All photos Cait Matthews/Catalyst.
As November comes into full swing in Sarasota, so does “The FENCE,” an annual photography exhibit that is open to submissions from anyone. This year, the self-proclaimed largest outdoor traveling exhibit in North America inhabits a stretch of fence at the entrance to Nathan Benderson Park from Nov. 2 through Jan. 31, 2019.
“The FENCE” was created in 2012 by United Photo Industries (UPI), a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization, and developed in partnership with Photo District News. UPI aims to create more widespread public accessibility and understanding of photography.
“Since its founding in 2011, UPI has rapidly solidified its position in the public art landscape by continuing to showcase thought-provoking, challenging and exceptional photography from across the globe,” according to a description on their website.
Dave Shelley is the creative producer for the non-profit. His personal passion for photography stems from its ability to create emotional connections with people, places and cultures worldwide.
“The inspiration for “The FENCE” came from one of our co-founders, Sam Barzilay, who recognized how many construction fences were stationed in the developing Brooklyn Bridge Park located in our neighborhood,” Shelley shared in an email interview. “The fences were screaming out for ART! Sam quickly put together a proposal that the Park accepted and we had our first FENCE installation.”
This year, the outdoor exhibit is featured in eight cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Calgary (Canada), Durham, Denver and Sarasota, and attracts more than 6 million visitors annually. In 2019, the exhibit will expand to nine cities. Artists can submit photo series to seven different categories: home, streets, people, creatures, nature, play and food.
“Since we started UPI in 2011 we always had the vision of championing new photography work and carving a public art path so a critical mass of people could have a visceral experience while viewing outstanding work resulting in a connection that goes beyond the walls of a gallery world, the internet and our media screens,” Shelley said.
The winners whose photo series end up on display at “The FENCE” are chosen by a jury of photographers that changes every year. This year, the 76-member jury is composed of top professionals in the world of photography, print, museums and media—individuals whom Shelley calls “stellar.” According to Shelley, the objective is to create a jury of unbiased but critical eyes that allows for an exceptional selection of photo series.
“The actual size of the photos [as displayed on vinyl backdrops along fences] resonates in a way that cannot be matched on your computer screen,” Shelley said. “It’s also an exhibition that has something for everyone, from kids to adults!”
To Shelley and others at UPI, photography is a circumstance that allows for documentation of our collective history—past and present.
“In simple terms, “The FENCE” stands out in its presentation of photography that engages the viewers with striking images and compelling stories,” Shelley wrote.
Anyone who is interested in telling a story or approaching an important issue through photography can look out for the submission date for the 2019 exhibit. Photography is a powerful bridge that “The FENCE” wants to extend to all.
“Seek out other photographers for inspiration and community,” Shelley advised. “Practice the craft and see where it takes you!”
“The FENCE” is located at the entrance to Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota near University Town Center. The show is free to all, easily accessible and can be viewed at any time of day. It will be displayed at the Park until Jan. 31, 2018.
Information for this article was gathered from fence.photoville.com and unitedphotoindustries.com.