Interview with photographer Samantha Geballe

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Sarah Hadley: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?

Samantha Geballe: I’ve always loved art. I doodled, painted, and crafted constantly as a child. Art and my imagination helped me escape sadness and pain I felt heavily at an early age.

I initially came to Los Angeles in 2006 to seek treatment for that pain and sadness. I left for 30 days and didn’t see home again for almost 2 years. Something that I learned in treatment was to gain self-esteem through doing esteem able acts. That stuck with me and so did art.

After treatment I stayed in Los Angeles. I began to notice street art all around, and I wanted to document it. I thought a film camera would be the best way to learn, and that’s what I did. Not knowing a thing about photography, I went all around LA to find art. It was not after long that I noticed how much better I felt when I was taking pictures. Finding street art, making art, processing art, and putting my mind more at ease in the process.

Sarah Hadley:  The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Self-Untitled”. Can you tell us about this project? What led to this work?

Samantha Geballe: Self-Untitled began out of sadness, pain, and anger. Emotions I felt constantly (and still do) about the way I was being treated by others and the way that I treated myself. My eating disorder was destroying my life and I had just been suspended from Art Center. I still wanted to pursue photography and eventually found seminars and smaller classes to take elsewhere.

One teacher in particular (we had originally met at Art Center) pushed me incredibly hard. I took his portraiture seminar where we had to choose projects in order to complete assignments. I chose self-portraiture because it makes me uncomfortable to ask others if I can photograph them. I feel bad asking for their time, which is really asking to be a part of their life.

When I started taking pictures of myself, I didn’t know how incredibly difficult it would be. To look at myself, truly look at myself. I sat in class sobbing as he pushed me to make deeper work. I made my first nude photograph the next day. It’s no longer in the series, maybe someday. It’s a breakthrough image for me, and I believe where it really started.

Sarah Hadley: Can you discuss your process for making these images?

Samantha Geballe: When making images, I try to base them off of different concepts and symbolism. Feelings matter so much to me. My struggle is, how do I convey my feelings and let the viewer in? I try to make the intangible tangible. It’s hard to be seen, and I’ve always wanted to be seen.

Something my mentor has taught me, is that some of the best creation comes from limitations. Make a portrait that includes water. Make a portrait that includes motion. Make a portrait that is two in the space of one. Now, how do I play with these rules? How do I break the rules? (I always want to break the rules) How do I push myself to make imagery that matters? How do I make someone care? I have to put myself inside of the box in order to get out of it.

Window

Window

Sarah Hadley: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why does it speak to you the most?

Samantha Geballe: I’m not sure that I have a favorite image in the series. There are many that give me joy because I know what I went through to get them. I remember the difficulty and the triumphs. I remember the first time I was able to shoot as long as I wanted because I wasn’t tired. I was always tired at my heaviest. I think about the picture, “Window,” and how I felt. What is was like to enjoy the light. To be in the moment. To reflect and try my best to show my feelings. To let someone else in even if I was alone.

Sarah Hadley: How do you feel this work relates to the theme of the Human Body?

Samantha Geballe: I think that our body is our voice. It talks to others and communicates. In my work, I am almost always nude. I think it’s important to use my voice and show myself. When I was big, I assumed everyone was looking through me anyways. Why not show them what they expect of me? I continue presently, because I feel it’s important to show the real work. What is life when distractions are set aside?

Now, I have the memories of what was, and hold the fears of what could be. They lie and hide deep within my skin. I have so much excess skin now. It’s a reminder of my voice and what it went through. Also what I had to do in order to keep it alive

Sarah Hadley: Is this project ongoing or do you have other projects that you are working on currently?

Samantha Geballe: My hope is that “Self-Untitled” will always be on-going. I think there is great value in looking at me for the long haul. It helps me get along with myself and others. It helps me take responsibility. It also helps me see all the nooks and crannies of the frame that I could’ve never seen before. It’s revealing.

That being said, I am working on another project. It’s about my partner and what she’s gone through. How is she processing life and our partnership? She has been with me before I even considered weight loss surgery. She has seen it all and I want to show what that’s been like for her.

She also suffered a terrible injury earlier this year which severely impacted her arm function. I would ask her before each shoot, “How does it feel today? How does it feel to be in pain? How does it feel to scream and have no one listen? How does it feel to be ignored? Dismissed. How does it feel to be helpless and surrender to the current circumstance? How does it feel to deal with life? How does change feel?

Hitching Post

Hitching Post

Sarah Hadley: How do you feel “Self Untitled” relates to other work or projects you have done in the past or are currently working on?

Samantha Geballe: “Self-Untitled” revealed to me how much I impact others in the decisions I make on a daily basis. Whether I know it or not, my actions impact others and myself. I think that the purpose and meaning of life is connection on some level. It can look a lot of different ways, and photography has allowed me the opportunity to form connection with concepts. I think that the thread in my work is the attempt at connection.

Sarah Hadley: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

Samantha Geballe: I photograph now for the same reasons I picked up a camera initially. Taking photos has always made me feel better. Now it’s my mirror and the way I learn myself. I’m curious of my patterns and how I can better my interactions with others and especially myself. I have to make images. I just have to see, I have to.

Sarah Hadley: Where does your inspiration come from and how do you choose how/when/what to photograph?

Samantha Geballe: Light and shadow are huge inspirations to me. Light, design, and shadow are often the determining factor of my location choice. First, it has to have amazing light. Revealing light. Light and shadow reveal. They are default mirrors. My teacher always asks the question, “What do you see every day?” And you better damn well answer, light. Photography taught me how to see. I see design, I see light, I see patterns, I see mood.

Sarah Hadley: Your work is very brave as it is about your own life, struggles and you portray yourself naked and vulnerable. Did this evolve or were you always this honest or able to put yourself out there?

Samantha Geballe: I have a hard time believing my work is brave. I think it’s necessary and I wish more people would reveal themselves. I think most people haven’t a clue who they are. They’ve never seen themselves before. Something I’ve learned in taking nude self-portraits is that people are completely enamored with authenticity as long as it isn’t their own. What’s so difficult about showing your true self? If others don’t like you, what do you make up about you?

Sarah Hadley: How has the positive feedback and accolades you have received for this work affected you or your work?

Samantha Geballe: I feel pressure to make work that matters. Losing this mass amount of weight flipped my world upside down. I saw myself for the first time at 27. I am still seeing myself for the first time. I struggled with, does my work matter if I’m not fat? Will people still like it, which was never my intention to begin with. I create to make myself feel better first, and I think that is where it needs to stay.

Tree Stumps

Tree Stumps

Sarah Hadley: Have you experienced any negative backlash from your series and how has it affected you or your work?

Samantha Geballe: I’ve received minor backlash from my series “Self-Untitled”. I consider it minor, because it’s really nothing I haven’t heard my whole life. But honestly, it’s just noise. I’ve been chased in traffic by others screaming at me that I should die because I was fat. So being called names doesn’t usually penetrate anymore. You have to have thick skin to be fat. Especially fat in public.

Sarah Hadley: What do you hope people experience or feel when they look at these or any of your photographs?

Samantha Geballe: When people look at my imagery, my hope is that they feel or at least think. I hope they understand and see the plight of another. That even though our lives might look nothing a like, we are connected through a similar feeling. We all have feelings. We are all human.

Sarah Hadley: What photographers or other artists inspire you?

Samantha Geballe: Sally Mann is a photographer that I greatly admire. Her images are just real and there is so much beauty in that reality. Brooke Shaden also inspires me. Her attitude is something I strive for daily. Her ideas behind creating and why you should create are beautiful to me. There are many more, but lastly, Brittany Cathy-Adams. Brittany is another photographer working with her body and what it means to show your voice. Her work is work that matters and it’s why I photograph no matter how painful it may become. To show what’s real and I know she feels the same way.

Sarah Hadley: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

Samantha Geballe: I describe my work as a punch to the face with contrast. It’s raw and real. No smoke and mirrors although I might incorporate them. I show my life.

Shower

Shower

Sarah Hadley: What defines a good photograph for you?

Samantha Geballe: I think there are a lot of elements to a good photograph. Mainly I want nice light, mood, design, shadow, thought, concept, and feeling.

Sarah Hadley: What is your process for working on a project? Do you preconceive of your images in your head, or do you have a concept or idea and shoot until you feel it has been realized?

Samantha Geballe: I rarely photograph an image with any sort of solid game plan. Most of the ideas I write down or draw, don’t happen. I usually begin with a concept such as mirrors, reflection, water, etc. and then am attracted to the light and space. I shoot until I feel stumped on a scene. I try to see and photograph it in multiple ways. Most of my images are done in camera and I edit with Lightroom. I think that I get the most excited when editing. It’s where I see the photos come to life…or not.

Sarah Hadley: Has living in LA affected your work at all?

Samantha Geballe: Living in LA has greatly affected my work. LA is where I’ve grown up as an adult. I came here 10 years ago when I didn’t see myself living past 21. I photograph a lot of my images in Northern California and sometimes I can find the landscape here stifling. It’s hard to get nude outside in Los Angeles without being seen. But, I don’t think I’d be a photographer if I hadn’t left home.

Sarah Hadley: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your work or life that would inform us about your work?

Samantha Geballe: I’ve learned a lot of great lessons in life. I feel lucky to have worked through a lot at an early age. Something that has keep me going is the mantra, “put one foot in front of the other. No matter what. No matter what.” I tell myself all the time, it’s all going to be ok. No matter what it looks like, it’s going to be ok. And that is how I feel about Self-Untitled. I have to make this work, no matter what. One foot in front of the other.

 

For more of Samantha Geballe’s work: www.samanthageballe.com

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Sandra Jordan @ L A Noble Gallery

© Sandra Jordan Courtesy of L A Noble Gallery

© Sandra Jordan Courtesy of L A Noble Gallery

Sandra Jordan: Hidden Beauty
5 October – 22 October 2016

L A Noble Gallery
London

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Thomas J. Panzner @ Esther Woerdehoff Gallery

unnamedThomas J. Panzner: Remains of empire
18.10 – 11.26.2016

Opening: Monday, October 17, 2016, from 18h to 21h

Esther Woerdehoff Gallery
36 rue Falguière
75015 Paris – France

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ODETTE ENGLAND @ KLOMPCHING GALLERY

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ODETTE ENGLAND: EXCAVATIONS
October 8 – November 19, 2016

Opening Reception: October 8, 6pm–8pm

Home is the center-weight of Odette England’s artistic practice, with memory and forgetting being the counterbalances. Her photographs are fragile, contemplative and temporal spaces. Throughout her practice, she works with expired film, vintage cameras, damaged negatives and alternative photo processes; exploring volatility of identity, emphasizing the unstable nature of the past/present and the parent/child seesaw. These overall themes continue to be examined with Excavations, which utilizes historical photographs from the artist’s family archive.

KLOMPCHING GALLERY
89 Water Street, Brooklyn NY 11201

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Flor Garduño @ THROCKMORTON FINE ART

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Flor Garduño Photography
December 1, 2016 – February 25, 2017

Garduño’s photographs offer poetic images drawn from nature, village life, dreams, and the female form. Her images are usually sparse, but they are elegant and richly suggestive. Garduño has a surrealist, dream-like perspective, giving her photographs a mystical quality. They elicit a “second look,” and invariably contemplation. Garduño is technically sophisticated and demanding—and her photographs are always luminous and beautifully printed.

THROCKMORTON FINE ART
145 East 57th Street, third floor, New York, NY 10022

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ADAM FUSS @ Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs

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ADAM FUSS DAGUERREOTYPES & THE WOMB OF THE PRE-RAPHAELITE IMAGINATION
SEPTEMBER 28 – NOVEMBER 8, 2016

Over three decades, British born, New York-based photographer Adam Fuss has created a body of work that combines photographic techniques of the past with contemporary materials. His pinhole photographs and cameraless photograms, executed with technical rigor in a variety of media, have dealt with temporality, memory, regeneration, and death. This exhibition presents a remarkable suite of Fuss’s large-scale daguerreotypes that deepens his exploration into these themes. These are the largest daguerreotypes ever made. Prefacing the exhibition is Fuss’s selection of 19th-century daguerreotypes of nudes and post-mortem studies.

Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs
962 Park Avenue at 82nd Street in New York City.

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Iké Udé @ Museum of Contemporary Photography

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Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty
OCT 20 – DEC 23, 2016

Starting in the early 1990s, Nollywood quickly gained worldwide relevance as the world’s second most prolific film industry (almost 2,500 titles released annually) ahead of Hollywood and behind Bollywood with revenues topping $600 million annually. Historically, film in Africa had a European sensibility with parochial scenes laboriously captured on expensive celluloid, owing to the colonial funders. Nollywood, in contrast is characterized by independent cheap and quick filmmaking, capitalizing on the falling prices of digital recording equipment and meeting the demands of a continent for authentic stories that reflect the reality on the ground. An entrepreneurial rags-to-riches story, its producers are private individuals getting little or no assistance from government who make and distribute film across the continent despite infrastructure deficiencies and barriers to trade.

In October 2014, artist Iké Udé returned to Lagos, Nigeria, after three decades away, and took photographs of 64 Nollywood personalities. Udé captured an impressive cross section of the industry including renowned screen icon Genevieve Nnaji, veteran actor Richard Mofe-Damijo, established actor/director Stephanie Okereke, maverick filmmaker Kunle Afolayan, as well as the next generation of rising stars. The objective of this project is to celebrate these African personalities in the timeless, classic, elegant style the artist is known for.

Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
600 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605

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David Batchelder and Hazel Ling @ Schilt Gallery

image: David Batchelder

image: David Batchelder

David Batchelder and Hazel Ling: Stilled Moments
17th September – 9th November 2016

Schilt Gallery
Amsterdam

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Book Review: MTWTFSS by Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

‘MTWTFSS: Chapter 1. 2010-2015’ is a vulnerable, honest and intimate photo book by the emerging photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor whose autobiographical body of work is made of images taken from her photographic diary of the past five years.

The book is laid out in a traditional journal form, much like a decent sized Moleskin notebook, complete with a strip of fabric to mark your place. The front and back cover are stamped/faux-embossed with the book title and short statement. I appreciated its understated presentation, especially in a time when larger photobook publishers are really trying to vie for the attention of their customers. The handcrafted design esthetic of MTWTFSS is definitely in the ‘Win’ column.

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

Harris-Taylor has compiled a collection of images spanning a five year period, in a diary-style fashion. Her images are presented almost exclusively as single image pages, with the occasional blank or two-page spread for visual pacing. The limited first edition of 500 copies are hand numbered and signed.

In describing the book, Harris-Taylor says, “MTWTFSS is an autobiographical, fragmented, sporadic photo diary. It is a reflection of myself and those I know and love. In familiar, often mundane surroundings I seek to capture some element of truth of our lives. For me these ‘everyday, forgotten nothings’ are more important and truthful than any other. These are the moments between the momentous.”

Flo in the Lake, Berlin, 2015 © Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

Harris-Taylor relates the personal aspect of the book by saying, “MTWTFSS is the most personal to me. It’s only become apparent recently that although I’m representing aspects of other people, I’m seeking the aspects I’m familiar with and which I can relate to the most. So I’m really using them to express myself.”

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

I truly did get the feeling I was privy to a photo diary, where the author had chosen certain places, people and images that evoked a sense of vulnerable moments captured between her and the people in her life. The book’s presentation didn’t feel forced, and while the promotion for the book describes the images as “spontaneous”, I would be more apt to describe the style as “informal” despite the acute attention Harris-Taylor gives to light, composition, and the connection to the people sitting before her lens.

“At the same time as seeking their vulnerability I was in awe of their confidence and ability to be comfortable in their own skin. In truth, I was in awe of my friends. One girlfriend in particular; she let me in, she gave me what to capture and I became almost obsessed with the act of photographing her. There were moments of sadness, moments of vulnerability, she never put up a front or undermined what I was doing, she let her guard down and this is what I became interested in.”

The understated moments that make up much of what we construct in our minds as the memories of what has taken place, where we have gone, and who we have encountered, are the memories we recall when reminiscing. Harris-Taylor has taken the reader/viewer into her own memories and revealed the mostly hidden, simple moments by being our (sometimes literally) bare and vulnerable self, our true moments without facade.


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Limited 1st edition of 500 (hand numbered)
Leather-effect binding and blind embossed cover.
16x20cm, 176 pages
Offset lithograph printed on 140gsm uncoated paper.
Designed by Joseph Carter.


Sophie Harris-Taylor is a British fine art photographer and lecturer in photography. Born in 1988 in London, where she still resides, she received both her MA and BA (Hons) in Photography from Kingston University.

Harris-Taylor’s work has been nominated for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and The Renaissance Photography Prize. Her work has also been exhibited in a range of shows, including The Young Masters.


To view more work by Sophie Harris-Taylor, visit her website at http://www.sophieharristaylor.com/

To order a copy of MTWTFSS, click here

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MUSTAFAH ABDULAZIZ @ THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MUSEUM

Classic Club Golf Course, Palm Desert, California, USA, 2015.

Classic Club Golf Course, Palm Desert, California, USA, 2015.

MUSTAFAH ABDULAZIZ: WATER: CALIFORNIA
12 NOVEMBER 2016 – 30 JANUARY 2017

The latest installment of Abdulaziz’s ongoing Water series focuses on the photographer’s home state California, which has been in the grip of a record, multi-year drought. Abdulaziz has illustrated California’s natural and man-made terrain with dramatic landscape shots, alongside humanistic scenes highlighting how the region has been challenged by scarcity.

THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MUSEUM, WASHINGTON DC

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