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 was lucky to find photography early. My mother had studied at a commercial school in the 70’s, so there were cameras around when I was a kid–I made my first pictures in high school.
During my second year of college I took a class with Doug Dubois at Syracuse. He encouraged me to continue with photography (I had somewhat blindly chosen illustration as a major)–but I took the next year off to figure things out. It was 2002, and a weird, anxious time in the world–suddenly I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I remember looking over and over again at The Americans during that year off–a friend had given me the book–I found it to be completely mysterious and yet so descriptive. Looking back, I think it was the medium’s potential for this tension that interested me. Frank's America seemed just as dark as the one I was living in, decades later.
I decided to finish my degree at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. It was the best decision of my academic life, and the people I worked with there (both faculty and fellow students) continue to influence me today. After school I worked as an assistant for Abelardo Morell and Laura McPhee, my former professors. I then took a job in the libraries at Harvard, photographing manuscripts and photo albums from the archives. I still see the impact of those six years of professional experience in my practice as an artist; they certainly cemented my decision to pursue an MFA.
Moving to Texas to study at UT Austin was hugely pivotal for me–both academically and personally. I felt like a stranger in a strange land moving from Boston to Texas. Relocating forced my work to change in a major way and led me to the subject of the weather (it was just so bloody hot!). I had three years to think, concentrate, and experiment in an environment that was both supportive and rigorous. The interdisciplinary program shifted my practice in a way I couldn’t have predicted, even though I’m still as “straight” a photographer as ever. I felt free to explore and was challenged in a very productive way by my faculty and peers.
I’m still early in my career and am focusing now on getting my work in front of people…self-promotion has never been my strong suit. I attended Review Santa Fe in 2014 and am taking what I learned there and putting it to use. I’m currently in the process of applying for grants and residencies, which will hopefully allow me to finish working on We Have to Count the Clouds.
If you were exactly where you wanted to be in your fine art photography career, what would that look like?
I feel extremely fortunate to be where I am now. I’m starting my first full-time teaching job this fall at Southeastern Louisiana University. Teaching is incredibly generative for me as an artist, and I’m hoping this will lead to the career I want–one where I have the stability and time to continue my work and the support to have it seen in publications and exhibitions. I can't overstate the gratitude I have for my supportive network of family, friends and colleagues.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
This New England girl has fallen in love with the South, and my first order of business is settling into my new city, Baton Rouge, where I have a few friends and am in close proximity to my job, New Orleans and the coast. I’m getting to know this place and its complexities. I want to continue the work I started last spring, photographing along the Louisiana coast and looking more closely at flood-control structures in what I think will be the last “chapter” of this body of work. I’m hoping that this year will allow me to finish We Have to Count the Clouds and begin working towards getting a book together. I’d love to show a more comprehensive edit of the work in an exhibition this year.