A Thematic Breakdown of this Year's Fotoseptiembre Photographers and Exhibitions

One of the most consistently excellent artistic happenings in San Antonio is the monthlong, citywide (and beyond) photography feast known as Fotoseptiembre. Now in its 22nd year, the homegrown celebration with an increasingly international reach has matured into a premiere photo festival, known for its inclusivity, its staggering breadth, and the tight sense of order that founder/director Michael Mehl (who also does the bulk of the curating) and his small team bring to bear on what could easily be described as an unwieldy undertaking.

In what has become something of a yearly tradition, we checked in with Mehl to see what’s new and what kind of mystical secret he’s hiding that keeps him dedicated to the monumental task of putting this wondrous thing together. The main change this year seems to be in the submissions department, as Fotoseptiembre has magnanimously (possibly insanely) ditched any and all fees associated with the submission process.

While committed to inclusivity, Mehl notes that the absence of a submission fee does seem to embolden those prone to flakiness, a real danger for organizers of an event like this.

As “a working artist first and foremost,” Mehl, a musician, digital artist, and photographer, sees Fotoseptiembre as part of his portfolio, his body of work, his overall artistic contribution. “It is an inherent, integral facet of my artistic expression,” Mehl said of the photo festival. “And I have been very fortunate to see how this particular expression has transcended my individuality and has become part of the fabric of our community.”

For Fotoseptiembre newbies and seasoned veterans alike, the festival website (fotoseptiembreusa.com), chock-full of listings, descriptions, web galleries, and extensive archives can feel a bit daunting to navigate. Though it’s totally worth it and we don’t want to reward anybody’s laziness, we’ve compiled a bit of a cheat sheet here to get you started.

Organized into three loose thematic categories, this (nowhere near exhaustive) list of shows you ought to catch has a little bit of something for everyone. Except where otherwise noted, all of the following exhibits are free to attend.

Documenting Our Experience
Photographers and exhibitions that are largely focused on documentary/historical work, sometimes centered around individual experience and sometimes wider in scope.

Pedro Valtierra: “Imágenes en Conflicto” This exhibit provides a striking and up-close view of warfare, via recent conflicts in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Panama and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, through the lens of internationally acclaimed photojournalist Pedro Valtierra. Through more than 100 black-and-white photos, viewers are confronted with the intimate realities of warfare. Opening reception 5-8pm Thu, Sep. 7, on view 9:30am-5:30pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat-Sun through Oct. 22, Mexican Cultural Institute, 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way, (210) 227-0123, icm2.sre.gob.mx/culturamexsa.

Al Rendon: “San Antonio–A Photographic Portrait” In this exhibit (and accompanying book) from celebrated San Antonio photographer Al Rendon, who was interested in documenting our spaces and culture(s) since way before the Tricentennial push to do so, viewers get a look at the soul of our city through the trained perspective of one of its finest documentarians. On view by appointment through Dec. 31, Rendon Photography & Fine Art, 733 S. Alamo St., (210) 288-4900, alrendon.com.

"Street Fotos” Offering singular urban perspectives from a bevy of talented, local street photographers, this group show calls us to focus on the human element, tangled in the midst of what city planners like to call progress. On view by appointment through Sep. 30, Hausmann Millworks, 925 W. Russell Pl., (210) 884-6390, hausmannmillworks.com.

Adam Rodriguez: “9mph (Nine Miles per Hour)”As something of a travel diary in photo form, this collection of work from local photographer Adam Rodriguez documents the artist’s journey through the old American West. Photos included this solo show were taken during a three-and-a-half month transcontinental bike ride from Eureka, Montana to Rocksprings, Texas. On view noon-5pm Thu-Sat, 1-6pm Sun though Sep. 30, Ben Mata Contemporary, 502 W. Mistletoe Ave., (210) 685-4061, benmata.com.

Mark Sobhani: “Streets of San Fernando” This selection of photographs from Mark Sobhani provides an individualized historical look at the evolution of the religious and cultural hub of San Fernando Cathedral and its surroundings. On view 7am-6pm Mon-Sat, 9am-2pm Sun through Oct. 31, Mildfire Coffee, 15502 Huebner Road, (210) 492-9544, mildfirecoffee.com.