Pictus Interuptus, 1980, Ray Metzker
Paul Berlanga studied humanities at the University of Illinois in the 1970s. In 1997, Berlanga became Director of the Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago. The gallery offers a range of work but specializes in vintage photographs, with an emphasis on modernist experimental and social documentary subject matter. As director he chose artists to represent and curated exhibitions. He has written and edited texts for gallery catalogues and related publications, his favorite of which was the 2008 PowerHouse monograph Wayne Miller Photographs 1942-1958.
Since 2011 Berlanga has been engaged with his own venture, Berlanga Fine Art & Photographs, which offers examples of interesting and beautiful photography, as well as other works on paper, and special books. Berlanga also represents a select group of classic and emerging photographers, and recently added the works of Vivian Maier to his inventory. He has written for outside publications, such as the article on Sandro Miller’s Atropa Black, in the spring 2012 issue of the Amsterdam-based Eyemazing Magazine. That same year Berlanga spent a week in Havana, Cuba on independent assignment as general editor of a forthcoming book on a collection of contemporary Cuban photography; his duties included advising on acquisitions. In June of 2012 he moderated an on-stage discussion between two accomplished photographers, the Spaniard Jordi Socias, and the American Stephen Schapiro, at the Instituto Cervantes in Chicago.
Interview by W. Tanner Young
425 S. Wabash (Looking East), Chicago, 2013, Brad Temkin
W Tanner Young: Your primary interests include over 20 years of experience with publishing and selling photo books - which is quite in vogue as of late (not least of which is Filter Photo’s 1st Photo Book show!). I’m sure many attendees will bring their books to portfolio reviews. Could you tell me what you look for and appreciate when looking at photo books, and if you review these differently than portfolio prints?
Paul Berlanga: I crave originality. Regarding either books or portfolios, that is the primary requirement. Following that, is quality of execution. I join others in the field in recommending that if the artist is going to self-publish, he or she needs to hold their printing house to the highest possible standards. In books, I look first for content, then for the quality of the reproduction, the quality of the design of the book, the weight and finish of the paper stock, as well as what kind of care has gone into the binding. I try to look at each portfolio print as if it’s the only work of art I’m going to see that day.
WTY: Berlanga Fine Art – which you’ll be representing as a reviewer for this year’s festival – includes contemporary mixed-media and experimental photo artists, while Daiter Gallery’s primary interests lie in vintage prints and avant garde, experimental, documentary and photojournalistic techniques. Is there a particular aesthetic you’re interested in or prefer to review?
PB: I think art can have power while at the same time exhibiting beauty and elegance. I would call myself a classicist with an edge.