2013 Slow Exposures remembers Paul Conlan
by Bradley Hartsell
This is the 11th year of Slow Exposures, but it’s the first without Paul Conlan, something his colleagues still can’t believe. Conlan died suddenly and unexpectedly in April from a brain aneurysm.
Slow Exposures is a photography exhibit Conlan helped build. Held every September in Concord, Ga., the juried photography exhibition celebrates southern photography and artistry. Conlan was heavily involved in what director Chris Curry calls a “12-month planning cycle.” He not only helped organize the event, from a fundamental perspective, but he kept a true vision for the exhibit.
“Paul was a pillar of Slow Exposure. He insisted on quality and keeping the focus on the photographers,” said Curry.
From a purely logistical perspective, losing Conlan this past year sent the planning team scurrying to fill in the large gaps as best they could. What they came up was “F-Stop Blues: Paul Conlan Retrospective.” On Sunday, from 5 to 6 p.m., friends, family and colleagues will gather to celebrate Conlan’s work as a photographer and his compassion as a human being.
“Paul had an incredible sense of humor, but he was also very serious about maintaining the quality of the show,” said Curry. “He was an incredibly generous photographer. Other photographers would want to show him their work and he’d look at all of them.”
Conlan was well-known in the metro-Atlanta area as a street photographer. Curry described his work as sharp and colorful, noting that his perspective was always surprising. “He captured people. He made statements about the world in general,” she said. “His eye was really imaginative and unique. He had a really cool perspective.”
On Slow Exposures’ website, a committee member (who asked not to be named) remembers Conlan fondly, poetically.
“It was through Paul’s stunning photography that we came to see what mattered most to him. As eyes are said to be the window to the soul, so Paul’s images gave us insight into the artist lurking inside his incurably straight-laced facade. He wore ‘mom’ jeans, he tucked his shirts in, his beard was always kempt, his voice was never raised, his visage never disturbed — but he could turn tricycles and bomb shelters, lunch counter stools and faded flags, peeling plaster and soaring skyscrapers into images you couldn’t rush past. You stopped. You savored.”
In his honor, Slow Exposures is renaming its first prize award to the Paul Conlan Prize, something he won numerous times over the years (the entries are all anonymous), in which the winner of the juried exhibit will win $500 and be set up with a solo exhibit the following year. Susan Conlan, for one, is happy to see her husband’s memory live on at a place close to his heart.
“I know Paul loved the Slow Exposures show. He loved working with the people who plan it. He loved putting his own photos to be considered. I think he would be honored and humbled by everything the folks there have done to remember him,” said Susan. Speaking on behalf of herself, her daughter Martha and sons David and Daniel, “We really appreciate what they have done. Slow Exposures meant a lot to him. Photography was his passion and they have really honored that.”
“We can’t believe he’s not with us. We kept expecting him to walk into meetings,” said Curry. This year — the toughest year — Slow Exposures tried its best to keep the exhibit in the spirit Conlan always brought out in it.
“It’s like what we always do ... but without Paul.”