2011 has been quite a busy year for the Griffin …
Tognarelli: It really has. We’re seeing a lot of programs and ideas come to fruition. I’ve been director here for five years and it’s taken me this long to gain momentum. I’ve also been trying to build the board that I have; I think I’ve found a nice recipe of people that can help get us where we need to be going.
You opened a new Boston location in early July at 4 Clarendon Street. How long has that been in the works and how is it working out so far?
Tognarelli: We’ve been looking for a long time. Probably two years ago, I almost moved it over to Newbury Street and then I realized I wasn’t ready for that. We collaborate with Digital Silver Imaging in Belmont, where we’ve had a gallery site for over a year, but we realized we’ve outgrown the space. So we put our heads together, met A Street Frames on Clarendon Street and now we’re all working as a group.
Tognarelli: In Boston, I’m hoping that we get the foot traffic that we probably wouldn’t get in Winchester. We’re also utilizing that space to sell Griffin products like t-shirts, postcards and books. The traffic has exceeded our expectations and the public has responded nicely to the ‘Arthur Griffin: Sox Shots’ exhibition we have there. It’s baseball time and people love to look at baseball photographs and hear the stories behind them.
You curated a show for the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Festival for emerging photographers at Boston’s Fairmont Battery Wharf in June. How did that go and will it return?
Tognarelli: There were so many panel discussions and networking opportunities and the exhibitions were top notch. (Photographic Resource Center at Boston University curator) George Slade and I put together a component call “Fresh Works: A Sampler of New England Photographers.” We went through each of our stables of photographers and invited them instead of having them submit to us. We wanted the body of work fresh and not out in the world exhibited in major museums or galleries.
The festival is coming back. I’ve just spent the weekend with MaryAnn Camilleri, who is the founder, brains and brawn of putting it on, and she’s going gung ho planning for next year. I believe that next year there’ll be even more collaboration with photography organizations.
The Photography Atelier portfolio-building program is moving to the Griffin; what makes it such a special program?
Tognarelli: When Karen (Davis, who teaches the program with Meg Birnbaum) came to me and asked me (to move it there from the Art Institute of Boston), I jumped all over it. It’s a very critical conversation (between students and teachers, but more importantly, peers) in a safe and nurturing way to work on building a portfolio over a year’s time that culminates in an exhibit at the end of the project. That’s the environment I would like here at the Griffin — critique that is thoughtful, inspiring and sometimes difficult.
You’re bringing the museum’s Focus Awards to Boston’s Exchange Conference Center on October 1. What’s the importance of an event like this to the profession?
It’s unlike other national award ceremonies. We don’t give awards to photographers but those people in photography who have elevated the medium of photography — the curators, gallerists, educators, conservators and historians. The photographers bring the artwork to the walls but it’s the photography professionals who create the method to bring it to the public.
You’ll be paying tribute to Harold Feinstein there …
Tognarelli: It’s not an award — it’s an honor because in essence, he really is a living legend. What inspired this, this year, was we’ve lost so many photographers recently, Béla Kalman being one of them. It made us think while Harold is in his prime, in his 80s, it was a good opportunity for us to honor all that he’s done in his lifetime of photography.
The Victor Raphael exhibition, which opens September 8, is a new kind of show for you …
Tognarelli: Victor is a photographer from Los Angeles who utilizes NASA photographs and amends them in a personal way and style, turning them into something totally different. He may take a planetary photograph of a nebula and utilize gold leaf and create a self-portrait out of it. It’s something different for us in that we’re pushing the medium of photography to the point where you ask if it’s still photography. It’s not just going to be prints on paper. There will be projections and videos, mixed media, which we’ve never done before.
Next year will be the Griffin’s 20th anniversary. Anything special planned?
Tognarelli: There is one plan, since it’s our anniversary and also the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park — we’re going to celebrate it by creating a very large exhibition on Fenway Park. There might just be something on Arthur Griffin (the museum’s founder, namesake and photographer of perhaps the most famous Ted Williams image of them all) as well. A lot of baseball photograph collectors, from all over the country, I don’t know how they find us, but they do and especially that one image, they all want that..