What started as a small backyard potluck in Seattle has prompted small photo communities to sprout around the world. The community revives in D.C. this Saturday, when Washington’s chapter of Slideluck Potshow will hold its seventh event.
“It was literally an old projector,” founder Casey Kelbaugh said of the first event. “People came with their trays of slides . . . some were loaded upside down, but it was charming and very community-oriented.” On an Indian summer evening in 2000, about 50 people were crammed into Kelbaugh’s 7-foot-by-20 foot “sideyard” with three people on his roof.
As a budding photographer in Seattle, Kelbaugh started the event because he was frustrated with the lack of opportunity for feedback. After a few years, he was getting requests from all over the country and then all over the world from people who wanted to host their own Slideluck Potshows.
Then Kelbaugh said a German girl on vacation walking by did a double take. “She peeked in and said, ‘Wait a minute, I know this event.’ She was on vacation in New York City and a friend had taken her to another show. It was a completely different situation and circumstances, but the feel is the same event. It retains the backyard intimacy that we started with. I don’t remember the exact details but I remember . . . she joined us for the rest of the night.”
Today, there have been shows in Bogota, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, New York, Austin, Mexico City, Kenya, Berlin, Panama City, Ottawa, Montreal, Baltimore and many other cities. Over a thousand showed up for a 2007 event in New York at Sandbox Studio, forcing organizers to turn away 300.
Furthermore, the organization often embraces amateurs, who have the chance to show their work alongside long-established photographers. Quality is emphasized, while pedigree is not. The team will sometimes even make personal calls to photographers whose work doesn’t make the cut, to explain why. “It’s not about having the fanciest camera or all the expertise, it’s about having the great idea and executing it,” D.C. Slideluck Potshow organizer Patrick McMullen said.