Cleveland Photo Fest founders (left to right): Jim Szudy, Laura D’Alessandro, and Herb Ascherman

Terminal Tower by Margaret Bourke-White, taken in 1928, may be the most famous photograph of Cleveland. The second-most famous is Paul Tepley’s photograph of fans rushing onto the field during Cleveland’s Ten Cent Beer Night promotion on June 4, 1974, which drew 25,134 fans to Cleveland Stadium for the night game. Tepley, of the Cleveland Press, was the only photographer on the field in the ninth inning. A losing team with an ugly stadium, the Indians mounted a late rally to tie the game when all hell broke loose and fans rushed the infield. Texas Rangers and Indians players used baseball bats to beat back the fans. Professional baseball has never been the same since.

What distinguishes a masterpiece from a photograph taken on a night at the ballpark? A matter of taste and a whole lot of other things like exhibitions, museums and commercial galleries, published reviews and magazine articles, agents and representation, prevailing art market prices, social media endorsements, and more importantly, chance. Being in the right place at the right time. Margaret Bourke-White made her infamous photograph on a day in Cleveland when the pollution was so thick it blocked out the sun, and Paul Tepley, caught in the middle of a spontaneous riot, captured a moment in professional sports that changed history.

We are in the midst of a revolution in photography. How will smart phone cameras change fine art photography, and what impact has the ease of taking pictures had on the photographic industry? With social media platforms directing the flow and, worriedly, the content of our public images, what is the state of fine art photography today? Cleveland Photo Fest is ready to answer these questions and more.

Established in 2019 as an annual event for the benefit of the Greater Clevelanders who support photography as a fine art, their mission is to strengthen the appreciation of photography as a major force in today’s visually driven culture. Exhibitions, publications, educational and fellowship programming are at the core of their active engagement with the Cleveland community. In addition to the eight galleries under their direct auspices featuring fourteen different exhibitions, Cleveland Photo Fest will partner with approximately thirty local galleries and art-based communities to sponsor or incorporate CPF events. The Photo Fest will include more than ninety photographers from Cleveland, with several photographers from across the United States, and as far as London and India. Exhibitions, publications, educational and fellowship programming are at the core of their active engagement with the Cleveland community.

The Good Goat Gallery, IMAGES Photographic Art Gallery, Mac’s Backs Books on Coventry, Orange Art Center, Prama Artspace and Gallery, Ingenuity Cleveland, McDonough Museum of Art, Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick, and the Dodd Company are just a few scheduled venues.

Cutting Edge Cleveland, an inaugural exhibition of ten photographers will open at Good Goat Gallery in Lakewood September 6 through October 3. Other corollary exhibitions run throughout September and October, into early November.

“The most interesting aspect of what we’ve done is that every day brings a new contact and expansion of the project,” said Herb Ascherman, co-founder of Cleveland Photo Fest and, founder and director of The Cleveland Photographic Workshop since 1977. “Anyone can be listed in our brochures for free. Each of our shows has an opening, public lecture, and an educational event to promote the art of photography.”

Cleveland Photo Fest exhibitions and lectures are free and open to the public. In addition to exhibitions, lectures, and workshops designed to enhance the art of photography experience, Cleveland Photo Fest will hold the First Annual Greater Cleveland Photography Sell and Show. The sale and show will be held at Lakewood’s Good Goat Gallery on October 5 from 10:00am to 4:00pm, with a reception immediately following. This one-day, open-to-the-public, over-the-counter sale of photography, with no commission on the sale of works for this event, is a limited-space, $50-per-table special event. At the end of the afternoon, each participating photographer will be invited to post four images on the gallery wall, which then become a featured exhibition for the remainder of the month of October.

“Unity Through Photography” could be the unofficial slogan for the Cleveland Photo Fest. Co-directors and photographers Laura D’Alessandro and Jim Szudy are planning for an incredible response from the Cleveland community.

“I want people to be inspired by photography. I want to introduce photographers to galleries and collectors, and I want to connect artists with other artists, and photographers to get inspired by other photographers,” said D’Alessandro. “If you don’t live with passion what else is there, right?”

Szudy searched for the right words. “I’m doing it because of my love of the city, love of art, and specifically love of photography. The energy that we have as a team is something that I’ve never experienced before. It’s truly been a magical journey and we’re bringing the community together. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

“I am a photographer. I have always been a photographer,” said Ascherman. “I’m also a fourth-generation Clevelander. I was raised by a family that was public service orientated, with the understanding of using your best talents to promote those around you. This event is one of the greatest accomplishments of my career. That’s not bullshit. It’s really the essence of what the Cleveland Photo Fest is all about.”

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