Interview with Top 50 Exhibition Curator David Rosenberg

David Rosenberg, editor of Slate Magazine’s photography blog, Behold, will be curating the Critical Mass Top 50 exhibition this year. Slate Magazine has published many Critical Mass photographers’ portfolios over the years, and it’s a fantastic platform for wide exposure. A number of the picture essays have “gone viral”. We thought we’d take a moment to interview David about Behold and the state of the photo world. Oh – and tennis. Naturally.

David Rosenberg

Laura Moya (Photolucida Executive Director): Tell us a little bit about your professional background in the photo world and how you got to your current position as editor at Slate Magazine? What type of imagery/content are you interested in putting forth? What type of photography does Slate Magazine’s readership most respond to?

David Rosenberg: I started my career at Sygma in New York. I was fortunate to spend a little bit of time working in the photo business before everything went digital. I loved going through the files, looking at slides, and working directly with both the photographers and our clients. From there, I worked as a photo editor for a textbook publisher that was a fantastic way to develop an eye for detail since everything had to adhere to very strict guidelines. I was the photo director of TENNIS Magazine for about 9 years. It’s funny when you work at a niche magazine because most people think it’s only about one thing; and it is! But I also had a lot of freedom while there. A lot of people are surprised when they hear I was able to hire Cass Bird, Ryan Pfluger, Sarah Wilmer and a number of photographers who are very well known today. I loved the challenge of trying to surprise our readers. I graduated with a degree in journalism and loved writing as much as I loved photography, so when the opportunity was presented to edit Slate’s new photo blog Behold, I jumped at the chance. Since we started Behold, my thought was to make sure we didn’t place tight parameters on what we wanted to run. A great fine art story is just as important as a personal series or something whimsical. Our readers, however, seem to respond to nostalgic stories. Anything about New York in the 1970s is sure to be a hit.

LM: You have always been a great advocate of publishing the work you have seen jurying Critical Mass – thank you! Can you talk about some of the portfolios you have picked up on/published from Critical Mass over the past few years?

DR: Sure! Critical Mass is a fantastic resource for someone like myself, who is always looking to find new and relevant work. Stories that I ran after seeing them on Critical Mass include Kevin Horan’s goat and sheep portraits and Dianne Yudelson’s poignant work on miscarriage. A couple of years ago I ran Liz Obert’s profound work about what it’s like to live with bipolar II disorder. The story went viral and I believe is the most popular post we have ever run on Behold.

LM: Can you talk about the term “going viral” and how that tends to work?

DR: Good question! I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the years. Sometimes you really know when something is going to be really popular. Provocative work can be popular but other subjects that happen to be in the cultural zeitgeist such as race or gender or as I mentioned earlier, with subjects that people are hungry to see portrayed visually. Both Yudelson’s and Obert’s work spoke about subjects that many people find taboo: the loss of a baby and mental illness. Simply brining up the conversation helps but when the work is also good, it typically creates a formula for it to turn viral.

LM: In what ways have you seen the online photo community evolve/expand/communicate in the last few years? What have the shifts been in the editorial world?

DR: I bet a lot of how I would answer this would be disputed by a lot of people in the community! Which I think is a good thing. There are so many fantastic places online for photographers to share their work, whether it’s through a blog like Behold or through an online gallery. People like Jennifer Schwartz at Crusade for Art have also provided an online/offline resource for photographers to become more educated about what it means to be a “professional” photographer. I think that is one of the biggest things that has shifted: an attempt to lift the curtain of secrecy that has covered the photography community for years. I’ve led a couple of panels at the Unseen photo festival in Amsterdam that was titled  “making photography transparent” where a few of us simply sit on stage and answered questions from recent graduates about how to get their work out there. I think festivals and portfolio reviews and competitions are still relevant to the community.

LM: Tell us something non-photographic about your life – what is your relationship to the tennis world? (or anything else!)

DR: I’m definitely a tennis junkie. After TENNIS Magazine, I continued to manage photography departments on digital teams at all of the major tournaments. These days I’m also the communications manager for TEDx which is a really exciting position so I’m unable to travel to the tournaments which I miss. There’s nothing like watching a great match on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

LM: Thanks, David! And thanks to Dianne Yudelson for her commentary below on her experience being featured on Behold Blog and going viral.

Image from Dianne Yudelson’s series ‘Lost’

To everyone with a photographic series they are passionate about, don’t miss your opportunity to enter Critical Mass! While jurying Critical Mass, David Rosenberg (Editor, Behold Photo Blog at Slate Magazine) was exposed to my series “Lost.”  Mr. Rosenberg published an article about the series on Slate and within four weeks my series went viral – being published in over 50 countries on 6 continents! In addition, four of my “Lost” series images will be showcased at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s Center Forward exhibit and I have an established artist feature in the upcoming Musee Magazine Issue No.15. Personally, I wholeheartedly thank Photolucida for supporting and promoting my work as a Critical Mass finalist; the emails I have received from across the globe in response to “Lost” are profoundly rewarding. Professionally, I thank Photolucida for providing a platform that allows artists to showcase their work to the most influential jurors in today’s fine art industry.

—Dianne Yudelson