Since our last issue in Spring of 2020, which for many of us in America was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world has changed significantly. As I write this, HCP is preparing to re-open our galleries to the public with our fall exhibition, Keeper of the Hearth: Picturing Roland Barthes’ Unseen Photograph—our first in-person exhibition since we closed our doors to the public in March. This is the first exhibition of Odette England’s book by the same name, which was published in the US this past March, marking the 40th year of Roland Barthes’ renowned work, Camera Lucida (La chambre claire). As part of this project, England invited more than 200 photography-based artists, writers, critics, curators, and historians from around the world to contribute an image or text that reflects on the instigator of Barthes’ semiotic musings—a photograph of his mother, Henriette, aged 5, that is never seen in the book, and is perhaps one of the most famous unseen photographs in the world. The resulting project is an intimate reflection on memory, time, family, and photography. Ultimately, the artists selected for this issue, which was co-edited with Shannon Crider, HCP’s Director of Education, revolve around these themes.
At the same time, and with a real desire to respond to the impact of the Coronavirus in our photographic community, this issue contains work from recent BFA and MFA graduates. The culmination of their degrees—intense years pushing their practice—happened in lockdown, with no thesis exhibitions, artist talks, and other public programs that typically accompany a final year pursuing a fine arts degree. We highlighted some of this work in this issue, which includes portfolio features of three undergraduate students as well as a video interview conducted by Roula Souleiky with two graduate students about navigating the final days of their MFA work during a global pandemic.
This issue marks my tenth and final issue as editor-in-chief of spot magazine, and the end of my tenure as Executive Director and Curator of Houston Center for Photography. It has been such a wonderful experience to work with so many impressive artists, writers, curators, and students during my time here, and I look forward to continuing to support HCP in new ways in the future.
—Ashlyn Davis, Executive Director & Curator