Since its beginning in 1999, the Louisville Photo Biennial has expanded from four local galleries to more than 50 venues throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana — even spilling over into Frankfort and Lexington. The 10th iteration officially starts Friday, Sept. 22, and will continue through Nov. 11.
What this means for casual participants in the art scene is chances are good that when you step foot into any local gallery, museum or university, you will see photography on display. Make that a wide variety of photography, says Photo Biennial director and gallery owner Paul Paletti. “Everything from history to journalism to fine arts.”
The Paul Paletti Gallery first joined the Photo Biennial in 2001, and when its director moved away, Paletti stepped up to help organize the event officially in 2003. He says it takes the effort of a team of nearly 15 volunteers to pull it off — plus, a cooperative effort between all the participating venues.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this and a lot of logistics,” he tells Insider. “Without all those volunteers and the support of people, it just couldn’t happen.”
With 60 exhibitions at 53 venues across the city and beyond, the Photo Biennial aims to make one of the most accessible forms of art even more accessible — and, as Paletti points out, most of the shows are free.
“The fact that you can go to a museum or gallery and see work that someone thinks is very good — it gives you a chance to then engage with the photographer or curator or gallery owner to start learning more about photography and gain visual literacy,” he says. “And one of the great things about the Biennial is virtually everything is free.”
Photography has been called one of the most democratic art forms around today, and nearly everyone with a cellphone has access to it. But what makes an event like this so important is can help people learn more about the intricacies of the craft.
“Almost everybody is photographing, but that doesn’t mean it’s all good,” explains Paletti. “Everybody can write, but that doesn’t mean you’re a novelist. Part of what’s really important about the Photo Biennial is it helps people gain a sense of what good photography is — it’s very broad and has infinite view points.”
This year’s Biennial is dedicated to famed Louisville photographer Julius Friedman, who died on July 16. Some of his work will be on display at Unique Imaging Concepts, which helped Friedman with his printing needs for years. (The opening reception for “Botanica” by Julius Friedman is Thursday, Sept. 21, from 6-9 p.m.)
There’s a full list of events, shows and venues online, but one highlight Paletti mentions is a free discussion about collecting photography at the Speed Art Museum on Sunday, Oct. 8.
Paletti is an avid collector and will join the panel that includes Speed executive director Stephen Reily; Speed curator of contemporary art Miranda Lash; and photography specialist Rachel Peart from the Phillips Auction in New York. (The discussion is from 1:30-3 p.m.)
The whole shebang kicks off with a Louisville Photo Biennial Opening Party on Friday, Sept. 22, at 21c Museum Hotel. The free event runs from 8-11 p.m., later hours so any gallery having an opening that night can attend as well, Paletti says.
For a complete list of participating galleries, shows and special events during the Biennial, go to louisvillephotobiennial.com.