Tell Me a Story: The Role of Storytelling in Photography

Tell Me a Story: The Role of Storytelling in Photography

Juror: Mary Statzer

NOVEMBER 30, 2023 – JANUARY 6, 2024

Opening Reception at Colorado Photographic Arts Center

1200 Lincoln Street, Denver, CO 80203

Friday, December 1, 2023

6 – 9 pm

This event is free and open to the public

About the Exhibit

The Colorado Photographic Arts Center presents Tell Me a Story: The Role of Storytelling in Photography, a juried exhibition that explores how photographs tell stories through the depiction of objects, people, and places through the images of 32 photographers. Juror Mary Statzer selected these artists from a pool of 125 photographers and 546 images, located across the country and abroad.

In photography books and exhibitions, narratives are often constructed by sequencing multiple images. This exhibition focuses on how single photographs can summarize or represent larger narratives and stand on their own.

Pictured above: “Houseboat” ©Collin Howell

Congratulations to the Tell Me a Story Award Winners:

Juror’s Award – Jesse Freidin 

Juror’s Honorable Mention – Savanna Klear

Director’s Award – Justin A. Carney


Saeed Abdollahi, Wednesday Aja, Robert Anderson, Debe Arlook, John Bonath, Chris Bratt, Daniel Brenner, Justin A. Carney, Mark Coggins, Ron Cooper, Sharon Draghi, Jesse Freidin, Risa Friedman, Camila Franco Ribeiro Gomide, Patricia Howard, Collin Howell, Roxanne Huber, Savanna Klear, Elizabeth Kelly, Ellen Mahaffy, Sarah Malakoff, Heather Canterbury Marks, Jason McKinsey, Marni Myers, Bill Orisich, Dana Pianowski, Linda Plaisted, Edward L. Rubin, Alexandra Sheremet, Igal Stulbach, Jane Szabo, and Sherry Wiggins & Luís Filipe Branco.

Juror’s Statement

“Over the past few years, when I have met photographers in studio visits and portfolio reviews, I have been deeply moved by artists whose work is motivated by the need to tell a story. Personal stories are what interest me the most – stories about family dynamics, coming of age and aging, moments of solitude in a domestic space – not only because they communicate more nuanced meaning, but because I care about which stories are told and who gets to tell them.  

Towards that end, when I was jurying this exhibition, I looked for quiet but visually engaging photographs that suggest emotionally complex stories about everyday life. I was less drawn to depictions of sensational moments or exotic locations, favoring ones that are literally and figuratively closer to home. I looked for signs of slow and careful looking as well as subjects who appear at ease in front of the photographer and their camera. 

As I looked through the submissions, I asked myself: What are the stories we tell to and about ourselves? As a viewer, what keeps me looking? In portraits, are broader surroundings depicted and do they offer evocative clues about the subjects’ lives? Is the framing and lighting used to indicate mood or an internal state of mind or dialogue? And, finally, it came down to this: Do I want to know more about this person’s story? 

There are also landscape, still-life, constructed and abstracted photographs in this exhibition, begging these questions: What is the story of a place – a ramshackle house, a quiet kitchen at night, a snug barn stall? How has this place shaped the lives of its many inhabitants? If a human subject is abstracted and blurry or altogether absent, is it possible for the viewer to project themselves into the open narrative to which the photograph alludes? Also, how can objects saved or collected, found or arranged, be photographed in ways that transcend time and distance to tell unique stories?  

I am delighted by the answers that the photographs in this exhibition provide to these questions. Thank you to all who submitted. It was an honor to spend time with the work of so many sincere and inspired artists. And to the 32 photographers in this exhibition, thank you for affirming my belief that photographers tell stories well and should tell them often.”

Mary Statzer

About Mary Statzer

Mary Statzer is Curator of Prints and Photographs at University of New Mexico Art Museum. Her recent lens-based exhibitions include Patrick Nagatani: A Survey of Early Photographs;Please Enjoy and Return: Bruce Conner Films from the Sixties; and Embodied Resonance: Jess T. Dugan and Anne Noggle. In 2021, she co-developed a virtual platform for artist/museum engagement that features Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo, NM) in its first adaptation.  

Mary Statzer regularly participates in photography reviews, including REVIEW Santa Fe, Medium San Diego, Filter in Chicago, and LACP’s Exposure. She has written about photography for Aperture magazine and edited a multi-author book titled, The Photographic Object 1970 (UC Press, 2016). Mary holds an MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University and PhD in art history with specialties in the history of photography and museum studies from the University of Arizona.