Fall 2006 In This Issue
by David Crossley
When we first published this magazine, back in winter of 1982, it was called Image, not SPOT. Early on Eastman Kodak, which had an older magazine called Image, suggested we change our name.
Dozens of new names were suggested and in one of the brainstorming sessions somebody (probably me) threw up his hands and said let's just call it SPOT, and we laughed and kept working. In the end, unable to come up with something perfect, we looked at SPOT, and said, why not? Then Charles Schorre suggested we drop the word and just put a spot on the cover. I'm not sure when the word came back, but for some period of time there was just that big black spot.
In the early days, there was a lot of whimsy at work in both SPOT and the Houston Center for Photography. There was that edge of not-quite-grown-up that made it so much fun. I think the high point of that was when Jeff DeBevec came up with a subscription mailer that had a picture of a cute dog on it and it said, "If you don't subscribe to this magazine we're going to shoot this dog."
HCP is beginning the celebration of its 25th year, but SPOT is a little younger, a mere 24. As the first editor, I find that a little hard to believe. I'm also curious to see that SPOT has never gotten over the struggle about photography/art that raged in the beginning when there was a significant constituency for naming the new organization the Houston Center for Art Photography. There was, and is, this nagging suspicion photography just isn't enough.
For me, the lure of photography arose from books and magazines, mostly magazines, and mostly Life Magazine. As we began to see photographs from inside the womb and then from distant space and of tiny things seen through scanning electron microscopes, I began to appreciate the extent to which the world in our brains was placed there by photographs. I know a lot about what China looks like and I know something about what war looks like and I know how a pole vaulter looks at the apex of the ride. But I've never been to China, or to war, or seen an actual pole vault and of course, haven't been in space or inside a womb or seen the eyeballs of a mite.
This business of photography is about letting us see what we cannot otherwise easily see, inside the mind of the artist or into the moments of terror or loss or betrayal or confusion or suffering or, for that matter, intense joy and love.
In looking back at HCP's first 25 years, it's sad how little we can see from the exhibition history, really just a long list of names. But we can still pick up the first issue of Image/SPOT, and there it is, everything that was published, as good as new. All the other issues are accessible, with all the images that gave us a broader and deeper understanding of life and the universe we live in.
This suggests a kind of responsibility and even primacy for SPOT that I'm not sure we appreciate. Historically, most of the creative energy at HCP has gone into exhibitions. But it feels like SPOT deserves a fresh look and I think the people on the publications committee feel that too. In fact, this issue, which was pretty risky and out of control (that given over to the photographers), strikes me as having rattled the cage quite a bit. So, stay tuned. There's more to come.