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FOCAL POINT Group Interview: Storytelling and the Photograph

This Focal Point Q3.16 features photographers Jennifer Garza-Cuen, Ole Marius Joergensen, and Nashalina Schrape. It's a pleasure to share a small chat with these talented artists about the driving forces behind the alluring imagery that is their photographic work.

Ole Marius Joergensen,  Stormy Night , from the series   Behind the Curtains

Ole Marius Joergensen, Stormy Night, from the series Behind the Curtains

Do you find that in the construction of your images that you are having to balance the roles of both director and photographer?
Ole: My background is from both film and photo. The way I work is very much like an director. I feel that my camera is just a tool I use to get out my ideas..if i was good with words I would probably be an writer..the same goes for painting. I love making stories so I look at myself as more of a story creator.
Jennifer: Yes, I do and I think both are required and equally important in my work.
There is the creation of a mood in order to tell a story and then there is the moment itself, which is more about being receptive to what is happening between myself and who or what I am photographing.
 

Jennifer Garza-Cuen, from the series   Wandering in Place

Jennifer Garza-Cuen, from the series Wandering in Place

What amount of planning and preparation goes into making one of your photographs? Do you find that you work more intuitively?
Ole: My work flow is very much the same as movie making. It all starts with an idea, then location/set building, finding models ,shooting, post production. Everything has to be planned..but lately I have tried shooting without any preparation and it was quite liberating.
Nashalina: I start with a concept in my mind but rely on what an object, person, landscape, and/or light bring to the particular moment. This requires me to be very present and open to the process and final product.

Do you find your images to be autobiographical or fictional? To what degree does the use of symbolism and/or metaphor play a role in your work?
Jennifer: My work is based on my own set of experiences, and from memories that are shared culturally. Historic and cinematic memory as well as the personal play a roll in what I am looking for but I also find and create my images based on the places I am documenting. Strictly speaking, my images are fictionalized in that there is often a staging element but I see them more as reenactments.
Ole: My work is all fictional. I don't like to tell much about myself but my personality is present in the images together with things I like. I love mysteries and things that doesn’t have any answers. Love the feeling of not knowing and that is something I try to make my viewer feel
too. So my stories comes without a beginning and end. Hitchcock had a thing for what different colors meant and I adapted that into my images. I also use different props to amplify my characters
Nashalina: My images run a fine line between autobiographical and fictional in their
mood and tone. The symbolism and the metaphor lie in the lighting, the objects and composition. I crave a certain mystery and elusiveness in my images which allows the viewer to fill in some of their own story.

Nashalina Schrape,  My mother's hands from berries that are used to make jelly. My mother continues to carry on the traditions of living close to the land , from the series   Whispers in East Berlin

Nashalina Schrape, My mother's hands from berries that are used to make jelly. My mother continues to carry on the traditions of living close to the land, from the series Whispers in East Berlin

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FOCAL POINT Group Interview: Role-Play, Introspection, and Photography

The FOCAL POINT Q2.16 photographers Rocio de Alba, Carla Jay Harris, and Hannah Cooper McCauley are artists who use photography as a means to examine themselves introspectively. We decided we wanted to get more personal with these mysterious women and had a little chat about their lives beyond the camera.

 

Can you provide us with some background information on your artistic career? How did you get to where you are right now and what influenced your decision to be an artist? 

Rocio: My father was a large-scale portrait painter and a graphic designer in our country, El Salvador. He was a tremendous influence on me as far as pursuing an artistic career. But, it was my mother's work ethic and dedication that drives me to work as hard as I do. I think I've only scratched the surface of where I am going or where I want to be as an artist. I am extremely active in the art community and attend as many exhibitions as I can. I have also educated myself in photography by attending lectures, workshops, and retreats, like with the Flash Powder Projects.  

Carla: I've always had an interest in artistry. My parents are both artists, so art, museums and material culture were always a part of our home. I started working in photography about ten years ago commercially and then later as a documentary artist. My fine art practice developed slowly as both of my earlier pursuits started to become less fulfilling.  

Hannah: When I was 17 after a routine trip to the eye doctor I learned that I have a degenerative, hereditary eye condition called optic nerve head drusen. My eyes are unable to dispose of waste properly and that waste builds up in the form of calcium deposits that embed themselves in my optic nerve which cause gradual visual field loss and sometimes blindness. Because of this, my parents bought me my first camera—a small, digital point and shoot. For the first time I was beginning to see the world differently, and I discovered a new kind of voice way more powerful than any words my quiet lips could form. In undergrad, I began to pursue photography seriously and after graduating I made the choice to get my MFA in photography along with my husband. Now, I’m at the end of the experience and preparing to graduate. 

 

How does your personal identity inform the work that you make? 

Carla: My work is inspired by or derived from my personal experience.  As the child of a military officer, I spent my childhood in flux – moving every 2-3 years for the first half of my life. This pattern of transience continued into adulthood due to familial obligations, financial restrictions and indoctrinated habit. Through my work, I connect to each new physical, economic, and emotional landscape by exploring its impact on the lives of its inhabitants. My identity and personal history informs my understanding of space but I do not take either alone as a point of departure.                   

Hannah: My personal identity fully informs the work I make. Every decision I make when creating a photograph is informed by my personal experiences—my upbringing as the child of a Southern Baptist minister, my vision problems, my transition from childhood to adolescence to maturity, etc. In fact, the loudest question being asked in my photographs is my own question of who I am. I’m trying to work out my own identity, and I use the act of making photographs to search for answers.

 

How relevant is the notion of role-playing in your work?

Rocio: Role-playing is a huge part in my work and the majority of my series consists of self portraiture. I invest an extensive amount of money and time into wigs, make-up, custom jewelry, as well as staging the scene with backgrounds, wallpaper, and paint. For instance, in my series Honor Thy Mother, I attempt to define the gamut of the contemporary mother archetype by portraying extremely surreal, yet undeniably realistic female characters of today. My twenty-two-year-old daughter is a master at make-up so she has been very helpful in the production of these characters. While it takes a great amount of work to make these images, it is a process that is fun for me.

Carla: I'd say it is very relevant to my most recent works. These pieces combine collage, digital imagery, illustration and portraiture to blur the line between the actual and the artificial. Each subject is simultaneously playing her(his)self while also illustrating a historical and social political figure of subjectivity.   

Hannah: I think it’s incredibly relevant. For me, the performative act of making my photographs is therapeutic—that’s the biggest reason why I’m drawn to self-portraiture. There’s something about being able to act something out in front of the camera, even if it’s for an indirect audience, that I find so fulfilling.

 

Are you satisfied with the representation of female photographers in today’s artistic community? Are there changes you would like to see?

Rocio: I am a feminist by definition and I think that is visible in my work. The world has a plethora of inequalities in gender specificities, but in the short time humans have existed, female leaders have helped pave the road for the rest of us in positive directions. I am in no way saying that we are where we should be, but we continue to move forward. Acceptance of one another is the change I would like to see.

Hannah: No, I am not. I think there are a growing number of strong female photographers out there with powerful stories to tell, but they aren’t getting recognized. Overall, I think that women are widely underrepresented in the canon of photography. I’d like to see more opportunities for female voices to be heard throughout the medium, exclusively—in exhibition, print, and otherwise.

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FOCAL POINT Q4.15 Interview: Jane Szabo

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

The arc of my photography career has been quite an arc. I fell in love with photography in college and learned the basics of black and white photography, but my degree specialized in painting. When I went on to graduate school, I began working more conceptually; creating installations that incorporated painting, sculptural work and some photography. But I ultimately left photography behind and fell victim to the simplicity of the point and shoot cameras that were so readily available. Graduate school turned into a career that swallowed up all my free time and left little room for personal creativity and art making.

It took many years to return to the art world, and even longer to reincorporate photography into my fine art practice. I am excited my new work bridges the gap between my old ways of working and my rediscovered voice as a photographer. My current project, Reconstructing Self, blends sculptural constructions with installation and conceptual photography in one package.

The MFA degree I earned from Art Center College of Design gave me a strong foundation in critical thinking and conceptual art making. More recent workshops with photography mentors Aline Smithson and Cig Harvey have helped me find my voice and situate my work into the world of photography. Attending quite a few portfolio reviews has been enormously helpful both in getting my work out in to world and helping me understand how the work is being perceived.

I am excited about the exhibitions I have scheduled for 2016.  I will be showing large bodies of work at the Yuma Fine Art Center in Yuma, AZ in March, the Museum of Art and History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA in May, the Brand Library Gallery in Glendale, CA in August, and at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) in Santa Ana, CA in October.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like? 

I think I am exactly where I want to be right now, but admittedly, I have big ambitions! I’m working toward having my work exhibited across the country and internationally, in large art fairs and significant exhibitions. I strive to make work that is brave, bold and most importantly, true to myself.

Also important to my career as an artist is the act of giving back. Helping other upcoming photographers and artists is a fulfilling and mutually beneficial experience. I look forward to being a mentor to others and welcome the opportunity to lead workshops and curate exhibitions. There are so many ways to engage as an artist – and making and exhibiting work is just one facet. Continuing to branch out into new experiences is a personal requirement.


What are your goals for 2016?

With four large exhibits on the calendar for 2016, my main goal is to make each one spectacular! I am experimenting with ideas for incorporating mixed media installations with the photographs. It is exciting to be working with some really flexible and experimental exhibition directors.

And without a doubt, making new work is on the agenda – continuing the Reconstructing Self project and developing the next series, which is a seed that has not yet sprouted!




 

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FOCAL POINT Q4.15 Interview: Steven Duede

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far. 

I had been a painter and sometimes mixed media artist for over 20 years prior to focusing on photography. I had always had a keen interest in photography and had occasionally toyed with a few photographic projects over the years. It was around 2009 that I first began taking photography seriously as my medium of choice. I found that working with the camera and exploring my process from that fresh vantage point very satisfying and my work has flourished since I committed to the camera. Cleary one can see the influence of painting in much of my work. Selections of my work from this ongoing series Evanescence were first exhibited in the Danforth Museum’s New England Photography biennial as well as the Griffin Museum of Photography’s national juried show, and I’ve been busy exhibiting parts of this project ever since. Most recently works have appeared at the Photo Center North West in Seattle as well as the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s national contemporary photography exhibition.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

This is hard to answer. I’m enormously satisfied with the way things are going in my fine art photography career at this point. Participating in several high profile exhibitions in the Boston area and around the nation, I just couldn’t be happier. The public and academics in the arts are discussing the works, studying the works, enjoying the works, and the dialogue is getting stronger. I’m encouraged by all of the kind support. To say exactly what my career would look like I might only say that if I can continue to produce and share the works at this level, and even a higher level, I’ll continue to feel satisfied in my participation in the creative process.

What are your goals for 2016?

2016 will be a good year. I have a solo exhibition planned for the spring at the Danforth Museum of Art in MA, which will incorporate over 40 works including very large format prints. Additionally I have a book in the works for selected pieces from two series, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work on not only the Evanescence series but several other projects where I’m stepping out of my box and dabbling in street, landscape and architectural photography. 


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FOCAL POINT Q4.15 Interview: Alyssa McDonald

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

What really lit a fire underneath me was my sophomore year final review for my major studio photography class.  One of my reviewers was Nick Nixon, known for being brutally honest, as if I wasn’t nervous enough about my first ever review board.  He told me the words I had needed to hear the entire year, “You’re onto something, but you could shoot more.”  I feel like my creative vision really started to take off and flourish my junior year at Massart when I made myself step out of my comfort zone.  Shooting became an obsession, the more I shot the more I learned about myself and developed a pronounced vision and style.  What I also gained was confidence in my photography, as well as my own abilities.  For me, this was an extremely pivotal moment.  If I wasn’t crazy about my photos, why would anyone else be?  I’ve finally reached a moment in my photographic career where I now feel confident enough to expand my horizons by having my work seen by others.  As of now, I’m working hard to keep photographing and strengthening my images and ideas, as well as branching out to online publications and galleries to feature my work.  My biggest influences and motivators are the photography faculty and professors at my school.  They are all established, working artists themselves, each with dynamic background, a wealth of information and inspiration.  Their dedication to passing their wisdom down to their students is truly commendable. 

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I think the key to an evolving, flourishing career and work ethic is to never quite be exactly where you want.  No matter where my career takes me, I will always shoot fine art photographs for myself.  Over the past two years photographing has become a subconscious habit and compulsion more than ever before.  Again, I’m working on pursuing various avenues of exhibiting my work; getting it seen.  One step at a time.  Ideally I would love to broaden my professional horizons by working for a magazine or be a studio assistant to a photographer.  I think that would be the best way for me to learn the tools of the trade and become well rounded in my field. 

What are your goals for 2016?

I’m a candidate for a Bachelors of Fine Art in Photography in May, and I’m hoping for a strong end to my career at Massart.  I’m taking my major studio photography class as well as a bookmaking class, where I’ll be hand-making my own photobook, which is pretty exciting.  I’m in the process of interviewing for a few internships; real work experience, where I can build my professional skills and relationships is what I’m hoping for the most in 2016.  Another future prospect of mine is to take a cross-country trip with no one other than my camera.  My passion for shooting really developed when I re-visited my home as a possibility for making work.  Home has been the place I have investigated the past two years.  Now that I’ve developed vision and ideals in my practice, I’d love to take this passion elsewhere. 

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FOCAL POINT Q3.15 Interview: Sara Macel

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

I took my first photography class when I was 15, and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be a photographer. In high school, I exhausted every possible outlet to learn more about photography that I could find in my school and town of Spring, Texas to the point of writing the Houston Chronicle and pitching photo stories to them (it worked!). At eighteen, I moved to New York to study photo at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. It was a wonderful program full of talented students and great teachers like Tom Drysdale, Deb Willis, and Phil Perkis. I loved being surrounded by people who liked to talk about images.

After graduation, I lucked into a job as Bruce Davidson's studio manager. Working for Bruce taught me what the life of a working artist looks like. He taught me his method of darkroom printing and gifted me my Mamiya 7II, which is still my favorite camera. Almost as soon as he gave me that camera, I left to go make my own work for a few months. That began my on-going series "Rodeo Texas" about my home state. Upon returning to New York, I got a job working under photo agent David Maloney at Art Department. There I learned all areas of production (bidding on jobs, budgets, building crews, on-set production, travel, billing, contracts, etc.) and worked my way up to being one of his two head producers for his roster of photographers. When I wasn't head producer, I had time to work on my own fine art photography on nights and weekends. Slowly, I started getting into shows and winning small awards like Jen Bekman's Hey Hot Shot. I was using all my vacation days to travel for shooting personal work. But it wasn't enough. I knew I needed to shake things up if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be with my own photography. 

So, I applied to grad school and decided to quit my job and attend SVA for my photo MFA. That decision changed my life in incredible ways. While in school, I began what became "May the Road Rise to Meet You," a road trip photo series about my dad's life as a traveling telephone pole salesman. Grad school also changed my relationship to images and how I view myself as an imagemaker. After graduation, "May the Road..." started getting a lot of exciting attention. I was awarded the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer's Fellowship and signed with Daylight Books to publish "May the Road Rise to Meet You" which was released in 2013. I was very fortunate to be asked to join a Flash Powder Projects retreat right before my book came out, and there worked on ideas for pushing the book and taking my photo career to the next step. And since then, I've had a traveling exhibition of that work shown all over the country and in some international photo festivals, my collector base has grown, and I was selected as one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch for 2015. And just two months ago, I self-published a small edition of my older series "Kiss & Tell" that sold out in 2 months, so now, in addition to my latest work-in-progress, I want to revisit that series and see how it has evolved since I started it over 10 years ago.

I've also been teaching photography for 3 and half years now at SUNY Rockland Community College and am starting this fall to teach at CUNY Kingsborough Community College. And I've been shooting more and more commercial and editorial work, which has been great and something I'm looking to push more in the coming year.

I feel really fortunate for all the good things that have come my way and grateful for all the experiences that helped inform my skill set and creativity. The advice I tell my students is: be humble, be grateful, be hungry and just don't stop.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

That's hard to answer. I don't know that I'll ever be EXACTLY where I want to be, because each new wonderful achievement opens new doors and leads to new goals. But it sure would be nice to sell out of the editions of a series!  And a definite new goal of mine is to partner with a gallery for representation.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

In addition to gallery representation, my goals for the year are to create a "Kiss & Tell: Volume II", make a significant amount of progress with my newest series, explore more exhibition opportunities for "May the Road Rise to Meet You," and seek out more editorial and advertising clients. And get a dog. I'd really like to get a dog.

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FOCAL POINT Q3.15 Interview: Raymond McCrea Jones

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

The arc of my career really started with my education. In 2004 I enrolled in a technical photography program in North Carolina at Randolph Community College. The program has a storied and influential history in the North Carolina photography world yet I knew very little about it when I enrolled. All I knew was that photography was the one thing I hadn’t got bored with yet. So I went for it.

RCC requires all students to start with a medium format film camera. I went on to learn film processing, color printing, lighting theory and large format photography. This technical training really created and still serves as the foundation of all of my work. Although I primarily shoot digital today everything I learned there has influenced how I work today.

I went on to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Pat Davison and Rich Beckman. All the while I was doing internships every summer. This allowed me to put my education into practice as a working photographer while still receiving guidance from excellent editors like the late Bruce Moyer of the Hartford Courant. 

My big break came when I landed a job at The New York Times. I was 26 when they offered me an internship at the website as a photo producer. This soon led to a full time position and a truly unbelievable experience. Somewhere along the way I learned one of the most valuable skills a photographer can have and that is the skill of self-promotion. I began developing relationships with the picture editors I worked with and I began showing them my work. Then I started working on my own stories and sharing them with those editors. People like Michele McNally, Jim Estrin, Clinton Cargill, Meaghan Looram and others gave me great feedback and support, the kind that is invaluable when you are a young in experienced artist. It wasn’t long before I had my first personal project published. Then I began shooting assignments through the metro desk. It was all truly a dream come true and an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

At some point along the way my family situation “expanded” and I decided I want to branch out a little bit with my career. I was fortunate enough to meet Marcel Saba and Redux Pictures who invited me to become part of their extended family. I relocated to Atlanta and began the second chapter of my career as a freelance photographer.

 September 1 my photobook “Birth of a Warrior” will publish and this will be one of the proudest points of my career so far. I have to say that if it weren’t for the relationships I’ve built and maintained with those I work along side with in the photography industry I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I believe that never being satisfied is a healthy way to stay motivated. I’m thankful and gracious but I am absolutely never satisfied with the work I produce. I like it that way. 

If I were exactly where I wanted to be with my career I would have multiple gallery representations, my book would be hardcover, I would be shooting covers instead of inside portraits, I would have my own studio, I would have a full time assistant and I would have the opportunity of hearing my name mentioned in the same sentence as Richard Avedon’s. If I had all of those things what would I have to work toward?


What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Over the next 12 months I have several goals the first of which is to see the successful launch of my new book. I also want to do several super rad talks and presentations of this work around the country. I want to shoot at least 4 cover shoots and begin shoot my next book project. I want to learn how to manage my business finances better and I want to elevate my exposure in the industry through better publicity. I also want to shoot at least 3 more music videos and be a better dad to my kids than I was in the last 12 months. Not that I wasn’t a good dad or anything but it’s all about progression.

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FOCAL POINT Q2.15 Interview: Deb Schwedhelm

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

After 10 years as an Air Force Registered Nurse, I began teaching myself photography in 2006 and launched a child and family portraiture business in San Diego in June 2006. I continued on that path until we relocated to Kansas for one year (my husband is in the Navy). It was at that time that I decided I was going to take a break from the portraiture business and get back to photographing my children. That was a significant time in my photography career because it was a period of experimentation and growth. 

Next was an assignment to Tampa for four years. Having a pool in our backyard and relatively nearby beaches, I decided to purchase underwater housing. I loved photographing in the water and it was almost as if the photographs spoke to me, pulling me in and having me longing for more. After about a year, I decided I would take my FROM THE SEA series to the PhotoNOLA Portfolio Review. I was extremely nervous and really had no idea what to expect, other than looking forward to receiving some constructive feedback. To my huge surprise, I ended up receiving first place, which resulted in a solo show and self-published book for the following year’s reviewers. To say that I was blown away would be an understatement. This was the start of my work really being recognized within the fine art community. 

I also have had the incredible opportunity to be mentored by Jock Sturges. He is honest and thoughtful, yet doesn’t sugar coat things, which I find refreshing. He has encouraged and pushed me in the best way possible. Jock was instrumental in the launch of my Werkdruck book with Galerie Vevais, produced by Alexander Scholz, which can be viewed and purchased here:  http://galerievevais.de/products/item.werkdruck_20.html.

While often tough, I truly believe that being a military family and relocating every few years is a gift. Each relocation offers new challenges and opportunities. It was our recent move to Japan, which was the impetus of my most recent series, HOME AWAY. 

I also cannot leave this question without mentioning that there have been so many individuals who have offered thoughts, suggestions and advice along the way. I am grateful for each and every one of them and wouldn’t be where I am today without their influence. As the African proverb states, “it takes a village ” and I so wholeheartedly believe that. 


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I really am grateful for where I am today and for any and all opportunities that come my way. I believe that with really hard work, dedication, commitment and patience, great things can be accomplished and opportunities will present themselves — and it is this that I hold on to.  I hope to never stop creating. I hope that people continue to enjoy my photographs. I hope that I am able to inspire and teach others. I am pretty new to fine art photography and so I’ll simply say -- I will continue to dream big and setting new goals along the way. I dream of one day having gallery representation but for the moment, that takes me back to working hard and continuing forward momentum. And with that, I may have just written circles around your question.

 

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Photography-speaking, my goals for the next 12 months are to keep photographing and pushing myself. I plan to review and possibly revise my online photography workshop offerings. I want to begin exploring collage and mixed media, with my photography, along with looking into some alternative printing methods. I hope to photograph in the waters in Japan this summer. I’m also thinking about unique presentation of my HOME AWAY series.  Lastly, I would be beyond thrilled to have a solo show in Japan, while I am living there. 

This most likely will be our last year in Japan, so I hope to do a lot of traveling around Asia along with embracing all that Japan has to offer me and my family.  I’m homeschooling while living in Japan and my oldest is attending college in the US, so with that said, I simply hope to survive the next 12 months. 

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FOCAL POINT Q2.15 Interview: Rebecca Drolen

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

I would say that my photography career found its beginning while working towards my MFA during graduate school at Indiana University. Prior to returning to school, I had concerned myself only with making beautiful photographs.  In school, I realized the potential of communicating ideas through my images and working more conceptually, which now guides my process.   After grad school, I began showing my work mostly through group and juried exhibitions which eventually led to more opportunities for solo exhibitions.  One major pivotal experience was the year that I spent at the University of Georgia as a Post MFA Faculty Fellow.   In this role, I taught classes, recognizing my passion for teaching photography, and I was also responsible for making and showing a new body of work.  The environment of devoted and hardworking faculty, colleagues, and students helped form a model for me of how academics and creative research can collide with harmony.   I have found continued community and support in organizations like the Society for Photographic Education (SPE).   These relationships with fellow artists and educators are invigorating and inspiring.  Finally, I would be remised  not to mention the role that showing my work via blogs, news sites, and photography organizations on the internet which has dramatically increased my audience and recognition of my photographs.   While not a traditional gallery space, experiences such as having images on the Huffington Post, have allowed for new opportunities to show work amongst people who may have otherwise not known it existed!


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

My goals are always shifting on where I would like to be in my photography career.  As I reach one ideal, the next presents itself!  I would love to be represented by a gallery, and of course, continue showing work in varied types of spaces.  Generally, I always want to be in the middle of a productive and successful current project or body of images!


What are your goals for the next 12 months?

In the next 12 months I will be beginning a new teaching position at the University of Arkansas that carries emphasis on research.  I plan to begin a new project while seeking opportunities to show some of my other bodies of work.  I have some ideas on the new work, but also hope to give myself a chance to respond to my new place via the work that I begin.  

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FOCAL POINT Q2.15 Interview: Loli Kantor

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.   

I started photography late in life. I was interested in documentary photography, specifically live theater and the performing arts. I was especially passionate about documenting the creative process of performers, directors and people involved in stage work. Initially self taught, I later decided to fill the gaps with workshops and independent study courses at photography study courses at a Junior College, which provided me with the essential feedback from mentors and peers. My early inspirations were Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus and my mentor Peter Feresten. My favorite medium was black and white photography and traditional dark room printing.

A pivotal moment for me was in 2004, when I volunteered to work in Krakow Poland at a former Nazi labor camp. This sparked the idea to find living Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. For nearly a decade, I became deeply involved in the subject of presence and absence, of Jewish life in Eastern Europe today. It also gave me the time and space to feel what being a second generation to Holocaust Survivors means.

I also attended portfolio reviews and workshops to escape my solitary life in the darkroom and in my studio and to immerse myself in the wider photography community, both reviewers and fellow photographers. I responded to calls for entry and entered competitions to get my work around and attempted to use the feedback, both negative and positive, in a constructive way.

Another pivotal moment was at PhotoLucida 2009. My work began being recognized widely, and I felt that it transformed into a stronger and more cohesive body of work. I continued this a few more years with my goal being to complete this project and to publish a book.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I would be a source for young photographers to mentor and teach.

I would be teaching photography workshops in the United States and abroad.

I would have 1-2 more completed bodies of work and books published.

My entire body of work from Eastern Europe would be acquired by a museum.

I would have exhibitions in reputable museums in the United States and abroad.

I would have gallery representation in the United States and abroad.

My work would be featured in nationally and internationally reputable publications periodically.


What are your goals for the next 12 months?

- To have a clear idea about my next project, the scope of the work, and the photographic language, which I will use.

- To learn one or two new photographic skills.

- To tour my new book and have scheduled talks and exhibitions for the next 2-3 years.

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FOCAL POINT Q4.14 Interview: Megan Doherty

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  

Photography represents my second chance at life.  Immediately after college, I spent seven and a half years pursuing an MA and PhD in the philosophy of religions from the University of Chicago.  About a year or so after graduating, I began teaching myself digital photography.  I'll be honest:  I had to read the manual cover to cover.  Compared to my father's trusty Minolta XE-7 (which I tinkered with briefly in my early 20s), this thing seemed a veritable rocket ship.

In truth, while photography had always been a dream of mine, I didn't think it was possible.  Telling someone you'd like to be a photographer usually garners the same reaction as telling someone you'd like to grow up to be a rock star.  Or run away and join the circus.  They smile at you and pat you on the head, and after enough of that, you internalize the notion that it's crazy, and you had better do something a touch more practical with your life - which, for some reason, meant "academia" to me.  Don't know what I was thinking.

On that note, when faced with the death of tenure-track positions across the United States, I realized I was getting an opportunity to start from scratch.  It took a few years, but eventually I bucked up the courage to claim this dream for myself, and I've been cobbling something together ever since.  Haphazardly or not.

As someone who was immediately drawn, moth-to-flame style, to long-form, humanistic documentary work, I was absurdly lucky and grateful to apprentice under Jon Lowenstein here in Chicago, who has kindly remained an informal mentor to me ever since - and who I'm honored to consider a friend. 

Baby steps:  I received the 2014 Karen Van Allsburg Memorial Scholarship, which afforded me an opportunity to attend a week-long course at the Maine Media Workshops.  This put me in touch with another great shooter/mentor, David H. Wells.  And, strangely enough, I was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Lange-Taylor Prize, issued by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.  If I did the math right, this means I clocked in at the top 20 percent of applicants - and since I really only picked up my incomprehensible rocket ship of a camera three years prior to that, I was humbled (not to mention, shocked) beyond measure to get even that far.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I'm not sure how to answer this question, because I don't really consider myself a fine art photographer.  I'm primarily a documentary-style shooter who (like many, if not most of us) does corporate and editorial work to keep the lights on.  And I'm at least...moderately successful reducing blackout periods.  So, "more work" may be the cop-out answer, but it's also the honest one.

What are your goals for 2015?

I have two (wildly different) long-running documentary projects that need to be put to bed.  One, Back of the Yards, (http://www.crusadeforart.org/megan-doherty) which is featured here in FOCAL POINT, has been on-going for two years now.  I'm hoping to get some funding so I can finally finish this puppy.  Fingers crossed!  The other is a project I've been co-directing for the past three years, documenting one of --if not the-- best intellectual and academic bookstore in the world (http://www.semcoop-project.org/).  We're in the process of putting together a book -- a fitting capstone to a project on a bookstore, if there ever was one -- and if we keep to our schedule, that book should come out by the end of summer 2015.  Ish.  At least in theory.  It's being designed by the same fella who produced Carlos Javier Ortiz's beautiful book "We All We Got" (http://www.carlosjavierortiz.com/PROJECTS/We-All-We-Got-/1/thumbs), so I'm just happy as clam about it.

Other than finishing these, I'd like to get more photography clients, for sure, both corporate and editorial.  And while some may think I'm doing things backwards, I'd actually love to nab one of those rare photojournalism internships.  Since I didn't go to school for photography, I know I'd benefit from the razor-like focus on story-story-story.

Lastly, before I became a shooter I was a writer.  I've recently started to combine the two, and wrote a fairly substantial essay about my Back of the Yards project.  Despite turning out to be an incredibly vulnerable piece of writing -- far more so than I thought it would be -- I'd like that effort to see the light of day at some point.


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FOCAL POINT Q3.14 Interview: Charlotte Strode

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far. (How you got to where you are now, pivotal experiences/accomplishments/ influences, etc.)

My photography career has slowly progressed through a series of small unintentional life experiences and intentional small steps. I have been exposed to photography for as long as I can remember, but didn't pursue photography until my mid-20's. My father was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and worked in the field throughout his life; my mother also worked as a photographer, living in New York as a young woman to assist Ernst Haas and later working as a newspaper photographer (my parents actually met at a photojournalism workshop my father was teaching at the University of Missouri). 

I grew up completely surrounded. Some of my earliest memories were in my dad's darkroom - I can close my eyes and almost smell the processing chemicals as I helped him change the filters or dodge and burn his prints. I wasn't really interested in learning but I learned by osmosis, whether cataloging slide film to earn some spending money or listening to my parents explain why a certain scene in everyday life was photographically brilliant. At Christmas when I was 22, my father gave me his old Nikon F's that he used in Vietnam - he was dying of cancer at the time and it was such a weighted gift, like he was passing me something of himself that he knew I would cherish. That's when I started shooting.  

After college, I contacted a photojournalism professor who I had met during my last semester of school - he recognized my last name and told me that my dad had been his lifelong mentor. The connection was serendipitous, and he felt an opportunity to pass along what he had learned. I'm grateful that he gave me the gift of spending Sundays together to help me learn photography. Also, during this time I worked at an advertising agency and was lucky to be surrounded by creative and generous friends who fielded my endless curiosity and believed in my talent. It was at this point that I knew photography was really something for me. It excited me and connected me to things that I believe in, giving me grounding in ways that nothing else did.  

In my mid-20's I moved to NYC to assist fashion photographers which really clarified what role I wanted photography to play in my life. For me, it needs to be something that's pure, honest, and uncluttered by a pressure to make money. Since then, I shoot what inspires me, interests me, challenges me. I participated in a Flash Powder Retreat which greatly clarified my work, path, and goals moving forward, as well as connected me with friends who I continue to learn from.


If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I'm honestly just so humbled to be where I am and want to keep making work that connects with people. The fine-art world is one piece of my larger life, and the most important thing for me is that it continues to foster my growth and offers me the chance to get my work out to a larger audience. Recently, photo essays of my work in the south were published in Oxford American and The Bitter Southerner, and I got hundreds of comments and emails from people telling me how much my work meant to them, or how it inspired them to call home or plan a visit. That's really the greatest gift I could ask for... for my work to connect with people in some way. 

In an ideal world, getting a gallery show of a cohesive body of work would be the greatest accomplishment. I think about how incredible it would be to know that one my photographs is hanging in someone's home, who will look at it and always feel something. I do feel like I'm finally in a more focused place, and I hope to channel this and continue to grow my work in a way that will someday lead me here.


What are your goals for 2014?

To keep moving forward, to work on it every day. I would like to be able to find a balance between my photography, my day-job, and all the demands of living in NYC. I need to somehow carve out more space to explore, grow, create, and be inspired. That's my current struggle.  

Smaller goals are to become skilled at color printing so that I can enjoy the "object making" aspect of photography. I would like to apply for more portfolio reviews.  And I would like to continue to foster the relationships I've made in the photographic community, and to make new relationships with people who's work I admire. I've learned that these relationships are paramount.

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FOCAL POINT Q3.14 Interview: Jared Soares

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far. (How you got to where you are now, pivotal experiences/accomplishments/ influences, etc.)

Jared Soares, photograph by Justin Gellerson

Jared Soares, photograph by Justin Gellerson

The arc of my career dovetails with my interests outside of photography. It was never the plan to be where I am today, but I’m quite happy. When I was younger the line between documentary and fine art photography was a brick wall. Now that border is porous and nuanced. I’m interested in making photographs about topics and people that I care about and the labels don’t carry the same weight anymore for me.

When I was beginning to make photographs as a student, I was consumed by sports and through working at the college newspaper my attention shifted to news and community issues. I did a couple of internships at smaller newspapers before landing a staff job. Had I been born 10 years earlier, I would have probably stayed on the track of becoming a career newspaper photojournalist. My time at newspapers was more than I could have hoped for, each day served as a learning opportunity, and I was surrounded by talented and generous individuals who mentored me along the way.

Daily assignment photography helped me figure out that I prefer spending time on one topic and working in a series of images instead of hunting for stand-alone ones. Coupled with my interest in pursuing long-­form photography and the downsizing of newspapers, it made sense to leave my staff job and take control of my own future.

I’ve been working independently for the last four years with editorial and commercial clients. It has only been in the past two years that I’ve wandered into the fine art world. In 2012 I attended Review Santa Fe, and it served as an introduction to peers and collaborators. Most of my “accomplishments” or learned lessons can some how be traced back to that portfolio review.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

The fine art world is another place that allows me to suggest an idea to a different audience. With that said, I’m interested in furthering my practice by creating work that is personal and also relevant to current events. And finding nontraditional places in the communities I’m working in to exhibit the work in order to introduce both outsiders and neighbors to each other.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

I’m fleshing out a new project idea and hope to begin working on it before the end of the year. Along with that, my main focus is to set aside time each week to make more photographs for myself. 

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FOCAL POINT Q2.14 Interview: Amelia Morris

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.  (How you got to where you are now, pivotal experiences/accomplishments/influences, etc.)

Photo by Frank Espich of the Indianapolis Star

Photo by Frank Espich of the Indianapolis Star

I became interested in photography in my early teens, and when it came time to think about college, I decided that I wanted to study photography, too. While there I found the drive to make work based on autobiographical incidents and introspective reflection.   Soon after graduating, the financial crisis hit. For about a thousand reasons, I felt incredibly stuck: no one seemed interested in the work I had done in school, local photographers were tightening their belts and didn’t need assistants, and for the longest time, I couldn’t make a photograph I didn’t hate. I didn’t want to become a person who studies art only to drop it when times get tough, but I was becoming incredibly discouraged by my future prospects.

Eventually I was able to move out of my funk. My creative block finally lifted, and I slowly started to make work again. I embraced opportunities to meet new people and learn new skills. I shared my portfolio at the Society for Photographic Education conferences, started exchanging artist postcards in the Postcard Collective, and suddenly found myself connected to the broader photography world.  In 2012, I was awarded an emerging artist fellowship through The Arts Council of Indianapolis. Knowing that they supported my artistic endeavors gave my photographic career a pivotal boost. Last year, I won a scholarship to attend the Photolucida portfolio review festival where I showed an earlier version of An Honest Assessment. Looking back, even though I had been actively showing work and had support from local arts institutions, I still wasn’t convinced that people were actually interested in what I was doing. The Photolucida reviews made me realize that even though I’m still figuring out exactly where I want to be, my work is worthy of being seen.

Over the past couple years, I’ve  realized that I need to meander with a project to see its full potential. I need time (sometimes a lot) to internally process whatever I’m trying to express. An Honest Assessment is now about three years in the making, and it’s still growing. 15 of the photographs are included in the summer exhibition of at The Indianapolis Art Center, and when I see it on the wall, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I want to find some kind of balance between my art and everything else I do to pay the bills (or heck, find myself in the position that my photography career does play a larger part in paying the bills, all while staying true to how I make my best work…). But overall, I want to keep making quality work that people are interested in experiencing!

What are your goals for 2014?

I want to keep moving forward in a thoughtful way. I need to continue to foster the relationships I’ve made in the photographic community, even if it’s just writing someone I admire a note to tell them to keep up the good work. I also think it’s time for me to try new things. With some encouragement from friends, I’ve decided it’s time to start applying to residencies as a way to devote a period of time to only working on my projects.

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FOCAL POINT Q2.14 Interview: Sebastian Collett

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

 

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.

The arc of my photography career has been pretty unconventional, just like the rest of my life!

As a teenager, I was training to become a concert pianist.  I discovered photography in high school, thanks to the local college art library.  I hid books by Friedlander, Fink, Frank and Hockney inside my textbooks, so I could study them during class.  Photography offered an escape from the mundane prison of high school – a portal to faraway worlds. I taught myself to develop film and print in a 50 square foot darkroom cooperative.  As soon as the school day was over, I would run to the darkroom to discover what my camera had captured. Sometime I just sat there in silence, as you would in a sensory deprivation tank. The darkroom was my sanctuary.

I fully intended to major in music at Bard College.  But I was lucky enough to end up in a freshman photo class with Stephen Shore, and I never looked back. After graduating, rather than going to Yale, or interning with a famous photographer in New York, I decided to travel the world.  I spent time in queer alternative communities, did social work, lived in Europe, and played piano.  All the while I photographed prolifically, yet privately, showing my work to no one.  I could have become Vivian Maier, but instead I went to grad school.  I was finally ready to share my work with the world.  Since completing my MFA, I've been putting myself out there like never before.  Online platforms like Fraction Magazine and Crusade for Art have been an awesome part of this "coming out" process...

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I'm at a very exciting point in my career.  The great thing about being a "late bloomer", is that when you finally decide to step into the spotlight, you have a wealth of lived experience, which adds a depth and breadth to your work.  So in that sense, I'm exactly where I want to be in my career.  That said, I would like to be represented by an ambitious gallery, to have more group and solo exhibitions, to join more private and museum collections, to publish several books, and to have a teaching job where I can share my passion with a group of dedicated young photographers.  I can feel that many of these things are right around the corner –– sometimes I wonder if I will bloom or explode!

What are your goals for 2014?

2014 has been the best year of my life. I've already accomplished more this year than I expected to, and it's far from over!  I was thrilled to be awarded a residency at Hambidge, and grant from Light Work.  I've been included in shows at the Houston Center for Photography, Aperture Gallery, and the Philadelphia Art Museum, and I look forward to more.  I am working on a new book, and I just had a promising meeting with an awesome publisher. I would like to collaborate with other photographers, for both shooting and publishing projects. I would also like to have more editorial assignments and commissions, and so I welcome all suggestions and proposals!

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FOCAL POINT Q1.14 Interview: Dorothy O'Connor

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.

My photography career up to now has felt like a series of very small steps forward. I went back to school for photography when I hit thirty, deciding it was finally time to try to make a living doing something I really wanted to do. After graduation, I spent years assisting commercial photographers and working in various roles in the commercial realm, all the while knowing that shooting commercially just wasn’t where my heart was. I continued to do my own work on the side - while constantly learning as much as I could from those I was working for and with. Slowly I began to work less and less for others and more on my own projects. In 2008, I began to open my house and my studio to the general public for a live showcase of the worlds I had been creating in my garage. It felt pretty scary and vulnerable, but overcoming those feelings was an extremely positive and rewarding experience. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, I received grants from Possible Futures to put towards my own work and continuing to open my pieces as tableau vivants for Atlanta Celebrates Photography. I received a Flux grant in 2012 giving me the opportunity to have one of my projects included in Flux Night. This experience allowed me to move beyond my garage and for a much larger audience to view my work. In 2013, I had my first artist residency in Nashville, at The Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. Being given this residency was a very pivotal moment for me, not only did I have the acknowledgement of a respected institution but I proved to myself that I could create my work outside of my studio and far away from home. It did wonders for my confidence and opened up all sorts of possibilities for me and my work.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

Less struggle, more funding. I would love to have work appear in more publications and galleries and to grow my audience from a regional one to one more national and International. I would also like to be involved in more public art projects and continue to grow my projects, broadening their concepts and their scope.

What are your goals for 2014?

My goals for 2014 are to take more risks, be as creative as possible, concept like crazy, end the year with less debt than I started it, win a grant to do at least one public art project, AND keep moving forward!

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FOCAL POINT Q1.14 Interview: Katie Koti

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.

Koti_Crop_1mb
Koti_Crop_1mb

I have been involved in art and music since I was a teenager, but I didn't pursue photography seriously until I was about 27 years old. At the time I had been running an eco friendly house cleaning business for about 7 years. I had expanded the business, hired some employees, and made a life-long dream decision to go to school full time to immerse myself in art. I enrolled full time at GCC (Greenfield Community College). They offer two year Associates Degree programs. Their faculty and staff are amazing. Tom Young was my mentor and quickly became my first photo "hero". I never thought it would go beyond those two years, but things quickly caught fire and GCC lead to a scholarship to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) where I completed my BFA. Then RISD lead to a scholarship to Yale School of Art where I completed my MFA.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

I am a non-traditional person by every definition of the word. I love making photographs and believe deeply in the bodies of work I have built. I currently reside in Western Massachusetts. In a perfect world, I would be represented by a forward-thinking gallery in NYC who not only believes in my work passionately, but is equally excited to have an artist on board who hasn't conformed to the traditional mold of residing in NYC.

What are your goals for 2014?

My photography related goals for 2014 are to find said gallery as mentioned above. I would like to return to shooting large format again. There are several new projects I have been dabbling with that I would like to start pursing seriously in the coming months.  I'm excited to see how everything unfolds!

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FOCAL POINT Q1.14 Interview: Brandon Thibodeaux

FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter.  Each FOCAL POINT photographer receives mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.  In this interview series, every FOCAL POINT photographer gets asked the same three questions, and their answers become a jumping off point for the mentorship.

Describe the arc of your photography career so far.

Brandon Thibodeaux
Brandon Thibodeaux

I kind of see my photography career akin to how a country uses natural resources for energy, you have some coal, some wind, some hydro, and a lot of oil. With photography for me it's one part editorial, one part corporate advertising, and one part exhibitions.  I began my career as a small time newspaper photographer.  If I had graduated three years earlier than I did in 2006 I most likely would have worked my way up from small to large newspaper.  Fortunately or not that model didn't exist when I got out of school, the newspaper industry turned up side down and suddenly I was forced to go freelance.  I've spent the past 9 years freelancing in some capacity and over time the clients have just gotten bigger, better, and more diverse, thanks to an internship, or going to NY and DC for meetings with prospective clients.  The end goal is essentially to work less and get paid more, thus having sufficient time to work on my personal projects like I am today with When Morning Comes.  That's where the gallery world comes in.  It's been a way for me to have a broader and longer lasting platform for projects where I can talk about my ideas and the subjects that appeal to me.  Whereas in the editorial world that message has a shorter half life upon publication.  My growth in this area has come largely through the connections I've made at the various reviews like Santa Fe, PhotoNola, Photolucida, and FotoFest.  Before those I had literally no idea about what the art world was other than paying admission to see a show at a museum.  These reviews have spawned connections to galleries, museum curators, content generators like Crusade for Art, Fraction, Lenscratch, SXSE, and LPV Magazine, and most importantly a solid base of mentors that have guided me through it all.  What a blessing.

If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?

Again, I kind of see the fine art world being just one part of the greater thing for me, so in that respect I think I'd just be happy with it continuing to foster my growth and offering me avenues to get my work out to a larger audience.  Everyone wants great shows, more print sales, and books, that's a given.  I'm just humbled by having the appreciation I'm experiencing now and hope I can continue to produce work that touches folks.

What are your goals for 2014?

Goals for 2014, hum, as a freelancer the goal for every year is to end with more than you started. The goal is to stay in the black, start some new projects, finish some old ones, and keep my wife happy.

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