A while ago I opened a Q&A on Instagram with the intention of releasing a video with the answers. Unfortunately I haven't been physically up to undertaking video production, but I still wanted to answer the questions.
@feministartmuseum : How do you find places to submit work?
I use social media a lot to begin researching places to submit work. My favorite accounts that promote low cost calls frequently are @artopencalls and @offthecost. I also look at where friends and artists that I look up to are getting published to gain insight on who is actively seeking or promoting work. Being part of communities on Instagram that are supportive to each other has also helped me find opportunities-passing information around between artists helps us all further our careers.
@feministartmuseum : Do you pay for any services as an artist? How do you fund your art practice/find paid opportunities?
Right now I pay for a couple of things regularly. I subscribe to the Adobe CC service for the programs I use for photography, design, and video editing. I also outsource my archival quality printing because I do not have my own printer currently, and I pay for color film development because I don't have space/funds to maintain a black and white as well as a color development process.
2020 is a weird year financially for everyone, so I'll talk over some things I've used over a broader span of time. In the past I usually have maintained a part time job alongside freelancing. This year I have lost the ability to perform part time physical labor, so I have fallen away from that. I've worked retail, bar tending/service industry, cleaning jobs, and worked as a lab monitor through school to sustain myself.
I've also freelanced on and off for the past several years, primarily video editing, but also photography and design. I worked for Beall's Inc as a contract photographer for a business quarter, have done corporate video editing, have worked in social media, and covered event photography. I am currently open to freelance clients on a limited basis for video editing.
Most of my paid opportunities have come through letting my immediate network, friends, family, co-workers, teachers, etc, know that I am actively seeking freelance work. I'd introduce myself as a photographer/video editor at social events, working other jobs (only do this if it isn't risking your position), and while talking with anyone who would listen basically. I have also used Linkedin or college job boards with moderate success in freelancing. Distributing business cards to whoever will take them also has helped me land clients.
I also generate income with art prints, books, zines, and Patreon, which I am working on growing. I would ideally like to have that as my primary source of income with the fluctuation of my health status as that is the easiest for me to maintain.
@malik.un : What is your creative process like for self portraits?
When I make self portraits, I am often coming from a place of trying to understand or cope with experience, so I begin with a lot of self reflection. I find myself writing more than I ever have, not particularly about photo ideas, but about anything and everything. I look a lot at my routines, rituals, and things that I find important in my life as a way to understand my own experience as the person that I am.
So it comes down to asking a lot of questions, and not necessarily understanding what those questions are until I make the images. My environment inspires me, and I like to look at small details as well as the emotions of an experience. How can I show the thing that I am feeling? Sometimes it is something I can evoke with my gaze, other times I use symbolism. Documentation is incredibly important to me, especially in the area of my health, and I try to capture as much as I can about symptoms, physical state, emotional state, and treatment.
As far as actually taking the self portraits, often times I work intuitively, the environment, lighting, and whatever questions or experiences I have been thinking about guiding me through shooting. I use a Canon EOS RP on a tripod and set the self timer to 10 seconds. I don't use a remote shutter because not knowing the precise moment that the shutter will be released allows a small amount of spontaneity.
For staged self portraits, I am thinking and adjusting throughout the entire session. If I see a position or a moment that I like, I try to exaggerate it and push it past the point that it accomplishes the emotion I am trying to portray. I'll often look over my images afterwards and see if there is something there that is different than the original idea. If there is I might try creating around that idea.
When I am in more of a documentary or "in the moment" self portrait mode, I rely heavily on intuition. My hospital work is some of the only memories that I have from being in the hospital due to medication and circumstance, so all I can really remember is an intense need to create images, whether it was propping the camera up on my IV stand, or taking film portraits in the bathroom mirror.
@lizard_like : Breaking into the conversation, how does one get a presence in a niche/how did I?
I attended a great talk by Judith Puckett-Rinella over on Life at Six Feet that sort of put into words my philosophy on making work. She talked about finding your "why," and once you find that, no matter what you're making, it will come from you. For me, finding my "why" came from shooting everything, a ton of different styles and subjects, spending hours looking at photography and analyzing it, but also, and perhaps above all else, looking really, really intently at what gave me energy and what depleted it, as well as forming a deep connection to myself and spending time learning who I am.
Health influences every area of my life, and has for most of it since I was a young child. With that comes years of medical trauma, navigating the medical system, all while dealing with a body that has fluctuated in health dramatically over the years. Directing that pent up anger, fear, and emotion into photography helped me become less self destructive and more productive in forming a healthier relationship to myself. So, finding my niche for me, was more finding a coping mechanism that allowed me to express my deepest hurts and intense experiences.
I also had a revelation of sorts about a year ago when I stopped pressuring myself to find a niche and allowed myself to just shoot anything. I still do that, and I just curate what is shared with others. Divorcing the act of picking up the camera from the act of showing others the work allowed me a broader perspective on why I was picking up the camera, and I found that even when photographing mundane objects, I was looking at things through this perspective of health and my own lived experience.
As far as "breaking into the conversation," I look at it more as starting conversations that you want to have. Now that I am more aware of artists who work within the context of illness I see that there is a community there, however when I first started sharing my health work I wasn't aware that anyone was really talking about it, other than a few classmates in college who did terrific projects about their own experiences with chronic illness, and Georgie Wileman who's project This is Endometriosis gave me confidence to post about my first endometriosis surgery.
Returning to the question above and feeling this intense need to capture my experience, I started sharing it with the same feeling of purpose. I shared it on Instagram, restructured my whole website around making my "personal" work my main work, and submitted the work everywhere, even the half baked first drafts of it. I have a deep trust with my intuition about making/creating work which comes from spending a lot of time finding what I didn't like or want to do, and spending time on myself and my work.
@drawnsons : How did you get started in photography, have you ever thought of making a film?
I recently went through my box of childhood things that I have kept over the years and I found a stack of disposable camera prints from the year 2000 with overexposed, badly composed images of my family. So I guess you could say I've been photographing since I was 4. My mother keeps an archive of 23 years of family photos, most of those film prints, so I have always been around family photographs.
I feel like my interest in photography really manifested around 10 or 11 though, when my parents gave me an ice blue Kodak Easyshare point and shoot digital camera. I took pictures of pets, family, and vacations. Then I was given a Fujifilm Finepix semi manual digital camera and started creating self portraits, macro photographs of nature, and pictures of family. Around the same time, maybe a year or two later, I had my first darkroom experience in high school and feel in love with that.
Even though I shot a lot of photography, I still entered school for illustration, which only lasted a semester. By the end of that semester I learned two things, drawing exhausted me and I wasn't as committed to it as my peers, and I somehow could always make energy happen for photography.
As far as making a film, I fall into a statistical anomaly of preferring to be in an editing booth than in the weeds of production. I have been a videographer for projects before, and while I from time to time enjoy video, there is a lot to production that gets in the way of the joy of creating for me. So, while I think maybe in the future I'd enjoy working on a documentary or something to that nature, right now I prefer to shoot still photography and work in book formats.
Thank you so much for everyone who submitted questions!