Interview with Audrey Gatewood

Entering her sophomore year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Audrey Gatewood already has a distinct voice present in her photography. With the majority of her work shot with black and white 35mm film, her photos depict quiet, fleeting moments of the people around her. Gatewood spoke to Cadillac Ranch Dressing about many things including the Baltimore School of the Arts, her valued time working at UMBC's Special Collections, and her love for writing.

We're honored to have Audrey Gatewood featured on CRD!

All photos by Audrey Gatewood
Interview by Josh Sinn

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Where were you born and where do you currently call home?

I was born, raised and currently live in Baltimore, Maryland.

For high school, you went to the Baltimore School for the Arts and focused on the theater production curriculum. What was it like going to BSA?

The power of the school, I think, is in the respect students have for each other. Even if you didn’t like someone personally, you turn to their artwork or see them on stage and can respect them. That's what makes the school unique; that respect that comes from getting to see your peers heartfelt work. There is also a really intense and colorful environment that’s created because everyone is getting to come of age through their art. So it’s interesting, you have all these feelings that are raw and new, and everyone at the school is being taught to channel those into art, together. It is really a great place in my opinion.

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How did photography come about?

The summer before 9th grade I was constantly bored out of my mind. I mean it was painful. I had a camera and had somehow acquired a tripod. So I started taking “conceptual” self portraits. Looking back on them now, oh man, they are awful. Very embarrassing. But I got hooked. That work somehow segued into the work I do now, and here we are.

How long have you been shooting photos now?

I’ve been shooting for maybe four years now.

Arriving at UMBC, you decided to major in interdisciplinary studies, essentially creating your own major of social documentary photography. Why did you choose to go that route rather than the typical photography major?

I wanted to widen the range of my knowledge. This major will require me to take more academic classes than a photography major. For photography, I feel like formal learning will only help me so much. No one needs to push me to do photography, I’ll always be holding my camera and learning through practice this way. The other subjects I want to learn about, I’d like more pushing from a teacher, so I thought the change was for the best.

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Working at UMBC’s Special Collections, you must see quite a lot of impressive work by some of the most renowned photographers of the last century. Who are some of your photographic influences?

Working at special collections has just been excellent, having access to so many different artists work. It feels like some sort of photo-book-playground to me. I’d really like to achieve something that's gentle and timeless like Sally Mann's photos, with the character of Graciela Iturbide's photos and the weight of Sebastiao Salgado’s work. Oh, and the composition of Alex Webb, haha. I have a lot of work to do.

"No one needs to push me to do photography, I’ll always be holding my camera and learning through practice this way."

Much of your work is shot on black and white 35mm. What draws you to it?

I find it takes away the concept of time to some extent.  Black and white film is so classic, it removes the distraction of technology and hones your focus to the content of the photo. Does that make sense? It's just a different aesthetic. There is a certain softness to it that is hard to mimic with digital, mostly in the way the highlights glow. On a separate note, being in the darkroom lets me spend time with my images in a hands-on way, again, something you just don't get with Photoshop.

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Your photos often depict young adults in natural or calm situations: teens laying on the beach, intimate couples, friends relaxing on porches. What attracts you to these moments?

Moments of stillness, clarity, tenderness, so on, are where I find beauty. I find the world so fast-paced, to be able to stop time and make things still for a second is the gift photography gives us. Maybe that's a clichéd statement but I mean it. These pictures aren’t necessarily taken during an overall relaxing day, or even an overall hour, they’re taken during fleeting moments of meditation. Those are the moments I like. I don’t want every moment to be serene or anything, that’d be boring, but I like to try and capture the little hints of a suspended moment or of self reflection in others. 

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Do you ever set out to go shooting or is most of your work shot from your own experiences?

Photography makes me get out and do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Would I usually go with my friends to, for instance, a skate park? No, I don’t skate, but I will definitely go if I can bring my camera. I don’t go out shooting per se, I follow my friends or acquaintances and shoot what they’re doing. So I’m shooting from experience, but it's an experience I may not have had if I didn’t have a camera.

"I find the world so fast-paced, to be able to stop time and make things still for a second is the gift photography gives us."

You’ve also started doing a series of interviews alongside photos of the interviewees. How did this come about?

This just came about from my own curiosity and nosiness, haha. For instance, my friend Lexei recently had a baby. When she was pregnant, I had so many questions about what she was feeling and specifics of her situation. Photography gives me that license to say ‘Hey, can I come take some pictures of you and ask you a thousand questions about yourself,’ you know? I’ve done a few other interviews besides Lexei’s, but I took them off the internet because they were pretty old and I know I can do better. I love interviewing almost as much as taking the pictures. It’s such a privilege to get to have someone open up to you.


Is writing something you’d like to incorporate more with your photography?

Oh, definitely. The context from writing can add so much weight to a series. I’m really looking forward to doing more series with text.

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Any plans in the works for future projects?

Oh yeah, I have a lot going on right now. I’m at a really fun turning point. I just started a great internship with City Paper in Baltimore which is pushing me in ways I really need to be pushed. I have a few series I’m just starting now. I’ll be working with the refugee center doing a photo series, and on the opposite end of the spectrum I’m also working with a snowball stand. Its going to be a transformative summer.

Interview with Megan Lloyd

I first met Megan at a Film in Baltimore meet-up a couple of years ago, joined with a number of other Baltimore film-shooters. I later found out we were actually classmates at the nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Both being photo students there, we got to take part in many work-in-progresses and critiques together so I got to see the amount of thought and feelings behind her work. Seeing her work often encouraged me to put more of myself into my own.

Portrait of Megan Lloyd by Josh Sinn

Portrait of Megan Lloyd by Josh Sinn

We talked with Megan about forming her interest in photography, her feelings reflected in her work, her series on women, and more! We're happy to have Megan Lloyd on Cadillac Ranch Dressing.

Photos by Megan Lloyd
Interview by Josh Sinn

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Where were you born and where do you currently call home?
I was born in Annapolis, MD and grew up in a little town called Mayo. I currently live in Baltimore in the Remington region.

How did you start shooting photos?
It's kind of funny because I remember a day pretty vividly when I was around 7 years old. I thought I wanted to be a bird watcher, so I took my underwater camera outside and took pictures of birds. I'm not sure if I would call that the day I started taking pictures but I always had a camera on me when I was younger. I remember having polaroids and a camera that shot 110 film. 

"I somehow can take an image and portray my feelings. It's really a wild thing."

When I was in High school, I started having interest in black and white photography. My mother took me to Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, MD for a photography class taught by this elderly man that I remember looking like Einstein or Christopher Lloyd from Back To The Future. He was awesome. He gave us all his phone number so we could call him anytime we were out shooting and maybe had a question. I remember seeing him downtown Annapolis helping some students one evening. He was really good at teaching and definitely kicked my interest up a notch. I later went on to taking Photography and Photoshop classes in high school with Mrs. Sears. I may have been into a completely different style of photography at that time, but she really taught me the basics of digital imaging. I then went on to taking classes at Anne Arundel Community College where I was turned back on to film again. Don Kneesi was my instructor. He opened my eyes to photographing light and showed us how to develop and print color prints. It changed my whole outlook on photography. 

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What are some things that influence your work?
I think most people who know me know that emotion highly influences my work. I did my senior project based on depression and loss. I somehow can take an image and portray my feelings. It's really a wild thing. I would say that my daily struggles influence my work too. Struggles such as feeling jealous, diffident, not good enough or hopeless. It's not that I am always down or depressed, don't get me wrong, it's just that when I am, my work thrives the most. I am moved when I feel such strong emotion. I also feel that love influences my work. When I am feeling in love, I think I see things differently. Everything is more beautiful. 

While you do also shoot digitally, most of your work is shot on film. Why do you think film suits certain projects for you?
This is a hard question to answer, I get asked this a lot. There is just something about film, the grain, the time and thought put into each frame. Not that digital photographs can't take time and effort, but it's just different with film. You can only fit so many images on one roll of film, so you think more wisely with what you want to put on it. At least I do. I guess you could say there is a timelessness. There is something special about each individual photograph because you put so much work into them. I don't know, like I said before, there is just something about film.

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A lot of your projects involve a personal journey. How has your photography helped you discover things about yourself?
In my portrait series of women I found myself envying the women I was shooting. I found myself awkward and nervous and shutter-shy. I guess I knew I was those things but it became more evident as I was conducting the shoots. At moments I would feel unsure of myself and others it felt completely natural. When I say I envy the women I was shooting, I mean I looked into each one and their personality and found qualities I wanted to be more strong in, such as being independent, confident, beautiful, and joyful. These are all things I tend to struggle with.

"I feel like having the camera there gave me a purpose."

My senior project helped me get through a break up. Though the break up didn't last for more than a couple months, those months seemed full of the longest days I have ever experienced. To me it feels like that project took a year to complete. It felt like a death had occurred. It was this time last year that I was going through this and most people understand how hard this time of winter is. The gloomy skies and nasty weather really effected me. This journey of overcoming loss flowed over my images. Going from self portraits when I was feeling the lowest to windows beaming of warm light on my better days. 

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Your series on women delves into your relationship with other females, confronting the uncomfortable feelings you found from being around them. How did you go about starting this project?
I guess I dove into this earlier in the interview but I didn't actually talk about how I started it. I think I was assigned a project at UMBC around the same time I was thinking about confronting my anxiety so I chose to confront my anxiety about women. I put myself in situations where I would have to deal with and be okay with conversing and being around them. 

How did most shoots go?
I remember that some of them went really well, where I felt confident as the photographer. There was one where I felt like I was a burden and no one wanted me to take their photo. Another I felt pretty nervous and some photos didn't turn up very well because I was trying to manage the settings too quickly. The images that I took the most time framing and feeling out were the ones that came out the best. 

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What about having the camera there changes the experience with these women?
I feel like having the camera there gave me a purpose. I was there to take pictures of them and they knew it. I didn't have to be funny or fun or interesting, because it was about them, when actually it was all about me. 

What did you ultimately gain from the project?
I think I gained a little more of a push to get out there and take pictures of my friends whenever I want to. I'm still nervous to do it but I have more confidence doing it. It didn't solve my issues with affiliating with women, but it made me more aware of what I needed to overcome.

Do you have any upcoming projects?
To be honest, I don't really have any projects exactly. I have, though, been working on taking photographs at shows/concerts, mostly of my friends bands. It's a subject I used to be really into and have lately been inspired by other photographers to do so. I feel like as soon as it gets warmer out I will most likely feel more inclined to starting some other projects.

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Interview with Steven Brooks

Steven Brooks has been on my radar for a number of years now, with me first stumbling upon his work via Flickr. Looking through his photos, I saw a refreshing depiction of the American West that, for someone living their entire life on the East coast, was very compelling. From roadside attractions to burger joints, foggy farms to motels, Steven creates scenes straight out of a movie, with the main character always being the landscape.

We talked with Steven about his American Pickup series, the "film vs. digital" debate, and the American West, among other things. We're proud to have Steven Brooks on Cadillac Ranch Dressing.

 

All photos by Steven Brooks
Interview by Josh Sinn

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Where were you born and where do you currently live?
I was born in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.  My family moved around a lot within the state and also spent a bit of time in Northern Canada, but I’ve lived in Seattle for over 30 years.

How did you first pick up a camera?
I took my first pictures with my dad’s Konica rangefinder when I was 13.  My parents were always great about encouraging creative pursuits, so when I expressed an interest in photography and asked to borrow my dad’s camera, he gifted it to me and promptly went out to buy the core of the Contax/Zeiss system he still owns and uses today.  

Do you have any formal education in photography?
No, I studied music formally for a few years, but my photography education was acquired here and there, over a long period of time.  My dad and older brother were both interested in photography and there were plenty of books and magazines in my house, many focusing on landscape and wildlife photography.  I often found myself daydreaming in the pages of Arizona Highways magazine.  My first pictures were scenics: landscapes, sunsets, etc.  I also took a lot of portraits of family members.  

We had a darkroom at home and I spent entire days and nights processing and printing, sometimes the hours passing like minutes.  During that phase, I would often argue with my sister for going through the darkroom trash and hanging my rejects on her bedroom wall.  (She didn’t see any difference between the keepers and the rejects.  I swore she was blind.)  By the time I was 15, I had saved enough money to buy a Yashica SLR, which accepted my dad’s Zeiss lenses.  With those lenses and a darkroom at home, the technical learning potential was relatively limitless, but artistic learning and growth came quite a bit later.  Spending so much time in the darkroom, I became obsessed with tones and contrast, but hadn’t yet learned to take interesting pictures.  

In the late 80s, the Lee Friedlander exhibit, Like a One-Eyed Cat, came to the Seattle Art Museum.  Seeing that exhibit was a pivotal experience for me.  It simply changed the way I see, in all aspects of my life, and enabled me to see beauty in far less obvious places.  I spent years experimenting with window reflections, and abstract compositions.  I also started acquiring photography books, now a lifelong habit that needs constant feeding.

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"I’m always looking for redemption and hope in the landscape."

Who are some of your influences in photography or elsewhere?
My photography books are hugely inspirational.  This week, I’m spending a lot of time with three books:  Peter Granser’s Sun City, Alec Soth's Ping Pong Conversations and Vivian Maier’s Out of the Shadows.  The internet is probably my biggest source of inspiration though.  I follow a lot of amazing photographers and photography curators on Tumblr and Flickr.  I bookmark the stuff that inspires me and revisit the sites and images regularly.  There is an astounding number of interesting pictures being made and shared every day.  It’s humbling, to say the least. 

I also find inspiration in paintings, movies, music and fiction.  Sometimes I attempt to illustrate a particular mood that a work from another medium evokes.  Lately, stories by Raymond Carver have had an impact on what catches my eye.

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You have a lot of recurring themes and subjects, one of them being pickup trucks. You eventually organized those photos into a series called American Pickup. What about pickup trucks grabs your attention?
One consistency among my series is that my pictures focus primarily on the American roadside.  Sometimes they are construed as coming from a cynical or ironic point of view—which is only sometimes intentional.  More than anything, I’m always looking for redemption and hope in the landscape.  To me, a pickup truck is the ultimate symbol of American pride and ambition.  Despite the series title and common thread of pickups, I try to make the photos more about the landscape as a whole.  The trucks just happen to be there, but they help complete the scene.  

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You choose to work in both digital and film, but what draws you to film when you do work with it?
The way I use film has certainly evolved over the years as digital technology has improved and certain film emulsions have been discontinued.  I now use film sparingly alongside my digital cameras when I come across something that really excites me and I have time to set up an extra camera.  Many of the pictures in my American Pickup series were shot on Fuji 400H and Kodak Portra 400.  There’s a certain character to the grain structure and color rendering of those films that seems to add a special ingredient to the pictures, making them some of my favorites from the series.  Shooting a medium format film camera without a built-in meter also requires me to take my time.  I find that when I’m shooting rural and small town scenes—where pickups are plentiful—I feel like I can afford to slow down a bit.  That’s often when I reach for my film camera and tuck an extra roll of film into my pocket.  There’s something special about that loud “cluck” of the shutter and advancing the film crank that makes me smile every time, as if the scene were posing for me.  Perhaps it’s nostalgia or romanticism, but certain subjects, scenes and circumstances seem to call for film and I know it the instant I see “the shot”.  

"It’s all pixels on a screen anyway, no matter how they got there."

I think digital and film offer different advantages and I enjoy using them both.  Having a background in film, I’m excited to see younger generations of photographers embracing it.  I can’t help but roll my eyes, however, when I read “digital sucks” comments online.  I Google myself about once a month to see where my photos end up.  A while back, I found one of my pictures on somebody’s Tumblr with a caption saying something like, “You could never do this with digital.”  Funny thing is that it referred to one of my digital photos.  Regardless of that mentality, I have nothing against film-exclusive groups and media.  It’s fun to embrace, share, and “geek out” over a common interest.  Most film photographers I know and follow online agree that the film vs. digital debate is silly.  They use film because they like the process and the result.  No elitism whatsoever.  In the online world, it’s all pixels on a screen anyway, no matter how they got there.

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Your work has a very distinct look, in my opinion. There seems to be a strong focus on elements of the American West, which for many who live elsewhere, can be very iconic or even majestic. Did you consciously set out to depict this “western aesthetic” or did it develop on its own?
In our initial correspondence, you mentioned having a case of western wanderlust and photo envy.  I’ve never thought of my pictures as having a “western aesthetic” but I suppose they must.  Because I live in the West, this landscape is what I know.  I imagine such an aesthetic is most prevalent in my rural pictures and has as much to do with space and light as subject matter.  In rural settings, subjects have some breathing room and it is easier to create a visual rhythm in the compositions.  The light also tends to be very even, which further simplifies a composition.  Unlike many East Coast cities, “the middle of nowhere” is a relatively short drive in any direction out of Seattle.  The iconic, quintessentially American roadside elements are definitely more prevalent in the West and I can’t resist photographing them.  We certainly have some of that in the Northwest, but it’s everywhere in the American Southwest, which is where I long to photograph.  I think we photographers always long to be somewhere else.  Right now, Amarillo, TX beckons me.

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What are your plans for the future? Any upcoming projects or series in the works?
I haven’t been as active this past year or so for several reasons, but I’m hoping to get back in the habit of shooting regularly in the coming months.  I’m becoming increasingly interested in shooting portraits again.  In the rare instance when people appear in my pictures, they usually do so as small figures.   In the next couple of years, I’m hoping to break down whatever wall has been standing in my way.  I feel like most of my series are incomplete and perhaps they’re just missing some faces.  

 

 

To see more of Steven's work, please visit:

http://www.stevenbrooksphoto.com/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/steven-brooks/

http://steven-brooks.tumblr.com/