What were you Thinking? Fifteen Year Anniversary Exhibition November 15 — January 4, 2003

The last time I picked up a camera was May 1987, shortly before graduating from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a M.F.A. in photography. While I truly enjoyed the creative and intellectual process of making art, I was never wholeheartedly convinced that I had enough to say -- that actually making photographs would sustain me. A few months before I was set to graduate, while in a hotel room recovering from eye surgery, I joked with my mother that trying to make a living being a one-eyed photographer was probably not to my advantage. After much laughter, my mother asked me what I thought I wanted to do and, much to my surprise, out of my mouth popped the words, "I think I should open a contemporary photography gallery in Chicago." Months later, sitting in a grad seminar class, we went around the room sharing our plans for life after school. When all eyes turned to me, I told them I was thinking of opening a gallery devoted exclusively to living photographers. Most people laughed; six months later, Catherine Edelman Gallery opened in a modest space in Chicago.

December 2002 marks the fifteen year anniversary -- a milestone I didn’t start to think about until recently. Last winter, while sitting on an airplane returning from an art fair, I started mulling over ideas for an anniversary show -- something that would encapsulate my thoughts about contemporary photography, the business of art, and the ways in which I approach both. While most of my time on planes usually involves sleeping, this time I found myself flipping through magazines, searching for an exhibition idea or title, and came across the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Years ago the magazine started a column featuring a single photograph and asked the subjects pictured what they were thinking. I’ve always read this page, fascinated by the information, which can often range from the mundane to the revelatory. Here, for the first time, readers had an opportunity to see what the subjects felt when they were being photographed. I began to think about variations on this idea.

After a four-hour plane ride, I had an exhibition: invite artists who have shown at the gallery to participate in an exhibition featuring one of their photographs. This would be accompanied by text explaining what they -- the photographers, not the subjects -- were thinking that inspired them to create that specific piece. I tried to select an iconic image for each photographer and asked them to write about it -- not an easy task for many. Since creating art is not always preconceived and the subconscious plays a major role, many artists were hesitant to explain such an intuitive process. But somewhere along the line there is conscious thought, and it is this thought that I asked each artist to share. What Were You Thinking brings together 34 photographers who have contributed to the success of the gallery. Without them, the gallery would never have attained such a significant anniversary.

Tom Baril
Three Poppies [Ref. 520], 1997
Elizabeth Ernst
The Odd Felow, 2002


Terry Evans
Field Museum, Echinacea, 1899, 2001
Lynn Geesaman
Damme, Belgium [Ref. 6-95-5-12], 1995
Michelle Keim
Quenching Tower, Acme Steel , 1998
Deborah Luster
L. C. I. W. 83, 1999
Olivia Parker
Carousel, 1982
Doug Prince
Floating Doll, 1979
Rocky Schenck
Dresden, 1995