Tag Archives: San Francisco Bay

Sarah Christianson

I first featured the work of Sarah Christianson on Lenscratch several years ago after attending her presentation at the West Coast regional SPE conference.  I was drawn to her photographs and story about her four-generation family farm in North Dakota.  Not only was the work compelling and beautifully executed, but her story stayed with me long after the conference.

Sarah sent me the good news that Daylight will be publishing that same body of work, Homeplace ,in the Fall of 2013, and because it is her first book, she will be sharing in the publishing costs through Indiegogo. Sarah needs support to make this a reality, and if you would like to contribute, go here.

Homeplace: A Photo Book Project from Sarah Christianson on Vimeo.

Sarah  grew up on the family farm near Cummings, North Dakota. Immersed in that vast expanse of the Great Plains, she developed a strong affinity for the landscape and the stories it contains. This experience has had a profound effect on her work, as she enjoys creating narratives about place and personal experience through time, historical research, and the landscape.

Her work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in the collections of several institutions in the Midwest and the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, Denmark. She received a BFA in photography at Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2005 and an MFA in photography from the University of Minnesota in 2009.  Since then, she has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area where she teaches photography at City College of San Francisco, volunteers at RayKo Photo Center, and remains an active member of the Society for Photographic Education. She has several exhibitions on the horizon and is getting married in August.  Congratulaltions all around!

Images from Homeplace

Home, for me, will always be a 1200-acre farm in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota.  Its original 160 acres were homesteaded in 1884 by my great-great grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant.  My parents are now the fourth, and last, consecutive generation to work our land, as my siblings and I (like so many other young people) have all moved away to pursue other careers.  These circumstances provided me with the impetus  to document our farm and its origins in Norway at this critical juncture.  

I combine my images with materials from my family’s archive, such as documents and snapshots, to create a rich multi-layered narrative.  Just as different layers of texts intermingle on reused ancient manuscript pages, the history of our farm is marked again and again on the land as a palimpsest. As world populations shift from agrarian to urban lifestyles, our small family farm is only one amongst many that are approaching a crossroads.  What will happen to them?  Who will maintain these traditions and what does this tradition mean?

Success Stories: Candace Gaudiani

I first met Candace Gaudiani at the Fotofest reviews in Houston about six years ago.  She is a striking woman–elegant, self-possessed and smart.  Candace was sharing work from her series, Between Destinations, about her many train travels across the United States.  Since then, I have had the pleasure of seeing Candace at other photography events over the years, and traveled with her in China at the Lishui Photography Festival last fall, where she exhibited her wonderful train work.  I am thrilled to share that Candace now has a monograph of Between Destinations, published by Kehrer Verlag, which includes an extensive essay by Alison Nordström and an interview with Jane Reed and is available through photo-eye and Amazon.

Candace is currently on a book tour and will soon be pulling into Boston on May 30th for a book signing at the Panoptican Gallery, in conjunction with a group show, Planes Trains and Automobiles which runs through July 9th.

Opening in New York City on June 22nd at Photoville, Candace will be exhibiting photographs from 4 train trips.  Viewers will be able to experience her work in a more monumental scale as the exhibition is housed in a shipping container.  She will continue her lectures and book signing into 2013 and her schedule can be found here.

Candace was born in Boston and grew up in Wisconsin and Maine. She holds a B.A., cum laude, in English Literature, and an MBA from Harvard University. Gaudiani studied fine art and portraiture at University of California, Berkeley, and print-making with the print maker for the late Eugene Smith. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area.  She has exhibited widely in the U.S. and Europe and her work is held in numerous collections


What drew you to photography? 

As a child in small town Wisconsin, I drew pictures and storyboards
and spent time alone looking at the world through my bedroom windows. By the
time I was in second grade, my father got me a Yashica camera to match his
Rollei (he was a scientist and amateur photographer). Early on, I learned to be
an observer, to look and see, living in a neighborhood without other children,
and also enjoyed riding for hours on my bike through swampland and countryside.
Being behind the camera was a perfect vantage point for me to see the world.

How long have you been working on this project and how many train trips have
you taken?

 When I took up photography seriously again
seventeen years ago – to see what I could do with it before the lights
went out, I told other people’s stories as they told and showed them to
me. My first two series explored the secretive world of body builders and then
the intimate conversations of ordinary people. Seven years ago, I was drawn to
tell my own story directly. My familiar ground involved journey and travel, as
I had been through all forty eight states by the time I was twelve years old,
with my family mostly by car, but some by train. I had traveled extensively as
an adult, too. To see those familiar memories with new eyes, I started
retracing the routes I had been on much earlier, in an
America from the 1950’s. My
journey evolved, as I initially explored photographing from cars (running off
the road several times, negotiating the steering wheel and the camera) and from
planes. None of that produced what I hoped for. So, I boarded trains and, over
the course of those seven years, discovered new ways of seeing and produced
four distinct series. In that evolution, I reinterpreted pictures through train
windows in black and white and in color, in sizes ranging from intimate cards
to larger than life windows on the world. In each case, the nature of the
object impacts how the viewer sees and interacts to the story. In most cases, I
do not include place names or text, as I want the viewer to populate the
pictures with his or her own story and memories and to accompany me on a new
journey. And I realize that as I change my art, my art changes me.
I have
been on over 20
extensive or cross
country train trips and many car and plane trips.

While you are a passenger, are you continually engaged in what’s out the
window, or do you shoot selectively?

When I began, I photographed what
caught my eye, out the passenger window, up track and down track, rather
passively. On my recent rips, I work very hard, covering two stories of the
train, shooting out different windows from varying vantage points, packing a 25
pound backpack and working two cameras. I always work alone, as I want to focus
on what I am seeing out the exit door/dining car/observation car/passenger
seat/hallway windows. It is intense and exciting – what discoveries
lie around the bend? Before trips in recent years, I
preplan, with an eye to filling in what might be missing from my series to date
and to capturing new vistas. For instance, I look at the map of the rail route
and compare it to timetable and geography. At what time will I be at point X?
Will the sun be to my west or east? Will that glare prevent me from shooting
out an east window? What side of the train will the train’s shadow be on?
What will the weather be? –
if it is sunny, the
mood will be one way, if rainy, another. And so on.

What has been your favorite train trip?  
I think my favorite train trips are my very first one and
the most recent one! Each one has covered many states and presented its own
discoveries. I will say there is something special about waking up in the
middle of the night in the desert and seeing more stars than I ever could have
imagined and going back to sleep with the rocking of the train slipping quietly
through the night.

After completing this project, would you still consider train travel?

Always! I like the concept of being
free on the train, yet yielding up to where it is going. A train is always
between destinations, and so are we all in life.

Tell us how the book came about? 

six years into this project, I met at several photography portfolio reviews the
acquisition manager of Kehrer Verlag, a highly respected small art publishing
house in Germany.
As my work progressed and the four series developed, Kehrer expressed an
interest in publishing all of my train pictures, both black and white and color.
That happened in April, 2011. I thought I had one to two years to complete the
book, but the acquisitions manager emailed me three weeks later and asked
“How about publishing in January 2012? And, by the way, we need
specifications, a title, and cover art in three weeks for our catalogue”.
Of course, I said Of Course! Those three weeks were among my most intense
creative efforts. The whole experience with Kehrer was positive. I went to Germany
to be pre press and on press, with guide prints for every image in the book
– all of which were crucial to the outcome for the book. And it is
beautiful, even better than I hoped.

What can you share with emerging photographers about getting their work out
into the world?

Always make time to do work. Be clear and present and see clearly and well when you work. Build from what you are familiar with but see it with new eyes. Always follow what you are drawn to – you will have something of yourself in whatever photo you make, and it will be stronger. Every portrait or photograph is a self-portrait. Move beyond sharing with family and friends to put your work in front of industry experts through portfolio reviews and local colleagues. Mess around. Always do something that scares you. Just when you think you cannot continue a particular photo shoot, hang in there, because that is when the best photos are made. Talk with industry consultants when you feel you are ready for a next step but don’t know how to get there.

What event took your work to the next level?  
 I think there were different events at different stages
and different people. In my book, my Acknowledgments section honors many who
made a difference to me over time. But what in general took my work to the next
Seeing with new eyes, setting aside my accustomed ways
of looking at things, and getting advice from wise colleagues and friends.

What’s next?  

Well, it’s too
early to talk about it, but it might include circling back and supplementing my
earlier series on body builders, titled “Do I Measure Up?…” I remain passionate about storytelling and
photography and issues of impermanence, intimacy, place, and memory.

And finally, what would be your perfect day? 

After checking email, I would take a walk with my dog in
the California
hills, come back and quietly look at and edit new work. I would plan an
upcoming trip. Mostly alone, but a connection with friends,

Success Stories: Beth Yarnelle Edwards

When I first started looking at contemporary fine art photography in a significant way, I profoundly connected with Beth Yarnelle Edwards’ images of girls in their bedrooms. I have kept an eye on her image making over the years and when I recently discovered she was about to publish her first monograph, Suburban Dreams, by Keher Verlag of Germany, I thought it would be a good time to not only recognize Beth as a Success Story, but learn more about what goes into her process of making work.

Beth was born in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania and relocated to Los Angeles as a child. She received degree in psychology from UCLA and then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she got a MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. After teaching for seven years, she took time off to be at home with her son. It was during that period that she realized her fascination with how people live and inspired by a writing course, learned to tell her stories in a visual way. She went on to receive an MFA in photography, but is now an adjunct professor of English as a Second Language at the University of San Francisco. “My day job is related in some ways to my interests as an artist. My purpose is to teach students to communicate in English and to navigate American culture. At the same time that I educate them, they teach me many important things about themselves and their ways of seeing the world.”

Beth has become an international phenomenon exhibiting in India, Belgium, and Iceland in the coming months. She has had solo museum exhibitions in France and Belgium, her work has been included in a number of books, she was the winner of the 1999 Center Project Competition, and her work is held in many museum collections.

Beth’s new monograph, Suburban Dreams

Congratulations on Suburban Dreams! Can you tell us how the book came about?

Thank you! I’m happy and excited about Suburban Dreams, which includes fifty-six domestic scenes from Silicon Valley and five European countries. I’d been working on the series since 1997 when I met Alexa Becker from Kehrer Verlag at Fotofest 2010, and I and was absolutely thrilled when Kehrer invited me to do a book. Suburban Dreams was released in Europe last January. It will be available in the US this September (2011).

This is my first monograph, so I had no idea what to expect and was somewhat nervous about the whole process. However, the people at Kehrer were so professional, so responsive, so intelligent, so talented, etc. that working on the book was a joy. I’m very proud of what we created together and consider myself blessed to have worked with them.

Mareike and Bettina, Germany

I first discovered your work when you were shooting children in their bedrooms. Obviously getting in behind closed doors is a passion of yours, and your ability to capture a scene in a formal way, yet have the moment feel unscripted, is an incredible talent. Can you talk about the way you work?

Before Suburban Dreams, I had created a 35mm black and white project with similar interests but which was completely fictional. Two of these images were published in The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine. However, when I began graduate school, I felt the need to try something new and decided to experiment with medium-format, color, and a more documentary approach. I began with people I knew, and many were children who loved the attention and were also very natural in front of the camera. I would give every family a signed print of their photograph, and soon happy subjects were sending me on to their friends, neighbors, and relatives—all people who were strangers to me. When I started receiving invitations to photograph in Europe, I was introduced in various ways to even more strangers. The result is that most of my subjects have been people I had never met before.

I have a procedure for my first meeting with subjects as well as a set of rules for keeping things as truthful and natural as possible during the shoot. My first concern is always that people understand what they’re getting into, that they know what my pictures look like and where they might be seen. Originally, I would arrive at a first appointment with a box of prints, but now I can just tell people to look at my website. Either way, we talk about my photographs, my intentions, and my working methods. I answer any and all questions and require subjects to sign a model release. During this first visit, I observe carefully,

ask many open-ended questions, and if I’m ready, discuss possible scenarios. Concepts for the photographs are inspired by my observations, answers to my questions, and sometimes by direct suggestions from my subjects themselves. It’s my job to ensure that the ideas are original and authentic to the people involved.

Before the day of the shoot, we agree about the scenes we will do. I ask each subject to have two or three outfits ready that they like and frequently wear and that are appropriate for our concept. If any objects or supplies are needed (for example, food for cooking a meal), we discuss those too. When I arrive, I tell people to stay relaxed while I set up my equipment and my lights, if I’m using them.

I set up the frame of the photograph and then ask my subjects to improvise inside this space, to do what they would normally do in this given situation. I don’t usually pose people but rather wait for an authentic expression, gesture, or posture to appear. When I see it, I very quietly ask my model/s to hold that position for a second or two. I may ask someone to move a little closer or to turn a bit, but always I’m waiting for the authentic to appear. Since it takes people quite a while to feel truly comfortable and to be completely themselves, I just keep shooting and saying encouraging things. The first images are not usually the best ones.

Lisette, California

Do you ever feel ill at ease with strangers, especially when you are treading on such personal space?

I love meeting new people, and these strangers have already expressed an interest in being in my pictures. Their wanting me to be there helps overcome any potential shyness. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable when I encounter compositional or technical difficulties and feel I’m taking too long to set up. People are gracious about it, but they tend to hover around, and that can make me nervous.

Kim, California

How do you find your subjects, and I’m curious to their reactions, especially about appearing in your book. Has anyone said they weren’t comfortable participating?

As I mentioned, I began with people I knew and then was introduced to others who in turn presented me to their contacts. Sometimes people would hear about my project and volunteer. In Europe my subjects have come to me in a variety of ways. My first experience was in France when I had a solo exhibition at Château d’Eau, the photography museum in Toulouse. At my vernissage, the director, Jean-Marc Lacabe, invited me to return to photograph local households. When I accepted, he placed a sign-up sheet on the wall of my exhibition so that anyone who came by who wanted to be photographed could sign up. In Spain I worked for an architecture magazine that provided a list of households at all social levels, including two men who were squatting in a WWII bunker. When I was artist-in- residence for the Mannheim Photography Festival, the festival office advertised for volunteers. Regardless of how I’ve met my initial contacts, in every location I’ve photographed, the people I’ve met have wanted to introduce me to others. By the end of a project, I usually have a list of many more people than I have time to meet.

One of my requirements for models is that they first view my work and be comfortable with where their photograph might be seen, so this hasn’t been an issue. I believe I’ve visited more than two hundred households, and I can only think of one that turned me down. However, I have met a few people I didn’t feel I could work with. These were rare, perhaps five or six out of two hundred plus visits, and they were always men. The problem in these situations was that the person wanted to tell me exactly how and what to photograph. I’m respectful, so if some aspect of a subject’s daily life is out of bounds, I will come up with another concept I believe is also true to the people involved. I’m very clear when I present my ideas and usually explain what I observed or heard that inspired me. Sometimes my subjects will originate a great idea, and we will use it. What I refuse to do is create something that looks like a magazine ad or that tells a story that seems false.

Scott and Keith, California

You’ve been creating these portraits in other cultures and countries. Have you found any differences?

Before working in Europe, I’d attributed my success to being a cultural insider. I thought people were comfortable with me because I seemed familiar, so I was really nervous when I began in France. I could speak French but not very well, and I had heard that French people wouldn’t be willing to let me poke around their homes and ask a lot of questions. I was surprised and delighted to find the opposite, but of course these were people who had already seen my work and volunteered to take part. My French models were not only very welcoming

but also less self-conscious than many of the Americans I’d photographed. While I would sometimes get requests from Americans to photograph them on their “good side” or make them look thinner, my French subjects were much more interested in what I would discover in their lives and their homes. It was fun for them, and I was almost always treated like a special guest and asked to remain for lunch or dinner. This friendliness and openness have continued in all of the European countries where I’ve worked.

Lea Pauline, France

What do you personally take away from this experience, this privilege of having access to other people’s lives?

I’m deeply grateful to the people who have opened their homes and shared their lives with me. They’ve added to my understanding of the human condition, and I feel the experience of working together has made all of us richer. People have told me that my interview has caused them to see or think about their lives in a new way. I’ve also made many wonderful new friends.

Marvin, Germany

What’s next?

For the time being, I will continue to work in the same manner but in new places. I made a lot of new photographs this summer in Berlin and am in the process of editing them. I’d very much like to photograph in Asia.

I have a couple of new ideas—one about death as well as a project on love goneawry—but those will have to wait until I have the time and resources to execute them.

Chris B, France

What advice can you give emerging photographers, especially on presentation, on networking, on consistently producing excellent work?

I’m rather shy about approaching people in the art world, so many of my opportunities have come from structured situations like Fotofest or from sending things by mail. My presentation is pretty simple: a box of good prints for an in-person visit, good scans sent by email or on a CD, and my website. I make cards with my images on simplecard.com and use them as leave-behinds or for correspondence.

I believe that excellent work begins with passion, good skills, a willingness to work very hard, and a strong sense of one’s unique talents and interests. An excellent photographer should be making the work that only she or he can make; in other words, one should be demonstrating a unique vision. What is also necessary is ruthless editing and taking the time to really consider new photographs before releasing them into the world.

John, California

What opportunity took your career to the next level?

At my first Fotofest (1998), I met a Dutch artist, Jan van Leeuwen. We decided to trade tips by email, and one of his was about a French competition. I entered, won the gran prix, and was exhibited with the ten finalists. That exhibition led to more in France and eventually to my first project there. Taking my work to Europe was very important for my career.

Erin, California

Has social networking changed how you promote and market your work?

Not yet. I’m way behind in this area. I’m on Facebook but rarely check unless someone friends me or sends an e-mail directly. I joined because I thought it would be good for promotion and for meeting fellow artists, but I haven’t figured out yet how to make it work. I’ve posted a few things but am still pretty awkward about it.

Colby, California

Do you ever have periods of self-doubt and feel creatively unmotivated?

I don’t lack inspiration or motivation, but I often lack the time and resources I need to act on them.

Vern, California

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

My perfect day would last at least a month, and during that time, the sun would never set, and I wouldn’t need to sleep. I’d be able to do my work without any interruptions. When I felt satisfied that I’d accomplished something interesting, I’d spend the rest of the time with my loved ones.

Bruce and Melissa, California

Susan, California

Niki, California

Marta, Canary Islands

Leigh Merrill

Growing up in the big sky country of New Mexico, photographer Leigh Merrill probably didn’t give the urban environment much thought. After receiving a BFA from the University of New Mexico, she moved to the Bay Area to attend Mills College in Oakland, CA. It was from this experience of living without visual expanse, that she became interested in the way people live in cities. Now living in Texas, Leigh continues to exhibit across the US and most recently had a solo exhibition, Into the Sunset, at the Lawndale Art Center in Houston, TX. Two of her series, Into the Sunset and Street take similar approaches; I am featuring Street below.

Statement for Street: I am driven to photograph the places where I live, fueled by a curiosity about the architecture we surround ourselves with, and how it reflects larger cultural ideas. The images depict places that waver between fantasy and reality, calling into question ideas of beauty, class and cultural romanticism in our urban and rural landscapes.

Upon moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 I began looking at the complexity of its urban environment. The Bay Area presents a unique blend of residential living that sits between urban and suburban in a way that never quite reconciles one with the other. In investigating this landscape I photographed thousands of homes throughout the area and then digitally assembled these images together to create new and illogical structures and streets. At first these images look plausible, however, closer inspection reveals their fabrication.

The reconstructed homes and neighborhoods appear skewed, revealing their underlying and sometimes unconscious intentions. These constructs highlight the ways in which our built environments pull from a variety of different architectural and landscape styles and reflect cultural ideas of beauty and perfection. In working with the Bay Area as a site for investigation, I explore what our built environments tell us about our own individual desires as well as our collective culture and ideals.

Photographer #224: Alex Fradkin

Alex Fradkin, 1966, USA, originally studied and practiced architecture. It is no surprise that when he started his photographic career in 1996, he focused on architecture and landscapes. In 2011 two books will be released by Alex. One of the projects is Bunkers: Ruins of War in a New American Landscape. It contains images of whole or partially intact bunkers found across the San Francisco Bay Area. The serenity of the landscape is broken apart by the process of erosion and seismic activity that is gradually ripping the hillsides apart. The other project is The Left Coast: California on the Edge. Since 2006 Fradkin has documented the changing Californian coastline and it’s people with a large format camera. Following images come from the series The Left Coast: California on the Edge, Bunkers: Ruins of War in a New American Landscape and The Lakeshore Project.

Website: www.alexfradkin.com