Interview with Family of Man Redux 2015 Juror Rick Wenner Art/Write by Peter Pitzele

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Rick Wenner, the Juror for “Family of Man Redux.” I am not the only person who, when seeing work awarded in a juried show, wonders at the criteria of selection. Susan Paregallo, our curator at ALLI, agreed with me that talking to Rick might fill the gap between what the viewers of the show might prefer and the judgment of a professional. In future we hope to follow up other juried shows with some words about selection and awards.

 

What I took away from my chat with Rick was a sense of increased appreciation for the seriousness with which he took his assignment, time spent in selection, time spent in reflection before making award choices, and a willingness to seek a balance between personal taste and professional values, and especially, in the case of this show, a willingness to let story and emotion play key roles.

 

Peter:
Can you say something about the selection process and the choices you made?

 

Rick:
First of all, looking through the submitted images was a process that took place over time. Of course, there were immediate rejections—usually but not always on a technical basis—and some early strong impressions faded a bit over time. As I came to make the selections for the show, I took into account something of the spirit of the original show, which I saw when Susan Paragallo leant me the book to take home. That original show was a stunning combination of art and photojournalism, and its spirit had a lot to do with what I looked at for inclusion and finally for awards.

 

Peter:
What influenced your final decisions?

 

Rick:
What I sensed in the original show was that almost all the photos told a story or seemed to belong to a longer story. This narrative quality impressed me and I found that among the submissions, my eye and imagination were captured by photos that had this sense of intrigue about them, photos that made me wonder, that invited me to imagine a context.

 

And of course my own personal story comes in here. For example, one of the awards for excellence —the homecoming solider in the rain embracing his wife or girlfriend—related to my own experience of a cousin returning as a veteran from Afghanistan. It’s neither possible nor even desirable to eliminate your personal preferences, as long as certain external criteria are being met.
And I will say that in the end it is not technical excellence that carries the day: there were pictures I liked and awarded that were not of professional quality in that respect but they stayed with me; they had emotional truth and impact.

 

Peter:
How do you view the present show in relation to the original?

 

Rick:
The pictures I selected for “Redux” seemed to me to continue something of the universalism of the original. It’s a tricky balance to represent the world more than half a century after Family of Man was shown in New York, and at the same time to say, yes, we are still a family of man.

 

 

PS:
Readers interested in Rick Wenner’s own work should look at his website: Rickwenner.com. His photographs features strong close-ups of interesting faces and interesting people. They suggest both his qualifications as Juror for ALLI—authority and conviction and a great deal of very richly rendered black and whites—and also his difference as an artist from much of photography Redux invited. He is not a Juror who picks work that reminds him of his own.