In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.
Fourteen years is a significant amount of time to work on a series, but when you’re crisscrossing the United States by car – including Alaska and Hawaii – that period of time is really just a drop in the bucket.
Victoria Sambunaris has been on that cross country journey, traveling around with her large format field camera while looking out for landscapes that are a mix of both natural and man made creating images that are easy to get lost in and often question the relationship between man and nature. Although she didn’t set out to create a book when she took her first road trip, last year Radius Books published Taxonomy of a Landscape that is in many ways a photographer’s version of writing the great American novel. That’s perhaps slightly too ambitious – at least at this point in the project – for Sambunaris who insists she’s not even close to finishing. The work is currently on view at the Nevada Museum of Art until May 3.
We asked her a few questions about her career as a fine artist. (Read the full Behold interview here.)
Did you always seek a "fine art" career? And, if so, tell me what that means to you.
Definitely not. At age 14, I saved enough to buy my first camera and was looking at pictures in magazines like Life. I think I fancied myself a photojournalist type, someone like Margaret Bourke-White, traveling the world, teetering on the edge of skyscrapers, photographing iron workers and miners, shooting out of bomber jets and the like.
Are you represented by a gallery? Talk a bit about that process and how it was to find the right gallery for you.
Immediately after graduate school, I had a show of my work at the architecture offices of Deborah Berke in New York. Deborah was on a grant committee at Yale and had seen my work. From that first show, I was picked up by Christine Burgin Gallery. After she closed the gallery a few years later, Christine guided me to find my current gallery Yancey Richardson Gallery. Both Christine and Yancey knew my work previously so it was a smooth entry in both instances.
Do you feel motivated to work because of your reputation as either a photographer who shows their work in a gallery space or has been published?
Not in the least, I've developed a work ethic that I learned from the artists David Deutsch and William Wegman who I worked for previous to graduate school. They both had a rigorous studio practice and the work took precedence to everything else. I realized that I needed to follow their lead and commit which is why I went back to graduate school. I have remained committed to the work wholeheartedly through the ebbs and flows of sales, through the fickle ways of the art world and before the book. I'm not going anywhere!