First Impressions: San Antonio Artists, Curators and Gallerists Weigh In on the Best of Fotoseptiembre

A monthlong celebration of photography in all forms and flavors, Fotoseptiembre has been a fall favorite in San Antonio since 1995. The brainchild of multidisciplinary artist, writer and composer Michael Mehl, the festival takes over galleries, cafes and less-expected venues throughout the city and into the Hill Country with exhibitions showcasing everything from street photography and reportage to stylized fashion shoots and conceptual portraiture. While our coverage of the festival has typically taken shape in previews of standout exhibitions, we decided to turn the tables this year by sharing a set of key Fotoseptiembre images with an assortment of individuals — working artists, photography enthusiasts, educators and gallery directors among them — and asking them for gut reactions to the image (or images) that caught their attention most. While certain photographs emerged as unsurprising crowd-pleasers — including Austinite Ed Malcik’s ironically relevant Selling the Alamo, Virginia-based Greta Pratt’s gussied-up family portrait Julee and Her Daughters, and San Antonio College staffer Jo Hilton’s timeless and touching Generational Hands — several of the quieter examples struck chords as well, proving photography’s inherent subjectivity and exemplifying its unique ability to inspire us to slow down and think.

Ed Malcik, Selling the Alamo, from the exhibition “Selling the Alamo and Other Photos,” on view at Mockingbird Handprints, 1420 S. Alamo St., Building B, Suite 108 “This Image grabs my attention on many levels. The simplicity of the way it captures the current Alamo redevelopment is perfect.” — Al Rendon, photographer and owner of Rendon Photography & Fine Art

“I’m struck by this photo’s relevance and social commentary on the development and the constant change of our surroundings. The Alamo as a symbol and reflection of the times literally makes us look at ourselves and ask, ‘Who’s the owner of this evolving city?’” — Rigoberto Luna, co-director of Presa House Gallery

“The Ed Malcik photo of the empty shop window packs a rich conceptual punch which is all the more impressive as it was a found situation, discovered by the photographer instead of staged. In one photo, the complexity of the Alamo mythology is presented and asked to be unpacked. The overlay of the reflected Alamo façade with the empty window and For Sale or Lease sign speaks to a complex relationship the city has had with the Alamo and the Alamo with the city and its people. It calls to mind the current controversy with the Alamo Plaza redevelopment, the historic relationship between the Spanish Catholic church and the precolonial natives, as well as the history of the early Texas Independence movement’s relationship with the Tennessee immigrants and slavery.” — Chris Sauter, artist and Director of Foundations and Special Courses at Southwest School of Art

“I love this one — especially the seemingly unintentional statement made. Brilliant.” — Kristel A. Orta-Puente, artist and curator

Domonique Beltran, East Houston Street, from the exhibition “What the Streetz Gave Us,” on view at LiftOff, 2014 S. Hackberry St.
click to enlarge DOMINIQUE BELTRAN
Dominique Beltran
“Photography is sometimes misinterpreted. I’m guessing a size 13, these belonged to some large feet. It makes me curious about the wearer, the streets this person walked on, and ultimately the reason these took flight and how many attempts it took to hook them around the wire. Sure, the laces will eventually be worn down from the South Texas heat, rain and high winds, causing the shoes to land on someone’s car windshield, scaring the shit out of them. Come to think of it, photography is often misinterpreted.” — Scott Ball, photo editor at The Rivard Report

“The simple minimalism of the image provides the space for quiet contemplation, yet the diagonal composition still alludes to a jarring action. Shoe tossing can be anything from child’s play to the universal symbolism for drug activity. Noticeable only when looking upwards, which is not our typical perspective of the world. There is also a sense of emptiness — as the action has passed and the human element is missing from these utilitarian objects. However, the boots in this arrangement remind us to think about the state of humanity and the human condition even more.” — Alana Coates, curator

Jo Hilton, Generational Hands, from the exhibition “Gathering Moments,” on view at San Antonio College, Moody Learning Center, 1819 N. Main Ave. “This image is very sumptuous: rich with texture, color and pattern. It reads as very tender and intimate to me.” — Mary Heathcott, Executive Director of Blue Star Contemporary

“Tender image of the passing of time.” — Patricia Ruiz-Healy, Owner and Director of Ruiz-Healy Art

“This is my favorite of the series. These look like my grandmother’s hands. She would crochet things for me, as I am sure this woman made this baby’s dress. We pass on our ancestral knowledge with acts of love and labor. This is so beautiful it hurts.” — Kristel A. Orta-Puente

Klarissa Perez, Pride NYC – 2016, from the exhibition “New York, New York!” on view at Revenant Gallery, 1913 S. Flores St.
click to enlarge KLARISSA PEREZ
Klarissa Perez
“This one feels like street photography à la Diane Arbus. However, the figure in the background with his more contemporary style of dress as well as the tattoos on the figure in the foreground, seem to root it more in the present day.” — Mary Heathcott

Nicole Marie Moore, Flamenco Dancer Sonya Jimenez, from the exhibition “Along The Way – Moments Captured In Nature, Dance And Life,” on view at St. Mary’s University, Louis J. Blume Library, One Camino Santa Maria
click to enlarge NICOLE MARIE MOORE
Nicole Marie Moore
“I’ve been watching Nicole Marie Moore take photographs at local flamenco shows for several years now, so I’m excited to see her first solo exhibition of work. This image is of dancer Sonya Casillas (formerly Jimenez) performing at Carmens de la Calle. Here, she captures the intensity and raw emotion that can be seen at a flamenco performance. By pure coincidence, Sonya’s arms almost mimic the gestural marks of the painting in the background.” — Marco Aquino, arts writer

Mari Hernandez, Epidemic, from the exhibition “Montagues & Capulets – Hombres,” on view at Cinnabar Art Gallery, 1420 S. Alamo St., Suite 147
click to enlarge MARI HERNANDEZ
Mari Hernandez
“I really love this image and this series. Mari Hernandez is making some of the smartest work I know of right now.” – Chad Dawkins, Director of Exhibitions at Southwest School of Art

Nain Leon, El Extranjero, from the exhibition “Construyendo Realidades – Constructing Realities,” on view at UNAM San Antonio, 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way, Building 333 “The one that speaks to me the most is the person carrying all of the suitcases. It just works for me.” — Justin Parr, artist and owner of FL!GHT Gallery

“This one is a great sliver of a story with a documentary/fiction dissonance.” — Chad Dawkins

“Very surreal!” — Patricia Ruiz-Healy

Christian Fuchs, Eleonora, from the exhibition “Montagues & Capulets – Transgeneration,” on view at Cinnabar Art Gallery, 1420 S. Alamo St., Suite 147
click to enlarge CHRISTIAN FUCHS
Christian Fuchs
“A beautiful photograph. I am attracted to the image of a contemporary model transformed by elaborate costume to a historical context.” — Dana Read, Director of REM Gallery

“I found this intriguing because of its obvious reference to traditional portrait painting. The figure is presented very dramatically with makeup, dress and adornment.” — Mary Heathcott

Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Procession Mass Holy Spirit, from the exhibition “University Of The Incarnate Word – The Word Lived in the Past,” on view at University of the Incarnate Word, Kelso Art Center, Condos Student Gallery, 4301 Broadway
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
“My vote goes to [Procession Mass Holy Spirit]. It looks like a vintage photo, with a nostalgic subject matter, that took a lot of time to compose with the cooperation of many willing people. It just seems that photographers don’t take time to do that anymore. I like it a lot.” — Gary Sweeney, artist

“I respond to [Procession Mass Holy Spirit and Julee and Her Daughters] because of the ‘nostalgia’ aspect and because they are beautiful, rich and unusual images. What sort of indoctrination ceremony is/was going on at UIW? It certainly reeks of cultism in today’s world view.” — Kent Rush, artist

“I’m a fan of nuns, vintage photos and eerie subjects. I’d hang out with these sisters.” — Mari Hernandez, artist and Education Manager at Blue Star Contemporary

Greta Pratt, Julee and Her Daughters, from the exhibition “A Cloud of Dust,” on view at Northwest Vista College, Palmetto Center for the Arts, 3535 N. Ellison Drive
click to enlarge GRETA PRATT
Greta Pratt
“This one is so bizarre and sexy. Big sky, big hair, big attitude and Nudie-style suits!” — Chad Dawkins

“Super nice!” — Patricia Ruiz-Healy

“Okay, I really like [Julee and Her Daughters]. It’s colorful, but sort of screams ‘Rich, Privileged White Women.’” — Gary Sweeney

“Normally cowgirl photos are way too stereotypical but this one (which looks like a fashion shot) is so well and unapologetically done — it is less about playing up the women and more about displaying the way-cool, elaborate costumes — kind of ‘kitsch’ taken seriously. If this one is not by Gary Sweeney, it should be!” — Kent Rush

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