The original curator of the Fan Gallery, Bruce Pelz. Photo courtesy of the Fan Gallery.
by Chaz Boston Baden & Warren Buff
Warren Buff recently sat down with Chaz Boston Baden to discuss the history of the Fan Gallery. The Gallery currently has around 450 fan portraits in it and continues to grow. Most of the photos date from 1997 on, with a few archival photos that have made their way into the collection. The Gallery is frequently exhibited at Worldcons (when held in the United States) and NASFiC.
Chaz Boston Baden: I’m Chaz Baden, I’m one of the custodians of the Fan Gallery which was originated under the care of Bruce Pelz; he turned it over to me before he passed away. The way Bruce Pelz explained [the origin of the Gallery] is that for many years a bunch of fans had been talking about the Christine Velada Pro Photo Gallery which, at the time, was a bunch of black-and-white portraits of professional science fiction writers which had been exhibited at Worldcon for quite a few years. From time to time at various bull sessions at Worldcons and SMOFcons and so forth some of the prominent fans would talk about how there should be a Fan Gallery and people would agree. Bruce Pelz was one of them, Geri Sullivan was another.
It stayed as “this is a good idea somebody should do someday” for quite some time until Geri Sullivan was invited to be the Loscon XXIV Fan Guest of Honor [in 1997]—Bruce Pelz was her GoH liaison from the L.A. side—and Bruce asked, “What can we do to make your experience in L.A. the best we can?” Geri said, and I quote, “I like surprises,” which for me ranks right up there with “Here, watch this… hold my beer…” as famous last words. But that’s what she said, “I like surprises.”
So Bruce Pelz got ahold of Mark Olson in Boston and David Dyer-Bennet in Minneapolis and Stan Burns, the usual photographer at many LA cons, to round up a bunch of pictures of big-name fans and whoever turns up at club meetings—which, there’s a lot of overlap—and said, “David, make sure you get a shot of Geri Sullivan,” because she was in Minneapolis at the time. So these three photographers and a couple other sources collected a bunch of photos and we presented this at Loscon when Geri was Guest of Honor and she came and there was a surprise because the Fan Gallery had become a dream given form. Since then it’s settled down into a general aspirational goal of [recognizing] fans that should be known outside of their region for their contributions to fandom.
We have a couple of categories we call the “Core Collection”. We want to include the Worldcon and NASFiC chairs, the Worldcon and NASFiC Fan Guests of Honor, fannish Hugo winners, and Fan Fund winners. Related to that, we may want to look at fan nominees and other prominent things but what we’re looking for is a contribution to fandom that is consistent, sustained, and long-term and preferably wide in scope. The point to the Core Collection is [fandom has] already selected [individuals] by giving them the Fan Fund, by giving them the chairmanship—a number of people already said, “Yes, these are some of our prominent fans.”
What remains is figuring out who else to put in. So over time we want to get more of the Pegasus winners for filk music, we want to get more of the Fan Hugo nominees, we want to figure out who are the people who have not just been keeping a seat warm for twenty years but have been making things happen, have been contributing to fandom, writing letters, fan artists, all of the people that help make fandom what it is in ways that you probably want to hear about.
Now, our selection [process] for [choosing] photos is we try to make this a collection of color photos in contrast with the black and white exhibit that Christine Velada did of all the professionals. It tends towards the candids as opposed to hers [which] are more [like] portrait studio [photographs]. But the key is that we want these to be photos you can recognize people by, sort of a rogue’s gallery. In the case of our more inactive fans, the dead ones mostly, we’re looking for photos that you would recognize them if they rose from the dead and talked to you or [capture] how we want to remember them. What they looked like in their prime or how we last saw them, are both fair candidates for the passed-on members.
Lee Hoffman. Photo by George Young. Courtesy of the Fan Gallery.
An example would be Lee Hoffman, who was a great fanzine fan and she was active right up till the end. She was participating in Science-Fiction-Five-Yearly for example. But for her photo we have an old black-and-white photo [from] when she was a young woman in fandom, shaking things up and writing fanzines.
That’s basically the exhibit, there’s over three hundred photos in the collection. We don’t always show all of them; there’s not always room. Some of the fans that we thought were going places but haven’t really done anything in the last twenty years, maybe we’re not going to show them as much, but people who made significant contributions… [people like] Bob Shaw and Bob Tucker are going to be in this exhibit as long as we have it. Lee Hoffman, she’s here to stay.
Warren Buff: I see you’ve got signs up this weekend [at Detcon1], encouraging folks to have their picture taken to be added.
CBB: Well, that’s [Detcon Chair] Tammy [Coxen]’s project. That’s part of what NASFiC is doing.
What we have right here is a work-in-progress situation because a bunch of the framed photos have gone missing, so I’m slowly trying to replace them and right now half the exhibit is printouts. They’ll get replaced as I buy more frames and frame them and deal with all that work in maintaining it.
What Tammy and Detcon1 are trying to do is to encourage people to consider themselves as part of the face of fandom and to get photos and to get snapshots. So we’ve set aside ten panels, ten of these two-foot-wide grid walls for the ad hoc photos that we’re hoping to collect over the weekend. But that’s a separate project from what we’re doing with the permanent Fan Gallery collection. Now maybe we’ll get photos and learn that person’s been making things happen in Detroit or the Upper Peninsula. Maybe there’s fandom in the UP, I don’t know, could be. Who are the people who’ve been quietly making things happen in Wisconsin? I don’t know. I’d like to find out. I’m trying to take pictures of everybody I meet and have a conversation with because I may need that photo when I learn more about what they do; right now they’re just someone I’ve met.
On a related note, I have my own personal website called Hazel’s Picture Gallery, and you can go to www.shotbyabear.com and get to that, you can go to www.scifiinc.net to find the Fan Gallery. These are two completely different photo projects but I will sometimes draw from my personal collection, to make sure I have a shot.
You can listen to the entire interview on Fancyclopedia. You can download the unedited transcript at: http://www.nthzine.com/FR.FanGallery.pdf. You can also visit the Fan Gallery online.