On Saturday, Sept. 24, photographers of all skill levels will convene at Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex for the first annual 4×5 Photo Fest.

The free, one-day festival, named for the four events and five educational talks with acclaimed photographers from across the country, aims to teach and create invaluable connections for the photography community in San Antonio.

Local artist Shannon Gowen, editorial and commercial photographer Josh Huskin, and Rivard Report Photo Editor Scott Ball came together over a cup of coffee to form 4×5 Photo Fest outside of their day jobs.

Accessibility is a big concern for the three organizers. While other photography festivals and lectures around the country charge an admission fee, Gowen said, they felt it was important to keep 4×5 Photo Fest free.

The goal is to encourage future community involvement among local photographers.

“We thought San Antonio was lacking a platform for the photography community that would bring them together in an accessible way,” said Gowen, who works in communications for The Southwest School of Art and is working on the photo festival separately in her spare time. “We wanted to create this event to have a chance for (the local photography community) to feel like they have a place to network with other artists and not feel intimidated. … Our hope is that this idea plants a seed for future ideas.

Self portrait by Kathy Vargas.
Self portrait by Kathy Vargas.

“People in San Antonio are getting so comfortable going to the same openings with the same people and the same work and we felt like a lot of people weren’t getting noticed,” she added. “We wanted a space where they could be shown.”

Ball said when he started as a photographer in San Antonio, he didn’t really see other photographers. 4×5 Photo Fest was partially by inspired his struggle to find the resources photographers need when they first start.

“I saw a couple things going on in Austin, Los Angeles, or New York, but San Antonio was off the radar for photography,” Ball said. “San Antonio has such a great arts background, but photography often doesn’t play a big role in San Antonio art, so I thought this was a good way to share the work of photography with the community here.”

The local scene is growing. Photography groups can be found onlinearound town, and Fotoseptiembre USA will enter its 22nd year in San Antonio this September, showcasing local and international work via an online exhibit and various venues across town for a $100 registration fee.

But, Ball said, there are still few outlets for photographers to gather and discuss their work in a low-cost setting. The 4×5 Photo Fest aims to become that outlet.

“We don’t deny the existence of other photography-related events in the San Antonio area,” Ball said. “We do, however, feel there is a need in our community that 4×5 Photo Fest fits, and we plan to do that to the best of our ability by hosting amazingly talented individuals to share their experiences with the city of San Antonio on Sept. 24.

4×5 Photo Fest will kick off with free breakfast tacos, coffee, and a community print swap, where photographers can register at no cost to receive five printed copies of their work to trade with others. The swap is meant to help build their personal collections and establish connections with colleagues.

In addition, affordable artwork and photography goods such as original digital and film prints, photo books, camera equipment, and zines will be for sale.

Dan Winters. Photo courtesy of 4x5 Photo Fest.
Dan Winters. Photo y Zach DeZon.

“(We wanted to) make it as interactive as possible, so we are starting the day off by making people talk to each other early in the day – so people aren’t just talking to the same people,” Huskin said.

Dan Winters will headline the festival as one of the most awarded and sought-after editorial photographers in the world. Winters is known for his celebrity portraits, photojournalism, illustrations, and his signature lighting style of red and green tones. After an artist talk about his industry-changing work, he’ll sell and sign copies of his most recent project The Grey Ghost: New York City Photographs, a book of mostly street photography.

Michael Friberg and Benjamin Rasmussen will display their work in the festival’s main exhibition, DISPATCHED: Syria Is But A Dream, hosted by Haus Collective. Both men will give informative talks about their work photographing Syrian refugees living in Jordan.

Lisa Krantz, a staff photographer for the San Antonio Express-News and Pulitzer finalist, will teach a long-form documentary workshop focusing on the process of finding willing subjects, developing relationships of trust, and capturing moments to create a compelling narrative. Krantz will discuss how long-form storytelling requires focus, commitment, patience, and an understanding of how visuals tell stories in more complete, intimate, and illuminating ways.

Attendees will also get to hear from award-winning photo editors at magazines across Texas including Texas Monthly, San Antonio Magazine, Austin Monthly, Variety, and Academy Sports & Outdoors during the “Building Relationships in the Editorial World” panel.

A panel titled, “Emerging Photographers: Defining A Unique Style,” moderated by photographer Mark Menjivar, will give amateur photographers a chance to hear from Brittany Greeson, Nick Simonite, Carolyn Van Houten, and Kathy Vargas about how they launched their professional careers.

Beyond the more conference-like seminars and panels, the day includes a photo walk through Southtown and downtown, a fair with vendors selling art and photography goods, and an after party at Frank Restaurant, which will include a photo booth, prizes, drinks, and music from a local DJ.

“Our goal is to have a day dedicated to photos,” Huskin said. “(We want to) bring a lot of people together who love (photography) and celebrate it and hopefully learn some new stuff.”

Suhail Arastu, the emcee of the event who serves as the Mayor’s appointee to the Public Art Commission, said having an event like 4×5 Photo Fest makes sense because San Antonio is already centered around the arts.

“I think this, as a platform, is a great opportunity not only to showcase local artists but to bring in state and national talent,” Arastu said. “This is a city of the arts and photography is an art, so this is a great opportunity to have that exchange formatted as a symposium.”


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article neglected to mention the international photography festival Fotoseptiembre USA. Details about the annual event have been added.

Disclosure: While our Photo Editor Scott Ball is an organizer of the event, the nonprofit news source is not an official sponsor of the 4×5 Photo Fest. Gowen and Ball are in a relationship, but The Southwest School of Art, where Gowen works, is not affiliated with the festival. For a full list of festival partners, click here.

Top image: Erin O’Loughlin embraces her son Brendan O’Loughlin after his brother Marcus O’Loughlin, who has autism, attacked him while they were playing on the trampoline outside the family’s home in Cary, N.C. on October 6, 2014. Photo by Carolyn Van Houten.


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Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.