"Laurel Ptak On Turning A Blog Into A Photo Gallery"

by Caroline Kinneberg



NEW YORK- At the helm of one-woman photoblog, Laurel Ptak, 32, has turned a personal endeavor into a tiny force in the photo world. By posting three photographers’ works per day since the blog’s conception a year ago, Ptak has unintentionally drawn notice from amateurs who submit their pictures, photo editors who trawl her space to find new contributors to their publications, and now Higher Pictures, a small Upper East Side gallery opened by former Magnum Photo exec Kim Bourus and Daniel Silverstein this spring.

Ptak sat down with ARTINFO to talk about curating an exhibition of photos for the gallery-“,” open through Dec. 8-culled from contributors to her blog.

You’ve said that your blog,, isn’t “compromised because it [i]sn’t commercial.” Do you think this show is compromised because it is commercial? How much freedom did you have in curating it?

I was hesitant when Higher Pictures contacted me. I was really self-conscious about what the transition from blogging to curating would mean. But the gallery didn’t ask me to think about parameters or what things might sell. They let me decide what I wanted my voice to be for the show.

You wrote in the exhibit’s press release, “Should artblogs be seen as a reaction to, a statement against, or something altogether separate from the artworld that exists in physical space?” Can you answer your own question?

If I wanted to start a gallery, I would not have the resources to do it, but the tools that I use to make are completely free, totally modest. Blogs open the door to a lot of people to participate in the conversation about art and to be able to find an audience. They’re a non-elitist, democratic way to look at things.

I was living in New York and working in the art world when everything started moving to Chelsea. Looking back at that time all these years later, it can feel like something corporate, but there was a moment when it was exciting that all of these people and galleries were going to be in the same place and were going to foster a kind of community. I have this fantasy of the New York art scene in the ’60s and ’70s, when you read about all these artists working together and living in the same neighborhood, creating a community and a dialogue around things. I feel like you can get something close to that online.

With a white background and minimal text, your blog resembles a gallery. How do you go about curating it?

I have to be careful, because I could spend forever doing it. So I allow myself up to one hour a day to do research. I have a theory that if you put in a Google search term, like the name of an artist you really love, and you have an open mind and follow where links take you, you’ll find something amazing. There’s no real method to my madness. I just look around and click on things. A lot of people have pointed out to me that my site has a certain aesthetic to it. It’s hard for me to see because it’s just my taste.

There are tons of blogs on the Internet. How did you get yours to stand out? Did you publicize it?

When I started it, I sent the link to maybe three blogs that I liked. Some friends passed it along to a couple other places. The two blogs that posted back to me early on were sort of well established: Conscientiousand Alex Soth. A lot of the initial traffic came from people who clicked on the links. From there I don’t know how people came across it. It’s still kind of mysterious to me.

Eight photographers are featured in your show at Higher Pictures, four of whom live in Europe. How did you decide whose work to exhibit?

The photographers in the show are all people whose work in one way or another represents the ideals of my blog. I think of photographs as ideas, and on the blog and in the exhibition, I try to show work that pushes the boundaries of how we understand photography. I’m kind of a hopeless idealist when it comes to these things. To me, photography is this really open medium. You can bend it and make it talk about anything and use whatever language you want. I don’t think that’s the way a lot of people think of photography. I wanted to expand people’s ideas of what this medium could be.


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