A Week in Review: WOPHA x Fast Forward in Miami – a report by Isabella Marie Garcia on the 2023 WOPHA & Fast Forward US Tour
WOPHA / 04.09.2023
As the premiere stop in their US collaborative tour, the union of UK-based organization Fast Forward Women in Photography with Miami-based nonprofit Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA) was a week-long celebration in March 2023 which highlighted and called to action for the crucial recognition of women-identifying photographers in both commercial and institutional sectors.
Beginning Wednesday, March 8 and ending on Saturday, March 11, the joint programming created by WOPHA’s founder and director Aldeide Delgado involved a wide-casted network of Miami and West Palm Beach-based museums, private collections, and arts administrative leaders which also provided the opportunity for South-Florida based photographers and visual artists to benefit from critical feedback and studio visits.
On Wednesday, March 8 in the early afternoon, Aldeide Delgado was joined by Fast Forward’s founder and director Anna Fox alongside Elizabeth Ransom, the organization’s Assistant Researcher and Project Administrator, at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University. Guided by Lourdes Ranero, the Chief Museum Registrar, the party snuck into the backrooms of the institution to have a private tour and access to the photography collection.
Upon arrival to the space, a number of works by living and late women photographers—from South Florida-based photographer Peggy Levinson Nolan to famed photojournalist Ruth Orkin—were laid on top of a counter for closer inspection. Ranero explained the process of the preservation, cataloging, and archiving of the prints, which featured a conversation revolving around the importance of specific materials following the production of photo-based works.
Noted as a very overlooked part of the artistic process, Ranero explained the value of investing in equipment and materials such as flat files, Mylar® protective film, and acid free boxes in order to ensure that printed photographs maintained their intactness and value across time. The arduous process of writing down everything from providence to edition numbers along with filing accurate condition reports was also discussed with regards to maintaining a well-organized, accessible photography archive at the Frost Art Museum. Following the backroom tour, the group viewed the current exhibitions on view—from An Elegy to Rosewood and Chitra Ganesh to Together/Apart and Everything, Earth and Sky.
Later on that evening, guests were invited to join the founders and team from both organizations for a 6-8 pm cocktail reception at The Betsy Hotel in South Beach in celebration of International Women’s Day. Prosecco and beer was served as guests enjoyed an upstairs viewing of Tamary Kudita: Fabrics of Man, Family, and Society followed by an introduction and viewing of WOPHA’s 2022 Artist-In-Residence Nadia Huggins.
The current solo exhibition on view at the B Bar, Strange Territory, spans the length of both walls facing adjacent from one another and each illuminated with a backlight to enhance the viewing experience in an otherwise dim room. Guests finished their evening commiserating in a round circle about the Caribbean photographer’s works on view that were created during recent years, and which depict the artist alongside selected human subjects submerged in ocean water and closely shot in order to discuss the ecological, diasporic conversation of what it means to be a Caribbean body immersed in one’s natural environment. The conversation closed out with an ongoing question of how to heighten the opportunities and community available to women-identifying photographers in South Florida.
The following day—Thursday, March 9—was spent entirely at the Rubell Museum in Allapattah. Occurring over the course of three hours in the early afternoon, an intimate audience listened to Aldeide, Anna, and Elizabeth—as moderated by Heather Diack, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and the History of Photography at the University of Miami—explain the purpose of their collaborative efforts along with sharing the findings of Fast Forward’s Manifesto for Increased Involvement of Women in Photography and the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: Changes in Policy and Practice Report.
The results of the report revealed pivotal statistics about the current climate of exhibited and collected women photographers, and the value of understanding steps needed to anticipate factors in the photography sector. These included taking a more intersectional approach, expanding the definition of women, considering the lived experiences of neurodiverse, disabled, and women photographers from low socioeconomic brackets, the vitality of educational programs outside of colleges and universities, protecting women from gender and race-based violence, along with the lack of access to funding for marginalized photographers.
Subsequently, a portfolio review of three South Florida-based photographers—Adriana Estivill, Lisette Morales McCabe, and Dorotha Udeagbor Grace Lemeh—enacted a community-oriented space for insightful feedback and chance for each woman photographer to share what fuels their individual practices. For British-born, Mexico City-raised Adriana Estivil, the topic of choosing to remain childless was discussed in her photo book titled The Fruitless Garden and asked audience members: where do our legacies go? Of Nicaraguan and Nahuan roots, Naples-based Lisette Morales McCabe shared collaborative visual pieces created to highlight Indigenous communities and holistic practices on native plants. Concluding the triage was Dorothea Udeagbor Grace Lemeh, who closed out the portfolio review elaborating on her experiences of colorism in the Northeast US, being raised by Holy Rollers, and inspirations of Man Ray and the art historical.
Taking place the next day were back-to-back studio visits at Oolite Arts on Miami Beach and Bakehouse Art Complex. While the initial studio visit of the week was on Wednesday with El Espacio 23’s current artist-in-residence, Linet Sánchez, in which an insightful understanding of her use of architectural models was explained to the group, the extent of content to intake on Friday expanded on the genius of local women photographers in Miami.
Led by Oolite Arts’ Senior Programming Manager, Amanda Bradley—a photographer herself—the group visited resident artists AdrienneRose Gionta and Rose Marie Cromwell. Delving into Gionta’s studio, the usage of extended reality (XR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to discuss beauty perceptions of oneself and the mass media provided for an alternative idealization of digital worlds as safe spaces for women of all forms to exist. By extension, questions such as, “How do we offer these spaces offline?” left room for thought amongst the bunch.
Another Oolite resident that crossed paths with the WOPHA x Fast Forward collective was Rose Marie Cromwell, who showcased her extensive photo book collection along with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of the current book she is creating. Traversing the conceptual documentarian stills of Cromwell’s eye, the fine line between the political consequences of globalization are bridged with her encapsulation of humanity—young and old.
Transitioning to a tour at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood with Laura Novoa, the nonprofit’s Assistant Director of Programs and Community Engagement, the studios visited belonged to artists-in-residence Lujan Candria, Gabriela Garcia Dalta, and Amalia Caputo. Draping images on fabric, Lujan Candria spoke about her obsession with nostalgia, place, and the power of memory in her mixed media installations. Currently on view in the Audrey Love Gallery through April 16, 2023 and visited by the group was Gabriela Garcia: Disposability Disrupted, where Garcia Dalta’s training as a photographer is meshed with the environmental consequences of waste specifically tied to Styrofoam. The consumption of the materials is both physically placed throughout the space and documented in a photo-based archive, revealing the surprisingly beautiful aesthetics of garbage. To close out the day-long studio visit hopping was Amalia Caputo, who broadened an enclosed studio visit into the Bakehouse hallways in order to unroll a lengthy scroll of images captured by the artist that illustrated Miami’s ecologic rainbow. The extensiveness of an archive is an understatement when wrapping oneself around Caputo’s lens.
Mirroring Thursday’s discussion and portfolio review at The Rubell Museum, the finale of the week’s events occurred on Saturday at The Bunker in West Palm Beach—the private collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody that’s housed in a former 1920s Art Deco toy factory building. Broadening the geographic reach of the two organizations’ messages, a close-knit gathering of WPB-based artists and art-adjacent attendees self-toured the two-floor, multi-gallery space.
Enjoying drinks and a lovely assortment of snacks during the social element of the programming, guests were then invited to begin the listening portion of the event. This time the presentation was moderated by Tiera Ndlovu, the Curatorial Research Associate at the Norton Museum of Art and founder of Baha Archives—which strives to document and present the rich history of the Bahamas through photography. Repeating the spread of knowledge on what both organizations are striving to advocate for, the audience participated in a fascinating discussion regarding the barriers to accessibility for women photographers. Examples of this include submission fees for grant and prize applications, along with a lack of adequate funding for those accepted to participate in exhibitions and installations.
From Miami to West Palm Beach, the synergic labor of WOPHA and Fast Forward in shedding light on the research-based realities of what it means to be a woman photographer in the contemporary world proved effective based on comments of those in attendance alone. May these moments of community gleam traction and snowball into other parts of the country, with the hope of making sure women photographers are properly uplifted, recognized, and supported from start to finish.
About the author
Isabella Marie Garcia, or Isa, as she prefers to be called, is a writer and film photographer living in her native swampland of South Florida. For the past four years, Garcia has worked with local and national arts-based organizations such as Burnaway, Ten North Group (formerly OLCDC), LnS Gallery, and UNTITLED, Art. Her writing has appeared in publications such as On / Off-Shore: Poets of the Caribbean and Caribbean Diaspora, The Art Newspaper, The Miami New Times, and So To Speak: A feminist journal of language and art. Garcia graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida International University in 2019. More information on her work can be found at isamxrie.com and anywhere through @isamxrie.
WOPHA & Fast Forward US Tour
Miami – West Palm Beach
March 8 – 11, 2023
Original Idea: Aldeide Delgado
The Betsy Hotel, El Espacio 23, Rubell Museum, Frost Art Museum, Oolite Arts, Bakehouse Art Complex, The Bunker Art Space
Anna Fox, Elizabeth Ramson, Francisco Maso, Kim Yantis, Amanda Bradley, Tiera Ndlovu, Heather Diack, Lesley Goldwasser, Barbara Chisholm, Patricia Hanna, Anelys Alvarez, Juan Valadez, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Danny Gomez, Melanie Ober, Amy Galpin, Laura Novoa, Isabella Marie Garcia, Remijin Camping, Adriana Estivill, Lisette Morales McCabe, Dorotha Udeagbor Grace Lemeh, Linet Sánchez, AdrienneRose Gionta, Rose Marie Cromwell, Lujan Candria, Gabriela Garcia Dalta, Amalia Caputo, and Diana Larrea.