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Grant Gill interviews Sarah Moore

Introducing editorial assistant Grant Gil as he shares a recent interview he conducted with Sarah Moore….

For the past few months I have been very grateful not only for being able to help out with LENSCRATCH but also getting to know Aline as a colleague and friend.  This spring, I will be finishing my last semester at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design with a focus on photography.  This opportunity has been a great educational tool in submersing myself in the variety of different works posted everyday, and also has let me view the art making world from a different perspective.
I was first introduced to Sarah Moore’s work after she had been featured in Fraction Magazine, and since then we have constantly crossed paths without actually formally meeting.  I then begun following her journey across country, from Philadelphia to Santa Fe, able to watch her work change and adapt based on location. I find myself transfixed on her beautiful landscapes that make me yearn for travel, but even more so I am fascinated with her raw interactions with nature that translate emotional isolation and loneliness.  Because of her young age, emerging status, and her stamina to continuously work I am constantly inspired to do more, work harder.  Today I am showing images from two of her series: expanse and Scape.

Sarah Moore was born and raised in South Dakota, where she still finds much of her inspiration for her work. She received her BFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009 and has since lived and traveled throughout the country. Much of Sarah’s work deals with the ideas of loneliness, escaping, and the ways landscapes inform and shape us. Her work has been shown throughout the country and online. She is currently living and working in Santa Fe, NM, where she is trying to understand the harsh light and delve into the book-making world.

expanse:
Throughout the years I have become increasingly interested in my home of South Dakota and how the people and place shaped me and continue to influence me. Even though I appreciate many aspects of the Midwest and still long for its landscape, it represents the pinnacle of loneliness in my life.

My photography is a depiction of this loneliness. The landscapes of the Midwest are beautiful but empty, simple but overwhelming. My relationship to my home is based on love, but also thwarted by distance. Since moving from South Dakota, I continue to find solace but also conflict in the land around me. I now see many moments in my life as a way to document or construct a personal narrative of isolation, both representative of my past and indicative of my present.

Expanses can be comforting but also stifling. Distances can fuel love but also misunderstanding. The vast space of the land is something I can’t quite embrace, break free from, or understand, but it provides infinite inspiration for me.

What is you personal statement as
an artist, or how exactly would you describe the work you make?
Most of my work comes from a very personal and emotional
place.  I photograph mostly
landscapes and self-portraits.  I
started doing both in 2007, when I went back home to South Dakota to
shoot.  Focusing on landscapes has
always allowed me to break free from the personal connections I have with
people.  Still though, I love
portraiture and what a person can show in a photograph, so self-portraiture is
a way for me to still use a person in my photography, while still keeping the
work mainly about me.
Is this personal place derived from
a specific event, or just a general emotional state?
It’s a little of both. 
My parents divorced when I was four because my dad is gay.  This is something I’ve more than come
to terms with now, but it was tough to deal with while growing up in the
conservative Midwest.  I think the
divorce and the subsequent silence my family kept about it instilled a sense of
“me versus the world.”  I grew up thinking it was best to keep quiet about big issues,
especially emotional ones.  Then I
eventually thought it was just best to keep quiet in general.  So I spent my years in South Dakota
sort of closing myself off from everyone, not knowing how or if I should share
the important parts of myself.
After leaving South Dakota, I learned that even if I have
some trust issues and some issues with the way my problems were handled, I can
still try to share a part of myself through my photography.  If loneliness was going to be such a
big part of my life then I wanted to at least make it part of my work.
I read so much visual poetry in to
your work, from the breath taking sights to the self-portraits that begin to
blend in with the surroundings.  I
see this action of back and forth between the photographs and the
photographer.  I wonder why you
choose to turn the camera inwards?
Photographing myself started about six years ago, when I
first went back to South Dakota.  I
wanted to put a person in the overwhelming landscape, and I was the most
accessible.  Throughout the years,
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to portray what a landscape and a moment
mean to me is to photograph myself. 
I think my self-portraiture is definitely part
narcissism.  But then again, isn’t
most photography rather narcissistic? 
As photographers, we capture what or whom we want to be seen and how we
want them seen.  It can be a very
selfish medium.  Yet by showing
others what or who we see, maybe we can also affect or help others. 
Another part of turning the camera towards myself deals with
my own issues of insecurity and loneliness.  I don’t like images of myself, and in real life, I’m not often
apt to open up to people.  I have
too many walls built up.  I guess
through photography I allow myself, my body, my face, and my emotions to take
center stage.  I get to act a
bit.  I get to be important.  And I hopefully get to communicate with
others through my images.
Do you have any specific
philosophies when it comes to humans and their interactions with nature?  What books, or even other work, do you look
to when making the images you do?
I’m still trying to figure out what and how I feel about the
human interaction with nature.  I
know my own relationship to nature is pretty complicated.  Though I grew up in a rural place, with
large expanses of land all around me, I still never felt really in tune with
nature.  And after living in cities
for seven years, I felt even more detached from nature.  Yet, I long for the land.  I think many people do.  I think there’s something in us that
wants to be closer to nature, but we’re not sure how to do that in this
increasingly electronic and cement culture.
People go camping or gazing at national parks, feeling for a
moment that they’re immersed in their primitive roots.  That’s about as close to nature as many
live.  People like to be able to
feel close to the land while at the same time in control of it.  I’m the same way, I admit.  I bring my camera to the land with me,
perhaps trying to harness my own little bit of control over the wild vastness.
Years ago, when I was starting my photography project in
South Dakota, I looked a lot at Todd Hido and Larry Sultan’s work.  I read a lot of theories about
photography and families at that time too.  For the past few years, I’ve been reading way too much David
Foster Wallace.  His work doesn’t
deal with nature explicitly, but it does talk about human society and our
alienation from each other, the landscape, and ourselves.  I think I’m more interested in reading
about the human psyche and weird outbursts in society than I am about humans
versus nature. 
Do you ever feel you are having a
visual conversation with other landscape and travel photographers, both
historically and in the contemporary?
It’s hard not to feel that way, honestly.  There are a lot of landscape and travel
photographers out there.  Sometimes
I’m constantly comparing my work to others’, but I try to maintain my own
vision and keep a peace with myself. 
I get overwhelmed really easily and intimidated even more easily.  It’s definitely important to be aware
of your peers, both contemporary and historically, but it’s also important to
forge ahead on your own.  I think
part of the reason I was in a rut while living in Philly was that I was just
too scared to make images.  I
thought everyone saw better places, had better ideas, and executed their ideas
better.  So I just stopped
creating. Obviously that’s not a good answer, so now I try to keep in tune with
other work (especially landscape and self-portraiture), but I also just try to
create for myself.
There is a lot of reference to time
passing and travel within all of your work.  In Scape there is this feeling that nothing is
constant, like you are drifting from place to place.
I’ve never been good at photographing in my own backyard, so
to speak.  For one reason or
another, escaping has become increasingly important or my photography.  That has meant escaping back to where I
grew up, escaping all over the country, and escaping to large city parks outside
of the city.
My first large travel experience, photographically, was in
the fall of 2011, when I made my work in Scape.  I mostly went on that trip because it had been about two
years since I really photographed. Living in Philadelphia after college put me
in some sort of photographic and emotional rut, so the only way I thought to
get out of it was to travel and see again.  That trip was literally about escaping and reinventing.
I love traveling and seeing new places, especially
landscapes.  That will probably
never go away in me.  Yet, I also
really need to travel to be alone sometimes.  As I’ve mentioned, loneliness (or my illusion of it) is
partially ingrained in me, and I’ve found that traveling to different
landscapes helps me cope with my loneliness. 
I am aware that you just moved out
to Santa Fe, NM.  It seems like you
have lived in some very different places in America’s geography.  Does shifting
home this much affect your work?
Yes, it definitely does.  Each place I’ve lived has a different geography and
different social climate.  Even
though I’m not great at photographing where I live, I’m trying to get better at
that.  When I lived in Ohio, I had
a realization that I was going to be in this strange place for about a year, so
I had to make the most of it with my photography.  That’s when I started photographing the large parks in and
around Columbus.  I tried in some
way to make the Ohio land a part of me.
I’m still trying to grasp the New Mexico landscape and how
this is home for me now.  It seems
that once I get used to a place, especially geographically, I move.  It takes time for me to acclimate to a
landscape, and the New Mexico one is especially difficult.  I’m not used to intense sun or
mountains, not to mention adobe architecture and small pueblos.  It’s more of a “wild” land
than most places I’ve lived, which is hard for me to grasp photographically,
strangely enough.
Overall, shifting my homes helps reopen my eyes to the
constants and changes in my art and myself.  I’m starting to learn which terrains I appreciate and which
light I want to follow.  I also
really enjoy the challenge of trying to make a place my own, especially through
my photography.
Why exactly do you think it is so
hard photographing your direct surroundings?  Does the familiar become too mundane?
I think in some ways, I feel too close to my immediate
surroundings.  It’s not that I find
the familiar mundane–in fact, I’m constantly inspired by what I see.  I actually tend to post photos on Instagram
of every mundane moment I have or see. 
Yet, when it comes to my other photography–the work I think about more
and use my “real” cameras for–I always seem to need to go away to
make that work.
I try to delve into some part of my emotional past and
present when photographing portraits and landscapes.  And I think in order for me to do that, at least right now,
I need to go outside of my comfort zone, outside of my immediate space.  Unfamiliar landscapes–even if they’re
within mere miles of where I work, eat, and sleep–help me disconnect from my
everyday life and find a part of myself that I want to explore more.
Nothing is really mundane to me.  I just find different types of inspiration in different
places.
Because nature is quite vast, and
easily accessible, are there specific images that you strive for, that you go
out to shoot, or is there spontaneity to your photographs?
When photographing in South Dakota, I usually have specific
shots that I strive for.  I know
that landscape pretty well, and I know that it’s largely the same view
everywhere you look.  So I know
that I need to look for a certain type of field or certain color palette when
I’m there.  I try to use the
repetition of that landscape to my advantage, which sometimes takes a lot of
pre-visualization and some sketches.
When I’m traveling to different landscapes in shorter
periods of time, I tend to shoot more and shoot very spontaneously.  Unfamiliar landscapes force me to be
more spontaneous, and spontaneity forces me to try more things and make more
images.
I like both methods of shooting, if they’re methods at
all.  I love the slowness of my
South Dakota photography, and how it allows me to think about that one specific
landscape over the years.  Of
course, I also love seeing a wide variety of terrains within a short period of
time. The diversity of the land allows me to think about how to connect all
those terrains into my life.
You deal with many over arching
themes, so how do you declare a body of work finished?  Does it necessarily finish when you
move, such as when you left Ohio, or is there potential for it to continue?
I think there’s always some potential for most of my
projects to continue, especially my work in South Dakota.  I’d love to continue to photograph in
Ohio as well, and since my dad lives there, that will probably happen in the
future.  On some level, I do
declare a body of work finished once I move, since it’s easy to wrap up
projects at that point.  Yet, since
I go back to both South Dakota and Ohio so often, I’d like to keep both of
those projects open for a while.
My work in Scape is definitely finished though; at least I’m
finished making the images.  That
project, though I didn’t know it at the time, was about a specific journey at a
specific time in my life.  It
chronicles a road trip around the country during a time when I needed it
most.  Though I definitely plan on
going on more road trips in the future, they won’t fit into what Scape became, because
I’m not in the same personal space as I was then.
I also see many of my separate projects as part of a general
whole body of work.  All of my
photography deals with escapism, alienation, self-searching, and the land.  I don’t see an “end” to that whole
project anytime soon.  So for now,
everything is sort of left open.

Scape
These photographs document a journey through America. They are images of wonder and excitement,pain and loneliness, and my personal ideas of self. Additionally, they are portraits of America’s land.

I often can’t relate to America as it’s depicted through the media’s eyes. I find it difficult live up to cultural standards and societal expectations. I have trouble getting close to those closest to me. Yet, when I see America—the America of such diverse, beautiful, and nuanced terrain—I find that even if I can’t understand what America has become, what people around me have become, or what I’ve become, I can feel comfort in the landscapes.

This collection is vast. Not every photo is perfect. Immense meaning won’t be found at every turn. Rather, the photos are a way for me to both explore and escape where I live and who I am.
































Robert Herman: The New Yorkers

Brooklyn born photographer, Robert Herman began working as an usher at a movie theater owned
by his parents. The exposure to a wide range of films during his formative
years provided him with a unique vision: “Working for my father allowed me to
view the same movie repeatedly,” he recalls, “until the story line began to
recede and the images became independent of the narrative.” 



Robert received a BFA in film making from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and received his Masters in Digital Photography from the School of Visual Arts in NYC.  Later as a production still photographer on
independent feature films, Herman discovered the life at the periphery of film
locations was more compelling than the film sets. His book of his NYC color street photographs, The New Yorkers, to be self-published in the fall of 2013 with help from a successful Kickstarter campaign. His is currently also working with Fractured Atlas to defray additional costs and accepting additional tax deductible donations.
His work is part of the permanent collections of the George
Eastman House and the Telfair Museum in Savannah, GA. His photographs are also
in many private collections and has exhibited across the United States including
the Museum of Modern Art, the galleries of the Savannah College of Art &
Design, The Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and The Henry Gregg Gallery in
DUMBO. This spring, photographs from The
New Yorkers
were included in a traveling exhibition that originated at the
Istanbul Photography Museum, and then moved to Ankara, Turkey with more venues
to be announced in the coming months.

The New Yorkers

New
York City is like a diamond mine. The pressure will turn one into coal dust or
a multi-faceted jewel. To survive with some sort of evolving grace, it is
absolutely essential to cultivate a Zen-like awareness. Consciously choosing to
be in a state of openness is also useful for making photographs. To paraphrase
the art critic John Berger: A photograph that surprises the photographer when
he makes it, in turn surprises the viewer. No matter how hardened and cynical
one becomes, the act of taking a picture, forces one to try to return to an
innocent wonder. Every time I go out to make photographs, I ask myself this
question: Can I see the world with vulnerability and clarity?

The
New Yorkers is a body of work that I began when I was still a student at NYU,
when I was learning to be a photographer. I was living in Little Italy at the
time and everyone around me seemed to be a subject: the man who changed tires,
the superintendent of the building next door.  I discovered Harry Callahan’s magnificent book: Color and
Robert Frank’s The Americans. These images opened my mind to what a strong
photograph could be. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this
was my starting point. Both of these photographers re-made the mundane, the
ordinary and the everyday and transformed them into small and transcendent
jewels.

Over
the years, I lived in several different apartments and I continued making pictures
in whatever neighborhood I happened to be living in. Becoming comfortable in my
new surroundings would ease the way for me to make the authentic photographs I
was seeking. Key to this body of work was letting the subject matter determine
the outcome. I would make myself available, allowing my intuition to be my guide
and let the content rise to the surface. The true epiphany was not to embellish
or to judge: with the removal of the internal impediment strong subject matter
would speak for itself. Like a man searching for water in the desert with a
dousing rod, I became a vessel and allowed the images to pass through me onto
the film.

As an illustration of this, “Eldorado” was made
on a day when I was sitting around my loft with my girl friend at the time when
suddenly I said, “ I’ll be right back, I have to go out and take some
pictures.” Ann nodded her ascent and with my Nikon F in hand, I walked around
the corner onto Mulberry Street. 
In the bright afternoon sun two luxury cars were parked angling in from
the street towards a large green garage door. I chose my framing just as two
boys walked into the shot and I made my picture.  I was back at home five minutes later and knew I had captured
something truly special. I was at a loss to explain what had just happened. It
was truly a mystery. I realized that if I were wiling to relinquish some
control, I would occasionally be rewarded with strong photographs.
I went out to search for water
in order to survive, and I was led to something shining down from the sky
and bubbling
up from the ground.

There
is synchronicity and coincidence present everywhere. Photographs are a way of
revealing hidden relationships that are only present for a moment in space and
time, seen from a unique vantage point. The New Yorkers is the record of my
self-discovery as a photographer, inside and out, manifested on the streets of
New York City.

Jon Horvath, Untitled (from Wide Eyed)

Jon Horvath, Untitled (from Wide Eyed)

Jon Horvath

Untitled (from Wide Eyed),
Winslow, Arizona, 2012
From the Wide Eyed series
Website – JonHorvath.net

Jon Horvath is an artist and educator residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2008. His work has been exhibited nationally in galleries including: The Print Center (Philadelphia), Macy Gallery at Columbia University (New York), Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, and The Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography. His work is currently held in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Haggerty Museum of Art, and is included in the Midwest Photographers Project at The Museum of Contemporary Photography. Horvath was a finalist for the The Greater Milwaukee Foundation's 2009 and 2010 Mary L. Nohl Emerging Artist Fellowship. In 2011, he was named a US Flash Forward winner by The Magenta Foundation. Horvath currently teaches at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.

TIME Style&Design: Peter Hapak Photographs Marion Cotillard

To prepare for his cover sitting with Marion Cotillard for TIME Style&Design’s fall issue, photographer Peter Hapak hit the archives, collecting pictures of Paris and Parisian fashion during the 1930s, including the work of famed French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. Studying images of women in restaurants, chatting with friends or simply roaming the streets of the city, Hapak easily understood why Paris has long been considered a fashion capital of the world. “All of the women looked like they had walked out of a fashion magazine,” he says. “Fashion is such a big part of the culture there, and you can even feel that history when walking through the city today.”

Peter Hapak for TIME

TIME Style&Design Fall 2012

On set in Paris this August, Hapak tried to evoke this era, capturing Cotillard in designs by French fashion houses Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, along with other designers like Andrew Gn and Dries Van Noten. “She’s the representation of the French woman for me—elegant, but not too stylized,” says Hapak of Cotillard, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of French singer Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. “With the cover look, it felt like she was pulling a dress out of her own closet. It went so well with her style, and she felt really confident in it, that you would have never known she was dressing up for a shoot.”

Peter Hapak is a contract photographer for TIME. In December of 2011, Hapak photographed The Protester, TIME’s Person of the Year. 

More: See all of TIME’s Style&Design coverage

TIME Style&Design: Travels Through Bhutan

When I first visited Bhutan, I was all of 7 years old. My memories from the trip are, at best, vague. I remember the long, tedious bus ride from the Indian border to Thimphu, and I have some recollection of a ceiling—possibly in a monastery—painted with dragons and other fantastic creatures. What I don’t recall at all is the astonishing natural beauty of this Himalayan paradise, the grandeur of its forts and palaces, the serene calm of its people. Such things are lost on little boys.

Happily, the best things about Bhutan have not changed a great deal since my youth. The gorgeous vistas, grand ‘dzhongs’ and graceful people were all in abundance during my visit this summer. To travel through the country, from Thimphu to Bumthang, Punakha and Paro, is to be treated to a succession of jaw-dropping panoramas of mountains, valleys and rivers, punctuated by fabulous man-made landmarks. (Yes, there are still dragons on the ceilings!)

My enjoyment of these was heightened by the knowledge that so few people get to enjoy them: Bhutan receives fewer visitors in a year than New York City, my home, gets every day! One consequence is that Bhutanese have not grown blasé of tourists: there is a genuine warmth toward, and curiosity about, visitors. Many of my interviews were topsy-turvy: I ended up being the one answering questions!

But Bhutan is not some magic land trapped in time, even though people frequently compare it with the fictional Shangri-La. It is a country evolving from a monarchy to a democracy; the first elected government is just four years old. It is also embracing, with appropriate caution, the trappings of modernity. Young people favor jeans and t-shirts over the traditional robes, the karaoke bars are full of customers belting out Bollywood numbers, and although major international retail chains are absent, one ingenious local businessman has named his grocery shop “Eight Eleven.”

Photographer Bharat Sikka captures Bhutan’s evolution in this series of images from our trip together.

Bobby Ghosh is an editor-at-large at TIME. Read his full story from Bhutan at TIME’s new Style blog.

Bharat Sikka is a Delhi-based photographer. See more of his work here.

Joshua Ballew

When I first saw Joshua Ballew’s work, I knew we had something in common. For years, I would collect shopping lists I’d find in grocery carts and keep them to reread the scrawled rosters of much needed items.  They were poignant and insightful and ultimately odd and ordinary.  The handwriting, the miss spellings, and that one quirky item that gives you a window into the person adds to the experience.

Joshua also collects grocery lists for his project, Archive of the Ordinary.

Image from Archives of the Ordinary

The series featured today is a wonderful exploration of items he has come across in various books.  Between the Sheets are little messages or totems that connect us to another human and offer a sense of history and what has come before.  

Joshua is working towards his BFA in Photography at The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) and living in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI.   His work questions “What do the
objects we use reflect about our character”? By utilizing mundane, yet
personal items he investigates what can be revealed by creating typologies of similar objects. The collected work exposes something about the person the items are connected to, but also reflect items that are banal and wonderfully unique at the same time. 
Between The
Sheets
– This series
examines the peculiar relationship between used “romance” novels and the small
items I find within each book. I am motivated by the simple question,
“What do the objects we use reveal about our character?” My process of searching
through the shelves of bookstores and thrift shops is deliberate, while the
discovery and variety of items left behind is unexpected. 

Each diptych exists as a faceless portrait of the previous owner offering more questions than definitive answers. Pairing the items with an image of the pages on which they were found, allows for the banality of each item to contrast the sensational lines of text and titles of each book. This disparity between the real and the ideal becomes the focus of the work, speaking directly to the desire of escapism fulfilled within the pages of each book. 

Success Stories: Julia Kozerski

The photographs of Julia Kozerski first came onto my radar when Fraction Magazine’s David Bram selected her photograph for the Juror’s Award in the Center of Fine Art Photography’s Food Exhibition.  Director Hamidah Glasgow also selected Julia’s work for the Director’s Award, and it was a signal that this was work of interest.  Last October, I had a chance to meet Julia, at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago, and see her powerful and poignant work in person. Since that time her work has been featured in exhibitions across the country and she has received significant exposure on-line, including the CNN Photos blog.  And this was all while an undergraduate at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design!  After she picks up her diploma at the end of this week, she heads off to Review Santa Fe in early June to undoubtedly continue an amazing career as a fine art photographer.

I thought I would interview Julia at this pivotal point in her photographic journey and explore what has brought her to where is stands today. I will be featuring a few images from her Half project, and then introducing her new body of work, Tag.
Julia Kozerski’s BFA Thesis Exhibition
Interview with Julia Kozerski

I don’t know where to begin with my congratulations. But I
will start with big kudos for completing your BFA! How does it feel now that
the show is on the walls and all the effort over the last 4 years is a thing
the past? 
Thank you! I have officially completed all of
my coursework and now anxiously await the “grand finale,” walking across the
stage at our graduation ceremony on May 12.

My undergraduate education was turbulent to say
the least. In that time, I got married, 
purchased my first home, cared for the health of my parents, lost over
160 pounds, underwent emergency surgery, and, most recently, witnessed my
mother’s passing. Despite these obstacles, I attended full-time, and will
proudly graduate with honors. None of these occurrences are ideal at any stage
in one’s life but I have begun to appreciate the fact they happened to me
during a time when I was learning to see and understand the world in creative
new ways. Because of this, I think I was more willing to openly investigate the
circumstances (rather than suppress or ignore them) and embrace my experiences,
allowing them to fuel my visual explorations.


My BFA thesis has been on display for the last
month. My exhibition has provided not only a capstone and closure to my hard
work over the last 4 years (technically 5 years since I was forced to withdraw
my junior year off to care for my parents,) but it has also given me a platform
to assert myself an “artist” rather than just as a “student.” It also has
provided a platform to share my intensions going forward after graduation.

Before starting the
project that would change your life in so many ways, what were you creating
with photography?
I’ve
always had something to say and was never one to make purely aesthetic artwork.
Before beginning “Half,” I was exploring a wide variety of subjects, always
with the intent of inciting social commentary. Through my photography, I’d
worked with themes surrounding identity, body-image, religion, politics, the
economy, and LGBTQ issues. I was also working three dimensionally.


So, let’s get down to
talking about the “body” of work that has put you on the map, and in much
better health, Half. When did you decide to create a photographic project about
this journey?
In
December 2009, just after my wedding, I started a journey towards better
health. I was in school at the time and thought that I could explore some of
the issues and questions that had arisen from this personal experience for my
class assignments. For a length of time, I used my photography to speak about
our society’s misguided notions of nutrition – mainly addressing ideas
surrounding fast food. I even explored my weight-loss in a more tongue
-and-cheek fashion by addressing certain aspects in my Humor in Contemporary
Photography class.

Eventually I came to realize that what I was
talking about could be better understood, related to, and appreciated by the
viewer if I stopped speaking abstractly and started speaking to my personal experience.
The first images I shared in class critiques were those up-close, detail images
of my skin (titled “Casing No. 1,” “… No. 2,” and “… No. 3.”) I was lucky
to be part of a class of professors and students that understood what I was
enduring outside of the classroom and I was encouraged to continue forward with
my exploration. As I began to become more comfortable sharing nude images of my
body in public, I pulled the camera out – teasing the viewer with silhouettes
of my figure and then, eventually, exposing myself (no holds bared) to the
truth of my experience and it’s affect on my physical and emotional well being.


Developing “Half” was a gradual process,
spanning 2 years, and, in the end, I found that the process functioned very
much as a catharsis. Through my images I was able to capture moments in time
which were fleeting. Photographing allowing me the necessary time to stop and
process what I had gone through and be able to speak about it in more concrete
way. Looking back, I don’t think I chose to create this project – I let my life
dictate my visual explorations.

What did you learn as
a photographer, and as a person from this project?
Creating
“Half” was probably as equally as important to my personal life as it was to my
professional/photographic life.

Through its development, I learned the
importance of honesty (not to be confused with that intangible element of
“truth” in photography.) By honesty, I am referring to commitment. I might not
have envisioned the full extent of the project or where it would eventually
take me, but I was dedicated to opening myself up in very vulnerable ways and
ready to sacrifice my privacy for (what I believe to be) a greater cause. Just
as I was wholly committed to improving my health, from the first shots taken, I
knew that I wanted (needed) to talk about this subject and that I wanted to
raise awareness and insight conversation in a more public forum. Becoming
honest with myself despite the fear of ridicule and failure was a huge step. In
this, I learned to relinquish certain aspects of control.

Because it was based around such a very
private, personal experience, I anticipated the need to push my own limits of
comfort as well as that of the viewer. Early on I vowed to go at this all or
nothing – I couldn’t imagine only exploring aspects in which I felt
comfortable. With regard to “Half,” there are still images and conversations
stemming from images which make myself and others cringe. In that way, I find
my endeavor to be successful. This project gave me permission to push my
boundaries, both behind and away from the camera.

Gut (no pun intended) also played a huge roll.
Because my body and my emotional and mental state were constantly in flux, I
had to make concrete decisions about images knowing that if I chose not to
shoot something, I couldn’t replicate it later on. Working “in the moment” was
also part of this. Essentially I lived in front of the camera for two years
because I wanted to photograph in “real” time, I wanted my appearance and display
of emotion to be as genuine as possible. Overall, I am proud of this work and I
have a greater respect and sense of pride and appreciation for my instinct.
Before this undertaking, I will admit to being
a bit lost (both creatively and personally.) Not only was I was uncomfortable
with myself physically but I was also filled with insecurity and self-doubt
having felt overshadowed by the label of “student.” “Half” helped me find
myself and aided me in finally realizing myself as a photographer.

Your work is on equal numbers of health and photography blogs and it’s not often that
student work shows up on CNN online and receives thousands of “likes”. What was
it like for you, having your work and story out in world were everyone has access to it…
One word: “incredible.” I am still in awe by
the attention “Half” has received.
At first, I was mainly in a state of disbelief,
mostly connected to comments about my “bravery.” For me, the process of my
physical transformation was nothing “special.” Like almost everyone, I was
simply working to improve upon things I was unhappy with in my life – I
definitely didn’t pursue my journey as some monumental, attention-seeking act.
Whether I’d photographed my progress or not, I was going to make the necessary
changes I needed to improve my health.


It’s interesting now, to have people come up in
person, excited to meet me. Or to receive emails from teachers saying their
students had written reports or given presentations about me/my work for their
classes. As artists, some (maybe most) of us have far off dreams of some level
of success and/or personal notoriety but quickly come back to reality. Notions
of fame never once drove or motivated this work and the truth is, I’m about as
“normal” of a woman as it gets. A student, a wife, a sister, a daughter – I
just happened to have struggled with self-image and wanted to share my
experience with others who I thought might relate. I surely didn’t expect or
anticipate my nude self-portraits to be hung in galleries and to go viral
online.
 And, once I was finally distanced and detached myself from
the work itself, I still found myself bewildered by popularity of the work. For
so long, I thought I was alone in my struggles. I don’t think I fully understood
the gravity and importance of what I was exploring visually until it went
public and I was flooded with the responses of viewers. I am beyond thrilled
that the masses have connected with my work (both within the realm of the arts
as well as within the general public) and that the images are generally
understood and accepted, rather than censored. My images have been viewed all
over the world and it has been empowering knowing that they can transcend not
only the personal but can also function on a very universal level. The
discussions and dialogues created by “Half” have only fueled my ambitions to
continue to break boundaries with my work and to stimulate open and honest
communication about issues surrounding our humanity.

To say the least, it’s been a wild ride thus
far. . . and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Where was the first
place you shared it, and did it make you nervous to do so?
“Half” began as “loose” images I presented for
class assignments (although it was never part of an assigned project.) The
series was very much in its infancy when I began tacking prints up on the wall
during in-progress critiques. Of course, I was nervous at first, showing nude
self-portraits to my classmates and teachers, but, the great thing was that I
was enrolled at an arts-based college so I sheltered by a very supportive,
“protective” environment. Everyone viewing the work had already been exposed to
nudity through art history classes as well as our drawing classes (where we
would study and sketch from live, nude models.) At that time, I was probably
the only one in the room who was uncomfortable and even that was temporary.

Eventually, through those critiques, I began to
understand that my images weren’t purely about me. It was then that I separated
myself from the work, allowing me to view the use of my body purely as
symbolism. After awhile I became comfortable with sharing my work outside of
the classroom and started doing so by releasing select images to a limited,
professional audience through submissions to calls-for-entry and other
photography competitions. The next step to follow was posting the images on my
website. Now, I’m comfortable and am not shy about sharing the images freely,
however, this entire transition was a very gradual process, spanning the course
of several years.

I can only imagine
how the power of creating this work allows you to tackle anything with
confidence. 
How have you managed
to get your work so far out into the photography world while still being a
student? I guess it’s the idea that when the work is significant, it doesn’t
matter what the resume reads.
I’ve
been hiding behind the label, “student,” for the last 5 years and I think it
really held me back in certain cases. For a long time, I thought that, because
I was in school, I couldn’t possibly make meaningful or important work. I was
under the impression that I was “just” a student and no one cared about me or
my work because I wasn’t a “real” artist. Realistically, art is art, no matter
if/when you’ve had education or training. Art transcends. Language, age, race,
disability. . . none of them matter. Art is equal opportunity at it’s purist.
If you are interested in sharing your visual creations with the world (and when
you feel ready) there is an audience. If what you are doing/saying is
meaningful and important, you’ll go far.

The art-community is vast and it’s members are
always seeking to support good work and one another. It is important to be
active, you can’t hide away and expect to be “discovered.” I have a heavy online
presence, networking through Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. I maintain my
website, updating my “News” section weekly and sending email newsletters to
alert people interested in my work of important events. (Please note that my
contact list started with only friends and members of my family. . . and that’s
okay.) A key part to getting your work “out there,” whether a student or not,
is staying active. If you see someone’s work that you like, contact them. I
send emails all the time letting people know that I saw their work somewhere
and that I really responded to it. I congratulate other artists on their
accomplishments. I read a lot and subscribe to online magazines and try to stay
abreast of what is happening in the realm of photography as well as the
art-world as a whole. Communication is key. You need to be open with yourself
and with others. Don’t be selfish. Share. Be friendly. Be professional.


I believe a lot of my “success” has been due to
putting myself out there, taking risks, and working hard towards a career as an
artist (and of course being lucky in some cases.) For a long time, I thought
being an artist/photographer was just about creating work. I was wrong. Being
an artist is about operating as a business – more time will be spent behind the
computer screen, on the phone, and filling out paperwork than it will be
creating the work itself (unless, of course, you are super-duper lucky.) Don’t
think that just because you are a student that you can’t be a part of the
photo/art community. The walls of academia don’t mean much… we are all
life-long-learners.

Was there something
that took your work to the next level?
A little over a year ago, after becoming more
comfortable with my work, I took a chance and submitted to a call-for-entry. Held
through the Center for Fine Art Photography (C4FAP,) the exhibition theme was
“Food” and it was juried by Fraction Magazine founder and editor, David Bram.
It was the first time I’d submitted to anything and I was intimidated. Again, I
saw myself as “just a student” so I figured I’d be written off immediately. I
all but forgot about my entry when I received an email congratulating me on
having my “Untitled” image selected for the show. While excited, I also
secretly wondered if there was a mistake – maybe the email was sent in error,
maybe no one else applied, or maybe, worse yet, my piece was selected out of
pity (At the time, my resume was literally one line long, stating my
educational experience.) Shortly after, I was contacted by the gallery to congratulate
me on receiving an award – not just “an” award, the Director’s and the Juror’s
awards. Both. This was the point in my career (thus far) that took things to
the next level.


“Half” was still in development and I was still
unsure about it’s (and my) future. Still, I decided to take a chance and made
the drive to Colorado for the “Food” exhibition’s opening. Anyone in attendance
at the event can attest to my timidness – I felt like a fish out of water. The
experience changed me. I met so many people that evening, each of them with a
comment or a question. It was the first time I’d publicly spoken about my
feelings and my experience. It was good practice and prepared me for what would
follow. I was encouraged to continue my exploration and was empowered by the
fact that my single image, hung on the wall could elicit such personal
responses from viewers. Strangers I’d never met shared intimate details and
confessions about themselves and it was then that I knew that my work served a
greater purpose.

One image, one submission, one juror, one
experience – changed my life.
Images from Tag
Much of your work is
about revealing the most intimate moments in your life. Do you feel a need to
continue to share yourself at this point, or are you moving away from the lens?
Such a great question, and it’s one that I’ve
been grappling with myself a lot lately.
I can’t say for certain whether or not I will
be in front of the lens going forward. Much of my work is very experiential and
it’s not often that I fully “plan” a series. Rather, I tend to live and let the
images I take from my explorations dictate the projects themselves.


Whether or not images of myself are ever made
public again, I will most likely be taking them. What I will say is that, like
that in which I went through my physical transformation and photographed
“Half,” I am now in a new stage of my life, following graduation. I have a lot
of questions and concerns surrounding myself and my future (both personally and
professionally) and see the potential for continued focus on self-portraiture
as a means of catharsis. Again, whether I share the images or not remains to be
seen.

I definitely don’t want to pigeonhole myself or
confine my visual explorations to one theme or subject. I am open and willing
to whatever comes my way and would welcome a departure from being my own muse
if that is what is to be.

What’s next?
What’s next? . . . What isn’t next?
I’m continuing to exhibit images from “Half” nationally (with hopes of expanding my audience internationally) and will be participating in Review Santa Fe later this month. Other than that, I’m planning on making a lot of new work! I’ve recently become interested in time based media (video) and would like to continue to explore that artistic avenue. Never fear, I’ve also got some ideas for some photographic endeavors as well. Oh, and I’m also planning on applying to graduate schools next year. Eventually I would like to teach.

With no concrete plans to speak of, the name of the game is “onward.” Graduation is not a stopping point for me and I’m excited to see where the future takes me/my work. The only explicit plan I have going forward is that I will create. My guess is that I will stumble and fall on most of my artistic attempts, but, like most artists and photographers, I’m holding on to hope that something great will come of it.




So now that you are
stepping into the real world, do you have any ideas for the future?

Lucky
for me, I was an “older” student (graduating at 27 years old.) I’ve already had
the experience of working in the “real world” and feel more prepared, I think,
than some of my fellow classmates graduating from college.

Ideally, I’d love to think that I could make a
living as an exhibiting artist/photographer but, realistically, given the economy
and other outlying factors (repayment of student loans, etc.,) I don’t think
that that is an option. Besides reentering the working world, I’ve been an
active member of the creative photo community for some time and plan to
continue functioning as so, while continue making personal work.

But. . . I will have to get a “day job.”
(Anyone hiring?)
And finally, what
would be your perfect day?
I’d turn off my phone and completely abandon my
computer. My perfect day would begin by sleeping in as long as possible and,
instead of being awoken by the violent buzzing of my alarm clock, I would be
gently coaxed from my bed by the warm rays of sunshine streaming through my
bedroom curtains. After breakfast, I would venture out into the summer heat,
riding my bicycle (nicknamed Marilyn) on the trails along the edge of the
lakeshore (or better yet, if I could move out West, I’d ride in the desert
landscape.) With the beat of my favorite songs pulsing through my headphones,
I’d return home for a light snack before heading back outdoors for some good
old fashioned landscaping. I’d probably start out with mowing the lawn and
finish up tending to my plants. Afterwards, I’d take a leisurely walk where’d
I’d contemplate ideas and gain inspiration for photographs. Returning home, I’d
spend hours shooting, eventually greeted greeted with a hug and a kiss from my
husband. We’d share a plate of delicious Middle Eastern food before hoping in
the car for a ride into the country (or desert) to watch a thunderstorm roll in.
Afterwards, we’d retire to our home together and climb into bed for the evening
– one last “I love you” before nodding off.

I think I’ll take a bike ride
tomorrow. 


Julia Kozerski, Lovers Embrace

Julia Kozerski, Lovers Embrace

Julia Kozerski

Lovers Embrace,
Milwaukee, 2011
From the Half series
Website – JuliaKozerski.com

Julia Kozerski is a Photographer based out of her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is currently attending the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) working towards her BFA in Photography with a minor in Art History. Images from her series Half have been exhibited nationally in venues such as The Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, CO,) the Midwest Center for Photography (Wichita, KS,) and the RayKo Gallery (San Francisco, CA.) Kozerski's work has also received significant exposure online, having been highlighted in Fraction Magazine, on Feature Shoot, as well as on the CNN Photos Blog.