Tag Archives: midwest

Featured photographer Rachael Banks

© Rachael Banks, Grady after Benson, 2016

Rachael Banks is a photographer from Louisville, Kentucky, and is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University. In a recent issue of F-Stop Magazine, I was fortunate to interview her and feature her work in the thematic context of animals  – while acknowledging her work focuses primarily on family dynamics, relationships, and nostalgia. She is also especially interested in social subcultures and identity informed by place. Banks’ creates work about her family and the uneasiness of those relationships that are strained but also incredibly involved. The inclusion of numerous pets or animals in her family’s life conveys the importance animals play in our lives as she explores feelings of loss, identity, and meaning in the context of family, love and acceptance. It is immediately apparent that she cares deeply for her family – a tough subject to be subjective with, and also intimately close to. 

 

I am the oldest of three, but more like a mother than a sister.

I constructed a family of siblings, both real and assumed.
‘Between Home and Here’ addresses deeply internalized
guilt and the essence of loved ones.

There is a history of pain and an apparent inwardness in my family.

My brother has a rage inside of him that I know others can see. 

But, I can’t help noticing the way he delicately handles a small rabbit in his arms, gently stroking its ears and shielding its eyes from the fear of the unfamiliar.

I am a witness to their sensitivity and empathy in how they revere animal life, despite human failure.

This is a story about hating and loving where you are from.
It comes from doing anything to go back to a place that you left.

I left my heart in Kentucky and came back to find it.
The photographs are artifacts from my search.

Rachael Banks – ‘Between Home and Here’

Cary Benbow (CB): Your project Between Home and Here explores very powerful tropes of Family and inclusion. Let’s talk about the level of trust and intimacy in your work, and I’d like to ask about the project in terms of portraiture versus straight documentary style photography.

Rachael Banks (RB): While I am extroverted at work (I have to be), I am actually pretty shy and slow in how I go about making work, so it isn’t always as viable for me to photograph strangers. There is definitely a level of intimacy I have to achieve with a person to make work about them extensively. I really like to invest in whoever I am making work about. I go back and forth about my work being more portraiture based vs. documentary. In the beginning, I was interested in the concept of aesthetic beauty and portraiture allowed me to explore that. However, as the work has continued, I’ve thought more about my relationships with people and the place I feel I have in the world. I never considered myself a documentary photographer because I wasn’t sure if photographing my family fit within the scope but as the work expands, I definitely feel like the work is more heavily influenced by documentary photography. Portraiture is something I naturally gravitate towards in respect to my working methodology but my intent goes beyond the mode in which I present my images.

CB: Let’s discuss the role animals play in your work; how much of a role do they play in the lives of your subjects, or in your own life?

RB: I’m not sure if this is a regional or family influence (maybe a little bit of both) but I grew up surrounded by animals. My family members have always had a wide array of pets and my dad lives on a farm. I was definitely raised in an environment that placed a heavy emphasis on respect for animals and to treat pets as family. Because my work is so centrally focused on my relationships with immediate family, it is inevitable that animals become a part of that. Additionally, I see that animals often serve as an extension of the subject I am photographing and that they can help inform the viewer with more insight into the personality traits of the individual. On a personal note, I spend a lot of time driving to make work and I bring my dog Ghost with me as much as possible. If there isn’t an animal in the photograph I’m making, there is most likely one sitting next to me while I’m shooting.

CB: With regard to your earlier statement about your portraits documenting your family, what do you feel are the “obligations” of a photographer, or what obligation do you have to the people, your family, in your photos?

RB: I think it is important to have the ability to stand behind every image that you make. I understand that anything I put out into the world for others to see is coming from my own specific gaze and that I am actively selecting how the subject is framed and presented. I feel that I have a responsibility to myself and others to be able to understand that not everyone will see my images the same way that I do and that I have the ability to contribute (both negatively and positively) to how an individual/region/situation is represented. There is always the possibility that something I make can be misunderstood or that I can even cause harm, so with that in mind, I try to make sure that I don’t share anything that I can’t live with later on in life.

CB: What compels you to make the images you create? Why do you photograph?

RB: My mom photographed my entire childhood – and I mean she photographed everything constantly. While she has never identified as being creative/artistic, I feel that her compulsions have influenced me greatly and my need to document as much of my life/surroundings as possible. I have a lot of anxiety about forgetting defining moments or losing sight of what informs my identity. Photography has always provided a way for me to stay connected to who I am and what matters to me.

CB: Who are your photography inspirations or how to they influence your work?

RB: This is a question where I can go overboard so I will attempt to be as concise as possible. I really love Doug Dubois and the way he documents youth in addition to integrating a graphic novel in his series My Last Day at Seventeen. When I think about the muse in the photograph, I always look at Emmet Gowin; because who wouldn’t want to be loved the way that Edith is? I’m really inspired by Nathan Pearce and the way he photographs his life in the Midwest – he also has an incredible work ethic that always pushes me to be better. Jake Reinhart is another big inspiration for me because of his extensive approach to research and his ability to articulate his work in such a thoughtful way. I am also currently excited about Amy Powell, Caiti Borruso, Susan Worsham, and Dylan Hausthor.

CB: Do you feel there is a significant difference between “documentary” style photography versus “portrait” photography as a label? Or are those labels significant as a category to your work?

RB: I think that there is crossover between portraiture and documentary in my work. In terms of there being a difference, I believe the intent of the photographer is significant in making distinctions between the two. I’ve seen documentary work that is mainly consistent of portraiture so there isn’t much a difference between the two in that situation but I have also seen a lot of portraiture work that is more about visual aesthetics than it is about being documentary. I feel that my work falls in both categories in that I work primarily in portraiture but I am approaching my subject matter as a documentarian. Portraiture is a natural habit for me but I am more interested in the research and document component of making work. I don’t want to be the person that says I don’t fall into a category because I definitely fall into a few! If I had to describe my work in one sentence to a stranger I would summarize it as a documentary approach to family (assumed and biological) portraiture.

CB: Please talk about the role of a photographer as “publisher” and what you think about the recent increased push for photographers to publish photo books and/or zines. I know you are a strong advocate for publishing work.

RB: I am 100% supportive of photographers working in self-publishing and its one of my favorite components of photography. I think there is a lot that self-publishing/zines allow for a photographer in regard to the opportunity for exposure that it provides. While I feel it is still important to show work in galleries, a zine allows a photographer to share work without being weighed down by so many financial burdens. Accessible art is really important to me and I feel that self-publishing allows for photography to be more readily distributed and shared which fosters such a dynamic community that I value being a part of. On another note, I think that there is an over saturation of photobooks in the world right now, but I’m not terribly upset about having more books to collect. If there is a project that isn’t ready to be presented to the work as a traveling solo exhibition or a monograph, it can still be shared/distributed as a zine. Publishing also allows for photographers/viewers to see work as a physical object as opposed to looking at everything through a screen. I definitely appreciate the photograph more as a physical object and publishing encourages this.

 

© Rachael Banks, Ghost in the Snow, 2017
© Rachael Banks, The See Him in You, 2018
© Rachael Banks, Dad Holding Mabel, 2017
© Rachael Banks, In the Garden, 2015
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, Ghost, 2017
© Rachael Banks, My Dream of a White Horse, 2018
© Rachael Banks, Basil, 2015
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, Bo Jackson, 2015
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

Rachael Banks (b. Louisville, KY) is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University and is based in Covington, KY. She received an MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University (Denton, TX). Banks is an avid supporter of self-publishing, accessible art, zines, and collecting. Her work has been shown at The Center for Fine Art Photography, The Kinsey Institute, Black Box Gallery, Darkroom Gallery, and several other institutions. She has also been featured in a number of online photography publications and frequently participates in panel discussions and invited speaker presentations.

To see more work by Rachael Banks, please visit her website at www.rachaelbanksphoto.com


An edited version of this article was first published in F-Stop Magazine in April 2019.

Arthur Fields – Seen and Heard: Evidence of a unique personal experience

Grid of images from ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields is a photographer from Texas, currently living in Vincennes, Indiana where he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Vincennes University.  He currently teaches courses in traditional analog photography as well as digital imaging.  He also serves as the director of VU’s Shircliff Gallery of Art.

Fields’ latest artistic research is based on his love of landscape and self-representation. By compiling imagery from online web searches and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, both virtual and tangible, his work consists of imagery collected through the process of data compiling using hashtags (identity markers). Acting as both curator as well as image-maker he is concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes.

Much of Fields’ recent work involving images and hashtags used on social media platforms (especially Instagram) explore themes of place, sense of self, and inclusion/exclusion; especially in the context of class, race, and culture. His exhibition From Academic to Instagram complied collections of images based around a core group of hashtags. The resulting grid of multiple images from his collection is a manner of both curation and image-making. In his statement for the exhibition, Fields says, “I am concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes. By considering the photograph as data to be sorted, I engage in systems for which modern culture stores and presents images that reflect the pictorial and social relationships connecting the camera, the photographer, and the spectator.”  Fields includes more context for the work by addressing the collective social experience people have by being both producers and consumers of visual media. Fields continues in his statement, “As John Berger writes in his seminal book, Ways of Seeing, ‘Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.’ These sets of images, placed in the IG grid format, represent my view of the genre or a hashtag as it relates to my personal online experience. The amount of feedback or likes I get from IG followers. Why are these images created? Are they actually memories of daily life or is this just the modern way of displaying wealth, class or culture?”

In a collection of related images and posts on Fields’ Instagram feed (@artfields), he uses the hashtag ‘overheard’ to explore themes of inclusion and exclusion, as well as identity and a sense of place and self. The images are part of a larger project, Seen and Heard. When I asked Fields about these images and the themes within, he said the feeling of being an outsider was especially noticeable soon after relocating from his home in Texas. That feeling has subsided with time, but the series of ‘overheard’ tagged images definitely builds off the feeling of being ‘on the outside’ of a conversation, culture or class.

In his project statement for Seen and Heard, Fields states that the project is ultimately “an exploration of a way that memory is influenced in the digital age. Using the senses of sight and sound, I share my daily walk through the world. These routine and sometimes mundane activities such as driving to work, celebrating birthdays and watching nature are activities that represent my life. Through the use of the social network Instagram, these mundane scenes are revisited and carefully edited to portray my public-self. Upon seeing an image, the brain informs us that we have seen or had that experience. By choosing to print specific imagery, I transform it from experience to object which in turn enhances the ability to recall the experience. This work promotes the intuitive recognition of shared experiences. Like the careful construction of the vanishing ‘scrapbook’, I am selecting and constructing the memories for myself and the viewer. Created to trigger both visual and auditory memories, this selection of images and text are randomly chosen to represent my life.”

“Each image is labeled with its associated information, such as location and hashtag,” Fields explains. “The images are also given the bonus of a quote. The added quote represents an overheard comment or audio blurb, heard by the artist within 48 hours of taking the image. By choosing a particular quote with an unrelated image, a connection between the two leads to the generation of a personal narrative. While this work does mirror that deluge of images and audio prevalent in a digital society, it is curated; filtered to make a particular story that serves as evidence of a unique personal experience.” Fields’ work explores his own personal interactions; yet there is a strong supporting level of universal experience through social contexts, identity and memory. 

The collection of images from the Seen and Heard project can be views at Fields’ Instagram feed: @artfields. In connection with this published feature, beginning April 23rd, Fields will be posting work from his project on the Instagram feed for Wobneb Magazine. To see images from this project, please click on the link, and follow @WobnebMag on Instagram to view his work.

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields completed a MFA in Photography at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, and earned a BFA in Digital Imaging and Photography at Washington University in St. Louis.  His prior studies included printmaking and photography at Brookhaven College.  He also is a board member of several photographic arts organizations: Ticka-Arts, The Texas Photographic Society, and the editorial board of YIELD Magazine. He also is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education, where he serves as Student Volunteer Coordinator of the SPE National Conference.

For more information about Arthur Fields, and to see more of his work, please visit his website at http://www.arthurfields.net.

Rust Belt Biennial – Exhibition Call for Entries

RUST BELT BIENNIAL

Wobneb Magazine is a proud supporting sponsor of the 2019 Rust Belt Biennial. An open call for entries has been announced, and full details can be found at https://www.rustbeltbiennial.com/

ABOUT

We are thrilled to introduce the first RUST BELT BIENNIAL, a celebration of photography with work realized throughout the Rust Belt Region in all its manifestations.

This land, its people, the pride and the struggles, the patina of the past and above all, the histories and memories ingrained in the soil across the region. It is time to make new memories and new histories, while revisiting and reevaluating old ones; It is time to start a new dialogue about the state of photography and it’s social, cultural and political effects in our society; it is time to give back to the photographic community but also the region; it is time for you to join us!

For our an inaugural Biennial we are grateful to have Andrew L. Moore as competition juror.

We are honored to collaborate with the Sordoni Gallery at Wilkes University, in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., where the Biennial will be held from August 27th to October 5th of 2019. Additional information regarding dates of the main exhibition with lectures and presentations will be published in the Spring.

The Rust Belt Biennial juried competition is hosted in an agreement between LensCulture and Rust Belt Biennial. By entering this contest you acknowledge you have read the terms and conditions. Once you click the “enter” button, you will be redirected to the LensCulture website so that you can sign up for an account and submit your entry through the online entry portal.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

We are looking for photographic bodies of works that explore the social and cultural realities that represent or make a commentary of this very important region within the American landscape.

Additionally we are looking for both in progress or fully realized photographic work in printed form.

Who is eligible?

Anyone and everyone are welcome to submit work that was created within the Rust Belt Region (New York, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin)

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Click here for a list of FAQs – or visit the website for the exhibition at www.rustbeltbiennial.com

Art Through the Lens 2017 – The Yeiser Art Center | Eliot Dudik – Juror

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Art Through the Lens 2017

Dates: October 14 – November 25, 2017
Reception: Friday October 13th from 5-7pm  

The Yeiser Art Center (YAC) is pleased to be hosting the annual international juried photography arts competition, Art Through the Lens. Originating in 1975 as the Paducah Summer Festival Photo Competition, Paducah Photo has grown from a fledgling contest into an international juried exhibition. Over the past 40 years, this exhibition has become one of the Mid-South’s most prestigious annual photographic events. To honor its history, the exhibition now exists in two parts: the International Show which features the juror’s selection and the Regional Showcase chosen by second juror.

“It was my great pleasure to be this year’s juror for the Art Through the Lens exhibition at the Yeiser Art Center,” said Eliot Dudik. “The first juried exhibition I applied to and was selected for was Paducah Photo 2009, which I believe was the older version of Art Through the Lens, so this exhibition means a lot to me as it was a springboard of sorts for my own work. Jurying an art exhibition is no easy task, especially one with 621 exceptional entries. There were certainly photographs that didn’t ultimately make the cut that I had a very difficult time letting go. Selecting images for an exhibition is by no means black & white. We all have our own tastes and interests. My interests in photography are quite broad, as are my interests in music, film, and literature, which made the selection process for this lens-based art exhibition even more difficult. I do, however, have a tendency toward material and process, experimentation, risk, ideas, nuance, and heart. I believe the selections made for the 2017 Art Through the Lens exhibition carry all of these things, and I hope you’ll enjoy interacting with them as I did.”

This year’s opening reception will be held on Friday October 13th from 5-7pm, and will include light refreshments and the announcement of awards. The reception is free and open to the public. After the reception, there will be a $5 admission to see the exhibition. Proceeds support the Yeiser Art Center’s mission to bring exceptional arts educational programming to Paducah. YAC Members and guests under 13 years of age always enter free of charge. 


Located in downtown Paducah, the Yeiser Art Center is a non-profit visual arts organization celebrating sixty years (1957 – 2017) of serving the community through exhibitions and education throughout the Tri-State Region. The Yeiser Art Center is wheelchair accessible.   

Hours of Operation:
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $5 for non members, YAC members and children under 13 free.
For questions, please email the YAC at office@theyeiser.org or call 270-442-2453.  Visit theyeiser.org for more info on upcoming events.

Interview with photographer Nathan Pearce

nathanpearce2-700x560

Cary Benbow (CB): Can you please explain the idea behind your portfolio images submitted to the Family exhibition in this issue? How do they relate to your other projects, or how is it significantly different?

Nathan Pearce (NP): The photographs of family that I submitted for this issue are all part of my major projects. Mostly my main project Midwest Dirt. Family is important in my life and it’s something that I see as a major theme when I am photographing the Midwest.

CB: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

NP: I love making photographs and zines that include my photographs. It is the most satisfying  and important thing in my life. I am constantly compelled to make images. It’s probably because it is so satisfying and rewarding that I do it so often. I simply love making photographs. I’m not sure what originally compelled me to start but I do remember that it was a really long time ago.

 

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CB: Where do you get the ideas for your personal photography?

NP: Everywhere. I usually shoot in Southern Illinois and the Midwest acts as both the backdrop and subject of my work. Where I am from is very inspiring to me.

CB: What or who are your photography inspirations – and why?

NP: Aside from the inspiration that the Midwest gives me, I often look at the work that my friends are making and at my collection of zines and photobooks. I am often collaborating with friends on projects, and that is pretty inspiring as well. I most often make work with Rachael Banks and also frequently collaborate with Jake Reinhart and Matthew David Crowther. Most of those collaborations involve zines created and are released on Same Coin Press; which is a project I co-founded with Claire Cushing.

 

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CB: How are these images different (or similar) to the majority of work you do?

NP: Much of the work that I submitted for this issue is part of my main project Midwest Dirt. Family plays a big part in my work. Family is one of the main reasons I returned to the Midwest and I explore it a lot in my photographs.

Almost all of the pictures I submitted, with the exception of one or two, are of my own family. Several photos are of my nephew Journey. I have photographed him his entire life. I photographed him when he was less than an hour old, and I photographed him yesterday on his 6th birthday and hundreds of times in between. We even worked on a split zine together recently.

CB: Tell a little more about your project, Midwest Dirt.

NP: In the statement for Midwest Dirt I mention a beauty in having nothing to do. I am often photographing the stillness and the slow pace of life here offers a lot of material and inspiration for photographs. I felt like street photographers in New York often photograph people in a rush on the street, and the constant busy feeling in the city. I try to photograph the opposite here. Midwest Dirt is a project that I started upon returning to the Midwest after years of being away. I photograph the stillness of my native rural Midwest and the restlessness of people in it.

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For more information about Nathan Pearce, and to see more of his work, visit his website – http://www.nathanpearcephoto.com


 

This article was originally published in F-Stop Magazine in June 2016