Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Museum Recognition

This piece was written by a fellow MFA colleague of mine who is working for the New Britain Museum of American Art. I am thoroughly honored and thought that I should share here.

To read the post, go here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Show Up at the Shutter

There is a saying in writing about getting a project done. The first and foremost thing that you have to do as a writer is show up at the page. It is required. It is your responsibility to the art of writing.

The same is true for photography. I have a friend who always says "Shoot every day." I think that is a valid premise, but I prefer to take it a bit further. To me, Show Up at the Shutter is a little more involved than just creating an image every day. There is some sort of obligatory feeling associated with shooting every day that doesn't carry with it the weight of being present.

I've been writing a lot more recently and I have come to a new understanding that showing up at the page isn't just about putting gibberish down on paper (or, clicking it into the screen) but rather about coming to the page and earnestly trying to get something pertinent down. Even if you end up staring at the screen and doing nothing else for hours, if you are searching that whole time for the right thing to write, you are bringing your entire being to the page, not just writing every day.

When it comes to photography for me, merely taking out my iPhone and taking a picture of my cat doesn't count as Showing Up at the Shutter. Partially because I really do feel obliged to take a daily picture and partly because I am suffering a photographic block right now. Picking up my iPhone doesn't cut it right now, though I have a very good friend who has recently been creating a body of work shot entirely on his iPhone that Robert Frank would approve of. I need to start Showing Up to the Shutter. It is an imperative element of my future as an artist. Either I will produce art or I won't.

That is a terrifying concept. There is something liberating about being in school and shooting. You have assignments, you have structure, you have constraints. All of these things allow you to think that your creativity is being stifled, therefore oddly allowing your creativity to flow. Someone is demanding something of you - a final portfolio, a flawless image, an attempt at a new technique - and in the process you have something to work for that is defined with an accompanying deadline.

Being constraint free and without a deadline is the truly stifling part.

I want to shoot. The goal was always to be a fine art photographer and an instructor. Now that I have started down the road of instructing, which has already been a great deal of fun, I need to kick the artistic side into gear. But I have no project. I have no idea for a new direction. Once I have that, as with American Narcissism, the ideas for additional images come quickly and easily. I can explore, expand, and grow within a project of that nature without the crushing weight of what if's and what now's.

I realize that I need to follow my own advice, and I realize how difficult that advice is to follow. I am no more immune to the pressures and woes of creating a new body of work than any other artist. And of course there is the inherent worry that your best body of work is already behind me.

But I keep remembering something that one of my favorite MFA graduate instructors told the class one day. "Your MFA culminating project should be the best work you have done to date, and in five years you should look back at it and realize that it was the work of a student and merely your beginning."

I have the beginning set. American Narcissism was a solid body of work and I am proud of it. Now I need the first idea that starts to leave that project in the dust. The only way to do that is to start to Show Up at the Shutter.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Stacks

I received a shipment of books today for a column that I am writing for a Photographer's magazine. I am a little concerned about where I am going to store all of the books that will be coming should the column be successful. (This first one is a trial run.) Some of them are lovely. I'm excited about the opportunity and the books themselves, just worried about the space constraints of our already full condo. Hmmmm. What is a girl to do?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking Up

It has not been an easy few months. When I decided to return to photography after six years in a relatively lucrative corporate position I knew it wouldn't be. Everything that is worth doing is worth struggling for, worth whatever heartache, obstacles, and pressures come your way.

Getting this MFA was worth doing. Despite the long and hard academic road, the trials and tribulations of living 200 miles from my husband, the financial hole I dug for us - despite all of that, this road was worth taking. I will never look back at my choices and think "what if." Never. I pursued my dream and it has gotten me here.

And here seems to be acknowledging my struggles. I have now had three articles published, two about well-respected photographers and one about me. Three more are in the queue with various publications to be published soon. I was just recently asked to join Photographer's Forum magazine as their book reviewer and will be starting a position teaching photography at Grossmont Community College next week, and am working on a book with three photographic veterans due out later this year.

During this whole experience I have often returned to The Artist's Way to try and find a path, find some self-motivation, even find courage. One of Cameron's repeated mantras is to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for your desired artistic endeavor and then let The Universe Know. "I'm ready, Universe. I am ready for the door to open. I will walk through."

The nice thing about Cameron's universe is that it can serve whatever function makes sense to you. It can be Serendipity, God, The Great Creative Flow, Genius, or anything else that allows you to realize that you don't have to go it alone. Something out there wants you to be creative. Some power in our existence wants positive energy to flow from everyone, and when you open yourself up to it, amazing things begin to happen.

I think my first Serendipity (as I prefer to refer to this force) came in the form of my beautiful and talented sister, Jenn. After all, she's the one who gave me a personal copy of The Artist's Way. Everything else fell into place after that.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MFA Complete

I know I haven't written for a while. That would mostly be because I was concentrating on the show, the defense, and the culminating document. All of that is completed, now. I finished the remaining requirements and as of December 6th I am officially a Brooks MFA graduate.

The ceremony itself was held on December 21st and my immediate family and some professors were there to celebrate. There was a small snafu with the actual hooding process as Dr. Anderson had trouble getting my hood to open and accusingly uttered "Did you sew it shut?" as he frantically tried to pull the edges apart, but aside from that the ceremony went off without a hitch.

Now the real work begins. I have been applying to jobs and seeking out opportunities since April of last year, but in many senses I have given myself leeway for not having found work because I was still "in school" despite the fact that classes themselves stopped meeting in August. Now, though, I have to find a job to stay alive, to keep our house, to pay my debt. And I'm not sure where art fits into that picture. I'm worried at this point that it can't but at the same time trying to continue supporting myself and building my resume with jobs that have enough flexibility that the art can still exist - writing, freelancing, shooting weddings - even though the impetus for the art seems distant somehow. I am trying to determine how to make all of this work without losing the thing I have sacrificed for these past four years. I'll keep you posted.