1922 University Avenue. Madison WI. 53726


Monday, March 22, 2010

THINK NEGATIVE: UW-Madison Photo Student Exhibit

The UW-Madison Photography Student Show has been a yearly event since 2006, and we are thrilled to welcome this year's show to the Steenbock!  Opening next week is the 2010 exhibit, with new work from photographers studying with Tom Jones and Jim Escalante in the undergraduate and graduate art programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.   

THINK NEGATIVE features fresh and contemporary photography by Sarah Ripp, Jake Naughton, Alexander Devoe, Youn-Jae Ok, Kristen Juve, Jackie Matelski, Brittany Peterson, Ana Taylor, Linda Friend, Laurel Iber, Lisa Frank, Julie Insun Youn, Jordan Anderson, Patricia LaPointe, Niki Johnson, Andrea Brdek, Mayra Linares and Jena Schleis.

Get a sneak peek on our
Facebook page, and join us for the OPENING RECEPTION on Friday, April 9 from 7-9pm. Don't miss it!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interview with photographer Claire Ruzicka, FACES OF OAXACA

We were lucky to catch the lovely Claire Ruzicka at home, and chatted with her about Mary Ellen Mark, hanging the same image two ways, and leaving room for the mystery... 
¡Gracias, Claire! 

1. These portraits were made during a trip you took to Oaxaca in July 2009, and you say that you went there specifically with the idea of making these environmental portraits. Can you tell us about that community and what drew you to it - in short, why Oaxaca? 

 I was drawn to Oaxaca to attend a workshop taught by Mary Ellen Mark. I have admired Mark’s talent for photographing people and wanted to study with her in developing my own documentary style. She has held workshops in Oaxaca for 15 years so I viewed this as a fantastic opportunity to learn from a master in a place that had a rich culture including the arts. In addition, I was excited to visit Mexico for the first time and use my Spanish language skills in connecting with the people there.

2. If you went to Oaxaca not knowing anyone, how did you introduce yourself into this society? If you did know someone, how did you gain access to strangers’ homes and lives for these photographs? Do you currently have any plans to revisit and reshoot in the future? If not Oaxaca, then somewhere else?
The workshop setting provided the access and motivation to meet people in their homes as well as in the villages. Mary Ellen Mark and her assistants in Oaxaca were instrumental in introducing me to the people who I photographed in their homes. Other images were taken spontaneously, without introductions, in the villages. I traveled to both the homes and villages on my own, sometimes making conversation in Spanish and other times communicating through body language; smiles, gestures and the camera. All of the people I met and photographed were gracious and warm in allowing me to work with them. I do hope to return to Oaxaca or to another region of Mexico sometime in the future. This is really the start of a new direction in photography for me and I’m considering how I can build on this and use it as a foundation for creating a long term project in my own community.

3. You have one image in particular in the exhibit that is printed in both color and black and white, and it takes some work to realize it’s the same image. Would you talk about that curatorial decision to hang the same image twice, but printed differently?
This was a surprise and fun decision I made midway through the printing of the 20 images chosen for the exhibit. My intention while I was shooting the images in Oaxaca was to work in black and white, I like the abstraction that is inherent in b&w. I made the photos with a digital camera and had the files in both color and b&w. When I saw this specific image in color, I had the idea to print it larger than the others and use it as the centerpiece on the title wall of the exhibit. The color version emphasize the beauty of the textiles made in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. It is effective in recreating the sense of being in Oaxaca that I wanted people to experience upon entering the exhibition space.

4. Your portraits of horses have the feeling of relaxation and the compositional beauty that your portraits of human subjects have. Can you talk about your process, as a photographer and an equestrian, making portraits of people and animals? Consequently, can you talk about your transition between landscape/nature and portrait photographer? 
 There is a bit of a mystery to this since a lot happens on a conscious and subconscious level when I’m making images as well as when I’m riding horses. Photography and dressage are passions of mine, both have a technical component combined with an artistry, a creative component that relates to the dynamic between me and the person or me and the horse. There is an unpredictability to the interaction and a necessity to establish a collaborative connection with the other in order to succeed. When I photograph I am “moved” by the beauty in expressions and responses…it’s very spontaneous and intuitive. I take liberty in shooting multiple frames in working with a 35mm digital format. This allows for a certain amount of “warming up” and “getting in the groove” which allows both me and the subject to connect. Another important part of the process is moving around to shoot from different perspectives and paying close attention to what’s in the frame, eliminating the clutter that may impose on the graphic integrity of an image. I think that’s the best I can do in explaining and still leave room for the mystery.
In regards to the landscape/nature and portrait question….. my first significant photograph is one I made in 1989. It’s of people on a beach in a small fishing village in Jamaica early in the morning. It is both a landscape and social documentary photograph of the people in their environment. I think all of my work since has been influenced by this photograph. When I photograph landscapes or nature it is a quiet, reflective process, more inward focused. As a portrait photographer my interactions are more dynamic and interactive, I feel much more of a collaborative nature in this type of work and enjoy the energy that is generated between me and the subject.