A little over a year ago, I was contacted by a photographer from Columbia, Missouri. Anastasia wanted me to be her mentor. I had actually met her when I was in Columbia earlier in 2009 as a guest juror for a photo competition.
I wasn't sure what that might entail, but being someones mentor sounded like an interesting challenge. So I took the job. Turns out Stacie (she prefers that moniker) is an accomplished portrait photographer with her own thriving studio. She has a full understanding of what it takes to light and compose a successful studio and on-location sitting. She does a lot of birth and newborn photos and captivating portraits of kids. You can check out her website here.
Stacie was ready to take her work to another level, though. She wanted to explore more completely the aspects of fine art photography and figure out how to begin assembling a body of work that was more a reflection of her own ideas and sensibilities. She had been taking pictures of her own two children, but hadn't quite figured out how to make those images transcend the usual "family snapshot" to become something more than simply that - family album/scrapbook pictures.
We meet every couple/three months. We email back and forth. We talk about living our lives as photographers, mothers and businesswomen. I suggest books, magazine, websites, blogs, shows to enter, photographers to explore and exhibitions to see. I give homework assignments. Stacie shows me her newest work, and I give a critique. We have developed a nice relationship, and I look forward to her visits. Her work has evolved a lot since we started getting together. I'd like to share some of it with you here.
These represent two different bodies of work. The first is an series of pictures about her children. The second is a body of work she is doing about centenarians. The subject featured here is Lucy, who is 101 years old. The last image recently won a top award in the Julia Margaret Cameron competition.
In Stacie's own words:
"I can remember my parents handing me my very first camera. It was a thin, rectangular Kodak 110 that I was to take with me on my very first solo trip to stay with my grandparents at their home in Georgia. The fact that I remember that moment clearly above so many others in my first 6 or 7 years of life is telling.
I devoured photography. I did everything I could to learn as much as possible about the medium: summer camps, merit badges, classes, anything. I practically lived in the darkroom of my high school and my parents even let me set one up in our basement bathroom. When it came time to pick a college, it was a tough choice between art school and photojournalism. Though I never really wanted to be a journalist, I was too scared to go to art school. So off I went to Mizzou and its famed J-school. It took exactly one semester for me to switch majors from J-school to Human Development and Family Studies.
I sold my camera equipment, pursued a career in early child education, married my partner Linda and we eventually had two beautiful children, Joseph and Isaac. Shortly after Joseph was born we purchased a point and shoot digital camera. Using a camera again reminded me of that long ago love for making images I had abandoned in college and I began entertaining the thought of seriously getting back into photography. Ten years have passed and I now operate a successful portrait studio in Columbia, MO as well as spend time developing my personal bodies of work. Single images from these have been recognized, exhibited and published nationally.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been wandering along the edge of my life for a long time. In July, 2009 I asked Gloria Baker Feinstein to be my mentor and things started to shift. I finally had someone to offer guidance, some critical suggestions and a confidant in my determination to be more present in my work. These images represent two bodies of work that began to unfold after our initial meeting.
As a photographer, I had been using the camera to keep myself separated from my reality instead of present and vulnerable. I began to make a conscious effort to be more present in my work. To let you try to see something of myself instead of me telling you exactly what I want you to see with the most obvious images. It’s been a difficult and intense shift but ultimately it has been the greatest gift."
Being her mentor is a great gig. And you've probably guessed it already: I am learning as much as she is.