Sunday, April 27, 2014

PDX Squared, Portland photography event, open for registration

Freelance photographer Leah Nash has had a thriving career, regularly shooting for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a host of other editorial and corporate clients. As a photographer, she's dodged land mines in Croatia, sailed -- and swam -- the Nile and drank fermented horse milk in Mongolia. What was missing, she says, was a sense of community.

"As a freelancer it's, you know, just me in my pajamas."

In a search for solutions, Nash didn't waste any time.

She joined the Oregon chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and, as this story goes, is now the club's president. And she got busy creating an event she hoped would help rid her of the more isolating aspects of freelance life. The result is part photography, part community and, because sometimes a person needs this sort of thing, part, she says, "kick in the butt."

Now in its third year, PDX Squared matches 70 amateur and professional photographers with four square miles of the city. Participants are randomly assigned a square, the equivalent to 16 city blocks, and given 24 hours in which to make the most compelling pictures possible. There's an editing session, mentoring and live judging (full disclosure: I'll be one of five judges this year). The pictures are classified into 7 categories, with over $5,000 worth of prizes awarded.

Call it a shoot out or, Nash says, "an opportunity to see great work and be inspired."

"It's designed to get your heart racing," she says, "and get you thinking." Pause. "It's a little scary."

It's also a bit of a party.

Nash corralled beer and wine sponsors this year along with several other photo-based sponsors. So the drinks will be flowing, along with thousands of dollars worth of loaner gear from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Pro Photo Supply, Portland-based Lensbaby and others.

"You don't need to be professional or an ASMP member. You just need to want to do it," Nash says. "To be thrown into the fire."

PDX Squared will kick off on Friday, May 16, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The main event will be held Saturday, May 17. See for details.

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