PDN's 30 Editor's Note

Nearly ten years ago, towards the end of 1998, we here at Photo District News embarked on an endeavor we called PDN’s “30 Under 30.” Sitting in a small room in our then Times Square offices, Holly Stuart Hughes, Darren Ching, former photo editor Mackenzie Green and myself gathered together a large pile of promising portfolios and an even larger pile of slides (yes, slides) and began the process of choosing a list of 30 gifted photographers we felt would make an impact on the photographic industry. I can still remember the excitement we all felt at the start of this enterprise. With some assistance and advice from peers in the photo community, we were very pleased to present among that first congregation such future luminaries as Taryn Simon, Jason Fulford, Jonathan Kantor, Guy Aroch, and Norman Jean Roy. We were off to an excellent beginning.

As the years advanced and slides went the way of laser discs, we continued the concept, eventually eliminating the age requirement in our fourth volume in 2002 (we wanted to include the large contingent of people who took up photography later in life). At that point we stopped requesting driver’s licenses and started calling the issue the “PDN 30.” Prominent names started piling up as high as the portfolios we gathered each year—photographers like Justine Kurland, Brian Finke, Balazs Gardi, Elinor Carucci, Vincent Laforet, Gillian Laub, Hellen Van Meene, Gus Powell, Jonas Bendiksen and Clare Richardson.

Years coasted by. Former PDN’s 30 members began recommending their own assistants. International submissions started multiplying. The Internet developed into just as powerful a tool as our word of mouth nominations. Spending endless hours in front of the computer, eternally sending e-prayers to the great Google god, the Internet blossomed into this wonderful, strange garden of photography. There we slipped through one rabbit hole to another, discovering the likes of Kathryn Cook, Anna Bauer, Erica Shires and Brian Ulrich. This year we decided to give ourselves over fully to the realm of computers, choosing the 2008 PDN’s 30 solely from digital submissions. That room crammed with portfolios and light boxes in Times Square seemed oh so far away.

This March we are featuring our tenth class of 30 rising photographers. When we began this venture in 1998 we did it with three basic ideas in mind: to provide emerging artists with a sorely needed venue to exhibit their images, to create a reliable resource for the photo community to seek out these talents, and to engage other aspiring photographers in thinking about what it takes to succeed in this profession. We hope we have succeeded with all these goals.

During that collective step into the unknown ten years back we were unsure about so many things: the process of doing this, the longevity of this idea and the level of talent we would unearth. Little did we know that a decade later we would be celebrating not only the concept of the “30,” but a list of 300 names that would make any magazine, gallery, museum or institution genuinely proud. Here’s hoping this is only the beginning.

—Anthony LaSala

PDN thanks the sponsors of PDN’s 30 for their support of this issue and our PDN’s 30 educatioal programs
Kodak Kodak
Special thanks to American Society of Media Photographers, who are giving one-year merit memberships to each of this year’s 30.