Review in Valdosta Daily Times, Rippled Realities (Solo Show)
Solo Show Review: Poling, Dean, ‘Still is Still Moving’, The Valdosta Daily Times, 10/16/11.
Solo Show Review: Poling, Dean, ‘Still is Still Moving’, The Valdosta Daily Times, 10/16/11.
Rick Behl: Here are the standard Questions for the interview.
Name: Susan Bowen
Location: New York, NY
Holga Cameras used: 120S, 120N
Photographers you admire: Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Todd Hido, Edward Burtynsky,
Bernd and Hilla Becher
2. How would you describe your photographic style?
I call my technique “overlapping exposure panoramas”. They are multiple exposures done by only partially advancing the film as I shoot. I will use about 1/2 of a roll as one image.
3. What inspires you in your work?
Industrial sites get my juices going the most, I like the sculptural-ness and monumental-ness of such forms. I also feed off of the energy of crowds in the city.
4. Where is or would be your dream photography location/shoot?
I would die to have free access to a power plant.
5. How long have you been using Holgas?
6. What do you like about using Holgas?
Not many cameras allow you to do this technique…. so that, and their lightness. And that they use medium format film (vs. 35mm).
7. What films do you prefer using and why?
I use Kodak Porta 800 and 400 mostly.
8. What are your thoughts on the way Photography is progressing? (HDR, digital, web)
Things have changed so dramatically just in the short time I’ve been doing photography again. Most of the labs and darkroom rental places that were still flourishing 8 years ago are now gone, which is sad. The technology is great… I scan my negatives so from that point on I’m digital… so I love the amount of control you have with Photoshop… and that it is permanent (that you don’t have to redo the process with each print). Doing these prints in the darkroom was a nightmare (all the dodging and burning due to the uneven exposures)… especially in color where you have to work in complete darkness. So I appreciate the technology.
I am however real concerned about the impact the over-accessibility of image-taking and the ease of publishing…. everyone shooting anything and everything and posting hundreds of images all over the web. This overwhelming flood of mostly mediocre images dulls the senses and makes the appreciation of good photography, art photography harder. I also worry about the increasing rareness of the physical print; the vast majority of digital images get posted and that is that…. these images are not going to be preserved over time. That much historical documentation is going to be lost.
9. What kind of work/projects do you have lined up for the next 12 months?
I’m due for another trip to the Midwest.
10. Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?
Using the Holga is all about spontaneity…. shoot fast, don’t think too much.
11. Anything else you would like to talk about? (Make up your own questions and answers)
Chance plays a big role in my work. I don’t know how my images are going to turn out; I like the element of surprise. I also feel that the multiple exposures capture my experience of the moment better than any single image could.
Group Show Review: Miller, Michael, ‘Changes and Passages’, The Berkshire Review, May 2010.
Group Show Review: Kelbs, Leo, ‘”Free Beer” at Safe-T-Gallery’, Dumbo Paneling, #5/Vol. 3, July 2006.
Solo Show Review: Schillaci, Kelle, ‘Down on the Farm’, Las Vegas City Life, 7/22/05.
Solo Show Interview: Chandler, Chip. ‘Photo Exhibit is Monumental Art’. Amarillo Globe News, 5/6/05, page 8.
Michael Curry: Susan, first of all let me say that my interest in your work is twofold. First, I go through a lot of portfolios and your compositions make refreshing viewing. Like diptichs and sequence imagery, your works carry complex narratives. Secondly, you share some of my political standpoints and there’s an importance in documenting massive demonstrations. I was in London when more than a million people took to the streets in 2003 and the only thing more incredible than seeing such a diverse group of people together with a single purpose was to see these same people essentially ignored.
What are some of your own experiences while documenting protests and how do you approach them from a photographic perspective?
SB: I like shooting crowds and I like shooting people in movement, so for me events like marches provide quite an exciting venue. I do consider myself there as a fellow protester, however, as well as a quasi-documentarian.
Any photography is always foremost about light, so if the light isn’t right, I won’t be shooting. Next in line I’m looking for gesture, expressions, exchanges between people, and that sense of motion. I’m looking to convey the “crush of humanity” and the energy and vitality of the event. And of course some documentation of the many heart-felt and enormously clever signs.
Your technique of compositing images – how much of the compositing do you do while catching the images and how much is puzzled together in the darkroom?
Rarely do I combine the images later (it is almost all composed in-camera). I do, however, sometimes have to remove chunks just to keep the pieces a manageable length. So I am usually taking away, not adding to the imagery, if changing at all.
You make use of a $20 plastic Holga. Can you tell us a little about how you came to be using the Holga and the reasoning behind its use?
I hadn’t done photography in years, and I ran across this one month class on the Holga, of which I had never heard. I took the class because it was a non-threatening way to ease myself back into photography/art. The overlapping technique was just one of the assignments, but I took to it instantly.
The Holga is one of the few cameras that allows you to easily do this technique. It is also an extremely light camera, which is necessary for me health-wise (I have repetitive strain problems with my arms from being a computer programmer).
Viewing your images online is a little difficult given their width – how large are the prints you produce from your Holga composites? And how do you print them from a single strip of film?
I currently have two standard sizes: 30” wide x 7” high and 15” high by 5 to 8 feet long. I am hoping to make them much bigger.
I started off making them in the darkroom, which required using an 8×10 enlarger. But even then I had to make the images too short. And the dodging and burning needed for these things was a nightmare (especially printing in color which is done in complete darkness). So I now scan and then work digitally.
I have an 11”x17” flatbed scanner (Epson 1640xl) and can scan a half a roll in one swipe. I then do all my tonal correction and whatever minimal editing I’m going to do in Photoshop. I send the files out to be printed as digital C-prints. So they end up on the same photographic paper as had I done them in a darkroom.
When did you start your photographic work? And why photography?
I was a fine-art major in college, with photography as my main focus; this was back in the 70’s. I kept it up for a handful of years but then let it slide. I just took it up again 3 years ago.
I’ve done various kinds of art over the years, but there was a definite sense of coming home with photography. And it is the one medium that I can look back at my first pieces and still like them.
What are your feelings about digital versus traditional photographic methods?
What I’m doing, in the way I am doing it, can only be done with film. Combining single images in Photoshop may give the same kind of look but isn’t at all the same kind of experience. I like to shoot very spontaneously and fast and I enjoy the chance element. To me the chance element is an integral part of the work I’m doing.
I have a fondness for the darkroom experience, but you can’t beat the appeal, in working digitally, of being able to perfect an image and then preserving it as such. Having to go through the whole process for each and every print done in the darkroom is a pain. Plus the control you have in Photoshop makes the dodging/burning techniques of the darkroom seem downright primitive.
Do you practice any other artistic disciplines? (painting, sketches, video, etc.)
For awhile I did painting, I’ve done a few sculptures in stone, some drawing. I’m just doing photography at present.
Who are the photographers that inspire you the most?
Certainly in college I was influenced by Jerry Uelsmann and also Edward Weston. Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Gary Winogrand, William Eggleston, Bruce Gilden, and Sally Mann are some others.
And who are the non-photographic artists that you most admire? (filmmakers, writers, dancers, painters, etc.)
I actually usually prefer looking at painting over photography. I like abstract work, in the vein of abstract expressionism. I guess I’d say Motherwell is my favorite.
What are your goals in regard to your photographic work?
I’m currently a finalist for a public art project for an airport in Indianapolis. Doing projects such as those are my primary goal. I also hope to get gallery representation at a reasonably good gallery in New York. And any opportunities that will allow my pieces to be created large, like in corporate lobbies, transit centers, etc.
Any final comments, demands, quotations, advice or anecdotes?
Just that some people get so bogged done in the technical aspects of photography (even some Holga shooters!). I tell people to just shoot and have fun and not worry about how it the pictures are going to turn out. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Thank you so much for your time, Susan.
Solo Show Review: Crosby, Gregory. ‘Fusion Infusion’, Las Vegas City Life. 6/17/04, page 44.
Solo Show Review: Twardy, Chuck, ‘Fine Art: Fools for the City’, Las Vegas Weekly, 6/24/04, page 52.
Solo Show Review: Yowell, Erika. Art: ‘Urban Fusions at Reed Whipple’. Las Vegas Mercury, 6/24/04.