When digital photography began to eclipse film, passionate debates about the nature of “real” photography erupted. The question was never one that photography forum F295’s director, Tom Persinger, wanted to engage.
One format or another wasn’t the question, he says. “We were more interested in how to use technology in a way that helps you, as an artist, articulate what it is you’re trying to say. How do you use the medium to further your voice?”
F295 has sought to act as a resource for photographers pushing the boundaries of the medium since its 2004 inception as a web forum. They will continue to do so at their soon to open location in the Energy Innovation Center, an incubator for urban economic revitalization in the former Connelly Trade School in the Hill District.
Opening a brick and mortar space seemed like the next step of the highly active online forum, says Persinger. The center will offer artist residencies, exhibitions and publications. In addition, they are gradually building a research library and print collection and organizing other sorts of events—including music, food and wine—to bring in broader audiences. The goal is to contribute to the city’s photographic ecosystem and seeks to partner and collaborate with other groups and organizations in doing so.
“I want to offer the region compelling and vibrant programming, to offer people a reason to get off the couch, to come down and see work that’s relevant and work that there’s a reason to see it in person.”
Persinger began f295 because he was interested in making photographs that incorporated historical and alternative processes and he wanted a place to connect with others seeking to do the same.
“To my surprise, thousands of other people around the world were interested in the same thing,” he says.
The site was so well-trafficked that Persinger started a symposium in 2007 to bring photographers and their work together into a physical space. The annual symposium, held inPittsburgh, features artist lectures and workshops on a wide range of processes.
“The impact we’ve had on education is pretty profound,” said Persinger. “Most of our workshop attendees are university professors, so they take those processes back to their students.”
F295 is in the midst of its membership drive, which ends on February 28. Its first show will feature New York-based photographer Jerry Spagnoli’s “The Cloud of Unknowing,” part of which was created in Pittsburgh. This year’s symposium will take place May 28 to May 31.