenig Wagner is a photographic artist and fine arts advocate who holds degrees in photography and art history from the University of Arizona.

She has worked for the Center for Creative Photography and Museum of Photographic Arts prior to helping run the Medium Festival of Photography.  She currently serves as the Exhibitions and Programs Manager for Medium Photo in San Diego, California. [Medium Photo Festival]

Hello Sarah, before I begin to discuss more in-depth about the 2021 exhibition, the list of reviewers, workshops and so on I would like to initially comment on Medium – Photo’s website and how fantastically structured it is! It’s great to see how this non-profit doesn’t just actively take part in offering services that relate directly to Photography, but also gives readers and viewers the opportunity to contribute to #blacklivesmatter and #photographersupportpledge. Could you tell us a bit about how you and the Medium Photo team came to discuss and publish this ‘support pledge’ idea? 

Born out of the pandemic, the #PhotographerSupportPledge was inspired by the #ArtistSupportPledge founded by UK artist Matthew Burrows. Our initiative does not benefit our organization, however it does support individual photographic artists during the pandemic by encouraging the patronage of fine art photography. The Photographer Support Pledge is open to all photographers worldwide and follows a basic model: Participating photographers offer prints for sale, framed or unframed, at a maximum of $200 (£200, €200, or ¥20000) plus shipping. By using the hashtag #PhotographerSupportPledge in social media posts, photographers agree to purchase work by another photographer after $1000 in sales. You can see all works for sale by following the hashtag #PhotographerSupportPledge on Instagram. 

Photography has a long history with social justice, and we believe can be a force for good. As the world moves toward a more just, equitable society, Medium Photo remains committed to amplify voices of the Black community while maintaining our conviction to support inclusion and equity at every level. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all those working to dismantle our country’s systemic racism. We encourage you to learn about and support the work being done by organizations fighting systemic racism in the United States and elevating the important work being done by black Americans. You can find specific ways to support the #BlackLivesMatters movement on our website and by following @blklivesmatter. 

Moving on to the ‘Virtual Events’ and ‘Online Archive’, I assume this was a response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to actually visit a gallery space due to restrictions? As an exhibitions and programs manager, do you believe that this will be the direction for most Magazines, publications and non-profits… Gearing more towards exhibitions and talks that will stem online? And do you feel that this will eventually fade over time or has the introduction of ‘online’ reviews, lectures and more become a staple for a non-profit to expand their audience? 

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced most organizations to think out-of-the-box when it comes to traditional programming. Although Medium Photo has always been centered around in-person events, our Executive Director scott b. davis, has been able to come up with some creative solutions. Earlier this spring we reached out to former lecturers and asked them to give us a behind-the-scenes look at their studio spaces. These video clips were then shared on our Instagram page @MediumPhoto. We received great feedback on these virtual tours, which led us to venture into virtual conversations with artists. We like to call these the “Medium Remix” which can still be seen on our website under “Virtual Events”. Moving forward, we’ll be streaming artist lectures with live Q&A, as well as moving our portfolio reviews and signature exhibition “Size Matters” to an online platform for the time being. By continuing our programming with a few minor adjustments, participants can now stay engaged from the safety of their own home, whether that’s in San Diego or beyond our state. In some ways, using a virtual platform has allowed us to broaden our audience reach, while still remaining committed to dynamic and inspiring content. Although virtual opportunities will never take the place of in-person events, they have allowed us to stay connected to our photographic community, both nationally and internationally, during a time of uncertainty and health concerns. There’s no question that photography festivals and portfolio reviews will continue to evolve post-2021, but exactly what that looks like is anyone’s guess. 

One of the things that interested me the most about Medium Photo’s festival is that there seems to be a focus around film photography, specifically medium format cameras. Is the whole ethos behind this festival to showcase photographers who work exclusively with film and introduce an audience to workshops that continue this kind of practice?      

That’s actually a misunderstanding. We celebrate all innovative photography regardless of the equipment, film, or process used, and offer a variety of workshops to appeal to a wide audience. Traditionally we have offered in-person workshops focusing on hands-on instruction working with large format cameras, studio lighting, and platinum printing; however COVID has encouraged us to focus on workshops that can be facilitated in your own home. Most recently we wrapped up a photo book workshop with artist Douglas Stockdale (@douglasstockdale) that focused on making and publishing a limited-edition artist book. It was an opportunity for artists working in all media (not just photography) who were currently working on, or planning on starting a project that will result in a book publication. The next virtual workshop on our docket is an Adobe Lightroom Classic Boot Camp with seasoned instructor and industry leader, Theresa Jackson (@tjsorchard). The goal of this workshop is to give photographers a complete understanding of Lightroom Classic through 12 hours (six classes) of live instruction. We still have a few spaces remaining, so I encourage anyone interested in this workshop or our future opportunities to sign up for our newsletter on our website and follow us on facebook and/or instagram @MediumPhoto. 

©Stacy Keck | Medium Festival | Vip reception

We are a nonprofit photography organization based in San Diego, California that runs the annual Medium Festival of Photography. Our programming includes the Medium Portfolio Review, artist lectures, exhibitions, workshops, and artist studio tours both in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Founded by artist scott b. davis (@scott_b_davis) in 2012, our mission is to foster awareness and understanding of innovative photography. We are committed to educating, inspiring, and promoting photographic artists in our region and beyond.

© Nora Sanchez | Medium Festival | Artist lecture

I would like to continue with one of my previous questions about COVID and discuss with you the direction of workshops offered on Medium Fotos website. With workshops like ‘lighting’ for example a DSLR and Laptop are required, understanding lighting with a digital camera. However, the ‘Wet Plate’ workshop for example is exclusively for those interested in learning about large format. Is there any possibility of having workshops that revolve around ‘film photography’ online and how do you structure workshops that deal with the current COVID restrictions?    

With safety as a priority, we are continuing to evaluate which workshops we can feasibly offer through an online platform. Since COVID restrictions continue to change month-to-month, we are also adapting to accommodate. When in-person restrictions lessen, we will return to offering in-person workshops once more. 

Could you tell us a little bit about the 2021 reviewers and gallery spaces that photographers will have the opportunity to exhibit in and be critiqued by? I was also interested to read that the ‘Second sight’ award is given to 1 of 3 photographers, nominated by reviewers. I think it’s great that an artist is chosen not just via their photographic merits but also their ability to speak about their work too. Will this award structure continue for the 2021 exhibition?  

Every year we like to boast about our stellar lineup of Reviewers, and 2021 will be no different. In our ninth edition of the Medium Review we will include galleries and nonprofit spaces, museums and curators, and publishers from around the country. You can learn more about this year’s Reviewers on our website. With over 60 photographers participating, the work critiqued will be diverse and innovative, made using a variety of equipment and processes. In 2021 however, this review process will take place online through one-on-one conversations between Reviewer and Artist. This means, you no longer have to travel to San Diego in order to participate, so we’re looking forward to welcoming more international participants. In lieu of an Open Portfolio Walk, which would typically showcase their work in-person, we plan on setting up a roster on our website to highlight the participating photographers and also include direct links to their individual websites. 

At the end of the Review, we ask all of our Reviewers to nominate three photographers whose work and their ability to speak about it, made a lasting impression. The photographer who receives the most votes will be presented the Second Sight Award and invited to give a lecture at the next Festival. During the 2021 Artist Lecture Series, Fatemeh Baigmoradi (@fatemeh.baigmoradi), our 2019 Second Sight Award recipient will be speaking about her work. 

We are also very excited to have our upcoming Keynote Lecture presented by Catherine Opie (@csopie). Opie’s love of photography transcends genres and historic periods to include an enthusiastic embrace of all things photographic. Her subject matter is wide ranging—from photographs of her queer BDSM community to recent work photographing swamps in the American south. The Festival’s Keynote Lecture will take place on March 5, 2021 and tickets will be available through our website. 

The Volunteering programme also seems like a fantastic way of engaging those interested in working in an exhibition’s environment. For the readers of Dodho Magazine, could you elaborate on the volunteer programme itself and what kinds of restrictions are in place for those looking to sign up?   

Medium Photo is comprised of a dedicated team of volunteers and working artists. We encourage anyone who is interested in sharing in our mission to foster awareness and appreciation of innovative photography to join us as a Medium Photo Ambassador. It’s as easy as sharing our posts on facebook and instagram and spreading the word about what we do. With our 2021 Festival transitioning to a virtual platform it means international participants can now engage in the portfolio review, lectures, workshops, and exhibitions, all from home! 

And speaking of exhibitions, stay tuned to our “Size Matters” call for entry happening later this year—I would love to see your submissions from Europe! In the meantime, we look forward to sharing our inspirational programming with all Dodho readers and continuing our commitment to fine art photography. 

Francesco Scalici

Francesco Scalici

A recent MA graduate from the University of Lincoln, Francesco has now focused on landscape photography as the basis of his photographic platform. An author for DODHO magazine, Francesco’s interest in documentary photography has turned to writing and has had various articles, interviews and book reviews published on platforms such as: ‘All About Photo.com’, ‘Float Magazine’ and ‘Life Framer Magazine’. Currently on a photographic internship, Francesco has most recently been involved in the making of a short film titled: ‘No One Else’, directed by Pedro Sanchez Román and produced my Martin Nuza.

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