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Being Human
September 6 - October 13, 2001
Sponsored by FotoFest
Edward Albee, 1999, Silver Gelatin Print Enlarge this photo
Curated by Clint Willour
Executive Director/Curator Galveston Arts Center

September 6 - October 13, 2001

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 6, 6 - 9 p.m.
In conjunction with Downtown Stomp-Around

Exhibitions Hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

FotoFest is located at 1113 Vine Street
For more information, please call 713-223-5522 ext. 19

For Driving Directions

Houston, TX (August 20, 2001)- FotoFest will begin its 2001-2002 exhibition programs at Vine Street Studios with Being Human, an exhibition featuring new black and white portrait photography by Suzanne Paul.

In intimate and revealing ways, Paul has documented many of the artists, curators, and gallery owners who have shaped Houston's art scene since the 1970's and 80's. The exhibition is curated for FotoFest by Clint Willour, Executive Director and Curator of the Galveston Arts Center.

The opening reception is Thursday, September 6, 6-9 p.m. at the FotoFest headquarters in Vine Street Studios, 1113 Vine, in Houston's downtown Art Warehouse District. The exhibition will be presented free to the public through October 13, 2001. Exhibit hours are Wednesday-Saturday 11am-5pm. FotoFest joins DiverseWorks, O'Kane Gallery at University of Houston Downtown, Lawing Gallery, and ArtScan Gallery in hosting the Downtown Stomp-Around to open the fall visual arts season in downtown Houston. On opening night, Thursday, September 6, the Downtown Stomp-Around is sponsoring a free trolley from 6-9p.m. At Vine Street Studios, ArtScan Gallery will also be sponsoring a special exhibition opening.

Being Human brings together over sixty black and white portraits of Houston-based artists, curators, and art patrons photographed by Suzanne Paul. "Suzy," to the many that know her, has been an active and well-known figure in Houston's art world for many years. Being Human is one of the largest presentations of her black and white portraiture work to date. Most of the works on exhibit have been done in the past four years and have never before been formally displayed.

"Suzy Paul has a remarkable way of capturing the spirit and soul of people with her camera," says curator Clint Willour. "Her work is truly about being human."

"Throughout her career, it is her black and white portraiture work that I think has been her greatest strength as an artist. That is why we are focusing on this work. Suzy captures people's humanity, whether it be people she knows or discovered subjects." Willour has curated exhibits for a broad range of arts organizations in Houston, throughout Texas, and abroad.

From the lone woman standing by a clothesline in 1957 - "Suzy's mother", to her haunting portrait of Edward Albee in 1999, the pictures in Being Human are about discovering humanity. Paul recalls that her start in the art world came in 1976 when Contemporary Art Museum director Jim Harithas hired her to document artists and exhibits for museum's catalogues. Among the first artists she photographed were Dick Wray, Julian Schnabel, Terry Allen, and Norman Bloom.

Later she photographed artists such as Lucas Johnson, Richard Stout, The Art Guys, David McGee, Michael Tracy, Mel Chin, and Angelbert Metoyer, many of whom are featured in Being Human. Alongside the artists, fortunetellers, and long-time friends, there are Houston curators and patrons such as James Harithas, Walter Hopps, Carolyn Farb, Hiram Butler, Alfred Glassell, Alison de Lima Greene, and Edward Mayo. Being Human is an important contribution to Houston's history, documenting a significant period of time in the development of Houston's art community.

Paul continues to photograph artists. "They are people that I know and love," she says. "I am drawn to creative people because they are more on the edge, but I also photograph children and other people." Her feeling about artists is often reciprocated. She recently asked Lucas Johnson why artists let her photograph them, and he replied "because you are an artist."

Paul uses a 1957 Rolleiflex camera, drives a 1960 Oldsmobile, and may be one of the few artists in Houston without an e-mail address. Following in the tradition of Imogene Cunningham, Paul photographs with the twin lens reflex camera as well as a Holga camera with a plastic lens. She began shooting with 35mm but eventually felt the need to move to the larger 2 1/4 medium format negative. She continues to do all her own printing.

Suzanne Paul's portraits are straightforward yet compelling, using natural light that gives softness to the skin. Usually taken close up, the subtle changes in hand gestures, shift of the eyes or tilt of the head differentiate the special characteristics of each person. The photographer has been invited into the subject's personal space.

Paul describes the process of capturing the moment when this occurs as often "overwhelming" and filled with powerful feelings. "This process is very personal," she says. "I am very close to the person and how they relate to me. We become one, and it can be exhausting." After this interaction, Paul says her subjects, sometimes strangers, often become her friends.

At the age of nine, Paul began photographing her sister, dogs, pet horses and the streets with a Kodak Brownie camera given to her by her father, also a photographer. She studied Fine Arts at the University of Houston graduating with a BFA in 1963 and later did graduate work at the University of California at Berkley in 1970. She considers herself to be a self-taught photographer, however, because classes in photography were not available at that time. Early on she saw an Irving Penn photograph which sparked her interest in photography. She credits Diane Arbus with inspiring her to search for "that most revealing moment" in portraiture.

Paul has exhibited widely over the past 30 years with numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums around the country, including The Fort Worth Art Museum, Galveston Arts Center, Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, the Art Car Museum in Houston, and Barbara Davis Gallery.

Being Human is part of FotoFest's inter-biennial programming at Vine Street Studios featuring important photo-based art by artists and curators working in Houston as well as exhibitions of national and international work unknown to Houston. FotoFest's next citywide international biennial in Houston is FotoFest 2002, March 1- April 1, 2002.

Special sponsors for Being Human are Mary Ross Taylor, Richard Stout, Donna and Igor Alexander, Diane Marks, Carolyn Farb and Volker and Ute Eisele. Support for the 2001-2002 programs has also come from the City of Houston and Texas Commission on the Arts through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County.

FotoFest« is supported by private foundations, corporations, individual contributors, and earned revenue from arts and education programs. Major sponsors to date for FotoFest 2002 to date are: The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston, The William Stamps Farish Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Continental Airlines, Axiom Design in Houston City of Houston and Texas Commission on the Arts through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/ Harris County, City of Houston Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department, Fletcher Thorne-Thomsen, Jr. and Margaret Regan, Weingarten Realty.
Other contributors to FotoFest have included Houston Endowment Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, The Cullen Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, AT&T, Foley's, Caddell and Chapman Foundation for the Arts, The Fondren Foundation, Susan Vaughan Foundation, Pennebaker LMC, EPSON, The Clayton Fund, The Wortham Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, The Kensan Trust, The Houston Chronicle, KUHF88.7FM, Houston Downtown Management District, The George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, Bohemia Beer, Association Franšaise d'Action Artistique (AFAA), GoBase2. There is free parking at Vine Street Studios. For directions to Vine Street Studios, please consult the FotoFest Web site at or call FotoFest 713/ 223-5522 ext. 19 for general information.