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FOCAL POINT Q1.15 Interview: Elizabeth Moran

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 find an art "career" something hard to define. So many of us do other things ("labor," as Charlotte Cotton defined it for me) to support our "work." And inevitably, the labor that enables the work, influences the work to some degree. In my case, the most pivotal experience of my career thus far was when I stopped making art. I didn't know what an art career looked like (and who does, really?), so I took the best paying creative job I could find: art director for an advertising agency. It allowed me to afford to stay in New York, to pay down my student loans, and to still work in a creative field. I did well. And a career in advertising has well-defined job titles, timelines for raises and promotions, and end-goals. But I got bored with the clear-cut career path that I saw before me: I knew exactly where I would be in 2, 5, 10, even 20 years. I began teaching on the side (at NYU and ICP), and slowly began making my own work. That work led me to graduate school (the best gift I've ever given myself), so I could further pursue my research interests (through making and writing), and here I am now.

 

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

Having finished graduate school less than a year ago, I am more than happy with the progress of my career at this point. I have a full plate of exhibitions, residencies, collaborations, writing, teaching, etc., and I am lucky to have such a strong supportive and generous group of mentors and colleagues. I look forward to a future of twists, turns, and surprises. I believe that is both the challenge and reward of a career in art—there is no formal path to follow and no checklist to tick off.

 

What are your goals for 2015?

I hope to pick up writing again more seriously and to further incorporate it into my practice. I also plan to continue to experiment with audio—I enjoy how the process of collecting and editing sound is so similar to making photographs. I also just began my residency at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, so I'm excited to see what my early experiments will grow into over the next 6 months. After having spent the last several months finishing work for exhibition at NYU, I'm happy to be back in the darkroom and in my studio making a mess again.

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CSA Photographer Interview: Kurt Simonson

In our Crusade Supported Art program, we commission six photographers to make an image in an edition of 50, and we sell 50 shares. Shareholders receive an original, signed and numbered photograph from each of the six commissioned photographers. We have had two CSA cycles so far, and they have been a huge success. Photographer Kurt Simonson's image (below) was part of the second round CSA and was just shipped to shareholders a couple of weeks ago. We asked him a few questions to let you get to know him a bit better.

Fireworks  by Kurt Simonson

Fireworks by Kurt Simonson

Had you heard of an art CSA before? What were your impressions of the idea?

I hadn't specifically heard of an art-related CSA, but I am always drawn to creative solutions for making and sharing art.  I've loved all the various out-of-the-box projects that Jennifer has done before, so I was up for this idea instantly.   As a teacher, I love to create and assign projects that push the students to look beyond the expected audience and codes of the art world, often encouraging students to think about art that operates in modes of partnership and collaboration, inside and outside of the gallery system.  I also loved the idea of getting to wait and see what each of the artists would create and offer!   

What about the program made you interested in being one of the participating artists?

I love the idea that the collectors were choosing to participate based on us as artists, not just based on a single image or theme.  It's very encouraging to be reminded that there are viewers and collectors out there who want to invest in us as artists, with a bigger-picture view of our entire body of work.   I was also honored to be included in some pretty exciting company, as I've enjoyed the work of all of the other photographers involved so far.     

How has your experience been so far, and what else do you hope will come as a result of participating?

I look forward to having my work reach a new set of collectors, especially 50 collectors at a time!  It's exciting for me to think that these new collectors have 6 images to either begin, or add to, their collection, and six new artists to follow and get to know.     

Please tell us about the piece you created and how it fits within your larger body of work?

Fireworks is a new addition to the Northwoods Journals project, a body of work that explores the myth and memory of my upbringing in Minnesota.  I enjoy how this image brings a slightly different season and tone to the larger series.  

Fireworks are technically illegal in Minnesota, but you would never know it.  Every year it’s standard practice to go across the border to Wisconsin and stock up for your own little Fourth of July extravaganza.  My brother has delighted in this relatively harmless practice ever since he was a child, and not surprisingly, he has carried on the tradition with his children.  I can’t help but realize that there’s something about the curious blend of playful mischief and overt transgression in this practice that is quintessentially Minnesotan.   

To see more of Kurt's work, please visit his website.

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Behold: Marc Yankus

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

In 2013 Marc Yankus, after a period of focusing (or, soft focusing) on a somewhat abstract look at cityscapes, took a photograph of the Goldman Sachs building that rests along the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. Inspired by the detail he saw in the image once he opened it up at home, Yankus began photographing buildings around New York City that jumped out at him. He then manipulated them in order to both isolate them from their surroundings and to create a sense of timelessness. Last year, Yankus showed some of the work at ClampArt in New York where he has been represented for a decade. We asked him a few questions about his career.

Read the full Behold interview here.

Do you call yourself a fine art photographer? Describe what that term means to you and why you do or don't call yourself one.

I do call myself a fine artist. I create artwork for myself and where it ends up is secondary. Where as commercial art is for and directed by someone else what I create is totally for me and thats a very freeing experience. Making art is my high!

Talk about your first break specifically regarding gallery representation but also when you started to think this would become a career for you.

When I was around 20 I created artwork for the windows for Grey Art Gallery and they introduced me to Barbara Milstein of the Brooklyn Museum who included me in an exhibition at the museum on the Brooklyn Museum in 1983.

You've worked with ClampArt for a decade now. Describe that relationship and how it has evolved.

ClampArt is the first gallery to represent me and it has been a learning curve for me to work with a gallery. It’s been a fantastic experience and our relationship has grown to be very productive for both of us.

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Behold: Jess Dugan

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Jess Dugan has often used portraiture as a way of exploring gender and sexuality. Her latest series, “Every Breath We Drew,” to be published as a monograph this fall by Daylight, is a body of work in which Dugan not only questions the definition of masculinity but also the idea of identity. Is our self defined from within or is it part of a larger question about our connection – and desire to connect - to others?  “I was trying to make something more universal than just showing a group of people who share a similar identity,” she said. “I wanted people to reflect on that process for themselves, and how we connect with people.”

Read the full Behold interview here.

 

Left:  Betsy, 2013 . Right:  Jet, 2013 .

Left: Betsy, 2013. Right: Jet, 2013.

When you first began imagining a career in photography, what did that look like? Was gallery representation or a book publication part of that vision? 

I was lucky to get gallery representation at the very beginning of my career, so in many ways, I grew up as an artist within the gallery system.  I was also lucky to be working with a gallery director who acted as a mentor to me (more about her in question 3) and who was very sensitive to my work, always privileging the integrity of the work over its marketability.

To be quite honest, I didn’t know what a career in photography would look like.  My first year out of undergrad was a rough transition, as I had lofty ideas about grants and residencies and things like that.  My undergrad faculty were all Guggenheim-winning artists, so that was the model I saw most directly.  For many years, my career involved me working a 9 to 5 job and making just enough extra money to spend every weekend in the darkroom, which I built in my studio apartment.  After several years of that, I moved from Boston to Chicago to go to grad school (lured largely by the prospect of working with Dawoud Bey, who became a very significant mentor to me).  At that point, I was more aware of what I wanted out of my career, and it certainly involved galleries and books.

I have quite a photobook addiction, and I have always loved the book form as a way to experience photographs.  My earliest, most powerful moments with photography came from seeing myself (or people like myself) reflected in photography books at a time when I didn’t see these representations anywhere else around me.  I had many profound moments sitting in the basement of the Harvard Book Store flipping through used photography books and discovering influential photographers I would come to know and love.  

I have made many artist books and self-published books over the past 6 or 7 years, but I’m currently working on my first monograph and am really excited about that.  I’m already thinking in terms of books for my next two projects, which are well underway.  

 

You're quite a prolific photographer. Talk about the importance of producing work both for yourself and for your career.

Thank you.  You know, it’s interesting that you say that I am prolific, because in some ways I don’t know what that means.  Since I discovered photography, I have been addicted, and I have somewhat obsessively been making work since then.  

Making work is the way I feel connected to the world, and also the way I make sense of my own life, my own relationship, etc.  So, I consistently and intentionally make pictures.  What’s interesting is that I don’t really make a lot of snapshots anymore- I’m not the kind of photographer who always carries a camera.  For me, making work and truly experiencing a moment are almost always mutually exclusive activities. 

In terms of my career, it certainly helps that I make a lot of work, as galleries like showing new images.  In some ways, though, it becomes its own kind of challenge to make sense of a photographic process that comes so naturally from my life.  Though I present my work in very distinct “projects,” their creation often happens simultaneously, or one project flows into another, or themes emerge from photographs I’ve been making over a period of years. 

 

What was your first big break? Describe what that meant to you and how/if your definition of "break" has changed as you continue your career.

My definition of a break has most definitely changed throughout my career.  My first big break would have to be when I met Arlette Kayafas, owner of Gallery Kayafas in Boston.  I had just graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, an amazing school that I was quite lucky to attend, especially since I didn’t fully realize when I applied at the age of 16 how amazing their photography program was and how it would form the foundation of my career.  I was working at the Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston’s South End with Joseph Carroll, who now runs Carroll and Sons, and through my experience in the gallery I got to know Arlette, whose gallery was just down the block.  We formed a relationship, I showed her my work, and I had my first solo show one year later in the fall of 2008.  My relationship with her has been career-changing; she mentored me in the business of galleries, supported my work both emotionally and financially from the very beginning, and provided a consistent, meaningful place for me to get feedback and gain perspective on my work. 

That summer, I also took a part time job at the Harvard Art Museum which led to a full time job there, which led to me to spend the last eight years working in the museum field, which has also been hugely informative to my career as an artist. 

Over the years, there have been many moments I would describe as a big break, and how I define that has changed with time.  My first gallery, certainly.  My first museum acquisition.  My first solo show.  My first real collector. 

At this very moment, I am excited about being represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery, working on my first monograph with Daylight Books (due out Sept. 2015), and working on my first solo museum exhibition with curator Amy Galpin at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Florida.  

 

Left:   Ryan and Josh, 2013.   Right:   Laurel, 2014.

Left: Ryan and Josh, 2013. Right: Laurel, 2014.

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CSA Photographer Interview: Thomas Jackson

In our Crusade Supported Art program, we commission six photographers to make an image in an edition of 50, and we sell 50 shares. Shareholders receive an original, signed and numbered photograph from each of the six commissioned photographers. We have had two CSA cycles so far, and they have been a huge success. Photographer Thomas Jackson's image (below) was part of the first round CSA. We asked him a few questions to let you get to know him a bit better.

Tape no. 1  by Thomas Jackson

Tape no. 1 by Thomas Jackson

Had you heard of an art CSA before? What were your impressions of the idea?

I had barely heard of a conventional CSA before, city boy that I am. I immediately liked the idea, however, as it struck me as a fresh, unconventional way of presenting work to new collectors.

What about the program made you interested in being one of the participating artists?

I had been familiar with Crusade for Art pre-CSA, so when I heard from Jennifer, I was interested right away. At first I wasn’t sure about offering my work in an edition as large as 50 and at such a small dimension. Generally I do things the other way around: small editions, big prints. But I’d had the idea in the back of my mind of offering some work in a more accessible way for some time, and Jennifer’s invitation turned out to be the perfect opportunity to follow through with that. And when I saw who the other participating artists were, the decision got even easier. I’d been admiring the work of a few of them for some time, and was thrilled by the opportunity to engage in this unusual collaboration with them.

How has your experience been so far, and what else do you hope will come as a result of participating?

It would have been more of an experience if all the shares hadn’t sold out so instantaneously! It’s certainly nice to have 50 new collectors to add to the old spam list though. I look forward to keeping in touch with them in the years to come. 

Please tell us about the piece you created and how it fits within your larger body of work?

Tape no. 1 marked a continuation of my still ongoing Emergent Behavior series, and the first image I made here in California after moving from Brooklyn in late 2013. Shot in a park right in San Francisco, the installation is made from multicolored duct tape and a mile or two of monofilament. It took about 6 hours to construct and was shot just before dark. Like the the other pieces in the series, this one is an experiment in juxtaposition, and a playful attempt to impose swarming behaviors found in nature upon man-made materials.

To see more of Thomas' work, please visit his website.

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FOCAL POINT Q1.15 Interview: Marna Bell

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 have been an artist for as long as I can remember, and it has been an amazing journey. In the 1970’s, while getting my BFA at Pratt Institute, I started teaching pinhole cameras to kids in basements in Harlem for the Police Athletic League. It was at Pratt that I remember having lunch with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, where they first turned me on to photography. After moving to Syracuse to complete my MFA, I became in involved with the Community Darkroom at Syracuse University, which has had a big influence on my life. After graduating, I was very involved with the Everson Museum. I taught art classes, I had a one woman show of my work, and I was even invited to take part in the Oko Yono show.

In the mid-1980s, I returned to Syracuse after a brief stint in Pennsylvania and joined Light Work / Community Darkroom, which was a turning point in my career. It was then that I concentrated entirely on photography. Being accepted into the NYFA Mark program further propelled my career, which culminated in a presentation of my work at Smack Mellon in New York City. In 2011, I exhibited my Hudson series at Light Work and was later invited to participate in an exhibition of photo-based books at the SPE Northeast conference. Howard Greenberg’s Gallery in NY now exhibits my book in his artists book section. The Munson William Proctor Museum exhibited some of those images in 2013. Later that year I received a Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation award. My work has been exhibited several times in Made in NY at the Schweinfurth Art Center. In 2013, Light Work exhibited my Imperfect Memory series alongside their 40 Years / 40 Artists show, and this series recently had a four-page spotlight and interview in Black and White magazine. The Crusade for Art experience has now given me the opportunity to further my career and grow as an artist.

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

I am interested in publishing more books and having my work be in collections of some major museums. I would like to be represented by a major gallery, have solos shows, and sell some work. All of this takes more funding and recognition. I believe I have the drive to make this happen.

What are your goals for 2015?

I am constantly looking for opportunities for grants and shows that would benefit my work. There are several galleries that I have in mind and I would like to tighten my presentation and start approaching these galleries. I also would like to expand my horizons and start looking at galleries and museums outside of NYC to exhibit my work. 

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FOCAL POINT Q4.14 Interview: Ansley West Rivers

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 feel the entire arc of my career as an artist has helped shape where I am today.  The struggle to continue making work daily, regardless of changing situations has been very important in shaping my own practice.  I have always put my practice first by scheduling all other jobs and appointments around my studio time.  As an artist, I feel like the largest hurdle is preserving your practice.  I learned early in my career that I needed to look at my studio time as sacred in order to ensure that I create space in everyday to make work. 

After undergrad, I worked for many years as an artist before going back to graduate school for my MFA.  Graduate school was pivotal to my career in many ways.  It pushed my work beyond what I had been making and made me think deeper about my concepts.  I was regularly challenged by my peers and professors, sometimes to the brink of tears, but necessary in my pursuit to move forward with my work.  The conversations around my art through the graduate program were integral to the work I am making now.  I developed the toolset and vocabulary necessary to create a stronger foundation for my own practice as I moved out of the cocoon of graduate school and back into making work alone. 

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

I would have established relationships with integral people in the art world that would facilitate showing my work to the world.  I am constantly trying to connect to people to ensure my work is seen and supported.  I strive to build a community around my artwork so that the conversation around my work does not become stagnant.  I continuously seek the support of my peers, curators, institutions and other interested parties to further develop my work and push myself as a maker. 

If I were exactly where I wanted to be in my current project, Seven Rivers, it would be completely funded for travel and book publication.  I would have guaranteed show dates for the photographs and maps as I would like the project to travel to galleries, Universities and community centers.  I would be working with scientists, writers and other experts on water to create further conversation and material around the project. 

What are your goals for 2015?

My goals for 2015 are to finish the majority of the Seven Rivers. By the end of the year, I would like to be working towards a book and securing avenues of presentations.  I have made a schedule for myself in order to keep myself on track to obtain these goals.    

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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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Behold: Rania Matar

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Rania Matar began her career as an architect but after taking photography classes to better capture her four children, Matar soon changed professions. Her work is informed by both her dual nationalities (she is both Lebanese and American) and her experiences raising her children, specifically her two daughters. What she is experiencing inside is often reflected by the images she creates of other people. Her current, ongoing, work explores the complex mother and daughter relationships she titles “Unspoken Coversations.”

We asked her about her first break in the photo business and her work with galleries. Read the full Behold feature here.

 

Lauren and Kyra, Concord, Massachusetts, 2015. by  Rania Matar

Lauren and Kyra, Concord, Massachusetts, 2015. by Rania Matar

 

Tell me about your first "break" in the photo business and how that helped to push your career.

I might call it a "break" in the photo world rather than business, and I believe I had multiple "mini-breaks" sequentially, one leading to the other, rather than one big break. I was originally trained and was working as an architect. I started photography to take better photos of my kids. After September 11, I decided to start photographing in Lebanon, where I am from originally, as I wanted to tell a different story from what we were hearing on the news. My photo instructor at the time, Nick Johnson, was very supportive of this early work and took it upon himself to put it in front of a gallery owner who loved the work and connected me with Magnum photographer Costa Manos, who became a mentor and a teacher after that. This was important to me as it finalized and confirmed my shift from architecture to photography.

The second break came when I presented my work for the first time at a portfolio review with Leslie Brown, then curator of the Photographic Resource Center in Boston. She published the work on the PRC blog - my first (online) publication - and urged me to start submitting the work to competitions and presenting it at portfolio reviews. I then submitted some work to the New England Biennial and won the first and purchase prize. The jurors were Karen Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Arlette Kayafas from Gallery Kayafas in Boston. I believe this was a big turning point for me, and I will always be thankful to both Arlette and Karen for that. I also believe this led me to become a nominee and then a finalist for the Foster Prize at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston with an exhibition.  

The third break happened one year at the Meeting Place at Fotofest, when I presented for the first time A Girl and Her Room. The work was very well received, and I walked out that year with two new gallery representations, a couple of sales and some exhibition offers. 

I believe breaks happen because of people who believe in your work and are willing to support it. I could not have achieved any of what I have achieved if it weren't for all the baby steps and the people who supported me along every one of those steps. I am thankful to them all for that. 

 

Do you currently work with a gallery? If so, talk a bit about how that relationship began and what is expected of you and how that influences your work. 

I work with a few galleries, and this is a tough question as I find every relationship is different, and all started differently. Because I live in Boston, I might say that Carroll and Sons gallery in Boston is the gallery I work closest with on a regular basis, but I have very good relationships with all my galleries. I started working with Joseph Carroll at the recommendation of many people in the Boston community who thought we would be a good match. The Boston photo community is small and things seems to have happened very naturally. I am learning that often finding the right gallery happens because of people's recommendations and introduction, often artists from the gallery. I think it is hard and intimidating for most artists to approach galleries, and having people help make introductions is very helpful, but it is the first step then you slowly have to learn to know each other and figure out if the relationship will work and see if the work is a good fit. It is also always helpful to speak with other artists represented by the gallery and ask about their experiences. 

I started recently working with Galerie Eulenspiegel in Basel, Switzerland and this relationship also started because of an artist of the gallery who recommended my work to the gallery owner, but also highly recommended the gallery to me. I had my first exhibition there this past January.  

But then things can happen a little differently, and I have recently connected with Richard Levy Gallery who will be presenting some of my new work for the first time at Art on Paper in NYC this week. Richard and I connected, strangely enough, through Facebook as I had been posting some work in progress that I had made in Lebanon this past year about the Syrian refugees in Beirut. We then met coincidentally in person during Art Basel at Miami Project where the gallery had a booth and Richard asked to know more about this body of work, and here we are. Sometimes it is just serendipity. 

Having a gallery who understands and champions your work, who can help you edit, present your work the best way it can, and put it out into the world is key. It is also a treat to have someone an artist trusts deal with that, so that he/she can focus on making work. Galleries can also give you a presence in a place where you would not necessarily have one otherwise. Galerie Janine Rubeiz in Beirut is very important to me for instance. I live in Boston now, but Beirut is also home for me and it is means a lot to me to have someone giving me a presence in a place that personally matters very much to me but where I am not present physically most of the time. 

 

Do you categorize your work as "fine art"? Why or why not? Do you think categorizing photography is important?  

I don't personally like the categorizing of photography. I find it sometimes limiting. I do think my work is fine art - I treat it and present it as such - but it is also portraiture; it is about people, about girls and women, about identity and daily life. Sometimes my work has also been referred to as "Documentary" or "Personal Documentary". I stopped trying to put a label on it. I believe it could be all of the above and I want to keep following my own instincts as I am working without having to box myself and my work into one category or another. 


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CSA Photographer Interview: Amy Friend

In our Crusade Supported Art program, we commission six photographers to make an image in an edition of 50, and we sell 50 shares. Shareholders receive an original, signed and numbered photograph from each of the six commissioned photographers. We have had two CSA cycles so far, and they have been a huge success. Photographer Amy Friend's image (below) was one of the first two sent to shareholders in our second round. We asked her a few questions to let you get to know her a bit better.

I Was There With Her, 2014  by Amy Friend

I Was There With Her, 2014 by Amy Friend

 

Had you heard of an art CSA before? What were your impressions of the idea?

I heard bits and pieces about CSA online and thought it was an interesting way to make artist’s work collectible and accessible. I think by reaching out to people it sparks an interest they already have but are unsure how or where to begin. The process of the CSA takes that into consideration and makes it exciting and affordable and do-able. 

 

What about the program made you interested in being one of the participating artists?

The process was interesting for me in that the collectors would put faith in the work to be or selected made based on the artists involved. I like that sense of anticipation to see what will come forward in the imagery. 

 

How has your experience been so far, and what else do you hope will come as a result of participating?

Excellent experience. The process was super, I loved thinking about what to make for the collection. I also appreciated the zeal in getting the word out to as many people as possible. AND I love that all this work will have a home! 

Some collectors have contacted me personally to discuss the work further or inquire about other pieces. This is exactly what I had hoped would happen. It is so special to have contact with a “real” person that appreciates what you are doing. So often we are hunkered in our studios or elsewhere -  working away with little input. 

 

Please tell us about the piece you created and how it fits within your larger body of work?

The work I made for the CSA is a continuation of my Dare alla Luce series. I have been working on it for a couple of years and it keeps calling me back. There is something about these images I come across that I cannot resist. 

In much of my work I am interested in what a photograph cannot tell us. The title of this piece, "I was there with her”, comments on the photographer, in my mind at least. We do not know much, if anything about her or the photographer. They are in many senses a mystery. Quite often the photographs present unknown people and circumstances to the viewer, but they also present, the photographer, so to speak. I am intrigued by this absent presence, particularly in this image. 

To see more of Amy's work, please visit her website.

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Behold: Victoria Sambunaris

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.)

Untitled (Red Containers, Wet Ground), Fort Worth, Texas, 2000

Untitled (Red Containers, Wet Ground), Fort Worth, Texas, 2000

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! 


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Behold: Birthe Piontek

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Birthe Piontek has often tackled photography series that coincide with her fascination of identity and how we as humans present ourselves to the world. In her recent work, Memensis, Piontek wanted to not only question her own photography practice but also further delve into how other people’s images inform our ideas of the self. Piontek uses found imagery she then repurposes to create what she calls mini sculptures that are then photographed. The results present a somewhat infinite storyline: the viewer is able to create their own stories based on the stories that Piontek presents. We asked her about what being a fine artist means to her and about her experiences navigating through the fine art world. Read the full interview here.

Untitled #1, 2013

Untitled #1, 2013

Do you consider yourself a fine artist? If so, what have been your goals while working as such?

I would call myself a photographer or maybe a fine art photographer but for some reason I've been reluctant to consider myself a fine artist, although my work definitely has been taking a bit more a fine art direction in recent years. 

That said, my goals are definitely "fine art goals", which means I'm looking for exhibition venues and finding opportunities to present it to a wider audience. And of course it's important to have a chance to talk about it, either by doing artist talks or in forms of interviews in blogs or magazines. 

Do you have gallery representation? How have you been able to maneuver through the fine art world in terms of finding gallery representation?

Yes, I have a gallery representation. 

It is part of the work as an artist to do the research, find out who could be a good fit, make connections and knock at doors. It's great when you find people who understand the work and support it but like for many other artists, promoting my work is not something that comes naturally for me. It is always a challenge and it's ongoing, it never stops because with the change in the work, the audience changes too. 

How has working in the fine art world influenced your own work?

I would say it hasn't really influenced my work. I'm working on themes and projects that are interesting and meaningful to me. I get inspired by looking at other work and of course I'm aware of "trends" or what sells on the art market and while that might influence me on a subconscious level, it's nothing I incorporate strategically in my practice. 

Untitled #11, 2014

Untitled #11, 2014

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Developing: Crowd-funding Estimated vs. Actual Costs

Through the Crusade for Art blog, we are focused on educating photographers about best practices and sharing practical information to help move careers forward and connect audiences to photography. It is often helpful to hear from photographers who are right in the thick of things, and so we bring another installment of our series called Developing. This is a follow-up from Rachel Minn Lee's first Developing story in the middle of her crowd-funding effort for a photographic e-book. The campaign was successful, and I was curious how her projected costs for the project compared to her actual costs and what parts of the process were successful and which could have been handled differently.

Project Background

I came up with the idea to make a collection of stories about the fragile moments of the everyday Marseille after visiting it the second time and falling in love all over again with the wild, windblown naturescapes. I photographed the scenes before me the best I could and started to work on this project early 2014. Because of the language barrier and lack of prior publishing experience, I decided to create an e-book of photographs to help build momentum for the written story project and help me reach those whose stories should be told. The crowdfunding effort for My Everyday Marseille: The Film Photographs, a charming little photobook accompanied with illustrations, an interactive, illustrated map, and voice descriptions in French/ English and French/Mandarin, was born.

I began making the e-book eight months ago. The targeted amount raised was SGD 1,500 (around USD 1200). I felt that this was the bare minimum needed to get the project started and I could self-fund the additional expenses.

So how much did I actually spend on making the e-book?

My projected vs. real expenses for the project were as follows:

E-BOOK DESIGN

Projected: $500 (US $400) to the e-book Designer, Illustrator and Graphic Artist

1. E-book design - several mobile-ready versions (android, iphone and kindle devices), found in two translations (English / French and French / Mandarin)

2. Interactive map, illustrated

3. Illustrations for every chapter openings and insertions of charming images descriptive of Marseille

4. Graphic design of logo and book cover 

Actual spend: $1600 (US $1280)

TRANSLATION

Projected: $300 (US$240) for translation and related costs

1. Translator fees, professional translation from the original English descriptions + a short story into French.

2. Editing and basic proofreading

Actual spend: $650 (US $520) 

AURAL ELEMENTS

Projected: $310

1. Recording of sound for all sessions using 4 voice artists: 2 French, 1 English, 1 Mandarin.

2. Sound technician to cut all the audio into usable clips.

Actual spend: $485 (US $388)

LANDING PAGE or WEBSITE

Projected: $120 (US $96)

Actual spend: $120 (US $96)

DISTRIBUTION

Projected: $380 (US $304)

Actual spend: $248 (US $199)

ADDITIONAL COSTS

Business license to self-publish $65 (US $52)

Total spend $3168 (US $2533), exceeded crowd-funding amount by more than 50%.

Was it easy to run a crowd-funding campaign for a creative project? 

This was my first-ever time running a crowd-funding campaign, and I tried my best holding on to a day job and working on the campaign on weeknights. For two weeks prior to the campaign I tried to be a social media influencer, tweeting and sending many, many messages to my business and personal contacts. I also tried to reach people who were active in the topics of travel photography, travel bloggers, analogue photography and Marseille located platforms. I created a short video and made a website prior to the campaign. Being a non-techie person, I found this extremely challenging to do.

The total duration for the crowd-funding effort was 50 days and I reached the 100% target in 25 days, half of the time. 

Potential challenges to the crowd-funding effort:

1. I was not already 'known' as a photographer/author, never having exhibited or made headlines, so I did not have advocates or supporters who already knew and loved my work.

2. Time constraints - working in the daytime meant that I had the short evening hours (between reaching home and heading to sleep) to make the campaign work. For a month I made the 7 pm to midnight hours priority for my campaign. This discipline meant that I would have to be hermit-like at least for the month of the campaign. Well, it worked!

What worked:

Asking people to pledge just 1% worked really well. The minimum sum to pledge was $5 - the price of a cup of coffee here, and many business contacts felt they could part with this amount to support a creative project. From the time it hit 60%, many personal friends were on standby to help me to hit the target. There were many last minute supporters as well - when I posted on Facebook the day the effort reached 90%, many chipped in to help it cross the mark!

What could have worked:

I did not manage to have enough time to reach the 4000 contacts I had on my business contact network, on LinkedIn. I wished to know if the vast network on LinkedIn could help, or if it was not useful at all. Out of the 360 personal notes I sent, there were hardly any replies. However, I had entrepreneurs and startup founders who wanted to help, did, and networked and met me, these types of connections in my network were more useful. For the social media efforts, I created a google+ account and started being active on Twitter only in the weeks leading up to the campaign. I only managed to skim the surface of this usage, but I also discovered many great sites and online supporters who are film photography lovers.

At the end, I was motivated to make my creative project a reality and to publish it by the end of 2014. I'm glad that I could accomplish this, and hope to find a creative project for 2015.

Rachel Minn Lee is a native of Singapore who loves the savage beauty of mountains and seas. Using the medium of 35 mm film, this film photography enthusiast aims to capture the human intersections in known and unknown places, arousing a sense of nostalgia for the fragile moments of everyday life.

Rachel Minn Lee's first book, My Everyday Marseille: The Film Photographs is available at leading e-bookstores. Read the background story on www.myeverydaymarseille.com

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Behold: Matthew Swarts

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

As time passed after the end of a painful breakup, Matthew Swarts found himself feeling a kind of distance and disconnect when looking at photographs taken during that time in his life. In order to examine and process better his current feelings about the relationship, he turned to art and began a journey that blended some of the images along with found images he manipulated sometimes through Photoshop, other times through more concrete items including old fax machines and broken printers. The results are trippy, surreal, sometimes confusing and always mesmerizing portraits that are significant because, quite simply, is there another way to describe the emotions that arise both during and after a significant breakup? Swarts discussed his work in two series he began in 2014, “Beth” and “The Alternatives,” both on view at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles beginning February 28. He also spoke about his fine art career for Crusade for Art. Read the full interview here.

Untitled, 2014 from The Alternatives by Matthew Swarts

Untitled, 2014 from The Alternatives by Matthew Swarts

Do you consider yourself to be a fine art photographer? Tell me a bit about that and if that kind of categorizing is important to you.

Yes, of course, as my work has primarily been collected by museums and other fine art institutions and publications, but what I do now is evolving, both for me and for countless others, out of the sphere of what those words once meant. I don’t think about these terms with the same kind of religiosity that some people do, because that’s not really what my life is about. I simply make things. These days it is primarily with electronic cameras and computers, but I began as a social documentarian very much connected to a firmly established tradition. Over time, my practice has become more studio-based and specific to questions surrounding portraiture, copyright, and appropriation, but photography in the largest sense has always been my prime interest. I live and breathe for what photography can sometimes do to my mind and heart. The sub-categorization of my work into “fine-art” is useful only in the sense that that’s where my photography has found acceptance and its largest audiences. 

Do you work with galleries? If so, how did you find them and how do you keep up your relationship with them? 

Yes, my work is represented by Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, and Paul Kopeikin reached out to me to establish this relationship after my work had some traction in publishing and museum venues. What has emerged is a kind friendship based upon a shared interest in bringing the work to a larger collector base. Even though we are geographically apart, we communicate regularly to strategize opportunities for pushing the work forward. Paul is somewhat extraordinary in his commitment to artists, and in addition to his regular gallery programming makes quite an international fair circuit with the work. I could not have been luckier in this regard, as with his guidance, support, and networking, collectors have responded very favorably! 

Do you feel pressure to keep making work for yourself and/or to keep yourself relevant within the art community?

Not so much pressure as a simple wish to be a relevant part of a conversation I find fascinating. I am constantly cross-pollinated by the work of other artists, many of whom work outside or on the periphery of traditional photographic ideas. At the end of the day, the people I admire most are very hard to pigeon hole into simple categories. They are simply makers and creators because there’s nothing else in the world they’d rather be doing. I am this way, too. What I would like most of all is to continue to make work that has these kinds of multivalent possibilities, and to challenge myself (rather than feeling pressure from any external source) to always make new things. I suppose with new technologies there’s always the feeling that what you’re learning about will somehow be eclipsed within the next fifteen minutes, but this is something you adjust to and learn to grow from, and frankly, so far it’s been  a tremendous amount of fun.



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CSA Photographer Interview: Jennifer Greenburg

In June we launched an art CSA, which sold out in just two days. Six photographers were commissioned to make an image in an edition of 50, and we sold 50 shares. Shareholders receive an original, signed and numbered photograph from each of the six commissioned photographers. A few weeks ago we shipped the second two photographs to shareholders, and last week we sold out of shares for our second round CSA, again in just days!! 

The above photograph, Of course we all wanted to look like Peggy Castle at the Wagons West Party, 2014 by Jennifer Greenburg, is one of the two most recent shipped to shareholders. Jennifer talks briefly about her CSA experience in this interview with us:

 

Had you heard of an art CSA before? What were your impressions of the idea?

I had heard of an art CSA but only within the confines of the history of early 20th Century photography.  Breathing the breath of the 21st Century into the concept excited me instantly.  I am delighted to have been part of this first incarnation. I am interested in participating in almost anything that moves the way we think, use and interact with photographs forward!  

 

What about the program made you interested in being one of the participating artists?

I make work in order to facilitate a conversation with my audience.  If my work only exists in a flat file drawer in my studio,  then I might as well have not made anything in the first place. I own the work of other artists for the same reason.  I want to wake up in the morning and be reminded, visually, of something that I find important.   One of my most cherished possessions is a print of Wall Street,  New York, 1915 by Paul Strand.  It was my first art purchase.  I had been studying and teaching the work of Paul Strand for fifteen years when Aperture made an edition of an image that most resonated with me available for sale.  I jumped at the chance knowing that, even though it felt a little expensive,  all I had to do was skip a few meals out and a pair of shoes I probably did not need in the first place to make it happen.  That photograph had held an important place in my development as an artist, adult and educator.  It warranted a physical place in my daily life.  I hope that my work will be owned by someone who will find it meaningful, and this program opens up the door for that to potentially happen. 

 

How has your experience been so far, and what else do you hope will come as a result of participating?

The experience has been fantastic.  I was so pleased when the shares sold out so quickly– the instant demand really gave the program incredible validation. 

I hope that participating will allow my work to get into the hands of new collectors who might not have been familiar with my work or into the hands of those who have previously worried about the idea of collecting. Buying art is an extremely intimidating process due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is the expense!  I hope that this program will encourage new buyers to support artists through collecting.  The CSA has made it both affordable and painless for many to begin.  And sometimes offering a first step is all it takes!

 

Please tell us about the piece you created and how it fits within your larger body of work.

The piece I created for the CSA is called,  Of course we all wanted to look like Peggy Castle at the Wagons West Party, 2014.  It is part of my larger series,  Revising History.  Revising History is a series of manufactured images created by replacing the individuals in vintage found-negatives with images of myself. I reference the gestures within the original image as a means of taking ownership of that moment. I appropriate the mood and emotions of each event, becoming a musician, a mother, a corpse– even though I am none of those things. My work is a performance that results in a series of manufactured photographs that are inherently counterfeit.  

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Behold: Alejandro Cartagena

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Alejandro Cartagena’s images of young, joyous concertgoers that make up his series Bliss, are a reflection of the last feelings of happiness Cartagena felt as a teenager. At 13, he moved from his home in the Dominican Republic to Mexico, a change that was emotionally scarring and stuck with Cartagena into adulthood; working on the project was therapeutic for the Mexican-based photographer. Bliss is currently on view at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles through December 20. Cartagena also recently published a book, Carpoolers. He spoke with us about his work ethic and how he built his relationships with his galleries. Go here to read the full interview.

Bliss 2 (left) and Bliss 1 (right)

Bliss 2 (left) and Bliss 1 (right)

Talk a bit about your process of becoming a fine art photographer.

At the beginning of my career I was doing work for myself and trying to get into contests and group exhibitions, and I was lucky enough to have galleries take me in. Whenever I have new work they’re always looking to see what they can show: they take it to art fairs or they put on a solo show. My career has shifted a little bit in that I have this outlet where I can put out the things I am thinking about.

How did Bliss become something you wanted to show in a gallery?

Bliss came out after three projects were done that didn’t even make my website. I’m always doing new work but then sometimes you get this moment of something that works both visually and conceptually. Sometimes the galleries are interested, other times other venues are interested; I’m always doing new work basically because I’m hyperactive and can’t stop doing stuff.

When you first started out, did you want to be part of the fine art world?

I’m not going to say everybody but that’s something you see when you’re completely outside (of gallery life), the possibility of making enough money to do what you love to do, instead of relying on grants or another job to put that money into your personal work. It’s a dream come true to be able to produce work, publish work and exhibit work to make money in order to do more work. I’m not making money: I’m getting money back to do work every single time. At this stage, the money that comes in I put back into my career and to explore things that are in my head right now. At the beginning it was something I aspired to and I didn’t know how to do it. The way it happened was for me to do consistent, good work and eventually things catch up and the gallery notices I’ve done many successful projects.

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CSA Photographer Interview: Kerry Mansfield

In June we launched an art CSA, which sold out in just two days. Six photographers were commissioned to make an image in an edition of 50, and we sold 50 shares. Shareholders receive an original, signed and numbered photograph from each of the six commissioned photographers. A few weeks ago we shipped the second two photographs to shareholders, and next week shares for our second round CSA will go on sale! 

The above photograph, Multiple Red Spines by Kerry Mansfield, is one of the two most recent shipped to shareholders. Kerry talks briefly about her CSA experience in this interview with us:

 

Had you heard of an art CSA before? What were your impressions of the idea?

Prior to working with Jennifer I hadn't been exposed to an art-based CSA before the opportunity arose.

 

What about the program made you interested in being one of the participating artists?

It's such a great idea in general, and when applied to photography it's a brilliant recipe for both the artists and Jennifer to share and sell work affordably. In addition, as one of the initial participants I was really delighted with the caliber of company for the first CSA round. It's always an honor to work with peers that you respect individually and along with their work.

 

How has your experience been so far, and what else do you hope will come as a result of participating?

The CSA program was a great experience across the board, and Jennifer made it as easy on the artists as possible. I've gotten some additional recognition from new collectors and also had a print purchase inquiry from a share holder regarding more imagery from the same series featured in CSA. 

 

Please tell us about the piece you created and how it fits within your larger body of work?

The Multiple Red Spines piece represents a much larger series about ex-library books and their expired beauty. While the series is quite large and showcases many different angles and tomes, the overall look and feel of the CSA selected image reflects the Expired work with it's detail and evidentiary presentation quite well.

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Behold: Beatrix Reinhardt

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

When asked if she had ever been a member of a club, Beatrix Reinhardt chuckled a bit and said “God, no.” It seemed an obvious question for a photographer who has spent more than a decade going behind the closed doors of members-only clubs around the world. Those images, shot without people, are part of a series she titled “Members Only.” Reinhardt currently lives in New York but was raised in East Germany during a time when “you came out of the womb belonging to some kind of organization”. She said while she has an aversion to private clubs and their exclusionary policies, photographing them is an addiction, perhaps a way for her to try to better understand why people are so attracted to them. David Rosenberg (Slate) asked her a few questions about how she defines herself as a photographer and the challenges she has faced pursuing a creative career. To learn more about Reinhardt and to see more images from “Members Only”, head over to Slate.

Do you see yourself as a fine art photographer? If so, why?

Although, the line between fine art, commercial, editorial, fashion….etc. is getting more and more blurry (which I very much welcome, celebrate, and conceptually & visually enjoy), I consider myself a fine art photographer. Why? Well, my work reflects my discourse with and understanding of the world, its history etc., and the attempt to place myself within it.

 

Talk about challenges defining yourself as such and how you've connected with galleries and buyers.

In my mind, I like to compare galleries to partners (no disrespect; I have been married for over ten years). They come and go. You meet, you like each other, you check each other out… you might be even in love, and at one point you have to decide if you really love each other, not just in love. Sometimes you are, sometimes you are not. These relationships are like everything else in life – fluid and need a lot of work.  Good places to have a “first date” are photo festivals and portfolio reviews from my point of view.

 

Is there a perfect scenario for you as a fine artist? Or, as a photographer making a career in this business?

No, not really. There are things I like to realize…a book, exhibiting a certain body of work in a very particular way…For me constant evolvement is of essence – living life the fullest, being open and flexible to whatever comes ones way, bursting with curiosity about the world and everything in it.

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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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