Laurel Ptak, once an up-and-coming photographer, found herself restless at age 32 working at a design firm, and so, last December, she started a blog. Iheartphotograph.com was meant to be a showcase of young and unknown photographers that “wasn’t compromised because it wasn’t commercial.” But it hasn’t taken long for the gallery world to come calling. The blog now receives a respectable 17,000 page views a month, and this Wednesday, a show curated by Ptak will open at Higher Pictures, a Madison Avenue gallery founded by Daniel Silverstein and Kim Bourus, the former head of cultural projects at Magnum Photos.
Ptak is one of a growing breed of online curators who have translated blogging success into the realm of real-world galleries. Shows curated by bloggers are, if not quite common, no longer unheard of. Last year Pace/MacGill partnered with SVA to curate a show of self-portraits culled from Flickr. In June, Jen Bekman Gallery invited photo blogger Jörg Colberg of Conscientious to co-curate a portrait show. But both exhibitions went up during the sleepier, less commercial summer months. (The Flickr images weren’t even for sale.) Higher Pictures’ Iheartphotograph show might be the first real test of whether a blog curator can make it in the hypercompetitive world of contemporary photography.
The show, with pieces averaging about $1,000, features eight artists, and Ptak’s taste skews to the playful and unconventional. Katja Mater contributes a series of photographs of her portfolio falling like leaves through space; Ptak includes her own photographic collage of results from a Google Image search for the word representation. The bright white cataract of light in Zach Gage’s Sweat Scan #5 recalls Turner’s Evening of the Deluge but is actually a scanned image of greasy thumbprints. “Laurel has a unique vision,” says Daniel Silverstein, “and I find vision in short supply.” Silverstein is also, no doubt, grateful for Ptak’s scouting skills, as she has effectively delivered to Higher Pictures a batch of promising, unrepresented artists. In return, Silverstein has offered to help line up a corporate underwriter for Iheartphotograph and brand Ptak as a photography expert. Her latest gig: speaking to A&E execs at a private workshop called Trend Lab.