Monday, March 4, 2013

PhotoSpiva 2013

Joplin's Spiva Center for the Arts

I love photography.  Whether a picture shows individuals awkwardly posed in an effort to record a moment in a family’s history or artfully illustrates nature’s beauty, I enjoy ruminating over the story the photographer is attempting to relay to the viewer.  Photographs spark my imagination and pull me into exotic and unfamiliar worlds that I might otherwise never experience.  As a young girl I would spend hours perusing the library’s outdated National Geographic collection, lingering over the pictures that graced the pages of the publication that introduced me to foreign cultures and history.  No matter how successfully the authors described an article’s topic, it was the glorious photos that made me feel like I was on an underwater adventure, an African safari, deep in the Outback, or discussing ancient tribal rituals with indigenous peoples.  Perhaps no other medium portrays humanity and nature as expressively as photography. 

Fortunately for me, Joplin’s Spiva Center for the Arts hosts PhotoSpiva, the nation’s longest running photography competition of its kind.  This year’s exhibit, which opens March 9 and runs through May 5, showcases 80 images chosen from the 1,041 pieces submitted by 199 amateur and professional photographers from across the U.S. and marks the competition’s 37th year.

PhotoSpiva began in 1977 when Jim Mueller, a photography instructor at Missouri Southern State College (now Missouri Southern State University), was approached by Spiva board member Sara Fisher and asked to create a competition similar to other national photography contests conducted at the time.  Mueller, who specialized in nature and fine art photography, formerly worked as a workshop assistant at the Ansel Adams workshops in Yosemite.  He and co-founder Suzanne Wilson designed a national competition with the objective to, “present an exhibition of excellence in photography, celebrating the scope and vigorous activity of today’s contemporary photographers.” 

From the very beginning, PhotoSpiva set out to welcome both amateur and professional photographers with the intent of providing them an opportunity to display their work with other photographers from across the United States.  As Jim Mueller stated, “We have intentionally avoided any categorization of either photographers or their work in setting forth the criteria for this competitive.”  As such, the competition has attracted both emerging amateurs and seasoned professionals, allowing their art to be exhibited in a unique, equitable platform.

2012 PhotoSpiva selection, "Little Red" by Jessica Kory

PhotoSpiva provides artists the opportunity for constructive feedback from a myriad of internationally celebrated photographers.  Past jurors include John Sexton, Jim Alinder, Connie Imboden, and Elizabeth Opalenik, to name a few.  This year’s juror, Natasha Egan, is the director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago, IL.  Ms. Egan has organized and juried numerous national exhibitions and has also taught in the humanities and photography departments at Columbia College.  Additionally, she has contributed essays to publications such as The History of Another, Photography Plugged and Unplugged, and Placing Memory: A Photographic Exploration of Japanese American Internment. 

 Not only does PhotoSpiva give artists the opportunity to fine-tune their craft and present their work in a gallery setting, but it also offers area residents the chance to view the creative efforts of some of the most talented amateur and professional photographers in the country. 

On March 15, 2013, Ms. Egan will also conduct portfolio reviews (space is still available; the cost is $15 for students and Spiva members, $25 for non-members).  Later that evening there will be a juror’s lecture and awards ceremony, where $2,000 total in prize money will be given to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and also to Honorable Mention and Merit Award recipients.  Several other events surround the exhibit including PhotoSpiva Kids and “1000 Words”, poetry and music inspired by PhotoSpiva. 

For more information about the exhibit, or to learn about participating in next year’s competition, please e-mail the gallery at, where you will be included in future e-mails about upcoming events.


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