As always, it was absolutely delightful to review such an amazing group of artists at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago this year. The work is wide ranging and diverse. The photographers displayed a plethora of styles, interpretations, content, and genres of photographic exploration. It is always promising to witnesses what is happening in the globe of contemporary photography, and to recognize how technology and the processes of image making are changing. I was gratified to see so many works from emerging to mature artists; the range of processes and styles of image making exemplified the diversity in the field today. The artists whose portfolios are highlighted here inspired me because they have each built upon photographic traditions of the past, whether exterior or interior spaces, landscapes, or portraits. These photographers have all successfully conveyed inspiring and unique perspectives on our contemporary world through their own, unique, voices. I want to thank and congratulate, not only those who are selected here, but all participating artists for sharing their works and visions with me. It is always an honor.

Kyohei Abe, Executive Director
Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography

Artists: Ville Kansanen. Alan Thomas, Stephanie Brunia, Jennifer Steensma Hoag, Ange Ong, Tom Wagner, Suzette Bross

Ville Kansanen

Ville Kansanen was born in Espoo, Finland in 1984. Although an autodidact, he briefly studied photography in the Glasgow School of Art before moving to the United States to pursue a career as an artist in 2008. In 2013, he produced a series of conceptual photographic works titled The Procession of Spectres, garnering exhibitions and publication internationally. In 2015, he won the IPA (International Photography Award) for Fine Art Photographer of the year and won a Lucie Award for Discovery of the Year. Kansanen’s work combines surrealism with elements of the personal. Drawing from and inspired by current neuroscientific discoveries and theories the visual narratives delve into the psychological, personal and autobiographical. He is represented by Galerie Hiltawsky in Berlin, Germany, and lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas is a photographer and publisher based in Chicago. He was raised in Germany, Yugoslavia, and Virginia, and educated at Princeton University, where he studied photography with Emmet Gowin and Frederick Sommer. He also holds an M.Phil. from Oxford University, where he studied British documentary literature and photography of the 1930s.

As a photographer, Thomas has work in the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s Midwest Photographer’s Project and Catherine Edelman Gallery’s Chicago Project. In 2012, his one-person show at the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Calcutta, surveyed photographs made over two decades in Chicago, Tokyo, and Calcutta. He has also exhibited at the Catherine Edelman Gallery and the Illinois State Museum in Chicago; the Flak Photo Midwest Print Show in Madison, WI; Photo Works Gallery in Glen Echo, MD; and other venues. Thomas is a regular contributor to the online journals Design Observer and Places, which published his photographic series Chicago Self-Park (2010), Open Secrets: Photographs of Japan (2010), The Blue Corvette (2011), and Approaching Calcutta (2013). His recent writings on photography include essays on Lee Friedlander, Terry Evans, and Laura McPhee.

As a publisher, Thomas is Editorial Director for Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago Press, where he acquires and develops books in the humanities. He has published many books related to photography and visual studies, including works by the photographers James Welling, Ashley Gilbertson, Susan Meiselas, Alan Cohen, and Jed Fielding, and by critics including Susan Stewart, Michael Fried, W. J. T. Mitchell, and Walter Benn Michaels.

Stephanie Brunia

Originally from Ames, Iowa, Brunia currently lives in Oxford, Iowa. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico in 2012 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in 2007. Brunia has exhibited at venues throughout the United States including the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Center for Fine Art Photography, the Rayko Photo Center, the Rosalux Gallery, and at the Musee d'Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2011 Brunia was selected as one of three artists featured in the Des Moines Art Center's annual Iowa Artists exhibition. In 2016, she was included in the Sioux City Art Center's SCAC Selects exhibition. Most recently, Brunia has been named a 2016 Iowa Arts Council Fellow.

An Excerpt from Brunia's statement: "..In order to visualize these intangibles through photography--a medium that can only deal with physical bodies in concrete spaces--I find myself performing futile gestures for the camera..."

Jennifer Steensma Hoag

Hoag earned her MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York (1992), and is currently an assistant professor at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her solo exhibitions include Interpreting Mary at Campos Photography Center, Rochester and Terra Incognita at both the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Adams Hall Gallery at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. Her work has also been exhibited at such places as Flatfile Photography Gallery, Chicago; Paint Creek Center for the Arts, Rochester, Michigan; Gallery Arcadia, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Wendover, Utah.

In 2015 I negotiated access to photograph dioramas in various stages of being decommissioned. Using these fictional spaces to create imaginary scenes of my own, I introduced a worker wearing a white Hazmat suit, making notes of his observations.
Rachel Poliquin, in her book The Breathless Zoo, writes that “Taxidermy is deeply marked by human longing,” revealing our hopes and dreams about our place in the natural world. Broken Models refers to the deteriorating dioramas I photographed and our failed construct of the environment as one of inexhaustible resources and the resiliency to accommodate, unchanged to our abuses.

Ange Ong

Ange Ong is an artist working in photography currently based in New York City.
Ong was originally trained in Art History. She received her BA in Art History at the University of Hong Kong and at the University of Kent (U.K.); and her MA in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Her research in Art History considers images as key sites of knowledge production. Ong has specifically focused on alternative systems for the presentation of meaning or knowledge through photographs. Her experimental writings that hypothesize unexplored relationships in art history, such as between Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece and radical flower arrangement in Pre-Modern Japan, were published in the academic journal E-merge in 2016. She has worked as a research assistant at the Photography department of the Art Institute of Chicago and assisted the archival work of the department – an enriching experience which inspired her to pursue a practice in photography.

In 2016, Ong graduated from the Master’s program in Digital Photography at SVA and exhibited her work with The Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Gallery X in Chicago and The Center of Fine Art Photography in Los Angeles. In 2015, Ong was awarded the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Photographic Prize, her series Chor Gwo (2014) was published as a photo essay in The Photography Annual. Her work was shown at group exhibitions in Hong Kong, Chicago, New York and Seattle from 2014 to 2016.

Tom Wagner

Wagner has worked for 20 years as an editorial photographer for publications including Time, Fortune, Der Spiegel, L’Express which afforded the opportunity to travel, explore and photograph in more than 30 countries, and to create a number of long-term projects spanning years/decades. Living in Tokyo for more than 12 years created deep connections for him to that region. His documentary projects have won awards in photojournalism, including Life Magazine/Columbia University’s Eisie award and University of Missouri’s sponsored Pictures of the Year. He will have a solo show of North Korea, February 2017 at De Pree Art Gallery, Hope College. He has had photo, video and mix media installations at four Site:Lab pop-up galleries, including a solo show of Artifact Project in Chicago and collaborations including Storm of Progress at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and he curated/produced a trans-discipline gallery show of 18 artists, including his work, as part of the citywide DisArts' Art of the Lived Experiment Festival, at Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, MI.

Questions of propaganda and what is knowable are at the center of Wagner’s documentary projects. Exploring the impacts of place and time on his subjects, Wagner seeks entrances for viewers to create their own narratives of a journey. In the end, each has sought their own answers to questions found within.

Suzette Bross

Suzette Bross is a photographer living and working in Chicago, Illinois. Her work is in the permanent collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Gallery of Art, DC, Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, The New Britain Museum of American Art, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, and more.

With an MFA from the Institute of Design at IIT, Bross has taught at Columbia College Chicago, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and the Northwestern University Medical School. Her work has been exhibited internationally and across the United States. Bross was commissioned by Northwestern Memorial Hospital to create a permanent portrait series of Chicago women and also included in the Cleveland Museums of Art’s “DIY: Photographers & Books” show. Recently, Bross exhibited her Walks series in a solo show at Geary Contemporary in New York City, NY and is currently working on her next project at the Chicago Artist Coalition’s Bolt Residency; her next solo show will be in June at Chicago Artists Coalition.

Suzette Bross’ Portraits transform the flatbed scanner into a contemporary version of the photographic plate. Meditating on the tradition of portraiture, Bross mimics the sharp details and imperfections in the surfaces of 19th-century studio portraits. She uses digital equipment to return to this slow pace of production by scanning over her subjects as they sit for extended exposures. Bross’ portraits capture every movement to create a unique digital image that she cannot replicate. Her relationship with her subjects becomes a performative act of photographing. With the inclusion of Bross’ likeness in the series, her focus is on the intimacy of the work’s process and her investigations on how one is to interact with her reinvented plate. This suite of prints invites the viewer to become immersed in the surface of the image as it magnifies her relationship to the process and our uneasy relationship with technology.