Yale School of Art photography department hosts ‘pop-up’ lecture series

In a creative endeavor intended to make the most of one aspect of remote learning — the fact that many of us, well-known artists and creators included, are isolating at home — the graduate photography department at the Yale School of Art has initiated the “Yale Photo Pop Up Lecture Series,” featuring an array of speakers across the creative industries, from musicians and photographers, to authors and filmmakers.

Conceived by Gregory Crewdson, director of graduate studies in photography, the series began on April 1 with inaugural guest artist Kara Walker. Other artists in the series have included Errol Morris, Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz with Spike Jonze, Jim Jarmusch, Catherine Opie, Sophie Calle, Tilda Swinton, Brit Marling, Stephen Shore, Kelly Reichardt, Willam Eggleston, Hilton Als, Jonathan Lethem, Ben Stiller, Ari Aster, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Cate Blanchett among others.

Crewdson initiated the program in late March, as Zoom became the platform for teaching remotely at Yale. “I wanted to do something slightly out of the box in an attempt to make the online teaching experience meaningful and productive for my students,” Crewdson said. “I started reaching out to friends, colleagues, and artists I admired, and asked if they’d be willing to get online with students to offer some informal inspiration and insight, given the uncertainty and precipitous nature of the moment.”

The series is a collaborative effort between Crewdson’s independent photography studio and the Yale School of Art. Each Q&A lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, with set questions asked by Crewdson for the first 30 minutes, followed by a series of more impromptu questions asked directly by his M.F.A. photography students.

“Together with input from my students, I came up with a list of intentionally broad, open-ended questions, about life, process, and art in relation to the moment we’re in, and I pose them to all of the guests regardless of the particular medium they work in,” said Crewdson.

Guests are announced publicly 24 hours in advance through the School of Art’s weekly mailing list and the photography program’s Instagram account, and many are recorded and posted later to the Yale MFA Photography YouTube channel. “What wound up happening was the series took on a life of its own,” Crewdson said. “Students began passing the invites to others, links started getting posted more widely on social media, and now students, artists, curators, and more sit in on the calls from around the world.”

“This is such a strange time for students to be finishing school and considering entering the world,” Crewdson continued. “It’s been beautiful, heartbreaking, and moving to see the many young faces on the screen — some I recognize and others I don’t — taking in words of wisdom and advice from those they admire and look up to: the most highly visible and accomplished artists of our time. I feel a lot of gratitude toward everyone who has participated. Mostly I’m just glad it has been a small silver lining for my own students on Zoom, during what has been a really bewildering and scary time for all of us.”

After hosting more than 20 talks since the start of April, the series will hold its final event on Sunday, May 10.