The Community Paper

CP Interview: Patrick Kahn, the relatable art gallery curator

Patrick Kahn is the curator and founder of the Snap! Orlando art gallery downtown. (S.T. CARDINAL)

On the ground floor of the Camden Thornton Park apartment building at 420 E. Church St. is a photography-focused art gallery called Snap! Orlando. Patrick Kahn, the curator and founder of the gallery, has lived in College Park since 2008. Born in Switzerland and raised in Paris, he moved to America as a young adult and spent more than 20 years in Los Angeles. In 2010, Kahn organized an annual photography festival held in warehouses that welcomed photographers from across the world. With the success of those events, he decided to open a permanent gallery in the old Cameo Theater space on Colonial Drive before expanding to Snap’s current location downtown in 2016. Sporting a track suit, Kahn met me at the gallery where his approachable and down-to-earth demeanor helped spark a good conversation.


You’ve curated some powerful exhibits, including a gallery of images that documented the aftermath of the Pulse shooting. Talk about how you use curation to deliver a message.

Since the beginning, we didn’t want to be boxed into a certain genre of exhibitions. I always wanted to have enough of a change from exhibit to exhibit so we can explore photography and now digital art in many different aspects. While the exhibits may change, everything is picked with discernment. I very often come into discussions with really good photographers who are really good portrait or editorial photographers, and I have to tell them I can’t put their pictures on the wall. Because their pictures are beautiful, but it’s not art photography. It has to have some type of concept, whether it’s a social activism concept or a surrealist concept. Whatever it is, it has to have some type of soul.


What are you passionate about?

That’s a tough question because I could say photography and blah, blah, blah, but it’s not. I’m passionate about living life. I really want to take advantage of enjoying the day instead of thinking of the past and planning for the future. Just enjoy your day.


You’ve met some very talented and acclaimed photographers. What’s something that’s stuck out to you from speaking with and getting to know them?

The one thing that stuck out to me between the famous photographers and even celebrities who I came across in L.A. are that they are very simple and genuine people. They have this aura, and everyone reveres them, but when you get to know them, they’re just simple and engaging people. I’ve developed real relationships and friendships that are based on mutual trust. The idea of acting as a magazine editor and later a gallery curator, the trust is based on the fact that I understand them as artists because I come from that background as well. It’s not all about business, but it’s more about mutual respect.


You published an entertainment magazine called The Book LA when you lived in California. How did you make the switch from publishing to curating?

Personally, it was organic. I would say I was a curator of my magazine in L.A. It was a coffee table magazine that came out every four to six months. Every page was curated, even the advertisement placement. The magazine was an art piece, and when I became a curator, it’s almost like tearing out the pages of the magazine and putting them in 3D onto the walls of the gallery. The fact I was curating the magazine comes from my background as an artist myself. When I was a kid, I was drawing and doing etchings and caricatures. I thought I would become a big artist, but I changed my mind. 


How did you meet your wife, Holly?

I was doing nightclub promotion in Miami, so I was friends with the nightclub owners. One night — it was Halloween night — I went to the nightclub early, which is, in Miami, 11 p.m. Holly had just moved from Clearwater and came, in her mind, right in the middle of things at 11 p.m. It was basically just her, me and the owner in the entire place. That’s how I met her. I was disguised as a sultan, so I looked good.


What are some of your hobbies?

I guess I used to have hobbies. Photography was one of them. Drawing was one of them. But I think life caught up with me with family and work and everything, and so my hobbies became hard to keep up with. But what I do for a living is a hobby. It is a chore, but it’s never something that I don’t enjoy doing.


What’s it like to curate an exhibit?

Curating an exhibition that has one or two artists is definitely easier because it’s one body of work. It’s easier to display them on the wall in a way that tells a story. It’s different than when you’re looking at a photographer’s portfolio or website because everything has to coincide. When you enter that room, you have to have that feeling of “Wow. This feels good.” There’s a lot of trial and error to get to that point.

The hard part is when we do exhibits where we have a call for entry when you have 50 different artists with totally different images. We still want to give a sense of cohesion, and we want each wall to have a flow. It takes hours to arrange the pieces on the wall.


What are some words you try to live by?

The motto that I always live by is that when you communicate with somebody, it has to be eye to eye, always at the same level. I am not comfortable with people who are trying to dominate or look up at someone. I think, as humans, we don’t have the privilege of being superior to anybody else.

One response to “CP Interview: Patrick Kahn, the relatable art gallery curator”

  1. Bea says:

    A lovely article on the most humane humans I have the privilege of knowing. Patrick has brought to Orlando what I left Orlando for in the late 80s, excitement and culture through art as photography. The shows I have seen in our City Beautiful, at the Snap! Pop up warehouse spaces to their present location are re to be placed on pedestals i.e. dinner and photography with well renowned Douglas Kirkland, who shot Marilyn Monroe from above her bed at the tender age of 18 to , Jameel Shabazz to local artists. MERCI! Holly and Patrick.

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