PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston January February 2022

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Page 19 of 83

OBSESSIONS. DECORATION. SALIENT FACTS. A t press time, the news came in from a colleague who had worked at FotoFest: Fred B a l d w i n h a d passed away at the age of 92. Baldwin, one-half of the duo known around the world in the realm of photography as succinctly Fred and Wendy — acclaimed photojournalists and co-founders of Houston-to-global nonprofit FotoFest — led a remarkable life that was notable during its first half for his own achievements as an image maker and activist: a pioneering series where he swam with polar bears in the Arctic, led the Peace Corps in Borneo (personally recruited by Sargent Shriver), staked out Picasso in the South of France and came away with the photos to prove it, and documented the Civil Rights movement in Georgia from Dr. King to the Klan to voter registration at the county courthouse. All of the above was recounted in his 2019 magnum opus of an autobiography, which was his seventh book: Dear Mr. Picasso: An Illustrated Love Affair with Freedom. But it was Baldwin's role in establishing FotoFest in 1983 with collaborator/wife Wendy Watriss that REMEMBERING A TITAN OF PHOTOGRAPHY: FOTOFEST'S FRED BALDWIN changed the world for artists whose medium was photography and, also, brought the photo world to Houston. Baldwin, the son of a diplomat, was an iconic figure — brilliant, beloved, an incisive wit, whose quips and quotes were legendary. He cut a dashing figure, towering in presence, charismatic, and perennially dapper in his signature red glasses and jaunty cravat. Fred and Wendy were, among most peripatetic people on the planet, indomitable, curious about other ways of life, and giving voice to the photographers that recorded these places, from both present and past. Their founding of FotoFest, the pair told me the first time we met in the late 1990s, was a radical act to shift the hegemony of photography away from its narrow, American- centric viewpoint. Theirs were some of the first images that made an impact on me as a Rice student in the late 1970s: their Grimes County photos, documents of a black, rural community in Texas (where Baldwin and Watriss lived for a year in a camper out in the country) were exhibited by the de Menils at the Rice Museum. Years later, I was fortunate to cover FotoFest's biennials (and even curate "Talent in Texas"), and to call them friends. An unforgettable assignment was traveling in 2011 to Moscow for FotoFest's Meeting Place at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, an initiative sponsored by the power couple of Russian art circles, Dasha Zhukova and oligarch/then husband Roman Abramovich. In Moscow, talents in Russian photography met with and were reviewed by a coterie of curators, publishers, and critics from multi continents. Fred and Wendy made it all happen, beyond any diplomatic initiative the state department could have accomplished. FotoFest executive director Steven Evans, hand-picked in 2014 to lead the organization while Baldwin and Watriss continued on the board, tells PaperCity via email: "Fred's death is an especially difficult loss for FotoFest, the world of photography, and to all those who knew and loved him. Fred Fred Baldwin's The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Municipal Auditorium, Savannah, Georgia, January 1964 Fred Baldwin, with a portrait of himself at age 18, painted by American artist Louis Betts CASEY DUNN (Continued) 18

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