ahhaa_photo_flyer copyBut is it art?

Today the answer would be met with a raised eyebrow and “of course,” but once upon a time, the Metropolitan Museum of Art did not have a department dedicated to the medium. Its cache of extraordinary photographic images rented space in the storage room of its print department. With Kodaks (remember them?) in the hands of every Tom, Dick and Harriet, the Met’s trustees dissed the discipline as too quick, slick and young – its history going back only to the 19th century (1839 to be exact) – to be worthy of occupying any of the real estate in their august institution.

In other words, photography, a much too democratic medium, was damned to languish in that limbo land between record-keeping and fine art until, well, the tides shifted – and the Met hired a curator superstar (in the late 1990s).

Back then, Nan Goldin, a chronicler of the downtown set, settled the argument in one insightful sound byte:

“Cameras don’t take great pictures. Artists take great picture. And no two artists see the same things the same way.”

As we will all find out soon.

The Ah Haa School for the Arts announced its first annual juried Ah Haa Photography Prize in March. The subject of the 2013 Prize is “Telluride Portraits.” The entry deadline is  June 15. Winning photographs will be selected by June 22. The exhibition opens in the Daniel Tucker Gallery on August 1 and remains on display through September.

A photography prize and show was the brainchild of part-time Telluride local and long time photography buff Simon Perutz.

Perutz owns a place in the Ski Ranches with his wife Kim – and a 6,000-square-foot contemporary-photography gallery, Shot Images, located at 7430 N. Lehigh Ave. in Niles, Illinois.

How Shot Images came about is a long story. Here are the cliff notes.

Perutz grew up in London, but moved to the U.S. in the late-1970s, eventually graduating Northwestern U. with a degree in economics. For 30 years, Perutz has run Nimlok, a trade-show display business, but his passion was photography. Two  of his daughters are involved in the art world and living in New York and London. Through them, Perutz met the young talent that inspired him to open Shot Images, which conveniently enough is located in the same building as Nimlok, allowing Perutz to use the company’s high-end digital printing equipment to create large format photographic images.

“I can put on a show with large-format photography fairly inexpensively,” Perutz explained. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The idea of Ah Haa’s first juried photography show is  to capture the essence of Telluride through portraits of its people. Want to play? The following are the ground rules:

Participating photographers can be locals, visitors, kids, students, amateurs, or professionals. Their subjects can be anyone who catches their eye, but their subject’s setting must be within an hour’s drive of Telluride. Images must be reasonably current, shot within the past five years. Participants are limited to three entries in black-and-white or color, submitted in JPGs scaled to under 1 MB. Criteria for selection by the jurors include originality, composition, and image quality. Each photograph should be accompanied by a  narrative of up to 150 words describing how the image came about. A brief artist’s bio is also requested.

A jury will select up to 20 of the submitted portraits for the exhibition. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place photographers: $1,000, $500 and $250 respectively. All exhibition portraits will be printed and framed. The first place winner will be auctioned off at the annual Ah Haa Art Auction, Friday, July 19, 2013. All proceeds from the auction will go to Ah Haa’s for its programs. Prints of the winning portraits will be sold during the Photography Prize exhibition and Ah Haa will split the proceeds with the photographer.

To learn more, click the “play” button and hear what Simon Perutz has to say.

“We’re hoping to get a great response to this inaugural show. Anyone – amateurs and professionals are encouraged to apply. It’s a blind jury, so names of the artists will not be revealed until the judging is complete. The cash prize is a great incentive, and we’re also going frame and print the images for the show. It’s a win win for the artists. It’s a great opportunity. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Shot Images and Simon and Kim Perutz to make the show possible. If it is successful, it will become an annual show with a different theme each year,” said Judy Kohin, executive director, Ah Haa.


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