Donna Garcia sat down with Allison Grant, the Atlanta Photography Group Portfolio 2020 Purchase Award Recipient to talk about her work, what this accolade means to her, and what is next in her artistic journey.
What was your process when choosing the body of work to submit for the Atlanta Photography Group’s Portfolio Exhibition?
I was excited that the Portfolio Exhibition offered artists an opportunity to present multiple photographs as a cohesive portfolio. Some of the narrative complexity in my project Within the Bittersweet only emerges when images are grouped. For that reason, I thought it would be a good fit for the show.
Why do you think Within the Bittersweet resonated with esteemed Juror Sarah Kennel in choosing your work for the High Museum’s purchase award?
One motivation behind the series was to make a photographic project told from my perspective as a parent raising young children while trying to process climate grief and environmental uncertainty. I’ve talked with my parent-friends about our fears for the future many times, but I wasn’t seeing that story visualized out in the art world. I think Dr. Kennel was drawn to the meaning behind my work and the ways it ties a specific, personal story together with larger geopolitical issues.
I also think she was looking for portfolios that felt fresh and distinct. During an online event for the Portfolio 2020 exhibition, Dr. Kennel pointed out something about each of the finalists’ projects that she hadn’t previously encountered in the contemporary photography landscape. Seeing new ideas and ways of working with photography was clearly on her mind as she reviewed submissions.
What does the award mean for you and this body of work moving forward?
For the body of work, I see the award as an elevation of a type of photographic storytelling we aren’t seeing enough: climate change told through intimate experience and autobiography. I hope the project can serve as a record of what it felt like to live and parent during this time when industrial forces are reshaping the climate, yet the full impact of our actions is still unfolding. Having the work placed into a major museum collection means that my voice and thinking on this topic is part of something larger than my immediate community and can be seen and known in other times and contexts—that’s huge.
For me personally, the award is providing wind in my sails right when I need it most. Even though I photograph my children, I rely on childcare so that I can take pictures out in the landscape and be alone with my work to sort, edit, and refine it. During the pandemic, engaging with my practice has been more challenging than in past years. I’m so excited to have this major accomplishment, which pushes me to keep working when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed.
What is next for you? Аre you continuing work on Within the Bittersweet, or embarking on a new project?
I’m still working on Within the Bittersweet and beginning to consider how the project could become a book or publication. I’m also starting to research a new project, though it’s too early to say exactly what it will develop into. It’s an exciting juncture for me artistically, and I’m looking forward to seeing where 2021 will take me.