About six months ago, I was out to lunch with a group of photographer friends: Nancy Baron, Noelle Swan Gilbert, Cat Gwynn, Heidi Lender, Ashly Stohl and me. Over the course of the meal we discussed all the usual photographic topics and also talked about the desire to have fun with photography again, something that gets lost in the onslaught of competitions and reviews. So we decided to create a site, The Six Shooters, assigning ourselves each a day (I am Friday), where we respond to the image from the day before–so each Friday, I am responding to Heidi Lender’s Thursday image who is responding to Cat Gwynn’s Wednesday image who is responding to Noelle Swan Gilbert’s Tuesday image who is responding to Nancy Baron’s Monday image who is responding to Ashly Stohl’s Saturday image and so on and so on.
Our goal is to express Six points of view, over Six days, creating a thread of visual connections whether it be through subject, color, light, or gesture, leading the viewer on a photographic journey–a visual train, so to speak, with each image dependent on the one in front and the one behind to make the engine operate and stay on track. We do not create work for the site, instead mine our archives and use work that sometimes otherwise never sees the light of day. It’s also inspired us to create random images, outside of the “project” template.
We are thrilled to announce our first exhibition, featuring five weeks, 30 images, at the Seaver Gallery at the Marlborough School in Los Angeles, opening September 5th and running though October 9th. You can check out the site here, and follow us on Facebook here!
I am featuring a few weeks of images to give you an idea of the concept.
I received my SHOTS magazine in the mail the other day, and after flipping through a few of the pages, came across an image by Blake Ogden. It struck a chord and made me want to see more.
Second Husband by Blake Ogden
Blake received a BA from Bennington College and majored in Painting and Printmaking. While enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he began serious work in photography.
In My Grandmother’s House is about capturing family history and explores the passage of time. “The idea for this ambitious project began nine years ago when Ogden had a common humanistic impulse to document his grandmother, Jacqueline Vaughan. Soon after the start of his photographic journey, Ogden was struck by the pressing fact that his grandmother was aging, giving him the motivation to capture all that he could on camera.”
I’m so happy to report that Israeli photographer Yaakov Israel has won the PHotoEspaña Descubrimientos (PHE12 Discoveries) 2012 Award for his series The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey. As the winner Israel will take part in PHotoEspaña 2013. The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey was the inaugural exhibition in May at Zelda Cheatle and Deborah Goldman’s new gallery Margaret Street Gallery, see images below, including one of Yaakov and his wife Maya.The work is featured in a book of the same name published by Schilt Publishing.
I first saw Israel’s work at Arles photo festival a few years ago and interviewed him for the April/May 2012 issue of Hotshoe.Excerpt from the feature I wrote in Hotshoe April/May 2012: “A quest is a specific type of journey, one that implies a search for something, and is a familiar plot device used in narratives, both visual and literary. As used in the title of Yaakov’s debut monograph, it is a concept that replaced that of the “photographic journey” as the project developed. In tandem with the idea of a quest, there is also a type of storytelling, more akin to that of a parable, flowing through the book. For Yaakov, the turning point came when he met a man on a white donkey in 2006 – four years into the project. “In the Jewish tradition, this man is supposed to be a religious prophet dressed in white robes. Whereas the man I met was a Palestinian farmer who materialized in the Judean desert in 45-degree heat. The encounter had a biblical feel to it and made me realize that I was really on a quest to explore what it means to be Israeli, and for me to live in this country. Up until then I’d just been looking, but once I understood the project – when I could write down what I was looking for – it presented itself everywhere. It didn’t matter where I was.
“Thus, Yaakov also embarks on an internal, psychological quest in his search for self-identity in a fractured and complex cultural context. “The more I worked on the project, the more I understood that it was not just about the geographical or social aspects of contemporary Israel, but also about the myths and the religions, as well as political and human aspects. It’s like I’m looking for something that only exists when I look at it,” he says. The images that are included in the book therefore are ones that represent for him “the journey and the idea of the journey simultaneously – the mental journey, the physical journey, and the idea of the quest”. Miranda Gavin
The jury of Descubrimientos PHE12 consisted of Anne McNeill, director of Impressions Gallery (Bradford, United Kingdom); Markus Schaden, editor and founder of Schaden (Germany); and Roger Szmulewicz, director of the Fifty One Fine Art Photography Gallery(Belgium). Israel’s porfolio was presented in a review session at Centro de Arte Alcobendas of Madrid during June.
The winners of the last editions of the prize are Fernando Brito,Vanessa Winship, Alejandra Laviada, Yann Gross, Harri Palviränta, Stanislas Guigui, Vesselina Nikolaeva, Comenius Röthlisberger, Pedro Álvarez, Tanit Plana, Sophie Dubosc, Juan de la Cruz Megías, Paula Luttringer and Matías Costa.
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’sFood 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
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
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
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
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?
“Half” was probably as equally as important to my personal life as it was to my
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
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.
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
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
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
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 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?
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.”
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.
DON’T WORRY BE ‘APPY
More and more photographers, publishers and photo organisations are developing photo applications and eBooks for the iPad, iPhone and other digital devices. Today’s post covers two very different apps that may be of interest to anyone interested in documentary photography and travel, as well as photographers who want to improve their portraiture lighting techniques.
IVAN KASHINSKY AND KARLA GACHET
The first offering Short Stories: From Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego is by husband and wife team Ivan Kashinsky and Karla Gachet, two photojournalists based in Quito, Ecuador who recently completed a photographic journey through South America and created their first app for the iPad. The app is “a personal photographic journey exploring the diverse cultures of five countries in South America. Karla and Ivan traveled for seven months in Sancho, their trusty red jeep, documenting thirteen photo essays along the way, from the equator down to the farthest tip of the continent”. It is now available at the Appstore for $3.99. Short Stories iPad app is a joint production of Runaphotosand Lightbox Press, a new publisher of digital photography books.
MICHAEL GRECCO “Grecco breaks down his legendary techniques with step-by-step instructions and diagrams for perfect lighting setups while inspiring his true art of portraiture.“ A how-to app from celebrity photographer and director Michael Grecco whose book Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography is now available on iPad, iPhone, nook and kindle for $24.95.
The eBook is a completely updated version of his best-selling hardback (from 2006) and is available for $150. Grecco will also be leading a Hasselblad-supported workshop on the same topic from 28 March – 2 April in Hawaii. He said: “I am flattered to be able to say that this book has been described as The Lighting Bible – and we have created a special email address for Hasselblad readers ([email protected]). Anyone reading the article can email us and we will send them a special ‘extra’ chapter that will not be found in the eBook.” See the complete news story on the photographer and book on the Hasselbladwebsite. I’ve yet to see the book or app but it looks promising.
Read more for a small selection of images from Short Stories…
What seems like a lifetime ago, I spent a quiet afternoon down the rabbit hole of looking at photographs and came across the work of Angela Bacon Kidwell. I think I was on Flickr or some photo sharing site, and I discovered imagery that was powerful, unique, and compelling. I contacted Angela immediately and over the years, we have become friends and supporters. I have featured Angela’s work several times on Lenscratch, but when she recently shared her new work with me, I literally got the chills. Her work was breaking new ground and I knew it was time to highlight Angela’s many success stories.
Having a ringside seat at Angela’s trajectory, I have watched her professionalism, her artistry, and her thoughtful approach to the photographic journey take root and soar. Her photographs have fans around the world; she has garnered award after award, most recently, winning First Place in the Texas Photographic Society International Competition, is one of the ten finalists for the John Clarence Laughlin Award, and has been nominated for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography. Her work is exhibited all across America and featured in numerous magazines. Born in Dallas, and now living in Wichita Falls, Texas, Angela draws inspiration from her life and experiences, her family, and surroundings. She’s a thinker, a dreamer, and a true artist.
Her new series, Traces of Existence, combines emotion, travel, the unknown, and the new, all mixing into new ways of working and seeing.
from Traces of Existence
The motive in this body of work is to mend the tension and tragedy created when conflicting emotions meet. Walking through the highs of my recent travel to China and the lows of significant personal loss, I have been searching for a visual level of communication that would unite traces of my existence. I have become increasingly fascinated by how tenacious life is and yet how in a moment survival ceases. The fragility of life is represented in this work by a personal language of symbols. I want all my images to have real meaning for me, even if it is not easily read by the viewer. By working more abstractly, the dissimilar images connect to one another in unexpected ways causing a thought or idea to evolve. The juxtaposition of death and despair, represented by skeletons, old age and holes connected to a joyous life filled with children, birds and Ferris Wheels examine the complicated and chaotic ways in which life contracts, expands, converges and divests in our personal journeys. By stretching the image to near disintegration by burning, freezing and submersions I seek to release my emotions and give respect to a life that has been fully lived. The emotions I sought to bandage together resulted in a somber, but completely liberating experience.
Process: Numerous layers of hand painted photographs, drawings and resin make up a single image. The final results are a complex layering process and not complete digital manipulations. The image is printed and re-photographed under various conditions in one final effort to heal the tender wounds that bind my own existence.
You state that the work was created as a way to “mend the tension and tragedy created when conflicting emotions meet. Walking through the highs of my recent travel to China and the lows of significant personal loss, I have been searching for a visual level of communication that would unite traces of my existence.” Has the process of creating the work been therapeutic for you?
The short answer is yes, but let me give you a little background on how the work evolved and share a simple quote I stumbled across while in China that helped lead me in producing this body of work. “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair”. — Old Chinese Proverb
Over the last several years, I’ve been working on a series that address the complex stages of grief after a death. During this time, of searching and gathering my ideas I was simultaneously processing two events in my life: First, the joy of my travels in China and second the loneliness that followed significant personal losses. I decided to take a detour from the new series and move in closer to some of specific events and emotions in my immediate space. The decision I made was to limit myself loosely to the photographs I took in China, personal effects from my grandparents’ home and images my son and I took the last day we occupied their home. My vision was to create a new object that would tie and seal my recent experiences into a single ambiguous memory. And, to keep those nests out!
The process of creating the work became therapeutic because it forced me to work abstractly with the subjects and that helped to create order, distance and a bridge between my internal and external worlds. The work took a considerable amount of time and energy to create, and the more layers an image embodied the more “new” life it took on. The long process of creating each image allowed much time to pass, and you know the saying “time heals all wounds”. It helps.
Did your trip to China change how you see and how make work?
My trip reinforced by belief that images have power beyond what we are able to communicate verbally. There was clearly a barrier in my communications with the people in China but our understanding of visual language provided an alternative to the lack of verbal ability. We are all much more similar than different. This reaffirmation helped me to explore a new way of creating and I sensed that the work would be able to communicate universally. At least I hoped it would.
Your approach is totally unique—hand painting, resin, photographing…can you describe this process?
Once I decided to shape the photographs and objects into a new story or expression the path became quite clear. I wanted to experience an emotional release with each layer of the image. I felt like many times creating the work I was going through certain stages of grief. There are many stages of grief, and they don’t follow a systematic order. They are messy, and this work was messy to create. I printed hundreds of images and began to deconstruct them by cutting, tearing, layering other objects, drawing and painting. The assemblage of the work allowed me to experience different emotions: the tearing and cutting was aggressive contrasted with the painting and drawing that was contemplative. There was a dance that I went through with each individual image- pushing it to near disintegration and then rescuing it again till I was finally ready to let it be. The final stage consisted of defrosting images, and at times allowing my son to interact with the melting image, submerging an image in water for days while adding oil to the water and watching it move, and burning the image. I re-photographed the images going through a new metamorphosis before the image would cease to exist. The final step was a visual and emotional closure.
Was there a reason for working in Black and White?
Honestly, I never considered approaching this work in color. I saw it in black and white.
How does living in a small town in Texas, without the influences of a metropolitan experience and an active physical photo community, affect making work?
I was raised in Dallas, Texas and even though that is a large city I always felt I would move to a larger city such as LA or NY to pursue the arts. Instead, thirteen years ago I moved to Wichita Falls, Texas and this city has boosted my artistic spirit. I do believe that I could be creative anywhere, but I feel where I live is truly conducive to the way I work. I’m a receiver type of personality, and I absorb the energy that is going on in my immediate environment so high energy cities tend to drain me over a period of time. I’m much more productive and peaceful in a small town. The city I live in has a rich, and talented artistic community, and many of my early mentors live here, and that brings about a feeling of safety for me which helps keep me centered.
Your son Bleu has been integral part of your image making. How does he feel about being part of you photographic journey?
Since the moment, he was born I knew I would no longer create in solitude but with a partner. The last six years with Bleu have been nothing short of amazing for me, and I’ll take it so far as to say he has had a pretty interesting, creative childhood.
But, I’ll let him answer that question for himself.
How do you juggle your ever growing success and the demands of motherhood?
Without a doubt, my husband and son are my biggest supporters-on a good day. No, honestly my husband although not a creative being and I know I drive him crazy at times is always in my corner. He understands me and my need to create and explore. He calls me the “white tornado” because I have a ton of energy and I’m rarely still. I can get a lot done! My focus the last eleven years has been on my work and family and one would not succeed without the other. They work in tandem so to speak. I feel very blessed and thankful and would not change a single thing about my life.
What advice can you give emerging photographers, especially on presentation, on networking, on consistently producing excellent work?
The best advice I can share is to attempt to be in a constant state of graciousness. We all have so much to be thankful for, and if you can believe that where you are at the present moment is exactly where you are supposed to be then you are free to create and enjoy what is around you in the present. I started out sharing work via different photography, and social networking sites and my involvement with this media allowed me to gain exposure. The feedback I received from all around the world was crucial because it gave me a boost in confidence to present my work to reviews and competitions. I know networking via Facebook etc… is relevant, but it is also crucial to devote the majority of your time to your own creativity and sometimes too much networking steals precious time. I feel I’m getting closer to my truer self in recent years, and that comes from having a quieter mind and, tweeting etc… is not harmonious with peace. I also think that if you are being honest with yourself then the people that can help you show up in your life at just the right moment without enormous effort on your part. You did that for me years ago, Aline. Thank you!
To be consistent at anything in life you have to keep trying different avenues of expression- it’s all in the doing and doing a ton that produces better work and better work attracts a larger audience. It is a numbers game.
What opportunity took your career to the next level?
Without a doubt, Photolucdia and Review Santa Fe in 2008 opened up some wonderful doors for me and allowed me meet some amazing fellow artists. I think it is also very important to surround yourself with a few caring individuals that support you and your vision. Even one is fine.
Do you ever have periods of self-doubt and feel creatively unmotivated?
Yes, but I don’t focus on those feelings. Every fiber of my being is about creating so I paint something, make something, do something. I’m never without a creative project going on in my life even if it has nothing to do with photography the act of making always impacts the next artistic endeavor. Most people think that being a creative person and living a creative life comes easily but it is a ton of actual work. Of course, there are moments of unique vision but those are fleeting- it is work and for unknown reasons it must come out of me. Annoying sometimes but I wholeheartedly accept it.
And finally, what would be your perfect day?
Finishing this interview is a nice day. Now back to doing. If, the doing goes good today than it is a perfect day!
If you happen to find yourself in Paris next month I invite you to My Private Art Room in the Marais for a glass of champagne. I am having a solo show where I will be exhibiting work from both “Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb” and “Au Bout de la Ligne (At the End of the Line).” As written on the invitation, it is truly a photographic journey into contemporary suburban life. Besides, Paris is beautiful in October.
All I can say is, “Wow, I wish I could”. Tom is no stranger to Paris, having worked in the city of lights in his earlier incarnation as a model, but he already had a camera in hand and created a terrific project on what he found at the end of the Paris metro lines…all 29 of them. When he returned to the states, and to his hometown of Lakewood, CA, he began to see small town life in a new way, and has captured it brilliantly through portraiture and place. It was recently featured on the NY Times Lens blog.
His exhibit of these two bodies of work opens at My Private Art Room in Paris on October 13th and runs through October 30th.
Au bout de la ligne It was living in Paris in the eighties that inspired me to become a photographer, however, it wasn’t until I returned twenty years later that I was roused to photograph the city that had taught me so much about life and art. Yet, I wanted to avoid taking just another of the tens of thousands of photographs that had already been taken of Paris. I mulled over this for weeks, trying to conceptualize a new technique or method of approach to the project, until one early morning, after a long dinner party sitting on a train in the direction of La Defense, the northwest terminus of line number 1, the inspiration emerged. I had ridden the metro throughout Paris, yet I had always traveled in the direction of, but never to, Au Bout de la Ligne. I asked myself–What type of Paris exists at the end of each line? Do the lines end in the suburbs (banlieue)? Are the people who live in the banlieue dissimilar to those who live in the center of Paris? I took the metro to all 29 ends of the 14 metro lines in search of provocative moments, visuals, portraits, and answers to my questions.
Bobigny Terminus Picasso
Châtillon Un Couple
Créteil Un Batiment
La Defense Des Voitures et Grand Batiments
Mairie de Lilas Un Joint
Mairie des Lilas Un Mur
Mairied Ivry Des Couleurs et Feuilles
Nation La Manège
Pont de Levallois Un Biere
Porte de la Chapelle Un Champ
Lakewood: A Photographic Journal of a Sacred American Suburb: I search for provocative portraits and relics of Lakewood’s middle class. I come upon kids riding their bikes whose parents are watchful of strangers but not threatened by them, women tending their yards, and men tinkering inside their garages. I interact with these folks, many whom I share similar concerns and interests. They question why I am taking pictures or if I work for a newspaper. When I tell them my pursuit is only artistic many shake their heads. But for every one who is uncomfortable with my presence, there are those who welcome me to photograph them and their front yards.
Argentinian photographer Irina Werning created one of my favorite series,Back to the Future, that I featured on Lenscratch awhile back. Because I need some levity in my life, I’m featuring her new series, Chini Project, about a Chinese Crested dog. Irina has a BA Economics, from the Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, an MA History, from the Universidad Di Tella, Buenos Aires, and an MA Photographic Journalism, from Westminster University, London. She was the winner of the Ian Parry Scholarship and Gordon Foundation Grant in 2006 and selected for the Joop Swart Masterclass (World Press Photo Organization) in 2007. Her work can be found everywhere in the blogosphere.
Chini is my friend’s Chinese Crested dog. She came into my life in London, 2008 when my friends asked me to look after their house and three dogs for a month while on holidays. I had never lived with dogs, I hardly even noticed their presence until one day I took Chini into a friend’s studio. I took some pictures of her and the following day, CHINI PROJECT began. For a year, I photographed her inside the little sets I would build for her where she was free to act our little human ways. Her photographic journey takes us into the very heart of the human comedy.