New Wave: The Society for Photographic Education West x Southwest Chapters Juried Student Exhibition

New Wave Flyer


New Wave: The Society for Photographic Education West x Southwest Chapters Juried Student Exhibition
Juror: Nelson Chan
Exhibition Venues: Anderson Ranch (Snowmass Village, CO), NMSU, Solano Community College (Fairfield, CA)
Eligible Students (undergrads, grads, recent grads) from: Hawaíi, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico 
Juror Bio: 

Nelson Chan was born in New Jersey to immigrant parents from Hong Kong and Taiwan and has spent most of his life between the States and Hong Kong. Having grown up on two continents with unique cultures, this immigrant experience has influenced the majority of his work. 

He is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received his BFA, and a graduate of the University of Hartford, Hartford Art School, where he received his MFA. Nelson is a co-founder of TIS books, an independent publishing house that concentrates on limited-edition photobooks. He was the production manager at Aperture Foundation from 2016 - 2019 and has most recently taken an appointment as an Assistant Professor of Photography at the California College of the Arts.  

A Note from the Juror:

I find it somewhat fortuitous to be in Hong Kong as I ponder over my Juror’s Statement for the SPE West X Southwest New Wave exhibition. Three years have passed since I was last here to see my father and it’s been an emotional return. This city is not only my second home, but is also where I made the very first photographs that put me on my path to becoming a photographer.

The significance of jurying this exhibition was amplified due to the fact that I’m now a professor looking at work made by current photography students from around the United States. As I looked through the submissions, this felt like a “full circle” moment that I did not take for granted. I held close those, “Hell yeah!” moments where naivety meets curiosity to hopefully become new knowledge. This process of self-discovery may sound a bit romantic, but it’s what I once felt as a young student, what I continue to chase in my own practice, and what I continue to hope for in a classroom full of the next generation of image makers. This hope for new knowledge isn’t just for the artist though. No. It’s also for you and me — the viewer(s), — trying to make sense of, grapple with, understand, and most importantly, feel the meaning of the work that’s in front of us.

What is “meaning” though? Or, maybe the better question is, where? I often find this allusive thing within the psychological alchemy of looking at photographs and its connection to our own understanding of the world. While clicking through the submissions I came across an empty chair in a cramped space that suggested ‘work’ more than it did ‘leisure.’ Paper was strewn, extension cords were hung precariously, and various picture frames of family dotted a wall that told an intergenerational story of diaspora that I could draw a straight line connecting my own family’s immigrant history. That wasn’t just any chair because it could’ve very well been my father’s chair.

There’s often so much pressure put on the artists chosen to be a part of exhibitions that have the word ‘New’ in the title; New Wave, (MOMA) New Photography, new generation, etc. The expectation of something innovative and stylish can be crippling, so part of me felt guilty contributing to this possible pitfall (thankfully I’ve always been skeptical of style). As I was combing through the photographs I found myself returning to images that sparked my curiosity of the world and the medium, reinforced my love and longing for human interaction, and made me envious of the gumption it takes to bare it all to see or the bravery and sensitivity one must possess to photograph during a burial — which is reminiscent of Robert Frank’s photograph, Funeral, St. Helena. I leave this experience feeling humbled, inspired and grateful to be a part of something so wondrous.

- Nelson Chan