Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sarah Pfohl

An artist and teacher, Sarah Pfohl lives and works in Mount Pleasant, MI, where she teaches at Central Michigan University. Sarah earned an MFA in Art Photography from Syracuse University in 2014.

Artist Statement: The forest rests also in you

My mother knows particular things about the place where we both grew up. Between which trees the sun rises in a specific season. What grows here, what might. How to break open a piece of shale against another rock. That once, there was an ocean here and later a glacier. That the wind peels away at the roof and other corners, as a tree root the width of her arm emerges into the cellar.

Human life relies on the natural resources housed, cultivated, and stewarded in rural areas for daily survival. As a result, the rural is constantly present, yet not always acknowledged, in lives lived fully separate from it.

Since 1960 my family has lived in one place, on 26 acres of rural land in southern Madison County, New York. The distinct local knowledge my mother has accumulated over the course of her life here and the way she has learned to interact with the land represent an understanding of the rural founded in the intricate, interdependent complexity located there. Through a series of landscape photographs and portraits of my mother made at home, I represent the land as an extension of the human body and as a distinct and living presence to make visible the crucial role the rural plays in all people’s daily life.

From my mother

Sarah asked me to write about this. I don’t like being photographed but I was happy to help my kid. It was good to spend time with her. I’m old and wrinkled so its funny she wanted to take pictures of me. She said she likes that I am old. I always had to wear the same things, like a uniform and could never smile. Maybe it is useful to know that while Sarah photographed me for this, my mother, her grandmother, died. Our small family became generationally smaller. It seems important to mention.

I’m not sure what she was looking for. We stayed mostly at home in the woods I know well. She took pictures of me and the plants. We spent a lot of time outside. Often it was hot or cold or buggy and she would ask me to stick my face in a tree or stop smiling or to relax my shoulders. I think we got along well. Sometimes making pictures didn’t go well and I felt bad because a good model should help make good pictures but Sarah would say it was just a bad day and not my fault. Sometimes she would come home but the rain or the wind would keep up inside. She wouldn’t let me photograph her.

I like some of the pictures we made. I want them to be at my funeral.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sophie Barbasch

Sophie Barbasch is a photographer based in New York City. She earned her MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and her BA in Art and Art History from Brown University. Selected residencies include the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the Blue Mountain Center. Selected publications and awards include The Atlantic Online, Conveyor Magazine, and Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers. She has exhibited internationally.

Project Statement: Fault Line

Fault Line is a project I am doing in the small coastal town of Brooklin, Maine. The protagonist is my younger cousin Adam, who lives there. I also photograph my brother, father, and other cousins. I chose the title because a fault line alludes to where the earth splits in an earthquake (a metaphor for a divided family with a complicated history) and also alludes to fault, or blame (I wonder, how does a family support each other, even when things aren't perfect?) My goal is to show the weight we all carry and how we are both connected and isolated from each other.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Anne Berry

Anne Berry is a photographic artist from Atlanta, Georgia. Her photographs have been exhibited and published internationally, and she has received numerous awards, including Critical Mass 2012 and 2013 Top 50. Anne is represented by the Catherine Couturier Gallery in Houston. She attended Sweet Briar College (BA) and the University of Georgia (MA). Currently Anne is working on Behind Glass, a collection of images of primates in captivity and Animalia, photogravures of animals. A limited edition book featuring work from this project is available from North Light Press.

  Project Statement: Animalia 

Animalia is a series of photogravure portraits of animals. Wassily Kandinsky teaches that the artist has the ability to “realize the inner sound of things.” I listen for this sound when I photograph animals. People have lost an essential connection to the land and to animals. I photograph animals to remind the viewer of this bond. I am always close to the animal physically, and I establish a connection with it. Capturing these images requires patience and understanding. The animal/human relationship is the cornerstone of my work, and the magic of it inspires me to photograph animals. 

I have chosen to print these images in the photogravure process. This process evokes a feeling of timelessness and produces portraits that stress the dignity and beauty of the animals:

I hope that by looking at my images the viewer will hear the inner melody of the animal, and the lyrics will ask the viewer to consider the animal’s place in the world, to do as Franz Marc instructs, to “contemplate the soul of the animal to divine its way of sight.“

Anne’s photography of animals “vehemently avoids the high resolution color aesthetic of zoological photography, opting instead for a gaze evocative of early pictorialists, who strived to render the photographic distinctly unscientific and launched the then novel medium of photography into the realm of fine art. Within Berry’s jarringly ghostly and ethereal tones, each subject reveals a soulfulness so often hidden in photographs of animals; their struggle is urgently expressionistic, spiritual, dignified, and human." -- Ellyn Ruddick-Sunstein, The Plight of Primates in Captivity, Beautiful Decay, 02/28/14

Monday, November 24, 2014

Jaime Johnson

Jaime Johnson grew up in Mississippi where the sounds of wild animals outside her window became her daily melody. Jaime received her BFA from the University of Mississippi in Imaging Arts and her MFA in Photography from Louisiana Tech University. Johnson was named a finalist for the 2014 Clarence John Laughlin award and her work has been shown nationally. Her series Untamed recently won the Grand Prize in the Maine Media Workshops international contest Character: Portraits and Stories that Reveal the Human Condition.

Untamed chronicles the intimate relationship of a feral woman and her surrounding natural environment. She collects the bones, branches, and flora of her world and treads with the animals, both dead and living. The cyanotype process shifts focus from potentially colorful landscapes and figures to patterns, textures, and the relationships of forms within the images. Discovery—both psychological and physical— is present and reveals each of us, whether human or animal, is a part of a shared experience. Untamed ultimately reflects upon the forms, the impermanence, and the interconnectedness of nature’s life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Michael Sherwin

Using the mediums of photography, video and installation, Michael Sherwin’s art reflects on the experience of observing nature through the lenses of science, popular culture and history. He has won numerous grants and awards for his work, and has been exhibited widely, including recent shows at CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, New York, SPACES Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences in Charleston, WV, and the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center in Atlanta, GA. Reviews and reproductions of his work have been featured in Art Papers magazine, Oxford American magazine, Don’t Take Pictures magazine and Aint-Bad Magazine, among others. He has been invited to present his work at universities and conferences across the nation, including the 2011 Society for Photographic Education National Conference in Atlanta, GA. Sherwin earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon in 2004, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University in 1999. Currently, Michael Sherwin is an Associate Professor of Photography and Intermedia in the School of Art and Design at West Virginia University. He is also the founder and lead instructor for WVU’s Jackson Hole Photography Workshop and an active and participating member of the Society for Photographic Education.

Vanishing Points Statement 

I grew up in the quiet suburbs outside Cincinnati, Ohio in a mostly conservative, white, catholic community where nearly all of my friends and neighbors attended church on Sundays. Although my parents had grown up in catholic households, it was in their independence that they begun to question their relationship to the church. On Sundays, my father would often take my younger brother and I on long wandering walks in the dense forests of the Ohio River valley. These early formative experiences have led to a life long exploration of the mystery and beauty of our natural world. They have also left me with looming philosophical questions about the tenants of Western religion and its views on the sanctity of the land.

In the name of Manifest Destiny, westerners expanded across America claiming the land was theirs by divine right. Modernization and civilization swept across the continent “improving” the country and eradicating entire native cultures in its path. In my most recent project, Vanishing Points, I explore the ancestry of the American landscape, and reflect upon traditional Western Anglo American views of nature, wilderness, ownership and spirituality. The project was inspired by the battle over the use of land that is now the Suncrest Town Center in Morgantown, WV. The Town Center was developed on a 2,000 year-old sacred indigenous burial ground and village site less than a mile from my house. I am fascinated by this simultaneous presence and absence in the landscape, the seen and unseen.

Combining extensive research of historical archives, maps and contemporary satellite imagery, as well as direct collaboration with archaeologists, historians and scholars I have been able to locate and photograph numerous significant sites of Native American history in the regional area. The sites I choose to visit and photograph are literal and metaphorical vanishing points. They are places in the landscape where two lines, or cultures, converge. They are also actual locations where the sparse evidence of a culture's once vibrant existence has all but disappeared. While visiting these sites, I reflect on the monuments our modern culture will leave behind and what the archaeological evidence of our modern civilization reveals about our time on Earth.

One of the allures in visiting these sites is the possibility to reach back in time; to imagine and experience what the land must have been like hundreds and thousands of years ago. I am often reminded of the experiences I had as a child, where the presence of something ancient, mysterious, and much larger than myself still exists. However, nearly every direction you point the camera in today’s world, evidence of our modern civilization intrudes. It is this duality of experience that I seek to portray in the Vanishing Points project. The photographs in this series recognize the historical significance of an otherwise banal landscape, connecting a mysterious and ancient past with the familiar present.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Brenton Hamilton

Brenton Hamilton is a artist working in Maine and leading courses at Maine Media Workshops where he has taught for over two decades. Brenton is a photography historian and a practicing artist in several media. He was educated at Savannah College of Art and Design, MFA 1992.

Hamilton has led classes at Maine Media Workshops for 22 years and his specialty areas include the history of photography, B&W darkroom craft and the historic processes. Brenton lectures widely both in Maine and nationally about contemporary issues in photography, its history and other subject area interests within the medium and contemporary trends. He is also on the adjunct faculty at The Center of Alternative Processes in New York City. Brenton is a contributing writer and president of Obscura, founded in 2009, a non profit organization devoted to the progress of youth education in photography and books.

His work is represented at TILT Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona and in Maine at Susan Maasch Fine Art. Hamilton’s photographs are held in permanent collections at the Farnsworth Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art, University of New England Permanent Collection and many significant private collections nationally. His first monograph was published by Obscura Press in 2010: The Blue Poet Dreams.


Drawn to concepts of time and invention - Brenton builds small meta worlds to contemplate and experience. Via still life and collage; intimate spaces where time is suspended and rearranged is the manner in which Hamilton re jiggers the world and makes a private space for his viewers. Employing often the strange deep blue depth of the cyanotype or recently the odd spectrum of collodion on black glass. Hamilton's new and old worlds collide inviting the viewer to new possibilities.

Ashley Kauschinger: Let’s begin by having you tell us a bit about yourself, and your passions.

Brenton Hamilton: I am a Maine artist and now live and work here - I also grew up here spending alot of my early boyhood on an island with my parents. Which was influential - and a particular way to grow up. Without phones, electricity only for certain times of the day, we had rythems of movement - we didn't have a car for a long time for example. The horizon - which any island person would agree is a destination, everything was always: "over there". So, the horizon line was something that I looked at in early work that I did with the large camera in Georgia.

My own interests are a deep study of history which is a large influence upon my work so I may be drawn to books and archives - o.k. full disclosure I am !! American and European cultural history and of course art & photography have great stories that sustain me.......I have a large collection of primarily 18th C. Spanish antiques and I photograph the objects among other things. I find the objects magical and full of animation and and mysterious gesture. Many of those images are here in our interview. The antiques and my creative work merge. Fencing is also a passion - that's sword work. I fence foil & sabre. Ive studied the history of the practice of dueling with some depth.

How does a body of work come together for you, from start to finish?

The research that I do about culture and the objects that I'm drawn to have a wonderful rapport together. I get ideas from the research - I want to respond and invent that atmosphere. So, via collage and cyanotype or lately still life practice and these small set ups that I build, I make these things for the camera. Its a fantasy of course, an invention. I build something - and photograph it.

What environment do you create for yourself in your studio?

The rooms that I work in are a ramshackle tumble of books and papers, notes with ideas and things that I want to remember and also light. The room has great light. The objects are on pedestals, stacks of carpets and lean against one another. Creating moments of chance and interesting configurations. I also know that I don't work constantly. Things build up and then I have to make them and do my camera practice and printmaking.

How do you think about marrying form and content in your work?

I have always been drawn to the expressive potential of the 19th C historic processes - because of patina (paper surface) and the physical work involved in the making of the images. The black glass ambrotytpes and the collodion process has the physicality to it that I enjoy and feel "involved" in when doing it. The black ground of glass support is for the image to rise out of and is also exhilarating. That's actually similar to my years with cyanotype - a deep blue ground was a 'space' for my story to be told - and the image or figure would rise out of the deep color......it still gets me every time.

Who are your Photo Heroes?

Oh, that's a tough one for a historian, Ashley......Wm. Talbot and the French calotypists, Anna Atkins - But I also respond to and admire so much contemporary work right now such as Alison Rossiter, Matthew Brandt and especially Mariah Robertson. The materiality of photographs - and things that are light sensitive.

How does participating in sharing your knowledge through teaching contribute to your work? 

I love the classroom - its dynamic and its often challenging. Its a huge influence - and I get to talk about others work but its reciprocal because were doing the same thing/the same mission. That is: moving work and ideas forward.

Do you feel it inspires you? 

It really does......

Tell us about your participation with Obscura, a non-profit organization that
supports the arts and arts education through publishing, scholarships, and grants.

This is a great small org. - with a terrific mission. To assist youth with creative experiences in the medium, to publish good work in book form or in essay form on our web site. So, we work on raising funds via book sales and direct reach, give scholarships or materials support.

What initiatives are you working on? What is the best way for the photo community to help?

Our aim this year is another student scholarship for a short workshop experience in photography. It is a non profit - so we need to build the treasury to help these kids out. So, get in touch, donate if you can - everything matters even a little. The book purchases go directly to the work we do. But we also love good work and like to publish serious essays on the medium on our site. We published "Black Apple" by Thatcher Cook a while back and its doing well. We are all very proud of the book and our work.

How do you find balance between your artist practice, teaching and being the
president of Obscura?

Good question - its all the same though - participating in photography in a myriad of ways gets me to work everyday ! Helping young students, sustaining my own art practice and gallery work and the energy of the classroom all make a difference in my life.