When scott b. davis coordinated the first Medium Festival of Photography in 2012, in his mind there was no other place to host it. That is, it had to be San Diego.
“When people come here, they’re able to put down the armor they have to carry in cities like Los Angeles or New York,” says davis, who writes his name without capitalization. “The relaxed nature here provides a conduit for people to communicate and be inspired and creative.”
The local photographer, who uses a 19th-century printmaking process to produce black-and-white landscapes, launched Medium to be that conduit. Now in its tenth year, the festival has made its mark by bringing photography’s most notable voices to San Diego. Naturally, this has attracted both amateur and professional photographers from around the world to attend workshops and network with fellow shutterbugs.
“Significant figures have come and really helped solidify the community of photographers here,” davis says, “both by giving them a place to turn for voices in photography, but also by bringing a community of photographers together that wouldn’t otherwise connect.”
Over the course of five days, photographers and photo enthusiasts can attend any number of related events, including exhibitions, workshops, and educational artist lectures. Attendees also have the opportunity to meet and get their portfolio reviewed by curators and gallery owners from all over the United States. Workshop topics range from developing gallery relationships to color management and printing. The last day of the festival is saved for a cross-border tour of artist studios and exhibit spaces in Tijuana.
For davis, the initial impulse to create Medium came while working at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. He noticed that the photographers who showed there didn’t regularly come to San Diego, and began to envision an event that would make the city a respected hub for photography’s many voices and forms.
“Photography as a medium is as diverse as humanity,” he says. “The way people use photography to tell stories, elicit social change, encourage, imagine—there are so many different ways to approach it. The hope with Medium is to enrich people’s understanding of the scope in which people use photography to express the world around them.”
That scope has been far reaching. Over the past decade, Medium has hosted about 80 influential photographers and more than a dozen Guggenheim Fellowship recipients—this year’s festival includes a keynote lecture from one of them, Lyle Ashton Harris, who uses photography, collage, installation, and performance art to explore how ethnicity, gender, and desire reflect society. There will also be talks from experimental photographer Amanda Marchand and local photojournalist Don Bartletti, who won the Pulitzer Prize for documenting immigrants and their often perilous crossings along the US-Mexico border.
Perhaps the greatest impact of Medium happens outside of the big lectures. It’s the in-between moments, when photographers of all levels have the chance to meet and share ideas, which often encapsulate the heart of the festival and foster connections long after it ends.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say they’ve been published, or were showcased in a gallery or formed a group with other photographers,” davis says, “and they point to Medium as the reason. That’s still been one of the most exciting things to witness 10 years in.”
The Medium Festival of Photography will be held May 4–8 at The Lafayette Hotel.
Tickets are available at the door and range from single lecture passes ($30- 40), one day passes ($175), Festival Passes for select events ($295), and VIP which include discounts and reserved seating at the Keynote Lecture($350). Student discounts are available.
To see the full schedule and find general information, check out mediumphoto.org.