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Photojournalists Using Instagram

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Benjamin Lowy's iPhone image of the destruction of Superstorm Sandy. © Benjamin Lowy/reportage by Getty Images

Benjamin Lowy’s iPhone image of the destruction of Superstorm Sandy. © Benjamin Lowy/reportage by Getty Images

There’s a trend forming. Photojournalists are now using Instagram and their smart phones to report everything from deadly storms to war to professional sports.

This brings up many questions. Photojournalism has long been about integrity, honesty and clarity. Will the one-click editing filters and ability to manipulate the images make them less believable? Is our world so hungry for quick information that we are willing to sacrifice quality? Is the job of a photojournalist becoming extinct?

There’s an intriguing article in American Photo Magazine about this situation. It’s worth the read. Benjamin Lowy, one of the photojournalists I curated into my exhibit “Wide Angle View” at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in 2011, uses an iPhone. He is giving a talk at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles on April 18, 2012. I am going and am very interested in what he has to say about the drastic changes in visual reporting.

Our world is speeding faster than ever. We need to keep up, but at what cost? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Gina Genis Radio Interview With Creative Orange County


Economy Portraits book

If you have an interest and about 1/2 hour to spare, have a listen to a radio interview I did with Creative Orange County on February 28, 2012. Susan Petrella, the engaging host asked questions about my current work, how I became interested in photography, and what makes me tick as an artist. Click here to listen.

By the way, the Economy Portraits book can be purchased on

Invasion Of Privacy – How Far Do We Go? “Voyeur – Repositioning The Gaze”, Art Exhibit at Truman State University

The Truman State University Art Gallery

I’m having an adventure in the Midwest. More specifically, in Kirksville, Missouri at Truman State University. Why would a Southern California girl be in Missouri? For an exhibit called Voyeur-Repositioning the Gaze which includes nine artists, one of them being me. This exhibit was curated by Brandelyn Dillaway. She addresses the issue of privacy (or rather, lack of it) in our society, and how the gaze throughout art history has shifted. Her goal is to question the extent we are willing to subject ourselves to the voyeurism of others.

The artists are Deedra Baker, Wafaa Bilal, Daniel Coburn, Robert Ladislas Derr, Gina Genis, Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman (who collaborated on a project), Freja Mitchell, and Thinh Nguyen. Derr and Bilal are showing video work, and the rest are photographers.

I have to say, Brandelyn Dillaway did a remarkable job bringing artists from different parts of America together for a powerful statement about contemporary society. What is privacy? Does it even exist anymore? Do our laws need to be rewritten? All of the artists present work that makes us think about how often we are photographed without our permission in daily life. Some examine how we want others to perceive us.  Side note #1: as I write this on January 18, 2012, the internet is experiencing a self-imposed black out to protest proposed laws that, if passed would impose censorship on Americans. It is all so intertwined.

Guests at the opening reception of Voyeur - Repositioning the Gaze

I am particularly intrigued with the work of Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman. Geolocation: Tributes to the Data Stream, is a series that uses geotagging to find the physical origin of random tweets. The artists visit and photograph the location. When the images are printed, the twitter post serves as a caption. This scares me. When you read some of the tweets and see exactly where they were posted from, you realize that anyone, anywhere can inspect your life whether you want them to or not. Cyper spying and cyperstalking become frighteningly real. One image depicts the exterior of a home, the corresponding tweet says Amy is dying @ HighlandHospital. Reading the caption drug me inside the house and into the unpleasant personal affairs of a stranger. It was as uncomfortable as if I was in a restaurant and the couple at the next table were having a very loud and angry fight. My own life has plenty to deal with. I am too empathetic to ignore this tweet, so being exposed to it forces me care. Side note #2: I have been told this is the experience others have when viewing my Window Peeping work, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. In another image, an employee wonders if s/he can cut out of work early because the boss is not there. If you were an employer, would you hire this person? It is common knowledge that employers check Facebook and Twitter before deciding if a person would be a good hire.

© Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman

Artist Statement by Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman

Wafaa Bilil has surgically implanted a camera into the back of his head which “spontaneously and objectively captures the images -one per minute- that make up my daily life and transmits them to a website for public consumption.”  This work poses the desire for his life to be viewed, discovered, and even validated. But if you happen to be behind him, you may be placed on public display without even knowing it. Are we as a society ok with this? If you feel like being a voyeur yourself right now, click on to see his image stream.

Wafaa Bilil Artist Statement

My own work examines the private lives of senior citizens in a retirement community. The series, Window Peeping, documents the loneliness and isolation I witnessed when passing by their windows at night. I wanted to give them a voice. Dave Barton, Senior Art Critic at OC Weekly, writes: “The Pack Rat and Lives Lived In Cubes, Gina Genis’ voyeuristic photos of isolated senior citizens seen through their kitchen and balcony windows, are at once chillingly immediate and distancing, forcing us to acknowledge the subjects’ solitude.”Window Peeping has been exhibited at Cypress College, Laguna Art Museum, Gallery 825, and now at Truman State University. It is scheduled for Biola University in March. Here is my artist statement:

The series “Window Peeping” was born when I had to move into my mother’s house in a retirement community to provide care as her dementia progresses. To get some peace of mind, I began taking walks at night. Open windows display lives in cubicles of warped time. I have become a fascinated voyeur of how these senior citizens spend their evenings. In many cases, you can actually see where time has stopped. Their homes are decorated in the style of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Their TVs are tuned in to game shows of decades past. Some still have rotary dial phones. The most glaring factor is that they are so alone. In a large community of duplexes, three story apartments, and shared-wall condos, rarely did I see more than one person living in a home. Neighbors separated by just inches of drywall do not know each other.

Questions arise. When does a person stop living in the present? When do you start living on only your past memories? Are your memories interesting enough to carry you through your old age? What can we do now to make someone else’s life more pleasant? How will we be remembered, if we are remembered at all? And most important, how is America dealing with the challenges of an aging population?

The Pack Rat, from the series Window Peeping by Gina Genis © 2008

My two day experience at Truman State University has been quite pleasant. I am impressed with the gallery space and faculty. The hospitality from Aaron Fine, gallery director, is so much more than I imagined. The reception and artist discussion panel were catered. A rarity, thanks to our dismal economy. Brandelyn and I were also treated to lunches and dinners while we were there. I recommend sushi at Bonzai on the town square.

On Tuesday, January 17, I spoke with two of the photography classes. The students were sensitive and interested in knowing about the big bad world of professional photography. On Wednesday, Jan 18, an artist discussion panel consisting of Dan Coburn, Deedra Baker, and myself answered detailed questions about our work. The questions ranged from technique to developing concepts for a series.

Truman State University Art Gallery is located in Ophelia Parrish Hall. It use to be an gymnasium, so it has high ceilings and beautiful arched windows that let in natural light. I had photos and video of the gallery space, the artist lecture, and the curator’s lecture to share with you. Unfortunately, my computer had a heart attach and died in the St. Louis airport and everything was lost with the exception of the few images here that I had already uploaded.

Voyeur – Repositioning the Gaze opened on January 17, 2012 and continues through February 17, 2012. This show is worth the drive to Kirksville. If you can possibly make it, I think you will be pleased with what you see. If you are conservative, you may take issue with some of the work. That’s ok. Opening a dialog about our concerns regarding privacy is what this is all about. Many visitors told me they responded strongly to the work in the show. So go, look, be fascinated, appalled, amazed, and get angry. Then tell me your reactions. I will post them here.

Truman State University Art Gallery:

100 E. Normal | Ophelia Parrish 1109 | Kirksville, Missouri 63501
Phone: 660.785.4417
Fax: 660.785.7463

Exhibition Schedule for Gina Genis, January – December, 2012

Ceramic Ducks from the Window Peeping series by Gina Genis.

Pass the Red Bull please. Eight exhibits between January and December are leaving no time for sleep.  Work being exhibited includes images from Window Peeping, a series I shot over a two-year period. It depicts the elderly through open windows of their homes at night. Window Peeping makes a statement about the loneliness of growing old and living in the past. The second is selected images and installation pieces from Things We Leave Behind, which has never been seen before. Things We Leave Behind was photographed inside a deceased man’s apartment who was something of a hoarder. It raises the question if you knew you would never return to your house, what would you leave out for people to see, and what would you hide?  Photographs of the apartment will be exhibited along with furniture, writings, books, and other personal possessions of the man. The public may participate in Things We Leave Behind by being filmed answering the above question while sitting on the deceased man’s couch. Economy Portraits, a statement about how average people are coping with the collapse of the economy will be shown towards the end of the year.

Bedroom from the series Things We Leave Behind by Gina Genis

The completed Economy Portraits flag.

Exhibition Schedule:

Repositioning The Gaze, Truman State University, January 17 – February 17, 2011. Curator’s talk January 17 at 4:30 p.m. Opening reception at 6 p.m. I will be there to take part in an artist Discussion Panel January 18 at noon. Curated by Brandelyn Dillaway. Two 60″ x 40″ works from Window Peeping (The Pack Rat and Lives Lived In Cubes) will be exhibited.

PHOTO + PLUS,  Coastline Community College, February 9 – March 9, 2012. Opening reception February 10,  5 – 8 p.m. Curated by David Michael Lee. A large installation and photographic imagery from the series Things We Leave Behind will be shown. Each visitor at the reception who would like to be included in the exhibit will be asked to sit on the couch of the deceased man and asked if you knew you would never return to your house, what would you leave out for people to see, and what would you hide?

Momentum, National Women’s Caucus for Art 40th anniversary exhibition, at Gallery 825, February 17 – March 2, 2012. Opening reception, February 24,  6 – 9 p.m. Juried by Rita Gonzalez, Assistant Curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Ceramic Ducks, (40″ x 26 “) from the Window Peeping series will be included in the catalog.

Solo Exhibit of two series: Secret Lives – Images from Window Peeping and Things We Leave Behind, Biola University, March 19 – April 6, 2011. Curated by Barry Krammes. Opening reception March 20,  7 – 9 p.m. Each visitor at the reception who would like to be included in the exhibit will be asked to sit on the couch of the deceased man and asked if you knew you would never return to your house, what would you leave out for people to see, and what would you hide?

Mnemonic Ritual, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Curated by Grace Kook Anderson, Laguna Art Museum. Opening reception and artist discussion June 16, 2012. Exhibit runs through August 18, 2012. Work from Things We Leave Behind will be shown.

Spirit of America, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Economy Portraits, in a smaller form to fit the space will be shown. August 2 – August 18, 2012. Opening reception August 4, 2012 from 6-10 p.m.

When I’m 64, Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, Curated by Rebecca Trawick. September 10 – November 21, 2012.  Five large scale images from the Window Peeping series will be shown.

Capital Crime$, BC Space, October 6 – December 21, 2012. Opening reception is October 6, from 3 – 6 pm. A small version (10′ x 12′) of the Economy Portraits flag is on exhibit.

If you are in the neighborhood, please come join me for the opening receptions and have some fun.

Encouraging Art Students in a Bad Economy

I am frequently asked to give lectures to the graduating art students at Colleges and Universities. Choosing fine art as a career is always difficult. In America, the arts are not supported by the government as much as they are in European countries. Artists have a tough time making a living in our current economy. What do I say to these hopeful students?

Ceramic Ducks from the Window Peeping series by Gina Genis, shown at Laguna Art Museum, Gallery 825, Cypress College, Truman State University

The reason I am requested over and over is because I am honest and provide solutions.

First, I am asked to show my work. I spend about 1/4  of the time going over my most successful series, informing students about how they were executed, where they have been shown, and the reviews they have received. This is in no way to brag or show off. It is a learning lesson about the steps taken to get the work done, exhibited, and reviewed.

Next, I give them the information about the art world that you don’t learn in school. This is practical information about how the gallery and museum system works, the art publications, and how important it is to attend openings. You have to be part of the art community to have your work shown. Many students believe you can be a hermit and hide in your studio cranking out work and magically get “discovered”. Not true. The most successful artists are the ones who are social. They attend museum openings, charity auctions, and participate in art world events. I provide a handout listing the most notable art galleries, museums, and critics the students should be familiar with. It also includes 10 steps necessary to launch a promising art career.

During the lecture, I always have an open forum, so students can break in with questions at any point. Inevitably, someone asks “how do you make money?” I explain that there are several ways to make money other than selling your work. My income results mainly from teaching workshops & private lessons, affiliations with camera companies, jurying exhibits, and giving lectures. I encourage them to get creative and think of ways outside the traditional gallery system to show and sell their work. For instance, organizing an art show in a business park that has empty buildings. Many landlords would rather have something going on temporarily than an empty space. Joining an artist group is a smart thing to do. A conglomerate of artists have various talents, and together they can construct amazing shows. They share contacts and provide a community of friends who understand the particular challenges artists face. They deliver support that the 9-5 world does not understand.

The last part of the lecture is spent on critiquing student work. This is always pleasurable. I love seeing fresh work and giving suggestions to improve it and which galleries would be most responsive.

The students walk out of school armed with information to begin their careers. I hope to see their work on museum walls in the future.

Gina Genis speech to the Huntington Beach City Council on behalf of the Huntington Beach Art Center to prevent it from being shut down

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California is in the deep sink hole of a budget crisis. Cities are feeling the sting, being forced to make cuts and eliminate services. The Huntington Beach Art Center, where I recently finished an Artist In Residence project, is in jeopardy. The following is a short speech I gave in hopes of keeping the center open. It is posted here by request of several artists and organizations.

April 18, 2011

Good evening. My name is Gina Genis and I am here on behalf of the Huntington Beach Art Center.

Thank you for the opportunity to be an Artist In Residence at the Huntington Beach Art Center. It was a great experience that allowed me to work on a grand scale and involve the public.

My project, Economy Portraits, ended up being much more than an art project. What I didn’t foresee was the cathartic effect it had upon the community. Briefly described, Economy Portraits consisted of my taking a portrait of the visitors entering the HBAC. I asked them one question “how has the collapse of the economy affected your life?” The answer was layered onto the portrait and printed, then hung in rows throughout the gallery.  When enough portraits were printed, they built an American flag on the wall that ended up being 11’ high by 18 1/2’ long.

The finished flag, © 2011 Gina Genis

I thought I would have trouble getting people to open up about a personal matter, but quite the opposite occurred. When I asked the question, their eyebrows raised, they took a deep breath, and released it. They were releasing not only their breath, but a burden. The answers were compelling.

Economy Portraits is an example of the beneficial effects an Art Center can have. The project engaged the community to create a work of art as a collaboration, and was also a non-judgmental platform for their thoughts and experiences.

The HBAC brings commerce to HB. During my residency, I had lunch or dinner at Thai Wave, Java City, El Ranchito, Jan’s Health Bar, and the Beachfront. I shopped for groceries at Trader Joe’s. I bought clothes at the Gap, and Old Navy. I bought art supplies from Staples. My car was filled with gas a several of the stations in HB. Commerce was brought into HB from San Diego, Pasadena, Idyllwild, Los Angeles, and many other cities as my friends and students visited the HBAC to take part in the project. All of them had lunch or dinner and went shopping while in HB.

Community Art Centers also have a large part in shaping the future of a community. Children find an outlet for their energy and emotions through art. This leads to teens who are focused and goal-oriented. It gives them a sense of purpose and a place to go after school instead of hanging out with nothing to do. Art Centers are the sports arenas for kids who are creative instead of athletic. Let’s keep the graffiti on canvas instead of the walls.

Art is more than a painting on the wall. In it’s highest power, art leaves a legacy of the society we live in for future generations. Mount Rushmore, the The Great Gatsby, and the Star-Spangled Banner are examples. Artists are responsible for things we use in our daily lives. The car you drive, the shoes you wear, your iPhone, the greeting cards you buy, and the pen you use to write in them were designed by someone. That’s art. The music you listen to, the TV shows and movies you watch were written by someone. That’s art.  Artists start somewhere. Community Art Centers are often the spring that waters creativity.

In conclusion, when questioning art’s importance in our world, ask yourself this: why is it that the first thing an invading country does is steal or destroy the art of the country they are invading?

Thank you for your time.

Gina Genis
Fine Art Photographer/Artist

“If there is no art, there is no beauty”, Betty Goldwater, 88-year-old dementia patient, as she picked up a Kleenex box with a beautiful floral design on it.

Speech is copyrighted © 2011 Gina Genis. Use freely with permission.

To see the Economy Portraits project as it progressed, click on this link.

Get Your Portrait Taken Free by Gina Genis


Self Portrait © 2009 Gina Genis

A free portrait! Yes, it’s true. You can have your very own studio portrait taken and receive a copy of the digital file via email. Here’s the deal. I am an Artist-In-Residence at the Huntington Beach Art Center from March 2 – April 9, 2011. My project involves taking a portrait of anyone who wants one, and asking them a question – How has the collapse of the economy affected your life? The portrait and your answer will be printed and displayed in the gallery. As the month continues, more and more portraits will be placed on view. When there are enough, an American flag will be constructed from the images on the gallery wall. The intention is to find out the results the drastic economic conditions have had on our everyday living situations. A model release will be requested to display your likeness.

I will be at the Huntington Beach Art Center beginning March 2 – April 9th at these times: Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m., and Friday and Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. You can stop in during those hours to have your portrait taken.

Hope to see you at the HBAC.

Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main Street Huntington Beach, CA 92648 (714) 374-1650

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