At what moment did you decide photography is important to you as a communication device rather than merely a tool to photograph your friends and such?
I really got into photography in high school. I was one of those awkward kids and I went through a period where I was clinically depressed so photography really helped me to express myself and just escape my surroundings. When I would go into the darkroom I felt in control of what I was doing, it felt great!
Which photographer’s work most closely resembles the direction you see yourself heading?
Well right now for the exhibition I really like Simone Nieweg. She did a series on nature recapturing its space. Old buildings, rusted cars, deserted railroad tracks, etc. I would really like to further explore that even beyond the exhibition.
Describe your thinking process as you develop a project.
That’s a good question! First, I think of the guidelines or if there are none, I think of my interests; if I want a lot of colour, people, animals, etc.
What drives your work – interest in color, shape, metaphor, etc?
What my main interest is how I feel when I look at something and then I try to capture it in the same way that I feel in the hopes that others would feel the same about the subject or colour or shape or whatever it is that I feel.
Describe your place in photography. Are there groups you identify with or groups whose philosophy you distance yourself from?
Right now I don’t know what my place is, I am still exploring that!
Tell me about the project you will show this semester. Film, digital or both? How do you decide?
I am shooting digital black and white for this project. I am doing a lot of old and rusted buildings and different objects that are kind of just left places and everything has grown up around them. I thought doing black and white for this project would make the items seem more desolate and they have an eerie quality to them.
Do you work in the moment or are you executing an idea?
Sometimes I start out with a plan of action and other times I just go and shoot and see what happens. With our exhibition project I had an idea that wasn’t fully developed and then I got inspiration from one of the presentations done in class and my idea changed.
At what moment did you decide photography is important to you as a communication device rather than merely a tool to photograph your friends and such?
Lizzie: This semester you are working on self-portraiture. What are you trying to get out of the project, and what do you want the viewer to get out of it?
Alexis: I’m trying to get over my insecurities and make more personal work. I need to do some self-exploration before I do anything else because I bring my baggage to my photos.
Lizzie: What are you trying to say about your insecurities with this project?
Alexis: It’s about me internalizing it and trying not to hide. I don’t want to hold myself back and worry what people think. I want to prove to myself that I can do this and not over think it. It’s still somewhat impersonal because of the layers and the silhouettes, though. There’s still a barrier between the viewer and me, but it’s the first step toward being more open.
Lizzie: There don’t seem to be much of a connection between this semester and last semesters work. Do you think there should be connections between projects?
Alexis: Not when I’m in school. It’s about trying new things and seeing what fits. Last semester I wasn’t ready to make a full body of work. It was hard to start a project and think about how it’s going to look in the end. “Animal Collective” didn’t feel like it was “me.” I want to do more work that is more personal that I can relate to. The animals were more about a social commentary that I’m not necessarily concerned about. I found out last semester that taking a subject I’ve already photographed is a better starting place.
Lizzie: After school, do you want to continue with fine art or do more commercial work?
Alexis: In terms of a career, I want to do commercial work. I don’t want to completely give up the fine art side, though. I just don’t see myself just doing fine art.
Lizzie: Would you say that, for you, fine art work is more about the process than having people see it?
Alexis: (nods emphatically)
Lizzie: How do you feel about exhibiting work that isn’t necessarily made for the viewer?
Alexis: I don’t mind showing it. I like showing people my work. I just don’t necessarily make it with them in mind. I like to make aesthetically pleasing images that are somewhat abstract so that the viewer has the opportunity to place themselves in the image.
Alicia Hickey: Who, if anyone, inspired you to become a photographer?
David Hicks: I suppose you could trace my roots as a photographer to my father, he abandoned his 35mm film camera and I stole it from him (still have it) and the rest is history.
AH: Was your father interested in photography himself? Or was it just a phase for him?
DH: He shot a lot during his college years and bachelorhood, but by the time I came around it was really just a documenting his life thing, not an artistic release for him.
AH: Can you explain your works so far? What are you trying to communicate to your viewer? Or are you even trying to communicate to a viewer?
DH: My work so far has mainly consisted of pictures of barns, rotting wood, abandoned houses, etc. Honestly its pretty cliché, but I connect with places like that, and making photographs of them allows me to more intimately explore the space (and it gives me an excuse for being there if someone shows up) My photography isn’t so much about a viewer; its more a form of meditation and memory. I go very slowly.
AH: What is it about barns, rotting wood, and abandoned houses that draw you in?
DH: Well, they have a sense of history that most everyone looks past. Every structure had a builder, a purpose. These aren’t some accident, some natural form, I look at an abandoned structure with the same type of awe that we feel when we look upon Angkor Wat or Stone Henge, who built it, why, what stories centered around this thing, and why is it left to decay?
AH: That’s an interesting perspective. Will you, perhaps, in the future take to photographing other subject matters or even different architectural structures?
DH: Who can know what the future holds? For the moment, I’m focusing on one quasi-abandoned house, my family’s farmhouse. I’m trying to imagine the past there, both of the space and the objects that fill it. Hopefully my depiction of the house will convey the feelings it manages to overwhelm me with every time I spend time there.
AH: What photographic process are you exploring within your current work?
DH: Well, I’m doing an odd hybrid of medium format slide film and Ambrotype (wet-plate collodion). Instead of shooting the collodion in camera I am enlarging slides onto the glass plates. I’m toying with the idea of using digital manipulation to create a magical feeling similar to that found in the works of Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But output is going to be collodion in the end.
AH: How did you come to choose this “odd hybrid?” Was it an epiphany, per se, or were you inspired by anyone or anything in particular?
DH: I really wanted to shoot collodion in camera, for the old feel the process lends an image, but I cant afford a large format camera and the portable darkroom. I would need to take collodion outside the lab. So I made up a way.
AH: Do you think that the wet-plate collodion process will enhance and compliment the subject of your work? Or is it just a process you wanted to try?
DH: The house is from a time when the only way you could get a photograph made was to have a wet plate taken. It was a time when photographs were treasured memories, not Facebook ‘like’ bait or something you use to embarrass your kids on their prom night etc. I think that it suits the type of work i’m going to be doing because I am trying to convey memories, both real and imagined in a guttural way. The photograph as an object, not just an image, will more readily accomplish that.
AH: Using wet-plate in the context that you are is very ambitious and well thought-out. Do you think that modern technology has cheapened photography as an art form?
DH: Yeah, It has, but I dont begrudge soccer mom wedding photographers or flicker heads their fun, or their creative outlet, If I were trying to make a living at this I would feel differently Just this weekend I had someone tell me that 40 dollars was too expensive for a 24 x 30 inch print. Nobody would have said such a thing if every photo still had the artist’s hand in the chemicals. But that’s a whole different can of worms.
AH: Do you worry that some people won’t understand why you would use such an “ancient” process rather than a DSLR or something of the more modern nature?
DH: If they dont get it they
What is your inspiration?
The natural rhythms of everyday life and the world around us. I have little desire for fiction.
When doing a shoot do you already have something in mind or do you just “wing it”?
There are photographers like Cindy Sherman who control their subjects in order to communicate the vision in their mind’s eye. Through their photos, they invite the viewer into their world to see whatever it is they want to show.
By not controlling my subjects, I wish to comment on our shared occasionally stinky and backlit, mean and awful, beautiful and resplendent yet always effervescent world that is continually changing around us. I don’t set out with particular photos in mind and I do not pose my photos. For me, to do so is to break from our shared experience. My orientation toward photography is reactive, not constructive. For me, the power of photography and what separates it from other visual arts is its subtractive nature that allows us to suspend time and place for later consideration.
Do you stay locally or do you have to travel to really get what you want?
The more one learns about photographing in other countries, the more appreciative you will become of our systems that avoid prior restraint or paying subjects for access. America is the best place to photograph. We’re so brilliant, yet so fucked up, in so many fascinating ways.
I looked at your bio page and noticed that you were a photojournalist for 3 different newspapers; do you like the “freedom” that you have now with doing your own work at school, or would you rather photograph something for the news, or maybe both?
Actually, I was a photo editor for the past 10 years and didn’t do much shooting during that time so the freedom I feel comes from leaving the office to go back on the streets. I am interested in art/documentary projects more than straight news but I believe there will be such a niche in the future of photojournalism.
Have you given much thought to our final project?
I am still not sure which project I will display for class. It may be a work based on John Cage’s 4’33”.
what is so interesting about John Cage’s 4’33’’?
It’s a composition where no one plays. I approach it as a figure/ground experiment. The photos would be 4’33” exposures taken with a pinhole camera.
How did you get started or interested in the field of photography?
My interest in photography sparked when I was a teenager. I don’t know the approximate age, but I found myself constantly saying, “I wish I had a camera, I would love to take a photo of this!” This brought forth the idea that I should pursue Photography and make it my career of the future.
What influences your photographs?
I would have to say that the area from which I’m from has quite a bit of influence on my Photography. I was born and raised in South Carolina. I have been here all of my life and it has so much natural beauty that I find myself creating projects around that idea. Natural beauty would be the influence. Although we make changes in the editing stages of the process it is still something that was created not by someone, but by nature itself and I find nature fascinating!
Is there a certain subject, content, or theme that you like to include in your work?
As I just mentioned my background has a good bit of influence on my work. So the content or subject that I include in my work is based off or around the South and its traits.
How do you come up with ideas for your work?
It depends on what the work is for. If I’m taking a portrait I ask the subject about places that they find themselves most often. I like to capture them in an environment their most familiar with. If it’s a project for me it depends on the mood. I love nature and most often I find myself taking landscape photos. However I love the idea of line. So I tend to take picture of trees or repetition of line. Some of my photographs could be considered abstract I suppose.
What photos that you have taken thus far are your favorites?
There is a photo that I took of my best friend and one of the lake that I live close to. Those are currently my favorite that I have taken digitally. Both are not edited as of yet.
Do you prefer digital or film cameras? Why?
As of right now I don’t have a preference. I am currently using digital because I haven’t used it before, not for a project anyway. I do like to work with film, but the process is a bit lengthier. As far as the process goes I would choose digital. The outcome in my opinion is just as good either way.
Who are some of your influences or favorite photographers?
I wouldn’t say that I have influences. Not yet anyway. I hope to complete more research and come across a few that might do just that. And as far as a favorite photographer, I don’t have one. My favorite photograph so far is the Flat Iron Building taken by Edward Steichen. It fascinates me! The trees in the foreground, that amazing building! The overall makeup of the photograph was in my opinion very well composed.
Are there any ideas or projects that you have wanted to work on that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Yes. I would like to begin taking portraits. I have only taken a couple and I would like to make improvements in my work. After all I do plan to make a career out of them. I would also like to continue my series of, “The South in My Eyes”. I have slight tension and disgust with where I came from, but at the same time I’m glad that I was raised in such a small town. It made me realize what I did and did not want out of life.
When you graduate from USC what would you like to do in the future?
When I graduate I plan to start my business right away. I won’t have an office or studio right off, but I can work from home. I plan to take the traditional wedding photos and portraits. I want my business to be both business and studio for my own work. I have big plans and every intention of making them happen.
The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted between photography students enrolled in ARTS 461/561.
David: Why do you think you are drawn to photography rather than other visual arts (or non-visual arts for that matter) what makes you a photographer at heart?
Alicia: Well, I am drawn to some other mediums, but photography is definitely my number one choice. I don’t know to be honest. It was something I picked up in high-school. I was tired of not having hobbies or anything, so I decided to go the art route and photography seemed to be the best fit. It was something, once started, that I honestly had passion for. It’s something I work hardest at and something that I couldn’t give up if I tried.
David: When you are making photographs do you generally conceptualize images as you see them or do you have images in your mind and set out to make them happen?
Alicia: I would say that I conceptualize images as I see them. I haven’t exactly worked in a way as conceptual as setting up scenes and making them happen, but it is something I am striving for and trying to get comfortable doing.
David: What are some things that you keep going back to photographing?
Alicia: Well I am trying to get away from the cliché photographs that I tend to get caught up in. I keep going back to photographing older more quirky, beautifully built homes because they each have their own character and personality. I find a sort of comfort in the images themselves. Possibly because I have never (before college) lived in anything like them.
I guess if I had to put a conceptual meaning behind the images I would say it’s because when these homes were built they were built with a particular family in mind, now homes have become cookie-cutter in style and mass produced for maximum efficiency and profit
David: Do you shoot them ‘as is’ or do you modify their decor or lighting or anything like that?
Alicia: I shoot them as is, definitely as is. I am trying to accentuate it’s beauty and trying to really point out what is already there, but overlooked.
David: Where do you see your work headed over the course of the semester? What type of project do you have in the works?
Alicia: I’m currently working on a project where I am photographing graffiti writers in their element. Basically, I’m creating triptychs which consist of a portrait or the writer (face covered in a creative way that they choose, to conceal their identity), a panorama of a large spray painted “piece,” and finally an image of a sticker created by the writer in it’s street setting. I’m also delving into color medium format photography printed digitally. I’m still on the fence, as I haven’t ever done color before. So as far as I know, my works are headed in a new direction. It’s something I’m excited about, and I can only hope it turns out the way I’m planning.