Fotoseptiembre’s sheer size and sprawl can be a bit daunting and it might be difficult for the casual art aficionado (is there any such thing?) to know where to begin their journey through all the goodness that is this spectacular festival. It’s okay. Chill. While not even close to all the exhibits worth visiting this year, here are 10 shows that represent a mighty fine first course. 1. ‘Kick it Old School’ For this massive group exhibit, the result of a juried open call for submissions, photographers were instructed to “kick it old school” by limiting their processes to more traditional (non-digital, non-manipulated) equipment and methods. Thus, the work exhibited herein coaxes viewers into a journey through the history of photography and reminds them that it’s still possible to create compelling images by using both traditional and non-traditional methods from the past. Free, opening reception 7-10pm Sat, Sept. 10, on view noon-5pm Tue-Sat through Oct. 1, Freight Gallery & Studios, 1913 S. Flores St., (210) 331-4382, facebook.com/freightsatx.
2. Joshua McDevitt: ‘Orientation: Unsure’ Louisiana-based photographer Joshua McDevitt’s Fotoseptiembre exhibit interrogates “Western societal mores” by looking closely at “expectations such as gender roles, heteronormativity, masculinity in boys, and femininity in girls.” Beginning with the understanding that “The way we think about gender has a long list of deeply embedded microaggressions,” McDevitt forces, in subtle and clever ways, the viewer to confront their own conceptions of gender/sexuality. Free, opening reception 7-10pm Fri, Sept. 9, on view by appointment through Sept. 30, Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery, 1704 Blanco Road, Suite 104, (512) 569-8134, clamplightsa.com.
Drawing heavily upon his days in Lincoln, Nebraska as a member of his high school marching band, photographer Walter Pickering presents a body of work that gets at the heart of the bright side of the American high school experience. Knowing how these things work and using that knowledge to lead him to the really good stuff, Pickering portrays the “intimate moments — moments other than the performances and football games that most people recognize.” In his beautifully colorful “Esprit de Corps,” Pickering captures the feeling of the thing (a difficult task) more than he captures the thing itself. It’s quite a joyful look “at the intense and little-seen life of these high school and college marching bands.” Free, on view 9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun through Oct. 30, Southwest School of Art, 1201 Navarro St. (210) 224-1848, swschool.org.
4. Rebecca Drolen: ‘Transplants’ When photographer Rebecca Drolen moved to Nashville, she was surprised and (a tad) disappointed that “Instead of cowboy boots and honkytonks, much of the city seemed more like a neighborhood in Brooklyn.” As she came to realize how few people she met had actual, deep roots in Music City USA, she became fascinated with the notion that the influence of a region might become overpowered by its transplants. Begun back in 2014, this exhibit showcases Drolen’s work in documenting some of these Nashville transplants and thereby exploring the complex web of half-intersecting lifestyles and personalities that comprise the city she met, as opposed to the city she had imagined. Free, opening reception and curator’s talk 11:30am-1:30pm Thu, Sept. 8, on view 7am-9pm Mon-Sat through Oct. 9, Northwest Vista College, Palmetto Center for The Arts, 3535 North Ellison Drive, (210) 326-2622, alamo.edu/nvc.
5. Arelene Mejorado: ‘Califas Lens, San Anto Heart: Outside Looking In’ Cali-born photographer Arlene Mejorado grew up making fond and formative memories on weekend visits to pulgas and swap meets with her mother. Since relocating to San Antonio, Mejorado seeks out such places for their cultural vibrancy and the characters that populate them. For her, these spaces, these bustling outdoor markets, comprise a kind of far-flung home that she can visit any time she craves “visually rich scenes intertwined with labor and social engagement.” In “Pulga Portraits,” a continuation of her ongoing photo-ethnographic project “Califas Lens, San Anto Heart: Outside Looking In,” Mejorado zeroes in on Southwest San Antonio’s Poteet Flea Market and the resulting pieces are bursting with life, capturing moments in time where the truly singular arises from looking deeply at the everyday. Free, opening reception 6:30pm Fri, Sept. 9, on view by appointment through Sept. 24, R Space, 110 E. Lachapelle St., (210) 214-1608, ladybasegallery.com.
7. Photographic Society of America’s 78th Annual Conference & International Exhibition This year, the Photographic Society of America will host its annual Conference and International Exhibit in San Antonio to fall smack in the middle of Fotoseptiembre. The conference, which will run during the same time frame as the exhibition, will feature seminars, workshops, image projections and plentiful opportunities for networking. Students, educators, amateurs, and old pros are encouraged to attend (see website for more details). While we don’t know much yet about the exhibit, judging by its international scope, we are entirely prepared to be blown away. Free, opening reception 6-8pm Tue, Sept. 13, on view 1-6pm Wed-Fri through Sept. 16, closing reception 5pm Fri, Sept. 16, Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk, 111 E. Pecan St., (847) 636-7543, psa-photo.org.
8. Scott Mueller: ‘Nick Bottom and the Dark Gloomy Root Vegetables’ How about a photo exhibit that combines the donkey-licious shadow of one of Shakespeare’s most offbeat and humorous characters with a consideration of the glories of root vegetables? If that sounds just crazy enough to be perfect, that’s because it absolutely is. In “Nick Bottom and the Dark Gloomy Root Vegetables,” photographer Scott Mueller gets weird and playful as he uses a variety of photographic techniques (including transfers and gum oils) to create intriguing images of his ground-dwelling subjects. Free, opening reception 6-9pm Sat, Sept. 10, on view 4-8pm Wed, noon-5pm Fri, 11am-5pm Sat, 1-5pm Sun through Sept. 30, Gallery 20/20, 1010 S. Flores St., Suite 108, (210) 473-8331, gallery2020.net.
9. ‘Ansel Adams: Distance and Detail’ One of the finest photographers ever to come out of the United States, Ansel Adams (1902-1984) helped establish photography as a truly legitimate art form — one that could preserve the past, keep the present honest, and foster new ways of seeing and communicating. An environmentalist and a social activist, Adams has influenced photographers the world over with his conscience and with his inimitable skill with photography. Spanning across much of his career, “Distance and Detail” presents a chance to view 30 of Adams’ works, including some biggies like Moonrise Over Hernandez and some lesser-known gems. $8-$10, opens Fri, Sept. 16, on view 10am-9pm Tue, 10am-5pm Wed-Sun through Dec. 15, Briscoe Western Art Museum, 210 W. Market St., (210) 299-4499, briscoemuseum.org.
10. ‘Estrella Studio: Posed Portraits’ A historical and culturally poignant collaboration between mother and daughter, this exhibit is really something special, even on a list of special things to behold. Diana Rodríguez Gíl began serving as an assistant to her mother, Bertha Gíl Rodríguez, at a very early age, back in her hometown of Eagle Pass. Bertha eventually relocated to San Antonio (in 1950) and started Estrella Studio on Dolorosa Street (which ran until the late 1970s). In this series of historically and personality-rich photographs, some of them originally taken as required identity photos for non-citizens, we see the work produced by both Bertha and Diana as an important and compelling documentation of the evolving immigrant experience and the Mexican-American experience as a whole. Free, opening reception 6:30-8:30pm Fri, Sept. 9, on view 9am-noon Tue-Fri through Sept. 30, Jump-Start Performance Co., 710 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 725-2690, jump-start.org.