The Griffin Museum of Photography is launching a new series “Griffin State of Mind.” An interview series giving you a glimpse inside the creative minds of board members, employees, volunteers, and general members discovering inspiration, motivations, and individual passions that make up our global community.
We are starting at home in Winchester with the heart and soul of the Griffin, Paula Tognarelli, the Executive Director and Curator.
Paula is a humble and passionate woman who fuels the fiery heart of the Griffin with determination and ingenuity.
Describe how you first connected with the Griffin.
I don’t tell many people about this but my first connection with the Griffin Museum was an application I sent for a position as the Executive Director of the Museum.
I took great efforts to prepare for this application.
Still I was the VP of Manufacturing for a large printing corporation that I worked at for 25 years. I had an art background and ran a 60 million dollar manufacturing company. I managed blue color and white collar employees.
We had a 7% profitability. We cut staff 50% not through layoffs but through cross training, digital processes and attrition.
Together we moved a business from an accident a month to no accidents for 1 year. And I was integral in moving an analog process to a completely digital workflow for the corporation and other printing companies across the United States.
We were one of the first printing companies to install a leaf digital camera and install a photo studio in 1997. So I was pretty disappointed when I received a letter back that said I was not qualified for this position at the Griffin.
Did it stop me? No, obviously.
As a result, I worked out a plan to never have anyone ever say I wasn’t qualified as an arts administrator ever again.
What has been the most eye opening part of our time of physical distancing?
I have been surprised that there is so much to do to entertain oneself without turning on the television.
How do you involve photography in your everyday? Can you describe one photograph that recently caught your eye?
Photography is a part of my every day. It is in my work life. It’s in my home life. It’s in my down time.
I go to photography exhibits on my days off. I’m surrounded by photography on walls at home and office along with photo books.
And I own lots of them. Even if we do not actively seek out photographs we are constantly being influenced by a photograph in every waking moment.
I recently saw Photographer David James on a Zoom online presentation. As a result I bought Taschen’s book on the film by Nicholas Roeg called David Bowie In The Man Who Fell To Earth in which David James’ photo stills and behind the scenes photographs are featured.
It made me think of Cristina de Middel’s The Afronauts. While not one photograph, it was one source that caused my imagination to go wild with possibilities.
What is one book, song, or other visual obsession you have at the moment?
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a one-on-one conversation about anything, who would that person be and what would you talk about?
I would want to talk to my mother. We both left so much unspoken. She had such a wonderful sense of humor. I would just want to laugh together again.
What is your favorite place to escape to in nature…mountains? beach? woods? and why?
It used to be the woods, but now I am afraid of ticks. Now it is my back yard under my favorite tree.
What is one of your favorite exhibitions shown by the Griffin?
All of the exhibitions we have produced are my children and no mother should ever say they have a favorite child. I am very proud of all of our exhibitions. David Prifti: Drawn by Light, however has a very special place in my heart that becomes apparent when you see the installation.