Tag Archives: Success Story

Alixandra Fazzina Photographs the Flight of the ‘Flowers of Afghanistan’

In 2008, photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina, who lives in Pakistan, began to stumble across stories of young Afghan refugees, children who were fleeing the country for Europe. Soon after she noticed the phenomenon, she visited a refugee camp in Afghanistan, where she witnessed the funeral of a boy who had died trying to cross from Turkey to Greece. Then, on the same visit, at a hospital, she met a boy who had lost his legs—not as she initially assumed, from a land mine, but as a consequence of having been kidnapped and tortured when trying to go west. “All the time he just kept saying he wanted to get the Europe again, despite the risks. He was just so convinced that there was absolutely no future for him as a young Afghan,” Fazzina says. The last time she saw him was in Greece, where he had again fled, the second time losing the prosthetic legs he had needed after his first attempt at emigration. “He was very lucky to survive that far, and he wasn’t done yet.”

The phenomenon that Fazzina observed first-hand was soon confirmed by statistics. The photographer noted a 64% jump in the number of underage Afghan refugees applying for asylum in Europe in 2010. With money that came that same year with her recognition by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) as the first journalist to win the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, along with the support of the Norwegian government, Fazzina began a project to document the hardships faced by young people making that journey from Afghanistan.

That project, Flowers of Afghanistan, is now about one-third completed; Fazzina is planning to continue her work in Iran, Pakistan and Italy in the coming months. “When the U.S. leaves, we’re on the brink of civil war,” she says. “It’s very important to me to be highlighting this at this point in time. It’s very important for people to realize that Afghanistan isn’t a success story.”

Although Fazzina had intended to follow the boys—and the very few girls who make the trip—along the road, photographing them, she has found that the journeys are rarely linear. Before they leave home, the boys hide their travel plans, often even from their parents; smugglers, Fazzina says, warn them that to tell will cast a jinn, a bad spirit, on their travels. And once they leave home, false starts are likely; kidnapping is frequent and deportation is a possibility even for children who seek asylum. Instead, Fazzina says she relies on networks and word of mouth, and perhaps the trust that is more easily won by a woman, to find the refugees at each stop along the way. She says that even smugglers, once they hear about her project, will reach out and provide information about their whereabouts. “Of course I want to see them traveling, but I’m not interested in photographing the smugglers themselves, so a lot of what I’ve been getting has been, in photography terms, very quiet pictures,” she says. Her photos from the series are often dark, capturing a moment of furtive rest or a person who must stay in the shadows, but stillness and gloom does not mean calm. “When I take a step back,” she says, “I often wonder if people really understand how dangerous it was.”

And the more time Fazzina has spent in that shadowy world, the clearer the patterns have become. About half the boys, she says, are fatherless due to war or sickness, thrusting them into positions of responsibility in their families. They are from the least stable provinces in the country. Recently, she met some children in Peshawar who had given up or been deported back to Afghanistan, and noticed another level of pattern. “I started to talk to them about the journey, and it was the same places, the same hotels they were held hostage in,” she says. “It’s very shocking and repetitive.”

Even though Fazzina has rarely been able to literally follow the boys she photographs, she has found that there’s a virtual way to keep track of them: through their own photographs, on Facebook. “I see a boy I’ve met and his pictures of himself in Athens, taken with fast cars and in tourist locations and in borrowed clothes, whereas the reality was he was living in a hotel, like a squat, that was being run by the smuggling mafia, full of prostitutes and drugs. It was a million miles from the pictures he showed,” she says. Unfortunately, that brave face can encourage others to try to make the dangerous journey themselves.

She once tried to make those photos that the boys take of themselves into something more true. One 16-year-old she met was passionate about photography. He was, she says, a “genius” at it. He wanted to be a filmmaker. After he survived for six days in a trucking container and arrived in Rome, Fazzina tried to get a camera to him through her colleagues in Italy. By that time he had left for Paris. They spoke by phone. He said that he had been told that he was too old when he went to a children’s home and that he was too young when he went to a refuge for adults. He was sleeping on the streets, in the winter, in the snow. She still hadn’t gotten a camera to him. He didn’t call again. “He just moved on. He disappeared. I have no idea what happened to him,” she says. “I am fearful what his fate is.”

Alixandra Fazzina is a British photojournalist. She is represented by NOOR Images and is the 2010 recipient of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. More information about Flowers of Afghanistan is available here.

Success Stories: Gloria Baker Feinstein

From where I’m sitting in my office, I can look to the left and see a large, luscious silver gelatin print of this image:

bird, Italy

I think it perfectly describes Gloria Baker Feinstein. She’s always poking her fingers into new territory, capturing the fragility and beauty in our humanness. But it’s a gentle poke, and a touch that has changed the lives of many. Without a doubt, Gloria is a Success Story. I’ve written about her several times on Lenscratch, and supported her cause through my efforts on Collect.Give. I am proud to call her a friend and an inspiration. We have much to learn from her ability to effect change through photography. I first met Gloria at Review Santa Fe, many moons ago, but I was already familiar with her work through SHOTS Magazine. She was generous and inclusive from the moment I met her, and that hasn’t changed a bit.

from Convergence

Gloria lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She received an B.A. in Communication Arts and an M.A. in Photography and Graphic Design at the University of Wisconsin, at Madison. Along with raising a family and working on her photography, Gloria opened The Baker Gallery which featured legendary photographers. Her own work has been widely exhibited and published and is held in many collections.

From Convergence

After attending an NGO Workshop in Africa several years ago, she came home to create an amazing organization,Change The Truth, that benefits orphans in Uganda. She has not only changed the lives of her “children”, but changed all those who are part of the organization. It is truly a remarkable achievement.

Images from Uganda, 2011

INTERVIEW

You have always been a success in my eyes—I’ve loved your work since I first saw it in my SHOTS over a decade ago and have been so proud of all that you have accomplished with photography. Let’s start at the beginning and understand about how you moved from being a gallerist to a full time photographer.

The coolest part about having a photography gallery was getting up close and personal with work that had always inspired me. During the 80’s it was not a big deal to call Aaron Siskind or Helen Levitt and say, “Hi, I’m Gloria from the Baker Gallery and I’d like to do a show of your work. Could you send me twenty prints or so?” I exhibited the work I loved, and I was privileged to meet many of the photographers who made it. There was nothing quite as heavenly as spending the day with stacks of prints by Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Kertesz and Arbus – and turning my clientele onto them. Eventually, I got antsy, though. I wanted to go back to making my own work. As a mom and businesswoman, it had been impossible to find time to do serious image making. So I closed up shop and in 1995 dug my beloved old Hasselblad out of the drawer where it had been collecting dust for fifteen years. It still purred and was very happy to be cranked up again; I started shooting, and I’ve never looked back.

from Convergence

Your early work explores family and places that are familiar, what compelled you to take an NGO workshop in Africa?

I explored what was close at hand: my family, my children and their friends, neighbors, people I met on my travels. Before long I started doing pro bono work for non-profits in my hometown of Kansas City. I was also traveling quite a bit, taking workshops and shooting for various self-assigned projects. It occurred to me that I might want to learn how to shoot for and work with NGO’s abroad. I’d always wanted to go Africa, so I signed up for Thatcher Cook’s workshop in Uganda. It was offered by Maine Media Workshops for photographers who wanted to work with NGOs and learn how to cover world relief crises. I had to pick a project and research it before I went; I decided to photograph children at AIDS orphanages, and that is how I spent my three weeks in Uganda. I went to Africa with absolutely no intention of starting my own NGO, but that is exactly what happened. There was this one orphanage that got under my skin. The children there took up residence in my heart. When I returned home, I realized I couldn’t just print the pictures I’d made and stick them in a nice portfolio case. There was much more important work that needed to be done.

Can you share your thoughts in creating Change The Truth? Did it seem daunting?

It hit me one sleepless night shortly after I got home. I was lying there in the dark, jet-lagged, singing one of the lines from a song the kids had sung to me while I was at the orphanage: “We cannot change the truth, we can only say welcome.” I hummed it again and again until I realized that – at the very least – the truth about their food, education and medical care really could be changed! They just needed the proper assistance and ongoing support. I began calling family and friends, asking for $50 here, $100 there. In three months I had enough interest and support that I found myself filling out paperwork to become an official not-for-profit organization. Did it seem daunting? I didn’t really think about it. Something bigger was in the driver’s seat at that point. Honestly, had I known what I was getting into, I would have been terrified and probably would have run in the other direction! Now that interest in and support of CTT has grown from family and friends to an international level, though, I feel so proud of what has been accomplished. When I began, we were able to send only a few kids to school. Now we provide sponsorships for over thirty children, including kids in vocational school and university. Last May, one of our students graduated first in his class from nursing school! We send a healthy monthly stipend for food and medical care. Each December, I am amazed when a group of volunteers make the sacrifice of time and money to go to the orphanage with me. They teach – among other things – yoga, photography, karate, computer and music. We’ve helped put in gardens and rain water collection tanks. We’ve painted dormitories and provided new mattresses, blankets and mosquito netting. I get to see each year how the children’s’ lives really have improved. It’s unbelievably gratifying.

How has establishing and continuing Change the Truth made you think about photography? Has it changed the way you work?

I guess the biggest change is that I see photography more as a tool to educate and empower, rather than something I simply do for my own pleasure. There is a way to merge the two approaches, and that’s what I think is finally happening for me. I see my work as a way to give voice to those who have none. These children feel important when we collaborate on a photograph; they have a real sense of pride knowing that people in the US will see their pictures and know who they are. Some of these children had never even seen photographs of themselves when I arrived in 2006. I know now that the images I make are powerful reminders to the children that they exist, they are worthwhile and their stories deserve to be seen and heard.

I love the sensibilty that you bring to the photographs you create in Africa. There is not a whiff of travel photography-ness in the work—they are so genuine and often joyful. I imagine that being deeply connected to a community has allowed for that?

The children call me “Mama Gloria”. They are my kids. As you know, Aline, photographing your own kids is an intimate, genuine and reflective experience.

Can you also talk a little bit about your new work from your most recent trip to Uganda?

Each year I go, I try to do something a little different with my work. This year I moved outside the walls of the orphanage to photograph people living in the neighboring villages, people who are extensions of the orphans themselves. That, plus the fact that I had a new camera in tow, led me to create an entirely different body of images. And, yikes! they are in color.

You continue to make interesting new work in Kansas City too. How do you balance what you shoot?

If you’ve ever been with me on a walk, you know that sometimes I fall down. I’m always busy looking around, so sometimes I forget to look down at where I’m going. I could look around and shoot 24 hours a day. I’ve been photographing since I was a little girl (three years old!) with a Rocket Brownie camera strapped around my wrist. A couple days ago, I was driving home from my studio and saw an unbelievably thick mass of birds flying in patterns in the sky. I pulled over to the curb, jumped out and started shooting with my iPhone. Bird shit was dropping on me, but I was too mesmerized to move. Those particular shots may not be great or important pictures, but the experience of standing there underneath those birds, framing them this way and that, seeing something brand new every second, was absolutely exhilarating. I know for certain that as a kid there was not always film in that Rocket Brownie camera. It was the experience of looking at my world through the viewfinder, framing things just so, being able to fully consider one thing or another and feeling as if I was preserving those things in my own mind forever that made me fall in love with photography. In that sense, nothing has really changed. So I don’t think it’s as much of a balancing act as it is just a continuous flow of looking and shooting.

What are your thoughts about the marketing and promoting of your work in today’s photographic waters?

Ugh.

I hate that part of it. My kids can tell you I always said I was going to “famous by 50”. It’s true: I used to want to become a famous photographer. Now it doesn’t matter so much (OK, well it does a little). That’s a good thing, because I don’t think I’d be very motivated to work if I needed the recognition to do so. I do send in my work for the occasional juried show or prize, I do attend reviews now and then, and I am always thinking about the next book I’d like to publish. I love blogging because it’s a great way for me to share my new work with those who are interested. (I have to bite the bullet when I see that my work that has been lifted from my blog or website and used somewhere else, but I guess that’s the nature of the digital age.) The simpler and smaller I make my world of photography, the more time I have to just do it. Now that I’m an older and wiser woman, I can say that making the work is far more important that becoming famous for it. But I do have to admit that when you said I was going to part of the “success stories” on Lenscratch, my chest did puff out for the day, and I felt pretty darn smug.

What took your work to the next level?

Keeping at it. Getting more scrapes on my knees. Sharing my work with other photographers. Getting older.

What thoughts or advice do you have for emerging photographers?

Shoot every day. Keep your camera by the front door, and take it with you even if you’re just going to walk the dog. Look at all the work you can get your eyes on. Trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Understand that you might have to do something else for money (I do commissioned portraits of children and families) and don’t feel embarrassed about it.

What cameras do you work with?

Canon 5D Mark II, iPhone, Diana, Hasselblad.

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

Officing from bed til noon. Reading “Go Dog Go” and other great books to my grandson Henry. Shooting whatever I want all afternoon. Processing what I shot. Margarita with sugar on the rim for happy hour. Out to dinner and a movie with my husband Eddie. Online scrabble til I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.

Thank you Gloria!
If you are interested in donating to Change The Truth, go here!

Images from The Space Between

Success Stories: Ferit Kuyas

Two years ago, I featured the work of Ferit Kuyas on Lenscratch. His project, Chongqing – City of Ambition, was being launched at Review Santa Fe and I became a big fan of the work. I am happy to share the news of that this project in now a monograph (his third), published by Schilt Publishing. The book is also accompanied by essays by Diana Edkins and Bill Kouwenhoven. This project reflects the old and new China, with images taken in the fog/smog of Chongqing that add a color palette not dissimilar to the old hand painted photographs from the turn of the century. The muted colors and striking photographs combine to make a powerful statement about a city in transition. For more on the series, Ferit has written an essay for Visura Magazine.

Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Ferit studied architecture and law in Zurich, Switzerland, graduating in jurisprudence from the University of Zurich. He now works mainly on personal projects, several focused on China. Ferit’s photographs have been shown in museums, galleries and festivals in Europe, America and Asia. His work is represented in private, corporate and public collections in the United States, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Turkey. He has received a number of awards, among them the Kodak Photobook-Award, the Guatephoto Award and the Hasselblad Masters. He is, indeed, a success story.

Images from Chonqing, City of Ambition

Congratulations on your new monograph, Chongqing – City of Ambition. Can you tell us how the book came about?

Thanks. When doing a large project I always have a book in mind. It is a really good way to finish a project. Like the score of something. A way to be respectful with my work and also a very good opportunity to share the work with a larger audience. Of course we have the web to share. A book looks just much better and we can touch it. I like that sensation.

I started looking for a publisher in 2007 when the project was almost finsihed. Difficult. There was already quite a bit of work from china having flooded the market and publishers where reluctant because they wheren’t sure if they could sell. I was quite persistent though and at one point Dewi Lewis started to get interested. I had submitted the book project to European Book Publishers Award and obviously Maarten Schilt from then Mets & Schilt (now Schilt Publishing) remembered the project from the jurying. We sat down at Rhubarb Rhubarb in August 2008 and we had a shake-hands after 5 minutes. February next year we met in Amsterdam and put the book together in the book designer’s studio. It was a very nice experience working with Maarten Schilt and with Victor Levie who did the bookdesign. They’re both wonderful people.

What brought you to this little known city? ” The Chinese city of Chongqing is little known in the West. Yet with its 32 million inhabitants, the city is twice as big as the Netherlands. Located on the Yangtze river in the province of Sichuan in southwestern China, it is one of China’s most rapidly growing cities.”

I went to China for the first time in 1997 for a photoshoot in Shanghai. Later I did a book project in Shanghai tohether with two photograher friends from Switzerland, Edy Brunner and Marco Paoluzzo. “Shanghai” got published in 2000. While doing the book I met my future wife. Her hometown is Chongqing. I got acquinted with the city when we went there to visit her family. I had heard many interesting things about the city before, but reality was even more exciting.

How did you get started on the project?

I knew right away that I wanted to do project there. I started thinking about it in 2002, went to scouting and photographing in 2003 and started the serious part of the project in 2005.

Usually I have some pictures in front of my inner eye before I start a project. And I like doing long term projects. During the initial campaign I prefer to work in a very open way, which means I like to photograph whatever I think is interesting. Later I define what’s important for the project and deepen those aspects.

What is causing the pollution in Chongqing and did you personally feel affected by it?

The mist and fog in Chongqing is real. It is athmospherical. The city’s nickname in China is City of Fog. It’s been like this since a long time. Of course there is also pollution from several kinds of industry in the athmospere. Surprisingly I never felt affected by the air quality.

Have you shown this work in China? And if so, what was the reaction?

I’d love to show the work in China as I’d like to give something back. The only time it was shown in China was in Pingyao when The Stephen Cohen Gallery presented City of Ambition in their booth.

What do you take away from your time in China, and from producing this body of work?

Many good memories. Family and friendship. Having been a witness of constant fast changes. Knowing that will be the same when I go back. I live near Zurich. The city looks almost the it used to 40 years ago. Some buildings changed. In China you wouldn’t recognize the same place anymore after 40 years. My time in China took away the fear many people have of that country.

City of Ambition is my third book and my first large project in color. It looks like i’ll stick with color for a while.

I love your series, Chinese Smokers. You were able to capture wonderful portraits of contemporary Chinese smokers and the beautiful packaging of their cigarette boxes. I realize that with both series, Chongqing – City of Ambition and Chinese Smokers, no matter how beautiful or powerful the images, there is a layer of sadness and doom about the future of China present in the photographs. Did you feel this?

Thanks. Probably it has something to do with my state of mind. I was quite sad myself often in my deepest inside. It was the time when my marriage started breaking apart. We got divorced shortly after I had I had finished the project. Looking back I can see that I produced most of my best work when I wasn’t happy.

Can you talk a bit about your new project, Aurora?

Aurora is a visit to Guatemala City. I named it after the local airport because it has such an optimistic meaning reflecting the attitude of the locals. I went to Guatemala for the first time in 2010 when i won the Guatephoto Award. That brought me back again for a solo show and a workshop on landscape photography for La Fototeca, the local center for photography. I took this opportunity to start the new project. again it is about the urban landscape. There will also be a part emphasizing the people of Guatemala City in their environment. It will take a while to finish. More to come soon.

What equipment do you use?

I like working with large formats. Most of my work from the nineties is done with 8 x 10. Somehow I felt that my imagery started being too static and I also started working with 4 x5 and again with medium format. That brought back some dynamic into my compositions with the 8 x 10. However I decided to do City of Ambition with 4 x 5. The larger format would have created too many logistic problems.

I work very quick. Carrying a 4 x 5 monorail (an Arca Swiss f-line) on a tripod on my shoulder and a little bag with two additional lenses and some film holders is the ideal way to get around. For the last part of the project I worked with an Alpa xy, two Rodenstock HR lenses and a P45+ back. I’m quite pleased to see that nobody can tell the difference between the two processes when the photographs are on display.

For Aurora I’m back again to the good old 4 x 5.

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

Find out what you really want to do and then work on it constantly. Be patient and be critical with your own work. Believe in yourself – that’s very important.

Presentation should really be first class – good prints that is. Editing is always ahuge challenge, outside help should be considered here. I often get help from curators and peers.

For networking portfolio reviews were of tremendous help for me. Once you got a strong project together go for it and find out if portfolio reviews work for you. In worst case you’ll meet a bunch of really good photographers at the same stage of their career. Networking with your peers is very rewarding. I made some really fine friends.

What would you say was the one thing that helped get your foot in the door, and took your exposure to the next level?

I started doing decent work in the late eighties. I had studied architecture and law and while I was doing my doctorate in law I decided to pursue photography in a much more serious way. I never finsihed that doctorate and I have been a photographer since. Photography is a long term process, it never ends. not having studied art or photography I was an outsider for a long time. I still managed to show my work regularly and publish two books. 2007 I was at Review Santa Fe. I found out that the format of the review works well for me. Everything went from there.

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

Yes, of course. Especially when I start something new there is a lot self-doubt involced. Also when I compare my work to the work of artists I respect very much.

Creativity is a strange animal. Its here then its gone. But I always know its going to be back again.

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

Falling in love.

Image from Chinese Smokers

Success Stories: Susan Burnstine

Today’s post is especially meaningful as I am celebrating a significant marker in a photographer’s journey. And it’s not just any photographer, but a long time friend who has worked hard to create a career of focused intention, unusual creativity, good will, and professionalism. Susan Burnstine has published her first monograph, Within Shadows, through Charta, that will be hitting the bookstores this fall and that is, indeed, a success story. The book is available for order on Susan’s site, and I strongly recommend getting your orders in early! In addition, Susan is offering “a print and book” set at a very reasonable price.

A Chicago native, now living in Los Angeles, Susan brings a a whole set of life experiences to her photography. She is an observer and interpreter of our place in the world, a writer, with a regular column in Black & White Photography (UK), animal lover and advocate, a juror for national competitions, and a photographer with an international roster of seven galleries with exhibitions around the world.

Susan portrays her dream-like visions entirely in-camera, rather than with post-processing manipulations. To achieve this, she created twenty-one hand-made film cameras and lenses that are frequently unpredictable and technically challenging. The cameras are primarily made out of plastic, vintage camera parts and random household objects and the single element lenses are molded out of plastic and rubber. Learning to overcome their extensive limitations has her to rely on instinct and intuition… the same tools that are key when trusting in the unseen.

Congratulations on Within Shadows! How exciting it must be to physically hold the book for the first time! Tell us more….

Thank you, Aline. Means a lot coming from you, since you’ve been on this ride with me from the beginning.

When my five advance copies arrived from Italy, I tore the box open as fast as I could. But as I took the book out of the shrink wrap…everything slowed down, almost as if the world was in slow motion but my head was spinning at 90 miles an hour. I felt strangely numb as I held this two-pound monochrome baby in my hands. I couldn’t grasp a single thought or conceive of what to do next. And then it happened. I found a printing flaw on one page and the air went out of the room. I was like a deer in the headlights for the first 24 hours and didn’t show the book to anyone. The next day, I worked the courage up to look at another copy of the book and found that the flaw was isolated to three of the five copies. Charta checked their stock and confirmed it was an isolated flaw and that was a tremendous relief, so I stated breathing again. The next day I arrived at Photolucida and anxiously presented the book to a few trusted friends. They were generous with their comments, so I started to get over my initial uncomfortable new parent phase and settle into the book. After a few days of reviews at Photolucida, positive response was consistent and my post-partum photo book blues evaporated.

Can you give us some insight into the process of getting a book published?

There’s so many way to get a book published, but I guess it starts with finding a publisher that understands your vision and has a history of creating books that are in line with how you imagine your book. My book packaging agent, Alan Rapp, sent a select number of proposals out to companies he felt might be right for my work, including Charta. I had seen some of their books prior and was impressed by the printing quality so it made sense for me to go with them since my work is not easy to reproduce in print. After we agreed on terms and dates, we entered the design process. I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted, and Charta respected that so I was able to get 95% of what I wanted in the design process. Since I had previously designed the cover on the book for a catalog that was the easiest part of the process. The interior pages emerged in a more panicked, immediate manner. I didn’t realize I would be responsible for sequencing and found this out with a deadline of a week to get it done, I called my friend Dave Anderson in a panic and he generously helped with a large part of the sequencing as did my friend Brad Moore, my brother Keith and few other friends making it a group effort. The design phase lasted for three very stressful few weeks but in the end, I was very happy with the outcome of the book.

Were you able to include all the images that you wanted or are there some orphans that wish they could be part of that family?

I included almost all the images I had hoped would be in the book. But I regret that I did not include an image entitled Reflect. As we completed the design of the book, I was informed that the UK pop band The Guillemotts wanted to use seven of my images for their new album and Reflect was going to be the cover. Dave Anderson had suggested using that image in the book, but I shrugged it off since it had not gained popularity or become a big seller in the past. Which just goes to show, always listen to Dave. But perhaps the lack of inclusion made that image a bit more special in the end.

Do you think that having a monograph is a set point in a photographers career? Does it give you a tangible feeling of achievement?

I’ve been told that having a monograph reflects all those things. But as I write this, the book has yet to be released. So honestly, I can only tell you that’s what everyone else says. I guess history will tell if the book changes the course of my career in anyway.

Do I have a tangible feeling of achievement? I’m the sort of person who never revels in an accomplishment since my mind is always on the next image or project. I’d be afraid to say it was an achievement until I looked back to this moment ten years in the future.


Your new work (which I love), The Absence of Being, feels a bit more specific–dreamy, but more recognizable. Are you approaching your new work differently?

Ah, bless you Aline. You just made my week. Thank you.

Absence of Being is coming from a very different place than Within Shadows. My father suffered a massive stroke in June of 2009 and the event changed my life forever. I could no longer visualize in an intangible manner since the man who shaped me lay paralyzed in a bed, courageously fighting for his life and clinging to the blind hope he’d beat the odds and survive. When he died, my dreams changed and the nightmares/terrors that haunted me for years (the impetus behind Within Shadows) returned full force, but they expressed very different themes and struggles than the dreams that haunted me prior. The series explores how the past remains with us all, if only in shadows. The images capture fleeting memories, spotted from the corner of an eye that vanish the moment we really look. And yet they remain, for the imprints remains with us even after someone or something is long gone. I am also shooting this work from an entirely different perspective, much of which is from high above and further away from human subjects than previous work.

Do you ever think about working in color, or are you committed to Black and White?
I’m open to any and all possibilities.

I actually shot the homemade work in color early on. But the dream work only made sense to me in black and white. I think that’s because I dream mostly in black and white so it feels authentic to my perspective. I should add that I spent most of my childhood in a black and white darkroom so it’s how I tend to “see” my fine art work. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if I moved onto color in the not so distant future.

Any chance you will move to the dark side and start shooting digital for your fine art work? Do you think it matters to collectors?

I shoot digital for commercial work, but it doesn’t speak to me for my personal work. A significant part of my creative process is based in hands on, homemade approaches. But if I were being honest, I frequently have digital camera envy since it would be great to know how an image turned out before leaving a location, especially when I’m shooting in another city. But when it comes down to it, I thrive on film and all the magic that comes with the process. So I can only hope film sticks around indefinitely. As far as collector’s thoughts, I can’t say for sure since I’m just an artist. My only basis for a response would be reporting what I see collectors buying at art fairs and in galleries. It seems we are in a transitional time where many collectors don’t care as much about how an image was shot, but they still care a great deal about the print and archival quality.

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

First, do the work. Don’t obsess about the end result. Focus on what you are trying to convey through the lens, enjoy the process and embrace your mistakes. I would not have happened upon my process and style if it weren’t for making a lot of mistakes that brought me to what I am doing today. And once you have completed that body of work and feel confident with the results, portfolio reviews can be highly valuable tools for getting the work seen by decision makers, understanding it’s strengths and weaknesses and networking with other photographers. I’ve met a number of good friends through portfolio reviews over the years. Presentation is very important, but making work you believe in is the key.

What opportunity took your career to the next level?

Next level meaning galleries? After I completed On Waking Dreams, the first of what became three chapters for Within Shadows, I had a gut feeling to leave a portfolio of the work in my car during Photo LA 2007. A chance meeting at the fair with photographer Dave Anderson led to my representation with Susan Spiritus that day. It was also the beginning of my friendship with Dave, whom I consider one of my most trusted advisors and photo pals. I was crazy lucky because I did what you are told never to do; show your work to a gallery at Photo LA. Or should I say that Dave did what you are told never to do as he was kind enough to show my work to Susan Spiritus, which in effect, got the entire ball rolling for me.

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

The only social networking I do these days is facebook. I’m not on the tweet boat yet. Just can’t grasp that one yet. I have a facebook fan page I post at regularly and it’s a wonderful marketing tool. I also send out periodic newsletters and they have proven to be very effective.

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

Self-doubt is my middle name. I think the nature of being an artist is to continually question the world around you. But with that, comes the incessant questioning of yourself, your purpose and your art.

I am always driven to photograph, but I do hit dry spells since the work is so intensely personal. I have to reach deep down inside to make these images and sometimes that’s not easy. Dry spells are always related to something difficult happening in my life and that can stop me from feeling free to create my work. For example, when my dad became ill in June 2009, I tried to shoot, but everything I photographed was amiss. Life was a constant challenge and I wasn’t connecting with the deepest part of me, so the work wasn’t in sync on many levels. My perspective was also changing so attempting to shoot what had worked in the past, wasn’t working in the present. I didn’t really shoot anything of worth until five months after my dad’s death. During a trip to New York City in April 2010, I photographed the image As Above So Below and Impasse, which subsequently, allowed me to understand what the new work was to become. I traveled to New York City a number of times that year and found that being there was the creative spark the work needed since it allowed me to convey my feelings of feeling displaced and searching for roots through imprints in an organic manner. I should add that during the period that I wasn’t shooting, I constantly questioned if I’d be able to shoot personal work again. But I just kept shooting. Fortunately, Absence of Being came to be.

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

Life to me is about finding the beauty in imperfections. That sounds like a cheesy greeting card, but I really mean it. And I think that is conveyed in my artistic process which relies on imperfections. But in life…Heck, I’m happy for a good laugh, a cloudy shooting day in LA, some steamy Geno’s East pizza (I just teleported myself home to Chicago for that portion of my perfect day), seeing a potentially great image for the first time on the negative that I shot that morning and a late afternoon hike with my dog Blue. I should add that Blue will be twenty in next month, so I carry her on hikes now. But just the memory of 18 years of hiking with her is perfection to me.

Success Stories: Tami Bone

I’m been a fan of Tami Bone’s dreamy and surreal photographs for a long time and I have been remiss in sharing her work on Lenscratch. I recently received a newsletter from The Center of Fine Art Photography sharing the news that Tami’s work had received the Juror’s Award in the Center Forward exhibition, and in addition, her work has been selected for The Texas Photographic Society Print Program. As her achievements mount, I thought it would be a good time to share her success story.

Born in South Texas and currently living in Austin, Tami attended the University of Texas and has continued her photographic education through classes and workshops. The images from her newest work are sometimes, but not always, constructions of several images. Each one begins as handwritten notes about a particular memory or imagining from her childhood, forming a narrative for the image. As the story unfolds, she begins photographing, often times going back and re-photographing an element over and over until it becomes clear as to what it should be. The journey from concept to finish seems to have a mind all its own, as if the story wants to be told as much as she wants to do the telling.

Congratulations on your Center of Fine Art Photography Award! It’s great to see your work getting recognition. Tell me a little bit about your photographic history. What drew you to the medium?

Thank you! I’ve always related visually to my surroundings, although my interest in photography started about 20 years ago when my children were young. I wanted photographs reflecting how I saw them, and decided then to study photography. So, at that time I started taking photography classes at my local community college, and fell in love with the darkroom. A few years later I was doing freelance portrait work, mainly photographing children in an environmental style. I was also fortunate to photograph in a journalistic way at the local elementary school, and began submitting work to a suburban newspaper and getting images published regularly. So I would say that photographing my own children as well as others initially drew me into photography, although thinking back to my early years, I remember being mesmerized with my parents’ Life and Look magazines. I believe it was the often raw emotion that was so compelling.

How did you develop you signature style? Was it evolutionary? Did you start off with toy cameras?

That’s interesting about a signature style, as I don’t think of it that way, but more as a way of seeing. I can’t remember where it began. I think to some extent it’s always been a part of who I am. I would say that tapping into my vision and learning to photograph and print in a way that expresses it has most definitely been evolutionary and taken years to unfold. I am fairly driven and I want to understand the process as best I can, so I’ve always got myself on a learning curve. My grandmother gave me a white Polaroid camera when I was in my teens, but it wasn’t then that I fell in love. Later, when I knew I had to study photography I bought a Nikon film camera. It felt like an extravagant purchase, and the manual was daunting!

Were/are you influenced by a particular photographer or artist?

Yes, there are so many wonderful visual artists, but specifically I have been influenced by Keith Carter for his sensitivity and love of being astounded by beauty. I have two of his pieces on a wall that I pass by many times a day, and the work never ceases to move me. Sean Perry’s personal vision has been an influence. Sean is the quintessential artist and I was also fortunate to have him as a teacher. He pulled me out of a class one day to talk about my work, and it was the first time that I started to understand that it could move beyond portraiture. Bill Kennedy, a teacher in the photo department at St. Edward’s University in Austin, and owner of K2 Press has been a wonderful encourager. Some years ago Bill said to me, “The most important thing about your work is knowing what you have to say.” I think of that piece of advice often.

I also have to say that the natural world, everyday people and creatures, pure ordinary light at the end of a day – these things have been a constant influence as long as I can remember.

Your resume is ever expanding–you were in 10 shows last year and 5 already this year. Do you have a philosophy or approach to submitting to competitions?

Initially my philosophy was to just get the work out and to start building a resume. I was doing the work long before I started submitting, so I felt I was playing catch-up. Now I am more selective as far as choosing competitions with jurors I’d like to get the work in front of.

Are you active in Social Media and has it changed how you promote your work?

I’m not as active as I probably should be with social media. I have a twitter account, but haven’t caught on. I use facebook primarily to stay in touch with fellow photographers/artists around the world. I love being able to see what people are doing and read about their work.

Have you attended portfolio reviews?

Yes, I attended PhotoNola in 2007 and Review Santa Fe in 2008. I was as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life before PhotoNola! I’m going to Photolucida in a few weeks, and am still getting ready, and yes, nervous.

What advice would you give other emerging photographers?

I would say several things – decide on a project, any project, as long as it’s accessible. Begin photographing and try to see the process as being as important as the final prints. There is wonderful opportunity for growth both photographically and personally in project-driven work. The two are so intertwined. Also, I would say to give a lot of thought to whatever it is that is unique to you. Think about what has been never-changing and there for as long as you can remember. Ask yourself why it is important, and then figure out how to start expressing that uniqueness visually. You’ll know when you’ve hit upon it because it will feel completely vulnerable.

And finally, describe your perfect day.

Okay, my perfect day would be surfing gentle waves in a remote area on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, followed by aimless wandering with my camera until the sun came down. And if that isn’t doable, I’m thrilled to have a few hours to devote to photography, especially when I have a concept in mind for an image. I love getting caught up in a good story.