Type Archive: FStop20th
I started practicing photography in 2003, when I was 14 years old, so it’s a 20th anniversary for me as well. From the very beginning, alongside my photography practice was the act of digitizing, editing, and publishing my photos online – from LiveJournal to portfolio websites to blogs to early social media like Tumblr and Flickr. It’s hard to separate my photographic work from the way I shared it with others online. My fervor for photography grew with the internet, particularly blogging. For me, the community and connection I could find with other artists was an essential component of artmaking and photography.
I was a Featured Artist in F-Stop’s Issue #79, October-November 2016, Human Body Issue. As one of three featured artists, I presented my body of work, Second Time Around. With this series, I made intimate portraits of my husband, Joel, highlighting his endearing personality with love and some humor. Second Time Around was awarded Critical Mass Top 50 in 2017.
In 2003, as digital technology advanced and newer cameras were producing excellent resolution, I found my perfect medium. It was a true confluence of technological advancements and creative desire that urged me to transition from 3-D work to photography, initially using my sculptural forms as “models” for my still life photos. I gradually transitioned into using other objects as my subjects, all the while concentrating on the graphic nature of my photos.
When I begin to use photography as my primary art medium around 2008, I was frequently traveling to Europe, and I visited and photographed the animals in small zoos. I ultimately focused on making portraits of primates, and this project resulted in a book, Behind Glass, published in 2021. I learned a great deal about designing and publishing a photo book through completing a book project (Primates) with 21st Editions in 2017 and through studying with Elizabeth Avedon, Mary Virginia Swanson, Douglas Stockdale, Melanie McWhorter, and Laurie Shock. There are many decisions that go into the creation of a book, from design, editing and sequencing to choices of printer and materials. Going through the process many times of sequencing and editing the photographs helped me understand my intention and also create a stronger body of work.
Photography for me has always involved the landscape in one way or another. On a summer day in 1962, my 8-year-old self became lost in the Santa Cruz Mountains during an outing with family. Wandering for hours through the forest, crying and terrified, I was found by a young couple who calmed me by teaching me how to drink from a stream. Later hung a camera around my neck to let me make a photograph. The process captured me; in that short time, I began to see the world differently. My terror became joy as I clicked around the clearing, and in that moment, the natural world and photography became embedded in my being. Several years later, the couple sent a blurry transparency they made of me where I was found. I still have it.
This year marks an anniversary of my own, being 10 years since I started my career as a documentary photographer, so I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my growth professionally, and personally. A decade ago, after taking a six-week trip to the Balkans, I sold my car, a lot of what I owned, and bought a one way ticket to Albania. I knew I wanted to live and work abroad, I was interested in the Balkans, and it was an affordable place to base myself while I tried to start my career in visual storytelling.
I never felt like a photographer. Maybe it was because I lacked the qualities needed in the work of a photographer. Or maybe from the idea of what a photographer’s work should look like.
At the beginning of my journey, I was fascinated by documentary photography. But I didn’t want to go the easy way. It was 2013, digital cameras were commonplace, but I decided to work with a 4×5 inch camera. Against the trends. I bought an old Graflex because it was the only camera I could afford. I had no idea how to take pictures with such equipment, but I learned quickly. In practice. Because not only did I choose a difficult tool, but I was also going to take pictures with it in prison.
I was still shooting B&W film when first featured early on in F-Stop, and would do so till 2016 when I decided that digital had finally ‘matured,’ and bought a used Ricoh GR. That said, the purchase made no sense; aging eyes, no viewfinder save for a miniscule back screen hardly visible in sunlight, I sincerely thought I would resell the palm sized toy within the month. Then a weird thing happened- I couldn’t believe the quality images it could produce when taken seriously, instead of just treating it as a toy. After decades of shooting strictly monochrome, I gave up all notion of converting digital files to B&W- I would play to digital’s strength, and go for color!
My career in photography has really greatly transitioned overtime, from hobbyist to student to emerging artist and educator. One of my favorite things as an instructor is watching my students evolve and grow from their first to last classes. When I moved last summer, I took a look at my very early photographic work from a new perspective. I picked up my first camera as a ninth-grader, stealing my sisterʼs digital camera from her room. I took it to the park for a photoshoot with my friends and Iʼve hardly put a camera down since. Itʼs my way of exploring and telling the stories of American life.
I’ve been working in one way or another as a photographer for over 30 years. When I started it was a lot about knowing how to use a camera. Equal parts technique and art. Digital changed that, of course, allowing just about anyone to make a photograph. Navigating that reality as it has evolved over time has also been my evolution.
Events by Location
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