The Atlanta Center for Photography takes flight

The rebranded Atlanta Celebrates Photography has its first brick-and-mortar gallery space and will feature a more year-round approach

The Atlanta Center for Photography takes flight
Compositional Thoughts: Tracing Beinecke by Davion Alston, exhibiting through April 27 at the ACP Project Lab

Courtesy of Davion Alston and the Atlanta Center for Photography

What do outré Pink Flamingos director John Waters and poetic R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe have in common?

Both have a side hustle as photographers. And both have visited Atlanta to talk about their artistic vision and share this under-the-radar side of their creative output. For 26 years, creatives like Waters and Stipe (along with such photo luminaries as Annie Leibovitz, Gregory Crewdson, and Larry Sultan) have come to Atlanta at the behest of one of the city’s formative arts organizations: Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

Founded in 1998, the organization’s goal is to promote Atlanta’s importance as a photo-centric town. “It has become an integral part of a pretty strong photography community,” says Joe Massey, an arts patron and early supporter of Atlanta Celebrates Photography through his family’s H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography is best known for its annual monthlong photography festival in October. “The festival allowed people from all walks of life, no matter what they do, who have a love for photography to discover Jackson Fine Art, the High Museum of Art, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, all these places that they may not normally go,” says Amy Miller, who helmed the organization for 14 years. “That was one of the most important aspects of the festival.”

But, like so many arts organizations dealing with a changing funding landscape (as in, less money to go around from grant sources), Atlanta Celebrates Photography has recently reinvented itself, moving away from its focus on the signature festival. (The festival will remain, but with a shorter run.)

Rebranding as the Atlanta Center for Photography, the reimagined organization will feature a more year-round approach. That mission is anchored in its first brick-and-mortar gallery space, on buzzy Edgewood Avenue across the street from Staplehouse. Large windows on a busy street make the tiny, 300-square-foot ACP Project Lab the perfect venue for a driving city, a beacon for rotating exhibitions of photo-based work, including that of recent Yale MFA grad Davion Alston, whose solo show exhibits through April 27.

And there’s more to come, says the organization’s new executive director, Lindsey O’Connor. She has held positions at the High Museum of Art and New York City’s Whitney and Guggenheim Museums. O’Connor says audiences should look for further expansion by the ACP in 2024; the organization supports an emerging artist fellowship and recently earned W.A.G.E. certification to ensure fair wages for their artists. She hopes to soon offer artists’ studios, community education classrooms, and perhaps even a photo printing lab for community members.

The shift in focus comes after some organizational flux following Miller’s 2021 departure. She is now the director of institutional advancement for another beleaguered Atlanta arts institution, Art Papers, which has announced plans to sunset in 2026. “Post-pandemic realities for arts organizations, particularly in the Southeast, are dire,” says Miller.

Massey agrees. “Growing any arts organization, any nonprofit arts organization outside of the Woodruff Arts Center, it’s hard,” he says.

O’Connor understands the financial challenges that small and midsized arts organizations face. “But it’s not like there’s not money here,” she says. “I try not to dwell on the scarcity and to really focus on the potential for abundance.”

This article appears in our March 2024 issue.