All posts tagged “Q&A

André Viking Andersen – Alumnus GS 14 – Denmark

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untitled, 2013 by André Viking Andersen

André Viking Andersen – Alumnus GS 14 – Denmark

What have you been doing since graduating from the ICP General Studies in Photography program?
I moved back home to Copenhagen three months ago and have continued working on my projects, while applying for different exhibitions and magazines.

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Untitled, 2014 by André Viking Andersen

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Untitled, 2014 by André Viking Andersen

What impact has the experience of going through the ICP program had on you? 
A huge impact. I learned a lot technically and practically. Most importantly I came closer to finding my own visual language and became clearer in how I want to use the medium. All the great facilities and resources that ICP and New York have to offer also helped broaden my view on art in general. It’s important to know what’s out there and be aware of the different processes in order to find your own ways. Photography is a universal language yet we each interpret it differently – that’s why I believe being in a community where different nationalities and cultures are mixed together is important for any photographer.

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Untitled, 2013 by André Viking Andersen

Is there anything that has surprised you subsequent to graduation?
I graduated from a similar one-year program in Copenhagen a year before going to ICP, but yet again it surprises me how much slower and harder a process it is to make work when you’re not in a school and when you need to do other things to financially support yourself. Though I believe that the slow and more thoughtful process can be very helpful and needed sometimes in order to make strong work.

Your series, Closed Eyes, seems to be a place where the human mind intercepts the natural world. Can you talk a little bit about your interest in this subject and how the project has developed since its inception?
I have a hard time being specific since it’s still ongoing, but I’m interested in how certain ideas are shared throughout different mythologies and various belief systems. Symbols and rituals have long been part of human nature as a bridge to access what our senses cannot. In the series I use both studio work and documentary fieldwork as a personal investigation of the supernatural.
We all at some point in our lives believed in things beyond our senses and some of us still do just more or less than we used to and I think that is interesting.

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Untitled, 2013 by André Viking Andersen

What would you say to people who are thinking about applying to the program?  
The decision is really up to the individual to make. If you decide on applying, my advice is that you should be willing to work hard, take full advantage of all the facilities and keep experimenting. Sometimes when I was struggling, it helped me to remember that I was in a school – in the process of learning. I personally learned a lot from speaking about my own and other people’s work. Discussions and critiques can be really inspiring.
As long as you take your work seriously, I wouldn’t be afraid to do what feels right either–if you feel like painting, then paint.

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Leah Shirley – ICP Staff

For this edition of Staff Q&A, we interviewed Leah Shirley. Although Leah is moving on from her position as the International Student Advisor soon, she has contributed immensely to the Education Office as well as the GS program. Leah, like many of the staff members, is a working artist. After ICP, she will be focusing on her own art projects, and she hopes to remain engaged in the ICP community.

Leah Shirley – ICP Staff

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Tjet, 2012. ©Leah Shirley

Tell us a little bit about your work.
They are made in the color darkroom exclusively. I started it when I was in undergrad for my thesis at Columbia College in Chicago, where I got a BFA in photography. Columbia has a very vigorous program, very technical in that they really stress students going through all the basics and almost emphasizing technique over content, but not all the time. So I had spent multiple years in this program, working with the camera. Because it’s very technical, it could be very assignment-based, and I got to a point where I was pretty frustrated with the act of taking pictures with a camera. I wanted to do something really immediate, not in the sense of that it would be easy or fast, but in the sense of I would be as close to the work as possible—I didn’t want to go through the mechanism.
Luckily Columbia has—as ICP does, a color darkroom, so I went in there which is a place I kind of mythologized myself—it’s a very special place. I wasn’t using negatives, so I only brought the paper, and I was only accompanied by the items in my bag. I decided to strip it down to the basics, so I would start to manipulate the filters, to mix in the color and I started doing very basic photograms. I just wanted lines, so I would get binders and books or paper, dodging tools…whatever, so they started very formal. The older ones have sharper lines, just a formal study of relationships.
As the work progressed and as I got more comfortable in the darkroom, I removed the contact, so I wasn’t laying anything directly onto the paper. The images started to be less like photograms and became something else. I was a lot more interested in the dynamism that could be created between light being expelled from the source and hitting/transferring on to the paper. As the light is exposing the paper, I would interfere with it using my hands or with other objects, to create a really soft shape or line on the paper. Then I moved back and started not exposing the entire paper, working with the negative white space. So this work has always been an investigation in our experience with color in a 2D way.
I’m really fascinated by the ways in which you can push the boundaries of what is a photograph. Because a lot of times, people look at my work, and don’t even know what to make of it, they don’t think it is photography. I tell them: “yeah, it can be a lot of different things, but at the same time, it is, at its core, photography. It is a recording of light.” The series we are talking about is called Lux, the color work that I’ve been doing in the darkroom. I take a lot of inspiration from geological texts, the work is really rooted in the elements. They are being made from light, so I started doing a whole lot of research on geology and heat. It’s about evolution, really.

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Chicago 2/4.1, 2011. ©Leah Shirley

You are also taking photographs of the cologram prints in nature?
That work was done in Los Angeles. In terms of ways to show the work and installation shots, I’ve never thought okay you put it in a frame, put it on a wall, it’s done and it’ll just make sense. That way of presenting photographs is fine of course, but I wanted to find a way to approach the installation where the pieces are activated by how they are being represented. So by physically putting them in nature, surrounded by rocks, dirt, the earth, I felt like that was a way to have them introduce themselves.

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Olympia, 3/24.1, 2011. ©Leah Shirley

What does your work manifest?
It’s a question I’m still trying to answer personally. I don’t really know, but I can tell you what draws me to make the work. I find a basic attraction to the form elements of line, shape, color, how they all relate to each other and how they can evoke meanings or emotions. It’s a very basic investigation but it’s also something that everybody can relate to. Because we all have experiences, we are all informed by those relationships, we all have our own association to colors, we all have our own association to certain shapes. I think it’s something that’s very relatable. Then again, why do I do it? Every time I go back to the darkroom, I leave with more questions. That’s what keeps me doing it. Not because I feel like I’m solving problems. Every time I go back in there, there are new challenges and new revelations. That’s what keeps me fascinated.

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Chicago, 2/4.3, 2011. ©Leah Shirley

This might be the wrong term or an irrelevant question, but do you see what you do as a dying art?
No, I think that’s a relevant question, a lot of people have asked me that. The manner in which I’m working, all arrows point to it not being around forever. Digital is here to stay, I’m sure. I’m just making the work. There’s not a thought at all in my mind about how I have to do this now because I might not be able to in the future. This is what my body and mind and everything is telling me I have to do now and this is the way to do it. I’m going to get as basic as I can with the paper, the chemicals and the light and I’m gonna go to the color darkroom. All digital prints are trying to be an analog print at the end of the day, or surpass it if they can—it’s a reference point. I couldn’t make the work digitally, it would be totally different work.

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Chicago 4/18.2, 2011/2012. ©Leah Shirley

Do you feel working at a place like ICP helps you in your own practice?
For sure. I haven’t even been here that long, but just the mere fact of being around people who are making photographic work. It’s not the fact that people are making photography, it’s that this is an institution that was founded around supporting one expressing themselves, and so that is a really conducive element to absorb personally. The fact that a lot of the staff here make their own work is really exciting and fascinating and it’s really special to be a part of that. One of the greatest luxuries of being a student is that you have a built-in community and you have resources at your disposal. So when you’re not a student anymore, one of the hardest struggles is to maintain a sense of community.
Working at an institution that builds that in is completely amazing. And of course, having access to the color darkroom is also huge. New York is lucky, there’s a color darkroom here at ICP and there are two or three other places. It’s sad, either you find color darkrooms at universities or schools (because they can afford it) or in cities like New York or Los Angeles where there’s a high enough demand. Anywhere else, pretty much in the middle of the country, there’s nothing.

Adhat Campos – Alumnus GS 12 – Mexico

Adhat Campos – Alumnus GS 12 – Mexico

Adhat Campos

What have you been doing since graduating from the General Studies Program?
Besides being a teaching assistant, I immediately started working on photo gigs from Craigslist and the ICP alumni opportunities list to survive. I also met a couple of music photographers at ICP who introduced me to the music scene. I started assisting them at concerts and photo shoots. I also looked for a portrait studio because I was curious about how that business works, and because my final project at ICP was portraiture. So I started assisting at Seliger Studios, and that helped me understand how light can really work to your benefit: it’s your prime material, and its look and style reinforces your conceptual statement. I just started feeling really curious about light, how it works (monetarily, conceptually, psychologically, physically), and how it affects other art disciplines.

Before coming to ICP, I had been working as a still photographer in cinema, and now I’m looking to go back to films and re-establishing connections in the cinematographic world.

What impact has the experience of going through the ICP program had on you?
Besides leaving my house and my anxiety behind? I think these are the first two years of my life when I really just focused on me. It allowed me to see photography with a psychological perspective, and that´s what is most interesting to me about this discipline. The fact that you can show your traumas and desires in two-dimensional form gives you a clue to knowing yourself (and the other lunatics in the room). I got inspired by some of the people that I got to know through ICP: their work and their way of thinking was almost the same as their way of living. It showed me the possibility of the change that can happen when you get out of your family pollution (even if you have the best family ever).

Is there anything that has surprised you subsequent to graduation?
Your life can change with just one email: a few sentences and a little spread of emotions, decently edited in a PDF. Now I understand too what it means when artists try to protect their art photography from assignments. I can see the importance of the blueprint of a conceptual project and how it can have a real impact on a human mind. I couldn´t see it before because I didn´t have an art background and it took me a while to understand this new way of thinking.

What would you say to people contemplating applying to the program?
Everything that you believe about photography, everything that you think that you want it to be, will be slaughtered, and you will have to build it again (like in a good revolution). I remember one day, Darin Mickey said in the color darkroom, “we are very lucky, guys, we are very lucky to be here on a Monday at 10 in the morning, and we are just talking about photography. Not everyone can do that.” The fact that you can show your work every day, and see and hear different opinions about other projects, makes you think twice about what are you doing. It helps give you be more deliberate in establishing a connection, feeling and trying to figure out the best way to tell that special story that you are living.

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Athena Torri – Alumna GS10 – Italy, USA

Athena Torri – Alumna GS 10 – Italy, USA

What have you been doing since graduating from the General Studies Program?
Since my year with the General Studies Program was my Junior year of undergrad at Ringling College of Art and Design, I am currently completing my Senior year, working on my Thesis which is a continuation of the work I began at ICP. I have also been employed through a design firm, photographing for a magazine called Perspectives.

What impact has the experience of going through the ICP program had on you?
The most significant impact came from the people. I left New York City with a huge support group. Not only from the students I shared my year with but also from alumni, faculty and the constant flow of photographers that use the ICP facilities. It was remarkable to be surrounded by people that have a similar passion. It’s a very competitive and fast environment. I think this changed my life significantly and it certainly changed the way I view photography.

Is there anything that has surprised you subsequent to graduation?
Yes. Going in I never thought I would have learned and grown as much as I did in a year. I actually didn’t even realize how much everything changed until it was over. During the year things go really fast and a lot of information is thrown at you. Finally, after a few months of being away it hits you. It is a great feeling.

What would you say to people contemplating applying to the program?
It is a great opportunity for anyone who is serious about photography or art. It is a challenge that will shape you as a photographer and help you expand. I think everyone I shared my year with entered as one person and left as another. It was remarkable to see everyone grow and change into their new identities as photographers.

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Weng San Sit – Alumna GS11 – Singapore

Weng San Sit – Alumna GS 11 – Singapore

What have you been doing since graduating from the General Studies Program?
I have been doing a bunch of freelance gigs, photographing events, retouching and archiving for other artists. At the same time, I am currently doing a residency under the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council: SPARC (Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide). I lead a weekly photography workshop with the seniors, and also collaborate with them on a project. I am also digesting all the things I have learned during my time in ICP, which means looking up artists or reading recommended articles that had been discussed during the program. We covered it all so much that I will probably need many years to fully digest them. The last few months have been spent preparing my MFA applications, and going for interviews.

What impact has the experience of going through the ICP program had on you?
Although I had been taking pictures seriously for quite a while, I went into ICP without an art background, so the experience definitely built a very critical foundation for me. I was especially taken aback by the huge diversity of artists and critical theories I was introduced to. The experience also benefited me by providing the opportunity to vigorously experiment and push the boundaries of my own work.

Is there anything that has surprised you subsequent to graduation?
There is no doubt that there are challenges being out of school, having to find work, making art during this tough economic time, and knowing that there are probably a few thousand others who are in the same position as you. One pleasant surprise though was how much the school’s effort to prepare us for the ‘jungle’ matters, whether you are an artist or a photojournalist. What I found really useful was the Exhibition and Portfolio Review day, not only for the ability to get feedback from a wide range of professionals in the field but the semester long process of editing, printing and discussing the portfolio has made the thoughts and articulation of my work clearer. That made a HUGE difference when I met up with editors, curators and gallerists during and after the program! Another really nice thing was that coming out of the program, we had an amazing group of friends and faculty members who understand what we are going through, constantly encouraging and motivating each other.

What would you say to people contemplating applying to the program?
Go for it! Students from my year came from different backgrounds and are interested in developing a variety of practices. The program offers a wide spectrum of classes, so much so that most of us had to make difficult decisions when choosing classes. As long as you are willing to try out new things, you will get a lot out of the program.

How did completing the GS program prepare you for graduate level study in photography?
The decision to do an MFA came after my graduation from the GS program. I was pleasantly surprised while writing my statement during the application process because I had grown so much as an artist during that one year of the program. I grew not only in technical competency, but also in my ability to engage more clearly and deeply in social commentaries within my own work.

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Noura Al-Salem – Alumna GS10 – USA

Noura Al-Salem – Alumna GS 10 – USA

What have you been doing since graduating from the General Studies Program?
I have been trying to find a good life/work balance and figuring out my own schedule for making art outside of the structure of school. For the most part I freelance several jobs, both photo related and not, as well as apply for grants. I am also planning various projects, both photo and video which I will be working on in the UK and the Middle East over the next few months. Finally, I am creating a portfolio to apply to MFA programs in the coming year.

What impact has the experience of going through the ICP program had on you?
The year at ICP resulted in an intense amount of change and growth in my work, which made me see so clearly the value of struggle while figuring out how to make successful work. Since graduating, this lesson has really impacted my entire life in many ways and definitely for the better. So much that used to seem daunting, whether it be making new work or even learning an instrument, is now something that I am eager to work through to reach the other side. Being at ICP also really re-awakened my enthusiasm for art. Not only for making it, but also viewing and especially discussing it with others. I left the program with a strong group of fellow artists who share my passion for photography and keep me excited about it.

Is there anything that has surprised you subsequent to graduation?
The thing that has been the most surprising since graduating was the discovery of how many new skills I gained while at ICP. Because the program is so intensive, it can be hard to see how much information you are absorbing. Since leaving, more and more situations arise in which I discover that I know something I didn’t even realize I had learned.

What would you say to people contemplating applying to the program?
Do it! It will be a long and arduous year, but at the end the sense of accomplishment is huge. ICP is also a place that welcomes you back year after year and to have a supportive community behind you can sustain you through the most difficult parts of your artistic life going forward – for that reason alone I would recommend it.

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Caius Christoe – Alumnus GS10 – Australia

Caius Christoe – Alumnus GS 10 – Australia

What have you been doing since graduating from the General Studies Program?
I have been interning and working as a freelance fashion photographer. In addition, I have continued working on a fine-art project that looks at how changes in social media are impacting our lives.

What impact has the experience of going through the ICP program had on you?
I think most importantly the ICP program brought me into a broad network of like-minded individuals who are passionate about photography. While you can learn almost everything about photography online these days, it is the feedback, ideas and insight from a large group of peers and the teaching staff that really help one develop as a photographer.

Is there anything that has surprised you subsequent to graduation?
How competitive the industry is and how frequently who you know is more important rather than the quality of ones work. Many industries operate this way and it’s a shame as I see many amazing artists out there who just cannot gain the exposure they deserve.

What would you say to people contemplating applying to the program?
I would encourage people to look into it. As far as programs go it is one of the best. As a results orientated person I am confident that I speak for all ICP graduates when I say that the quality of student work at the end of the program is infinitely better than that produced at the beginning.

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Claudia Sohrens – GS Faculty

Claudia Sohrens – GS Faculty

Describe your teaching philosophy and your reasons for becoming a teacher.
My own experience has taught me the value of combining different practices and techniques with various approaches for interpretation, understanding, and the appreciation of art, design, photography, new media, film, architecture, performance, literature and philosophy-it has prepared me for teaching visual culture in different contexts and from a variety of perspectives.

Recognizing the inherently different learning paths of students and creating an open and dynamic learning environment that will intrigue and challenge both teacher and students is important to me. Diverse methodologies, including gender studies, criticism, critical theory, historicism, are essential to engage the full richness of the subject and will provide students with the opportunity to investigate their work independently in both a cultural and studio context. This will foster change and facilitate a connection between collaborative and personal work and provide the means for contextualizing work in the wider world.

Do you see a relationship between teaching and your own photographic practice?
As artists, we have become simultaneously “the researched” and “the researcher.”
My own work is an investigation of the political, cultural, economic and conceptual implications behind archives and cultural repositories. Teaching in various programs at institutions and universities that represent a diverse range of students, educational goals and outcomes, has helped me develop new and creative approaches to research projects within an arts context. These approaches relate specifically to cross-disciplinary collaborations between artists and image-makers, writers, historians, scholars, and institutions such as libraries, archives, collections and schools.

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Joshua Lutz – GS Faculty

Joshua Lutz – GS Faculty

Describe your teaching philosophy and your reasons for becoming a teacher.
Besides the enormous salary that provides the luxuries in life that only a few top execs in Wall Street are privy to? Well, I would have to say I became a teacher to continue a dialogue about photography that started a long time ago. The core of my teaching philosophy is creating a safe environment for failure to be embraced. Students need to know that the place between something working and not working is often so narrow that the only way to get there may be to go too far. This applies to all aspects of the teaching practice. Simply put: you don’t know something works unless you try. Whether it is taking a concept beyond its scope or printing an image too dark, students need to be inspired and encouraged to know that it is all part of the process.

What is your favorite part about teaching in the General Studies program at ICP?
I know it’s a cliché answer, make fun of it all you want: the students and faculty.

How would you characterize the students here?
It is always hard to sum up a student body to a few sentences because they all come from such a vast range of backgrounds. There is not one way of thinking that prevails throughout the institution. As a whole the vastness does set up for a culture of acceptance and appreciation for each others’ understanding.

How does the GS curriculum differ from that of other photography schools you have either taught at or attended?
In a way, the GS curriculum is a photography immersion. From the day the students get here, the curriculum is intended to build on itself to create a community of artists thinking about photography. I don’t know of any other one-year program that touches so deeply on so many different aspects of photography, from technical skills to philosophical questions about how photographs function.

Do you see a relationship between teaching and your own photographic practice?
Teaching and my own practice are so intertwined that separating the two is no longer feasible. Teaching informs and alters my work in the same way that my work informs and alters my teaching. I change my syllabus every year so that it reflects these ideas, and challenges my own way of thinking about photographs.

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Sean Justice – GS Faculty

Sean Justice – GS Faculty

Describe your teaching philosophy and your reasons for becoming a teacher.
Teaching fascinates me because I’m interested in the learning process; and in fact, learning about teaching especially fascinates me. Engaging and playing with the shape of knowledge—its structure—motivates and draws me to photography, and to photography education. My teaching practice follows from the belief that thoughtful action is the bedrock of art practice, and that thinking thrives with support and challenge. The teacher’s job is to create a richly structured experience that engages a student’s imagination, to coax the student toward active response, and then to get out of the way.

What is your favorite part about teaching in the General Studies program at ICP?
The rapid evolution of the students amazes me. The intensity of the environment makes it necessary to grow fast. The response to that necessity is intoxicating. I love it. It’s exhausting, but wonderful.

How would you characterize the students here?
The students are not always sure what photography holds for them or their future, at least, not at the start. By the end of the year some students have clearly focused on specific goals…and others still have not. These are the folks that most intrigue me. Life is too short for certainties. I like the adventure of not knowing what’s happening next. More so than most programs, I think, a sizable percentage of the GS students understand the appeal of this attitude.

Do you see a relationship between teaching and your own photographic practice?
I want to see my work as an educator integrated with my work an artist, each embedded within the other. I’m interested in conversations that thrive on mutual engagement and subjective response. Words that resonate: dialogue, exploration, skepticism, wonder and play.

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