Phoenix Art Museum's PhotoBid Surveys Contemporary Photography

For six years running, Phoenix Art Museum has performed an artistic service with its annual PhotoBid photography auction and fundraiser. Curated by Rebecca Senf, the Norton Family Curator of Photography at PAM and the Center for Creative Photography, the annual survey exhibition returns online and in-person featuring an array of the top local and national photographers donating works for the benefit of InFocus, the museum's photography support organization.

Though simply a fundraiser at heart, PhotoBid is truly the closest exhibition Phoenix has to an annual overview of contemporary photography. Featuring the work of such artists as Luis Gonzalez Palma, Bruce Myrin, Mark Klett, Eadweard J. Muybridge, Binh Danh, Sean Deckert, Bill Timmerman, and dozens of others, the exhibition transcends styles to present a thorough look at what photography offers to the general artistic landscape, locally and nationally.

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Online now, and opening in the Norton Family Photography Gallery Saturday, October 4, PhotoBid allows a variety of spaces of engagement for viewers and potential buyers, all culminating in the Friday, October 17, live silent auction and reception.

"I get to see this variety and the richness of what's happening in contemporary photography in the field," Senf says of her experience with photography.

"But my audience doesn't have the benefit of that kind. . . of submersion in the field that I have. So this auction really allows me to bring some of those exciting trends...right here home to Phoenix and share them with our audience. And that's incredibly exciting to me."

Thanks to photography's permanent presence in the Norton Family Photography gallery since the museum's 2006 expansion, InFocus also has enjoyed an enlarged role in programming and expanding the public reach of the museum and its photographic exploits. Through fundraisers like PhotoBid, free and low-cost lectures, films, workshops, gallery and studio visits, and similar events are able to be presented.

Senf views InFocus' impact as a profound one, "Without sounding too self-congratulatory, I think we're increasing the number of people in Phoenix who are collecting photography. And that's a really powerful thing."

With the annual PhotoBid overview, and regular engagement with photographers throughout the year, InFocus ensures patrons have the opportunity to create a consistent, thoughtful dialogue with the practice of photography in the state and around the country.

"In order for the arts to flourish, we need lots of people to be participating and engaged in supporting [the arts], and collecting is one of the major ways that members of our community can put their money where their mouth is and vote with their dollars, and do something that supports artists, galleries, and museums, all at the same time," Senf says.

And to that end, with a low barrier of entry to the main event and a variety of sizes and styles of works, PhotoBid aims to make collecting as accessible of an experience as possible.

"As an exhibition, I think that [PhotoBid] has the potential to really open people's eyes to the range of things that are happening in photography," Senf explains.

More specifically, Senf says that, "Unlike most exhibitions where we might write labels for about one-third of the art work--when it's the auction we write text for every single piece, because each one is by a different artist. We really see this as a powerful educational opportunity to bring people into all of the dynamic things that are happening in the field right now."

In the end, InFocus is about the public, and changing the way it engages with photography as a whole.

"We really make [PhotoBid] a very open, welcoming event where people can learn how to participate in an auction," Senf says. "You don't have to have done it before or be a hifalutin art collector. You really can come and participate with a bunch of people who just love photography and are really excited about what's happening in the field."

Many photographs are already up on the PhotoBid website for viewing and auction bid, with more being added over the next several weeks. The official exhibition opens October 4, and runs through October 17, culminating in the reception and silent auction. Tickets to the reception, bids, and more information are all available at the PhotoBid website.

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Connor Descheemaker