1922 University Avenue. Madison WI. 53726


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Interview with William Zuback, BOOK PASSAGES

Our 2010 exhibition year is winding down, but going out with a bang.  BOOK PASSAGES photographer William Zuback shares with us his thoughts on inspiration, flexibility and Alice Cooper. 

1. You write in your artist statement that you want the images to leave the viewer "visually satisfied but emotionally curious" - that's a really striking phrase. Have you ever seen photographic work that had this affect on you? If so, please elaborate. If not, what was your jumping off point for your own work and style?

Thanks. Yes I see work all the time that has that kind of affect on me. I'm not much of an intellectual with my approach to art. All my work has a base idea/emotion behind it but not to the extent discussed by many academics. I say that only because my process is much more visceral for me and although I have a specific goal of what a body of work means to me It's less important to me than the reactions and response it has on others. Current artists who's work I really respond to are photographers Eliza French and Jeff Charbonneau, Maggie Taylor, Robert and Shana Parkeharisson. Painters Mark Ryden, Tabitha Vevers and Alexander Timofeev. Long time Cindy Sherman fan and love the work of Hans Bellmer.
The jumping off point for my work comes almost exclusively from music and not other photographers or fine artists. Concept albums were a huge influence in my development as a visual artist. From the album art to the lyrics and music to the theatrical stage performances, musical performance creates visual vignettes that has always fascinated me. Alice Cooper, “From the Inside”, Pink Floyd's, “The Wall”, The Who's “Tommy” are all good examples of music that left me visually satisfied but emotionally curious.

2. Some of these images are clearly the result of some intense digital manipulation, yet every image in this exhibit is printed at a standard sized black and white. What's the significance for you in having these modern digital pieces look like silver gelatin prints, and to look non- manipulated?

If you notice each image except for “Visual Haiku” and “Details” are full frame images from a DSLR. That just happens to be my equipment of choice right now. I tend to be very precise in my vision and my compositions for this series were all composed in camera starting with a base image. Digital manipulation is just another tool. Before digital I created a lot of manipulated images for commercial clients with film and pin registration. To me it's not meant as a gimmick. I consider myself a story teller and I will use what ever tools I feel best help me communicate that story. I started as a custom black and white printer. I love black and white and often see in black and white. It speaks to me more often than color. The significance to me is that I consider it all photography. I have spent my life since Jr. High School in photography. I pride myself on being a good steward of my craft. I feel to show a manipulated print not as non-manipluated would be a partial failure of my craft. I'm not trying to bring attention to the manipulated aspect of the work I'm using the manipulation to strengthen my message as a story teller. The art part of the process comes from the aesthetics of the conceptual.

3. You build jack-in-the-boxes in the woods, have nude models at the Pick and Save, and have men peering out of dirty windows at children passing by. Please tell us about your process, both regarding the emotional process wherein the piece is translated to visual imagery in your head, and the cerebral part of how you plan, build and direct your shoots.

I wish I had some great process I could impart to others such as it begins with a sketch, etc. It rarely does, for me, it begins in my head and stays in my head. Each concept started by reading the passage over and over. I would have it near me and read it before bed, during a commercial while watching television, while going to the bathroom. Idea's begin to formulate in my mind and I play it over and over in my mind until I know it like a well choreographed dance. It changes and is fine tuned through this mental sketchbook. By the time it gets to the shooting stage I feel I have done it so many times in my mind already that it often times flows like music and feels like a dance. Since this works for me and it changes in little ways right up to the shoot I feel that this process gives me great latitude for improvisation during the shoot because it feels so natural and free flowing. The intellectual part of planning, building and directing a shoot has developed out of many years as a commercial photographer. Many commercial shoots require the same criteria of hiring talent, building sets, choreographing all the elements to function as a whole and then it's show time. Nail the shot! It helps to be a very organized individual.

4. You are making work based on the submission and writing of others. How much of your own aesthetic style has to be flexible in order to create images that illustrate these passages, and how important is it to you to stay true to the feeling of the original written piece? Do you ever make a piece that fits the written word perfectly, but doesn't feel like yours?

The only flexibility that I feel I need to be concious of is my own need to be true to myself as an artist. I don't feel it was important for me, during this project, to stay true to the feeling of the original written piece. First, I only based my visual interpretation on the passage submitted. I was fortunate to have not read any of the books and had little knowledge of the original intent of the words.This gave me free reign as a visual artist to see and interpret the words based solely on my own experiences. It isn't much different than how family members can reflect on the same family experience with completely different perspectives because of their own biases and experiences. Each reflection of that memory is accurate to their own self and that is how I saw and would relate to the passages. In this body of work, no I did not make any visuals that fit the written word but not my own personal style. This was a very selfish project. It was a shared experience simply because the passages were donated and the feedback offered when I would post finished interpretationson my blog. The process of creating the work was done first and foremost to satisfy my own creative curiousity.

5. This work is about relationships. Relationships between the digital process and the traditional aesthetic, between the photographer and the writer, between the viewer and the work, between the image and the text, but primarily between you and the people you collaborate with. Can you talk to us about that process of trust, how you know when to trust your collaborators and their submissions, and how you know when to edit something out and go with your gut? Any submissions that you didn't have a real sense for at first but as you worked through the piece it grew on you?

I think it was the other way around. Each of the collaborators seemed to know me in some capacity. That's just how it turned out. I felt that they had a huge amount of trust in me to send in a passage. That trust could have been in knowing I was up for a challenge, liking my creative process and style and trusting I would do their passage justice or their trust of the complete unknown and excitement of discovery. I don't think I made trust a requirement of the process from my end. I understood the challenge I created for myself and made my own rule that I would take the passages in the order they were submitted so that I faced each as a challenge weather it was easy or difficult. I wouldn't just toss it aside because it stumped me conceptually. That challenge came early in the process when I was presented with the passage from Scott Huler's “Defining the Wind”. The passage was the Beaufort Scale. Not even a passage but the actual scale used to measure wind. I think this one was the third passage I interpreted. I relished those challenges. I did have two passages that became incredibly difficult and I had to move on to keep the process going while I came up with visual interpretations for these others. The passage from William Faulkner's “The Sound and the Fury” and the passage from George Eliot's “Middlemarch” both were incredibly difficult for me but as part of the process I refused to let a passage defeat me and I saw it as a larger challenge. I feel those visual interpretations became some of the strongest images in the series. 

The whole process truly tested me as an artist from concept to completion. It was a formative year for me as an artist and shared by the many who followed the entire process.

Come by the closing reception on Saturday, January 8th 2011 from 1-3 to meet Bill and find some inspiration of your own.  Thanks, Bill and all of our 2010 artists, for a great year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

William Zuback BOOK PASSAGES

Book Passages” is William Zuback's latest completed visual journey. He had asked friends, family and fans of his blog to send in brief book excerpts from their favorite or current book. Zuback invited the audience on this visual journey by making it an interactive conversation of idea's through the blog by posting each visual creation as he progressed through the submitted book passages.

Zuback's intent was to create a series that was less of a solo effort and more participatory with the audience/viewers. From an artistic viewpoint this body of work, although thematically different because of the variety of donated book passages, has shown a striking thread of similarity. It has been a great exercise in seeing, exploring and understanding his artistic expression.

A CLOSING RECEPTION will be held Saturday, January 8 from 1-3pm.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


January 17- February 25 
Amy Mietzel's Cherokee Middle School Students TAKE SOMETHING ORDINARY

February 28-April 8
NATIONAL EXHIBITION, juried by Andy Adams of Flak Photo

April 11-May 20 

May 23-July 1 

July 4- August 12 
Tyler Robbins SUBURBAN

August 15-September 23 
Samantha VanDeman LOST SCHOOLS

September 26-November 4 

November 7- December 30
People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1942
sponsored by the Wisconsin Historical Society

More information about each exhibit is always available at our Facebook page...just click the logo to the right! Be sure to visit the artists' websites, and to come back during exhibits for interviews with the artists and reviews! It's going to be a gorgeous exhibition season!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with photographer Patricia Delker, AND STILL THERE ARE SECRETS

Our newest exhibit marks the return of a past exhibit curator, Patricia Delker.  This time, she's showing her new work, a series of intimate black and white portraits.  Always one for a great conversation, this time she's got you thinking that while she's telling you a secret, you may actually end up telling her one.  

1. There's currently a memoir revival in literature, and writers like Jeanette Walls and Mary Karr are changing the scope of autobiography by exorcising their family histories in unflinchingly direct language. Do you think all art starts as autobiography, and how do you think a personal series translates to viewers?

I think people...both artists and viewers...would probably be surprised at how much art is autobiographical, if they really delved into it. Well, artists might not be quite as surprised as viewers, but I do think what we select to make art about certainly originates in the intellect, the experiences and personal history of the maker. One photographer is drawn to make landscape photographs, another is not...that decision stems from what makes up the individual. I think it might be sort of an artistic DNA. I feel a bit sad for the "artist" who spends years trying to make work that looks like someone else's that they may admire. Being influenced by others is great, copying what they do is not making art in my opinion. As to whether a personal series translates to a viewer, I think the personal often is the universal. Though we often think we are so different from others, at the core we are probably more similar than different, and it's the core similarities that translate even when the work stems from one's personal life. In the case of "And Still There Are Secrets", I believe everyone carries around their own secrets, whether they are traumatic or humorous or even mundane...everyone has a secret.

2. You photograph the intangible. Can you tell us about that intangible - is it memory, emotion, or something different - and how do you pre-visualize it? What's your process?

The intangible can't be touched, but it's there. Yes, memory and emotion are intangibles, but so is faith/the spiritual...so is history/time...and thought/inspiration. It's like we are brought up to believe the three-dimensional tangible world is dominant and most important, but it really seems to me we are beings dominated by our intangible worlds as much or more than the tangible one. It seems like the tangible world put limits on us and intangible world is limitless. There is certain subject matter and objects that I have been drawn to from the beginning, and I began to see that and delve into why, and that thought process lead to the discovery that it wasn't so much about the subject matter itself, but what the subject matter meant. The subject was a symbol for something far larger...an intangible. I don't want to shortchange that inner journey or thought process because I think it's very important to an artist to understand certain things about themselves and their work, and it did take some time to understand why I was doing what I did when I was making photographs of my subjects. So...my process is thought first, image second. I try to steer away from making other people's pictures and stay in touch with the power of symbolism.

3. Your model Heather Solomon is a virtual chameleon in this series, and she seems to physically change from image to image - as a viewer, I had to remind myself that this was the same woman. Was this a collaborative effort that allowed Heather to bring her own emotion to the image, or was she fully directed? Would you share tips on working with and selecting models?

Heather is a close friend, and as my artist's statement says, I don't think this series would have been made without her collaboration. I appreciate that, and her, immensely. A photo session usually started by my preparing a list of secrets I wanted to explore, finding the objects that suitably represented them and had meaning to me personally or I thought was symbolic of the secret in some way. I then sketched out an idea of my first visions. All these things, plus camera/film, I brought to the session. Two thirds of the time I probably shared the particular secret with Heather, but even when I didn't, as friends we had already covered a lot of personal history which I think served the sessions. The sessions were only about an hour, hour and a half...we covered maybe six or so secrets a session, over a roughly two year period. (There are actually probably close to 40 "secrets" that we photographed, but I edited that work to the 21 that are in the exhibit.) I didn't want to waste Heather's time; after all, she was doing me a favor. Anyway, we started with the sketches, some explanation, and then would see where that might take us. Heather has a great ability to "get it", and also she came to work. Modeling is work. At some point, I often said, "well, what do you feel like doing with this...what works for you?" This was actually my first time to work at length with a model and I suspect I might now be very spoiled. But I think working with any model requires that you know what you want, you don't waste their time, you take what they do seriously with the expectation that they will take what you are doing seriously and you treat them and the process with respect. I think the thing I most value about Heather's involvement with this project is her ability to look at the work, or an individual picture, not as a picture of herself, but to be able to embrace the concept that it was a symbol for something else; it wasn't about her, it was about the project, and then evaluate the results with that perspective.

4. You shoot film and make silver gelatin prints! How do you feel about the future of the wet darkroom, and what do you think your traditional process adds to your work that a digital process might not?

The wet darkroom is just magic to me (Another intangible perhaps?). Shut yourself up in a dark room, listen to the right music, pour magic chemicals, while manipulating/creating the picture you envisioned and then watching it come to life in front of you, slowly appearing in the tray. You feel like an ancient alchemist! I don't feel any magic in front of a computer. But that's just me. The important thing in this day and age is that you have all of photo history, and all the current/past/alternative processes to select from to make the image that you envision. You select the one that works for who you are, and how you can use it to make the image you want. Ultimately, it's not about how you make the picture; it's about the journey in making it and the final product of the journey.

5. When one stands to look closely at this work, her own image as viewer is reflected back from the great black spaces in your prints - as the viewer can't help but insert herself, it suddenly becomes her secret. Is it more important to you that people access this work in their own personal way, or that your experience remains yours? How do you feel if people make up their own stories over your personal history?

Wow, to be honest, I never thought of that specifically. It certainly seems appropriate, given that while the work is based in my secrets, it seeks to acknowledge and address the individual secrets we all carry with us. It's very important to me that people look at the work this way; it's one of the reasons I don't have individual titles for the pieces in the exhibit. I think titles are ideally provided to give the audience a clue to the significant thing about the picture, to assist the viewer into the picture. In this instance, it's really not about guessing the secret being represented, it's about what the image may trigger unconsciously in the viewer about themselves. So, I think it's great when people come up and say, "you know what that says/means to me" and then tell me their story. We sharing a secret...doesn't matter whether it's mine or theirs. What matters is that we recognize the role they play in our lives.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CALL FOR WORK: National Juried Exhibition at the Steenbock Gallery

February 28 - April 8, 2011

sponsored by 

The Center for Photography at Madison.

Entry Deadline: November 15, 2010

The Center for Photography at Madison is pleased to issue the call for our first juried national exhibition at the Steenbock Gallery.  As Madison's primary photographic arts organization, we are pleased to partner with Andy Adams of FlakPhoto.com in presenting an exhibition of contemporary photography that will offer chosen photographers an opportunity to exhibit in Madison’s first gallery exclusively dedicated to the photographic arts.  Specifically designed to allow participation by all working photographers this exhibit will provide a dialogue between emerging photographers, students, professionals, educators and artists in Madison and across the country. In addition to cash prizes, the winning photographer will be awarded a future solo exhibition at the Steenbock Gallery.

Juror: Andy Adams of Flak Photo

Andy Adams is the Editor/Publisher of FlakPhoto.com, a contemporary photography website that celebrates the culture of image-making by promoting the discovery of artists from around the world.  An online art space and photography publication, the site provides opportunities for a global community of artists and photo organizations to share new series work, book projects, and gallery exhibitions with a web-based photography audience.
Recent features include 3030 Press' New Photography In China, Humble Arts Foundation's 31 Under 31: Young Women in Art Photography, Hamburger Eyes Photo Magazine's Inside Burgerworld, the Photographic Resource Center’s EXPOSURE: The Annual PRC Juried Exhibition, Big City Press' Hijacked, Volume One: Australia andAmerica, Center's Review Santa Fe 2009, David Wright + Ethan Jones' Pause To Begin, the Center for Fine Art Photography's 2009 International Exhibition, Blurb’s Photography Book Now, and the Magenta Foundation's Flash Forward: Emerging Photographers 2009.


Nov. 15, 2010 Entry deadline
Dec. 1, 2010 Review of works
Jan. 7, 2011 Photographers notified
Feb. 24, 2011 All work delivered to gallery
Feb. 28-April 8, 2011       Exhibition Dates
March 4, 2011(6-9pm) Opening reception
April 9, 2011 Pick up of unsold work
April 11, 2011 Shipping pick up*
*Photographer schedules pick up of work with preferred shipper.


$500 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the Steenbock Gallery in 2012.
$250 cash prize
$100 cash prize
*Honorable mentions may be awarded at juror's discretion.

All accepted works must be at the Steenbock Gallery (hand delivery or shipped) by 4:30pm on February 24. Any pieces not received by this time will not be exhibited.
All unsold works must be picked up by 12noon on April 9. All unsold works must be picked up by shippers by 4:30pm on April 11. Artists are responsible for paying and arranging their own shipping.
Any additional, detailed shipping instructions will be sent later following notification of acceptance
Upon notification of acceptance, Artist agrees to:
•provide artwork that is ready to be hung:
2D work must be prepared with hanging wire.
3D work must sit sturdily on pedestal or floor.
*arrange pick-up of unsold artwork on either April 9 (for artist or buyer pick-ups) or April 11 (by artist designated shipping company.)
SIZE AND WEIGHT No work may exceed 5 ft. in any direction or be over 50 pounds in weight.
SALES: A 30% commission will be retained by the gallery on all sold works. Work remains the property of the artist until sold.  Sold artwork shall remain in the exhibition until the close of the show. 
INSURANCE: Artists should self-insure work during transit and while on exhibit.
INVITATION AND WEBSITE One image will be chosen for the invitation cover design. Images of accepted works and profiles of selected artists will be featured at http://www.steenbockcpm.blogspot.com.


[   ] CD: Up to 5 works submitted on CD. One jpeg per work, titled as name_number.jpg. Must be numbered to correspond with numbers on entry form. Jpegs should be 1000 pixels (minimum) In longest dimension, and at 300 dpi.
[   ] Entry form: Filled out completely and typed or printed clearly. Detach and return with CD and fee
[   ] Entry fee: Non-refundable fee of $25 payable by check, money order or cashier's check. Make payable to The Center for Photography at Madison, include Steenbock Juried Show in memo line.
[   ] SASE: Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of non-accepted material. CDs will not be returned without it.
Please do not include any additional or unrequested material.
AGREEMENT Signature gives artist's consent to all conditions specified in this prospectus. Submission of your entry grants CPM permission to use your artwork or reproduction of likeness in promotional materials for this exhibition.
Signature: ____________________________

Please send form to:

The Center for Photography at Madison
attn: 2011 Steenbock Juried Exhibition
303 South Paterson Street, Suite 2E
Madison Wl 53703

The Steenbock Gallery in the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts & Letters.
1922 University Avenue
Madison Wl 53726
The Steenbock Gallery, sponsored and managed by the Center for Photography at Madison in partnership with the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, is dedicated to the exhibition, exploration and appreciation of the photographic arts. The Steenbock Gallery provides opportunities for photographers and curators, and serves as a forum for dialogue between artists educators, students and the public at large.


In 2008 The Center for Photography at Madison (CPM) partnered with the Wisconsin Academy for exhibit space. CPM is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1998, and offers a broad range of educational programs, exhibitions, facilities and publications. CPM offers classes, exhibit opportunities, and a wide variety of programs at its Paterson Street location.
The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters is a non-profit organization whose goal Is to connect people and ideas from all areas of knowledge and all walks of life to celebrate thought, culture and nature in our state. The Steenbock is one of two galleries affiliated with the Academy, the other being the James Watrous Gallery.
Administration of the Steenbock Gallery makes CPM relevant and accessible to a wider audience including University of Wisconsin faculty and students. These mutually beneficial liaisons provide exhibition, curatorial, and administrative opportunities, and help make it Madison's first photo gallery devoted to the history, contemporary trends, and future expansion of photographic media and theory. Located in the Wisconsin Academy building, the Steenbock Is readily accessible to the UW campus and affiliated organizations, and the greater Madison area.
GALLERY HOURS: Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm
Phone(CPM): 608.287.1182
 (gallery): 608 263 1692
email steenbockcpm@gmail.com
blog http://www.steenbockcpm.blogspot.org
websites www.cpmad.org and www.wisconsinacademy.org