In Stories from the Road last week, I commented that I might change it up and not write a Stories from the Road post every week. This is my departure from that for a few weeks. I will be writing some posts about how I became interested in photography and art history, as well as, tell stories of what I have learned on my journey into the arts.
Kouros from Textbook Typology, Graduate Thesis Work, 2010
When I was headed to graduate school, many people told me that it was my chance to reinvent my art and art practice. This is something that definitely happened during my time in graduate school. My work became much more conceptual and the practice became studio based. Generally, people think of photography happening out in the world. But my practice became about uses of photography and not so much about me making photographs (you can explore that work at betsywilliamsonphoto.com). Furthermore, it was always implied that this new direction you found in graduate school was meant to sustain the rest of your career. However, I have found that that methodology works for some people but not all. Since coming to India to pursue my photographic arts my practice has changed again.
When I came to the Art Junction Artist Residency in September of 2015, I had a project in mind. It was a project that would take me back out onto the streets and work more in the style of a street photographer. However, the project I created during that time was also studio based. I ended up using my street photographs to create digital montages, thus sitting for hours in front of the computer on Photoshop. You can learn more about my time at Art Junction here.
Bars of My Memory from Udaipur Remembered, Art Junction Artist Residency, Udaipur, Rajasthan, 2015
During my three year stent in graduate school and my brief month in Udaipur for the residency, I learned so many things about myself and the directions in which my art was capable of going. Once I came back to stay in Udaipur long term, my practice and subject matter changed again. I found myself interested in pointing the camera at myself. The challenges of moving were more than I could have expected and using my camera to document myself became a natural way for me to deal with the experience.
I do not really like to be photographed and I am not very confident about the way I look. I started out simply by photographing myself in the house where I am staying. You can see these photographs in the post Self Portraits: Transparent. This project got me comfortable in front of the camera. The process also got me using the camera in a way I normally would not, long exposures and using the timer.
Escape from Transparent, 2016
Once I finished this project, I took some other photographs of myself but nothing really gelled. However, I had an idea that had been floating around in my mind for months. I finally took the step to start taking photographs for the idea. From this idea the project I am working on now was born.
This experience has taught me many things. It has taught me that my practice is malleable. In fact, it has to be. Life is constantly giving us new experiences and you have to be able to follow what you gain from those experiences. It has also lifted my artist block. Even when I returned home for the month of November, I started a new project in the States. The photographs do not need to be exclusively taken in the States but they are definitely a testament to the way I have already changed.
I do miss the more hands on experience of a studio practice that I had in graduate school. I have some ideas for more object based art involving photography which I will hopefully get to this year.
I would recommend to any artist getting out of their comfort zone. Live life and see where it takes you. Do an artist residency. Move to a new place. As we learn new things our ideas about life, art and ourselves change and it will be reflected in the art you make. An artist friend told me once that her art was completely changed after an educational trip to New York. Her work had always been about exteriors and after the trip the work became about interiors. Not necessarily architectural interiors but inner personal interiors. One never knows when or what will change their perspective so drastically.
Moving to India has been the hardest but probably best thing I have ever done in life. I have grown and will continue to grow as a person and my artwork will do the same. Being here has definitely increased the amount of time I spend working on art and making photographs. I am also much more active on Instagram. I guess there could be a debate about whether that is good or bad. For me it is good because making photographs with my phone is improving the way I view the world around me. Lastly, I look at more work. This blog keeps me active in searching out new work and becoming more familiar with work I am aware of.
I would love to hear the stories of what has had an impact on your work!
Untitled from Nowhere is Home, 2016
Untitled from Signifier, 2017