Director of the Vermont Center for Photography Joshua Farr loves to look local. He also loves the color orange.
The joke in Vermont is that it takes two jobs to survive. Joshua Farr, director of the Vermont Center for Photography, has at least seven. Beside his work at VCP, Joshua is a web designer for Good Bear Productions, handles event photography for the Brattleboro Art Museum, repurposes old furniture, organizes Pop-Up Brattleboro, teaches photography at In-Sight Photography Project, and is also is a professional photographer whose documentary-style work is a sweet mixture of the awkwardly bucolic and the deeply held. But it’s at VCP where Josh’s largest regional impact is felt.
Farr is a New England native, born in Maine but now a full-time resident of Brattleboro. After getting his BFA at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2011, Farr responded to a Craigslist ad for a Gallery Manager position at a non-profit in Brattleboro. “I thought it was pretty far-fetched,” he says. “I was a photographer, but never held an administrative position, especially for a non-profit. I applied, drove out in my rag-tag farm clothes during Hurricane Irene, and a week later I was offered the job. Turns out the deciding factor was that I’d been an Eagle Scout as a kid. I’d hesitated to put it on my resume, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
As Director and architect of the entire 2017 calendar at VCP, Farr makes a point of focusing on New England photographers. “Brattleboro is an extreme example of an arts-rich community that really puts a focus on supporting local artists,” says Farr. “That said, I feel like artists in Brattleboro are starving for a venue. I like being able to support our local photographers while simultaneously exposing them to people they’d otherwise be unfamiliar to.”
Founded in 1998, VCP is a member-driven organization that has semiannual member shows as well as practical workshops, a public darkroom, printing services, and artist discussions. Farr thinks the member shows are the strongest representation of what VCP has to offer. “There’s certainly no lack of local talent,” he says. “Our immediate radius is an hour to an hour and a half outside of Brattleboro. Our members also submit to an Open Call for exhibitions. We usually get 50 or so proposals for solo shows that we whittle down to five or six annually. At least half of these are New England photographers, and some of them end up being members, but membership isn’t factored into the solo show selections.”
Farr’s own photographs are intensive studies, thematically culled from the commonplace items of Farr’s own life. Works like Curbed Collections, a series that documents household objects left by the side of the road, collects images of items we ourselves once collected, forming a disjointed narrative that speaks to how we value the things we own. The series Things That are Orange features quirky images of things that are orange in our everyday life, and Downstairs, perhaps the most intimate of all Farr’s work, documents the collected objects and vignettes of his father’s basement, servings as a disembodied “time capsule” of his life.
“It interests me when you start to notice what you notice. When you decide to start looking for orange things, for example, you’ll see them everywhere.” Farr shrugs then adds, “Maybe my goal as a photographer is to convey the personal meaning behind my photographs to people who don’t know anything about me, but still somehow be true to myself as an artist.”
Top photo from the Things That are Orange series, 2016 | Photo by Joshua Farr