3/29/09

Recovering

I've been focusing my energy since Friday morning on helping Edie deal with a horrible fever/stomach bug. She's finally turned a corner thank goodness, declaring today as "the best pukey day ever." I guess that counts for something...June, being cooped up and watching too much bad on-demand movies due to Edie's illness (we stooped to new lows with Garfield, Space Chimps and Strawberry Shortcake) has pretty much gone stir-crazy insane. James, despite feeling under the weather himself, is incredible superdad and took her out to lunch so she could burn off some energy. That's been our weekend in a nutshell--here's hoping I manage to stay healthy as I have a few upcoming things on the radar to prepare for. Will share more when I can.

3/26/09

Interview on Shutter Sisters

Thanks to Stephanie Roberts for getting in touch about providing an interview for the blog Shutter Sisters. It went up today, and you can also read thoughts from Laura Noel (whose work I showed a bit of a while back in this post) on the same site here. I was struck by what she says about her photographic philosophy: "For me, photography is a way of expressing ideas that motivate me...I am interested in the intersection of the magic and the mundane. Sometimes beautiful or mysterious objects are placed out of context in a hum-drum setting and become more powerful or more interesting when placed in these unlikely spots. Sometimes these scenes are obvious but sometimes you have to have 'eyes to see' and this is where I come in." Similar to some ideas I've been pondering lately, but can't put my finger on as of yet.

3/23/09

Stillness

Some people say they get their best ideas in the shower, but I find that nursing is when I'm the most able to ponder and organize everything that's swirling around in my brain at any given moment. June is two and a half and really only breastfeeds once a day, usually to fall asleep for her nap--we lie down in the master bedroom and curl up together, and my mind starts to wander. I always knew I wanted to nurse both of my girls for a long time, and for June it's now for comfort rather than actual nourishment, and is part of her sleep routine (unless someone else puts her down, which she's ok with thank goodness).

It's only recently that I've really started noticing how many of my ideas are formed and shaped during those quiet minutes together, more so than if I ever lie in bed alone and stare out the window. It must be something about the hormones, or the warmth of her body, or the time frame--somehow when I try to sit still any other way I find myself subconsciously trying to weasel out of it. There in bed with June it's different--time feels like less of a burden. The moment she falls asleep is the best part, when her body goes limp against me and she becomes even warmer. I usually stay there with her for a while, just to draw the experience out a bit more, and then transfer her to her crib. I don't know how much longer I'll nurse her--I have no set timetable, and because I'm (almost) 100% sure that she's my last baby I'm happily holding onto this vestige of connection. She's usually so mobile that having this opportunity to be still with her is a lovely thing. Edie's very affectionate as well, and I'm thankful that I have that physical bond with her too. I hope that even without the nursing to help cohere my thoughts that I'll be able to carry it through to simply having quiet moments with the girls in whatever form those moments take, but I'll really miss this phase of my life.

The image above was taken when June was about a year old; it's always felt slightly too romantic to add to my website, but it seemed right to use it to illustrate this post.

3/19/09

Tom Leininger


© Tom Leininger

I mentioned briefly in my post about Center's recent awards that there seemed to be quite a few photographers taking pictures of children and I thought I'd put up an image by Tom Leininger, who won third place in The Singular Image Curator's Choice category on a different theme. The photograph above is quite evocative, with the sense of an approaching storm and the little boy standing in the background about to be swallowed up by the grass. These pictures are from his series Kinderlife, and the body of work which the winning image is a part of, Sale Day, is also excellent. Be sure to take a look.

3/17/09

Recommended: Timothy Archibald post

©Tierney Gearon

There's a fantastic post by Timothy Archibald called The Mom Photographer? The Dad Photographer? along with some very thought-provoking follow-up comments over on his blog (many thanks to him and those who commented for the mention of my work). I chimed in as well with a lengthy reply--no hubris here, the thought-provoking comments I speak of were mainly penned by a woman named Christine with a private blogger profile; I'd love to know who she is. She writes a great line about parents photographing their children: "either way, the photographs are evidence and marks left by the life that they helped bring into existence." Check it out and chime in if there are any parents photographing their children who have yet to be mentioned.

By the way, if you haven't seen it, the documentary on Tierney Gearon, called The Mother Project, is really incredible. You can get it on Netflix and I highly recommend it. One of these days I'll write some thoughts on it.

Deep Sleep magazine

© James Harris

I can't remember where I first heard about Deep Sleep magazine, but I finally had a chance to look through it today and think the inaugural issue is quite nice. The theme is Invisible, with stories by Ben Smith, Ian Teh, Sam Baguley, Wang Wei, James Harris, George Georgiou, Vanessa Winship and Martin Scott-Jupp. They have a bit of a disclaimer on their opening page, but I rather like their honesty, have a look. (Of note: you can submit to the next issue under the theme "Alien," the deadline is May 1st.)

3/16/09

Playing with sticks

Another image from last week's warm-weather shoot. June's bangs have since been straightened out, but I confess to doing a not-so-good hack job on her hair recently. When I brought her into school the next day her teacher, who's fantastic, said, and I quote: "You're a great mom, but stay away from the scissors." Agreed. (Though, to my credit, I had much more success with Edie's hair when she got gum stuck in it, see my post about the experience here.)

3/15/09

March Madness at Melanie Flood Projects

The fabulous Melanie Flood of the aptly named Melanie Flood Projects is having a one night sale extravaganza this coming Wednesday the 18th from 7-10pm where I'll be selling my wares along with a great group of artists. There will be limited edition drawings, prints, magazines, photographs and more available, all priced at $100 or less. I personally will be selling 4 different 8x11" photographs and my magazine. The event is cash only, and you must RSVP to be added to the guest list. Email mfloodprojects@gmail.com to see if there's still space to attend--the guest list is strictly enforced due to limited space. Here's who else will be offering their goods:

Anna & Tess Knoebel
Breanne Trammell & Peter Segerstrom
Carey Kirkella
Clayton Cotterell
Elizabeth Fleming
Erin Jane Nelson
Gerald Edwards III
Grace Kim
Greg Wasserstrom
Humble Arts Foundation
Jane Gang
Jason Polan
Jimmy Limit
Juliana Beasley
Lay Flat
Noah Kalina/Kalina Magazine
Peter Riesett
Rachel Sussman
Stephen Wong-WONG WONG
Umelec Magazine

3/14/09

Immersed in their little own worlds


More images from an outdoor shoot last Sunday, the first warm day we'd had in a while. If you enlarge the second photograph you can more clearly see the dirt smeared on June's cheek, which I think is key to this picture.

Renamed

I had this photograph on my desktop waiting to be retouched, and somehow one of the kids managed to change its name from _MG_4823.tiff to oooooooooooooooooog. One of the many small joys of parenting.

Shameless self-promotion (with some thoughts)

© Betsy Schneider; First Prize, Singular Image Curator's Choice

I'm honored and very happy to announce that my photograph Planets won third place in Center's Singular Image competition in the Publisher's Choice category. This means I'll be part of an exhibition at the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle in the fall, and I also received the good news from Center that I was selected to be part of Review Santa Fe. The list of photographers hasn't been put up on the site yet but I'm anxious to see who else will be there and am really looking forward to meeting some people in person, along with having an opportunity to show my prints.

As you know I wrote about my experience at powerHouse and how it was quite emotional; I have to say being accepted into a juried review is a much-appreciated confirmation of why I do what I do, and I'm even more grateful that I have the powerHouse experience under my belt so that I'll be that much more prepared for Santa Fe. Of course now I have to figure out travel arrangements, etc. and financially we have some finagling to do, but this is something that I really need to do for myself and my career so we'll find a way. I've also never gotten on a plane without my girls, which is more than a bit anxiety-producing to think about, but that's an entire post unto itself...I know I'll be fine, and for now I'm trying to just let myself bask a bit in the excitement of it all.

I was interested to see that quite a few of the photographers are doing some sort of work regarding children (a few of the people chosen didn't win with images about childhood, but if you go to their sites they have galleries within the theme).

Here are the other Center categories and winners:

The Singular Image:
Curator’s Choice:
First Prize: Betsy Schneider
Second Prize: Anna Boyiazis
Third prize: Tom Leininger
Honorable mentions: Susan Lakin, Brad Moore, and Ryan Zoghlin

Editor's Choice:
First Prize: Wendy Paton
Second Prize: Grace Weston
Third Prize: Damion Berger
Honorable mentions: Sara Belleau, Rania Matar, and Brian Widdis

Publisher's Choice:
First Prize: Lydia Panas
Second Prize: Heather McClintock
Third Prize: Elizabeth Fleming
Honorable mentions: Aaron Huey, Andrea Land, and Kristin Schmid Schurter

Project Competition:
First prize:
Cori Chandler-Pepelnjak

Juror's choice:
Jarrett Murphy, Lucia Ganieva, and Michael Christopher Brown

Director's choice:
Mark Menjivar

Honorable mentions:
Damion Berger, Brian Ulrich, and Peter van Agtmael

Congratulations to all!

3/12/09

Buy my magazine

Last month I mentioned that I'd created a magazine via the wonders of MagCloud featuring photographs from Life is a series of small moments. Due to technical difficulties I took it offline for a bit while I ironed out the kinks, and am happy to report that it's up to my standards and is once again available for sale. It retails at $12; buy your very own copy here.

Paul Graham

©Paul Graham

"Many moments are mundane and seem worthless, but they form and shape our lives. They are quite different from the Herculean labours and extraordinary moments that photographers are addicted to." -Paul Graham.

Read the rest of Graham describing his "best shot" in the Guardian here. I saw his exhibition last month at the MoMA and was really blown away--his photographs embody the transcendent in the ordinary in a manner that is truly stunning. (His website isn't uploading on my computer today but hopefully it will be back online soon.)

3/10/09

Calls for entry

Ian Aleksander Adams has a good rundown of the latest calls for entry on his blog here; I've been quite lax lately about posting places to submit and shows to see--I'm so busy that I'm trying to devote my blogging time to showing new work (my own and others') and commenting on my life and my artistic process. That said, I'll still occasionally link to things that I think are of note, and I found Ian's rundown a good place to get all of the info you need at once. He also has what seems to be an interesting critique of Ryan McGinley's work here (which I've only been able to skim so far; I plan to read the entire piece soon).

3/5/09

HERE and THERE in Pennsylvania

HERE and THERE is travelling from St. Louis to Johnstown, PA. The opening for those who happen to be in the area will be on March 27th from 7-10pm at 709 Railroad Street gallery and the show runs until April 23rd. Here are the artists:

Greg Barth
Moi
Jacob Koestler
Laura McAllister
Ed Panar
Justin Visnesky
Michael Worful

3/4/09

Where is my mind?

PULSE or VOLTA, SCOPE or Armory? With limited time and limited energy how is a sleep-deprived parent to decide? There's just too much going on lately, and I'm so wonky that I slept through June crying this morning and Edie had to wake me up while James was off at a meeting; then I stood a friend up for breakfast, partially because I kept June home since she's got a cold and I was tending to her. Some of my spaciness can at least be attributed to the fact that I've got some ideas brewing, and I keep zoning out to compose sentences and photographs in my head, as I tend to do when I'm feeling creative. So it's not all bad...

Jessica Todd Harper


© Jessica Todd Harper

There's a great interview with Jessica Todd Harper over on Two Way Lens, read it here. She also has some quite evocative work on her website, though I have to say this is one of the few instances where I wish there were more images available for viewing; usually people tend to show too much, but I'd like to spend additional time with additional work.

3/3/09

PowerHouse portfolio review

Now that I've (mostly) recovered from my first portfolio review I've decided it's time to out myself and let all of you know that I attended powerHouse last month. There was some debate a while back on the blogosphere about the pros/cons of shelling out the cash to get face time with gallery directors, curators and the like, with Timothy Archibald weighing in with a hearty "don't do it!" via a comment on Whats the Jackanory, and a helpful pro-review rundown by Jörg Colberg culling various interviews with reviewers here, along with his own general thoughts here. After doing my research in the end I decided that for me the investment was worth it--having no other means besides a most-likely ineffective cold call to get my work in front of some of the well-known names on the list I felt a portfolio review would be a good opportunity to make some connections. And perhaps more importantly I was also at a point where I desired feedback from professionals in the industry--I wanted to see how my images would come across in print form to those who are used to judging and critiquing photography, and I wanted to be pushed and energized by some personal interactions. And in the words of Andrew Hetherington,"if you are not in you can’t win."

With all of that said I have to tell you, I was not prepared for how I would react to the feedback. During the 20 minutes I had allotted with the five individual reviewers I did feel quite present, open, and appreciative of their comments. But the second it ended and I walked out the door, complete exhaustion took over, and I spent the rest of the week in a tired funk. In particular one of my sessions felt quite brutal; certainly I'm aware that my read on the criticism might not match the intention of the particular reviewer, but I did come away with a sense that for whatever reason the spare quality of my photographs didn't jive. Each individual image was somewhat picked apart, and I found myself looking back on the comments thinking, oh my god, I'm not raw enough, I'm not saying anything new, I have to change the whole project, I have to rework my style, I'll never make it in this industry, I just create so-so shots that only deserve a place on Flickr under the surname mamahobbyphotog or some such.

Suffice it to say my experience was humbling, but it has been a good wake-up call that I need to step back and separate myself from the desire to be bolstered by the opinions of others, particularly those, like the reviewers, who are in a certain position of power. With a little distance (and some good old-fashioned feeling sorry for myself) I can now see the criticism as an important lesson. Once I moved beyond focusing on the disappointment of my work not being seen in the way I had hoped it would, I was able to reevaluate why that might have occurred.

In retrospect I think I started off by saying too much; I had a spiel that was a watered-down version of my artist statement, with an emphasis on the fact that I'm a mother and how I'm trying to freeze time, and my first photograph was the close-up of Edie in the bath. I think this combination of my summary and the image I chose to start with, along with the general sequence of pictures, placed the emphasis on something that was perhaps more simplistic than the overall concept of my work. I see my imagery as being layered, certainly not "just" about being a mother, or domesticity, or any one concrete overarching theme, but I now realize that in the short time the reviewers spent with my pictures they may have been hit over the head with the motherhood angle, and therefore were aiming their critiques from that vantage point, as in, "OK, you say it's about freezing time and being a mother, then this is how you accomplish that goal." I think I shortchanged the work in that sense, and if I were to do it again I would say less and show a different edit.

In another sense it brought up all of the insecurities I hadn't even realized were there. I generally believe in what I'm doing and have confidence in my work, and I was blindsided by how easy it was for me to hone in on the things the reviewers didn't like as opposed to what they did respond to. It was a bit of a shock to see that my confidence was more easily shaken than I thought it would be, and how intensely I personalized the whole experience. (So I guess Timothy Archibald has a good point about portfolio reviews preying on photographer's weaknesses...) It has forced me to confront why I'm a photographer, and has peeled away some layers, getting to a core of--dare I say it--perhaps a bit of desperation that I was only vaguely conscious of. As in high school no one likes to date the desperate girl, and the more you want for the "wrong" reasons--like the need for something outside of yourself to provide you with a sense of self-worth--the less you will simply "be" with your work for the right reasons--those reasons being that your art is fulfilling, and energizes you, and makes you feel whole. I'd lost sight more than I realized of the simple desire to create outside of the desire to belong.

I'm sure these things get easier the more you do them, and though it was tough on me it's been helpful to get back to focusing on the balance between making work for myself because it's part of who I am, and finding a way to communicate the ideas I'm trying to get across, along with reevaluating where my concepts might not be reaching the viewer.

I don't know if this post will help anyone decide whether to attend something similar in the future, but I partially wanted to explain why my image-making has been quiet as of late. My ego took a small hit and my creative juices waned a bit with the distraction caused by those pesky self-deprecating voices swirling in my head. That and the end of winter doldrums are contributing to a lack of desire to make and do and write and all of those things that usually don't desert me in times of stress. I think I need to allow myself to hibernate a little and trust that the desire will return soon enough. My brain needs to ponder and stew over things for a while sometimes before everything can come pouring out of me again, but there are some seeds that feel like they may be ready to turn into something any day now.

3/2/09

Dalton Rooney print sale

© Dalton Rooney

I love the photograph above that's available from Dalton Rooney for only $25. He also has a Print of the Month club--see more details here.