Noted photographic historian and well-traveled photographer Steven Plattner, whose early career exploits led to the donation of the collection of Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographs now housed at the Amarillo Museum of Art, will share his expertise Oct. 3-4 at Amarillo College.
A decades-long student of American documentary photography and curator of highly touted FSA and Standard Oil collections that toured museums around the U.S. in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Plattner also is the author of Roy Stryker: U.S.A, 1943-1950, The Standard Oil Photography Project. After his lengthy study of photographic history, he took up photography himself and has largely focused on the American West, roadside America, and folk art environments.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and presently a resident of Portland, Ore., Plattner also has found inspiration in Mexico, India, Cuba, Taiwan, Central America, Europe and beyond.
Plattner will be a guest speaker at noon Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Museum of Art (located on AC’s Washington Street Campus), where his historic FSA photographs will be on full display. He will then teach a workshop on documentary photography to AC photography students on Friday, Oct. 4.
In conjunction with his visit to AC, an exhibit of Plattner’s Cuban photos will be on display from Sept. 30th to Nov. 7th in the Southern Light Gallery on the first floor of Lynn Library on the Washington Street Campus. The exhibits and Plattner’s presentation at the Museum of Art are free and open to the public.
In 1975 while a student at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., Plattner received a Youthgrant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to curate a traveling exhibition of photographs from the FSA project directed by Roy E Stryker. He showed the widely acclaimed collection, called “American Images: Documentary Photographs by the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1942,” at museums from Minnesota to Texas.
That’s how he found his way to what was then known as the Amarillo Art Center, to which he returned the following year to serve an internship. Ultimately be donated the photographs to what became the Amarillo Museum of Art.
Plattner has visited every state in the U.S. and considers himself not just a photographer; he thinks of himself as a collector of Americana who relies on a camera.
“I actively seek out people, places and things that are uniquely American,” Plattner said. “In my work I gravitate toward people who go against the grain—people who create something different—who push the boundaries and make something monumental out of nothing, people with vision who are exceptional in their own way.”
Plattner did graduate work in American studies at George Washington University and has served as chief photographer for the Minnesota Historical Society, curator of photographs for the Cincinnati Historical Society, and he has long been immersed in commercial printing.