Opportunity calls: Local art gallery is hosting photo project, looking for pictures of payphones

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Payphones were everywhere before the advent of the cell phone- but now, it’s tougher to find them.

You can still find payhones- functional or not- throughout Erie County and the City of Buffalo, and CEPA Gallery is challenging people to look for them.

CEPA (617 Main St # 201, Buffalo) is hosting a project called #BuffaloNYPayphoneography. They’re asking people to submit their photos of payphones in the county now through June 2 for inclusion in an exhibiton and prizes provided by FujiFilm.

The project is an interactive aspect of the gallery’s upcoming exhibition  Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Rochester, NY.

The collection, created by photographer and printmaker Eric Kunsman, highlights the presence of payphones in the Western New York and Rochester areas as social markers- and the misconceptions that go along with them.

It will include photographs and actual payphones which visitors will be able to pick up and listen to recorded stories of individuals who rely on payphones.

The collection will also include maps with locations of the payphones and accompanying demographic data.

“The maps really show the locations of the payphones as they serve as social markers with race, class, and economic data, as well as crime,” Kunsman, founder of Booksmart Studios in Rochester and a lecturer at RIT, said. “With the data, what you see is here not a correlation with crime, but there a correlation is with race and class.”

CEPA Gallery executive director Véronique Côté said that art can communicate thing that might be difficult to talk about.

“Art and social justice go hand-in-hand,” Côté said. “With all of those photographs, [Kunsman] wants people to look around take note of those social markers, but I think he wants people to organize and talk to their leaders.”

Photos that are submitted to the #BuffaloNYPayphoneography contest will be printed by FujiFilm and displayed in CEPA’s Underground Gallery.

“We decided that there were enough payphones in Buffalo to invite the community to go out and photograph their payphones,” Kunsman said.

You can submit photos here.

There will be prizes based on the number of submissions, best in show, and juror’s choices.

Prizes will include:

  • FUJIFILM X-S10 Mirrorless Camera with XF16-80mm Lens
  • FUJIFILM X100V, Silver
  • FUJIFILM X100V, Black
  • $500 in professional digital printing at Booksmart Studio, Inc.
  • Two of Eric Kunsman’s editioned photographs

“The reason we wanted to get involved wasn’t to give away cameras, but because it allowed us to get involved with the idea of image-making,” said Victor Ha, senior director of marketing and product management for FujiFilm North America Corporation, Imaging Division, said. “It’s really interesting- we live in a world where we’re making more images in a given day than we’ve made in decades.”

 Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Buffalo NY opens at CEPA Gallery on April 24.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

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