SF STUDENT ISSUE: ACADEMY OF ART CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS UC BERKELEY
IN THE MAGAZINE 08
ON THE TOWN
CHECK IT OUT
GRIT AND GLAMOUR
Q&A: SF CAMERAWORKS
Photo by Julia Comita, see more on page 34
ere at Snapixel Magazine our goal is to bring to light new and exhilarating photography. We hope to support those who are just entering the photography industry, truly talented photographers who are looking for a way in. One day in the office, talking amongst my team, I realized how many great photography schools there were in the Bay Area, and how amazing it would be to feature all of the students in those institutions. That’s how this issue was born - the SF/Student issue. Focusing on shools like the Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts, and University of California Berkeley, we have chosen some of the most promising graduating and recently graduated students to present work in this issue. If you’re looking for documentary, fine art, or fashion photography, you’ll find it in this issue. All of our four featured photographers are truly talented women, each representing a different genre of photography. The fact that all of our features this issue are women wasn’t intentional - it just happened. I’m very proud to present these women, being a woman in the arts myself, it is incredibly rewarding to see others who are great at what they do, and who are succeeding. I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I do. And if you love it, make sure to take a look at the events page, where the graduate shows of multiple Bay-Area art schools are listed. Go support these artists in person! I know I will. -Kaitlyn
KAITLYN ELLISON content editor
marketing and advertising director EMILY SANDS art director ADAM OLIVER creative director
JEREMI DICKSON, KELSEY FRAZIER, ALEXANDER HENSON, ROBIN LAM, EMILY SANDS contributing photographers ASHLEY ADAMS, JESSICA CAISSE, JULIA COMITA, GABRIELA HASBUN, GREGORY KAPLOWITZ, RENEE PECK, ESMERALDA RUIZ contributing layout & design KELSEY FRAZIER, ROBIN LAM cover photo by Gabriela Hasbun contents photo by Esmeralda Ruiz back cover photo by Julia Comita
Photo by Renee Peck, see more on page 42
TESSERACT SUN 3 GREGORY KAPLOWITZ HTTP://WWW.GREGORYKAPLOWITZ.COM/
HOME SWEET HOME ESMERALDA RUIZ HTTP://WWW.RUIZPHOTO.COM
PETRIFIED WOOD AND AGATE ASHLEY ADAMS HTTP://WWW.ASHLEYADAMS.COM
ON THE TOWN
CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS BACCALAUREATE EXHIBITION MAY 12 - 17, 2011 Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery 2010
YERBA BUENA CENTER SONG DONG: DAD AND MOM, DON’T WORRY ABOUT US, WE ARE ALL WELL FEBRUARY 26 - JUNE 12, 2011
Michael C. McMillen. Door #4: Ray Cathode’s Garden, 1978-2002. Michael C. McMillen, included in Red Trailer Motel, 2003. Mixed-media. Lent by the artists, courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, California © Michael C. McMillen
Chinese conceptual artist Song Dong is featured at the YBCA right now, showing off a series of works utilizing photography and video projection, as well as assembling an immense installation comprised of over 10,000 items collected over more than 50 years by the artist’s mother. For more information see http://www.ybca.org
CCA will present it’s Baccalaureate Exhibition the best work of CCA’s undergraduate class featuring works in all media from painting, sculpture, photography, media arts, and more. The opening is Thursday May 12th at 6:00 pm, and the location is at their San Francisco campus. For more information, see http://www.cca.edu/ calendar/2011/undergraduate-thesis-and-commencement-exhibitions
OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA MICHAEL C. MCMILLEN: TRAIN OF THOUGHT APRIL 16 - AUGUST 14, 2011
Southern-California-based mixed-media artist Michael C. McMillen’s 40 years of work are represented in Museum MCA’s exhibition. Viewers are invited into a large scale made-up world, evironmental installations dealing with themes of time, change, and illusion. More information at http://museumca.org/exhibit/ michael-c-mcmillen-train-thought
Dancers Cameron Growden and Tegan Schwab, Photo by Margo Moritz
BERKELEY ART MUSEUM INARGUABLY UNCERTAIN: THE 41ST ANNUAL UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY MASTER OF FINE ARTS GRADUATE EXHIBITION MAY 20 - JUNE 26, 2011
In the 41st exhibition by UC Berkeley MFA Students, Corinna Nicole Brewer, Chun-Shan Yi, Narangkar Glover, Plinio Alberto Hernandez, Merav Tzur, Chris E. Vargas, and David Gregory show off their final projects together. Details: http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/ mfa_2011
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL MAY 18 - JUNE 15, 2011
An annual event that honors the arts, this festival strives to celebrate not only internatinal artist, but specifically features local Bay-Area artists as well. There are shows galore - dance, music, opera, performing arts, and theater. Also include in the festivities are lectures, and workshops hosted through the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. So if you want to expand your artistic horizons, check out http://www.sfiaf.org
SAN FRANCISCO ART INSTITUTE 2011 MFA GRADUATE EXHIBITION MAY 14 - MAY 21, 2011
On the 140th anniversary of SFAI, the school is proud to showcase 72 graduating MFA students. Work will include painting, photography, printmaking, film, sculpture, installation, digital media, and performance. On May 12th there will be a Preview Party and cocktail buffet, where guests can observe the works early, and where many of the student artists will be present to discuss their work. So if a couple of drinks and a little bit of art sounds fun to you, this is definitely your event. More information at http://www.sfai.edu/page.aspx?page=290
CHECK IT OUT
COMMON CAMERA PROJECT How did you come up with the idea for this project? While at Berkeley about a year and a half ago, I was working on an entrepreneurship class project where we were asked to pitch an idea that would make $20M in three years. During that painstaking brainstorming process, I became fascinated with social art projects like Post Secret but was frustrated that I couldn't pursue that sort of concept just because it didn't fit nicely into an Excel revenue model. Not exactly sure what initially turned me on to disposable cameras, but I sat on the idea for a few months until some good people helped me realize there was nothing to it but to do it.
Photo by Jennifer Cabugao
Can you tell us a little bit about the title "Common Camera", and how it represents the project? Our cameras are commonly owned. They are constantly passed from person to person, and even after getting one back at the end of the chain we have to give it up in order to develop the pictures. It's as if the camera spends a little time with you, gets a snapshot of your world, and moves on to its next adventure. When you think about it that way, this innocuous disposable camera becomes something like a super nomadic, travel buddy that always seems to know more than you but won't tell you about it. Hell, I'm incredibly jealous of the sights that these seemingly common-place disposable cams will get to see. -The site Kickstarter.com was a huge part of this project, can you tell us about your experience with it? How did you find out about the site and why did you decide to utilize it as the main method of distributing the cameras? Looking back, I really can't think of another fundraising model that would have worked as well. Kickstarter is an awesome crowdfunding platform that's been getting a lot of traction with very large and small projects alike. For something called the "Common Camera Project," it was only fitting that the cams be funded by a community of people. Not only that, it has been an absolute pleasure to start cameras with people who were excited about the project and just seemed to really get what we were trying to do. Personally, I believe that authentic excitement can and will be passed on along with each camera. I think whatever comes back will be in large part thanks to that sort of contagious energy.
KAITLYN ELLISON INTERVIEWS KEVIN HUYNH, RECENT BERKELEY GRAD AND FOUNDER OF COMMON CAMERA PROJECT SENDING OUT HUNDREDS OF DISPOSABLE CAMERAS INTO THE WORLD TO BE PASSED FROM PERSON TO PERSON - IN AN EPIC SEARCH FOR INSPIRATION. It seems like you got to start multiple cameras, so what did you take pictures of? I actually only started Common Cam #001. There's a very important bench to me at Willard Park in Berkeley, CA. Let's just say that bench moved me to start running full blast with the things I'd been passionate about. I've been a different person ever since that silly little bench. How many cameras have you gotten back so far? Have you developed any of the images yet? We actually got our first camera back a few weeks ago fresh from winter in Chicago. We're taking our time to publish the photos because we want to do it right, but I can say the photo of the family pushing the car in the snow is super cute. What is the coolest story you've heard so far from a participant? The last few weeks have been incredibly exciting as cameras have been checked in to places like Kenya, Brazil, Belgium, and Jerusalem. But one story that sticks out came from an email I got a few weeks ago. It was from a father telling me how he was sitting in his living room on a Saturday morning with his big extended family. They were all planning together what pictures they would each take and the logistics to pass one Common Camera among all of them. To think that a simple disposable cam and a labeled cardboard box could help create a memorable experience for a group of people is something that really moves me. Another reminder of why I started the project and why this is the type of stuff I love to do. Have you decided how it's all going to be put together in the end? To be honest, we're still scheming. As far as the presenting the photos online, we're playing around with how to preserve the low-tech charm of the project while taking advantage of what the social web has to offer. A big part is figuring out how to portray the adventures of each camera since there is much more to a Common Cam than just its photos. I mean, even the packages say "Feel free to decorate this box." There's a lot of rich content there and we'd love to tell a good story. Want to follow the project? Head to http://commoncam.org
Photo: Marissa Rocke
What inspired you to create Casa How did you create the aesthetic for your products? Murriguez? Like many other artists and designers, I’ve found tons to inspire me from things that So much inspired me to create Casa are a part of my everyday life. Whether it's the view from my living room window, Murriguez (Casa M for short) – hand- photos taken from a walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland, images that pop up on made housewares with style and con- Google searches for "vintage audio," doodles I make while riding BART, or shadows science. The big leap of faith was leav- casting themselves in interesting ways, these observations and experiences find their ing my day job and going at Casa M way into Casa M's designs. fulltime. That happened about a year and a half ago now, and I am moving Beyond inspiration, the Casa M aesthetic came together as a marriage of several factors. Since I use screen printing to translate my illustrations to textiles, I wanted my forward and never looking back. illustrative style to take advantage of the bold graphic nature of screen printing. Rather When I left my day job in the nonprof- than work in charcoals or pencils to build illustrations with lots of tonality, I use ink it sector to start Casa M, I was ready and paint pens to create bold geometric lines whether I am creating an abstract shape for a change. I had a visual arts and se- (like the octopus flower, an image that is peppered throughout Casa M’s branding) miotics background that was growing or a stylized drawing of an object (like the accordion from Casa M’s old school repeticobwebs; I had a desire to be a deci- tion series). sion-maker in whatever I was doing; I I have a deep love affair with rich vibrant colors and textures. This affinity for color has wanted to make stuff. influenced the bold color palettes that define Casa M products. I am also pretty smitMy original mindset was to create a ten on mid-century modern patterns and the punchy playfulness of pop art. Together, line of t-shirts and tote bags. I spent these preferences have influenced how I pattern images and use accents of color. time developing a body of images and assembled a number of prototypes – The final factor influencing the Casa M aesthetic is environmental and social susmostly t-shirts and tote bags, but also tainability. I repurpose my own scraps from my cutting room floor; I upcycle other a few pillows and tea towels. I orga- business’ leftovers; and I use renewable and organic resources whenever possible. That nized market research focus groups to means I have less control over how much yardage I can get of a particular fabric which talk to potential customers about their results in smaller runs of one-of-a-kind pieces. purchasing habits and to have them evaluate some products and designs. Mix that all together and you get the Casa M aesthetic. The feedback was clear: make a line of Ultimately, I believe you don't have to sacrifice style for environmental and social housewares instead. I did and called it sustainability or vice versa. Casa M delivers modern aesthetics and retro whimsy while Casa Murriguez – handmade house- keeping production focused on sustainability. Eco-conscious design can still be bold, wares with style and conscience. fresh and colorful.
Photo: Marissa Rocke
Photo: Eric Murriguez
This is such a big undertaking - is it just you behind the scenes, or do you have a team to help you?
You're very involved in the community and the local art scene, what do you have coming up?
Thanks for recognizing the huge undertaking of starting a small business, especially an artisan manufacturing endeavor. For the moment, it is indeed just me behind the scenes, which is a total labor of love. I am doing it all – from my hand-drawn illustrations to screen printing to prepping and cutting of fabric to sewing and finishing products to working events. And then I’ve got all the behind-the-scenes stuff I tend to – including shipping orders, searching out retail opportunities, managing the books, updating the website, staying on top of social networking all while keeping on top of the larger strategic planning and visioning of the business.
There is a lot going on with Casa M during the month of May. It’s a really busy month for artisans and makers in general because all the outdoor events and festivals come into full swing since the weather gets warm and sunny.
I don’t see it working this way for ever. It is not sustainable. I see expansion and growth as a necessary step for the success of Casa M and other similar artisan manufacturing businesses. But right now, this is my reality; I love it and I am making it work. I’m learning about my market and what items sell best. And as I gain more insight, I can start outsourcing parts of the business that don’t need me so I can focus on new design and product development. I’m gathering information about local sewing shops in San Francisco that have small minimum orders. I’m looking to find the right local printers who can accommodate large format textile printing. Ideally I’d like to work with other small businesses in the Bay Area, or California at the farthest, to minimize my carbon footprint and to stimulate the local economy. Cultivating a community of like-minded designers and other small business owners is a key component of my business model.
Casa M will start strutting its springtime offerings beginning Sunday, May 1 at the Glen Park Festival in San Francisco’s Glen Park District. I’ll be showcasing lots of Casa M’s newest creations including fresh pillow designs and colors and some newly inspired fabric wall art. Saturday, May 7 you can find Casa M at knit-one-one’s Mother’s Day Craft Sale in Berkeley. It’s a great little shop owned by Sile Convery that offers knitting classes and has monthly craft and art events. She has done a great job at building an awesome community of makers and appreciators of the handmade alike. Friday, May 13 I’ll have Casa M wares at the 5th Annual Oakland Indie Awards. That promises to be a festive evening full of music, global comfort food and lots of Oakland artisans. We’ll be finishing the month big on Saturday, May 21 & Sunday, May 22 at Bazaar Bizarre Maker Faire at the San Mateo County Event Center. It is a truly awesome event advertised as the world’s largest DIY festival. To stay current on all things Casa M, check out the Casa M event page and sign up to receive the Casa M newsletter. Or visit http:// www.casamurriguez.com to sneak a peek at Casa M’s currently featured item.
BY ALEXANDER HENSON 1 DIGITAL HOLGA ULTIMATE KIT FOR NIKON AND CANON We here at Snapixel are pretty vocal proponents of photography being fun. Yes, have your f-stops and focal lengths and exposure compensations where necessary, but have fun too. And Holgas are fun. They’re cheap, they’re plastic, and they’ll give you an absurd amount of cred from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the Mission District in SF, and pretty much anywhere in between. The Digital Holga Ultimate kit is exactly what it sounds like – a Holga lens system for your Nikon or Canon. The main lens has a fixed f/8 aperture and and effective focal length of 60mm. Kit also boasts two additional lenses (wide angle and telephoto) as well as two other lens sets (close up and macro). All this for…wait for it…$71.99. Available now, so move that mouse over quickly to holgadirect.com
1 21 RETROSPECTIVE 5 CAMERA BAG
3 SAMSUNG W200 It was Carl Zeiss himself who once mused that, “Expensive digital cameras and snowboarding don’t mix, bro.” Or maybe it wasn’t the venerable Mr. Zeiss that said that, who knows. What matters is that it’s true. Active lifestyles and outdoor sports can wreak some serious havoc on our newfangled (and probably expensive) equipment. So when it comes to recording video and grabbing a few stills of the family jet-skiing in the Bahamas, Samsung wants you to reach for the W200 instead. It records at full 1080p HD resolution, and is dustproof, waterproof (up to 10 feet) and shock proof (up to 6.5 feet). A five MP CMOS sensor with f/2.2 lens combine with image stabilization and anti-fog coating to make sure you get the perfect shot for that faceplant in the water. The Samsung W200 should available in the U.S. in May for about $159
It’s no real secret that we here at Snapixel are more than a little stoked about Fuji’s new digital rangefinder wunderkind retrocool camera, the X100. The folks at ThinkTank photo recognize that the X100 (and the rest of the digital rangefinder and micro 4/3 segment) is part of a new wave of enthusiasm for the hobby for both ams and pros, and have prepped a series of bags designed to take advantage of those vain enough to care about how dorky the normal black nylon bag can look (and yes, I am guilty of caring). The Retrospective 5 bag looks like an everyday messenger pack, but boasts enough room for a rangefinder or micro 4/3, two lenses, and a smattering of whatever goodies one might need in the field. A DSLR will fit in a pinch, but c’mon. I want to tote my new toys around in style. Available now from thinktankphoto.com for $129
TECH SPOT TECH SPOT
THE LENS PRICE BUBBLE... BURSTING By Jeremi Dickson Just over eight months ago the nifty little Canon Rebel T1i made its way into my hands and I have since taken humble baby steps into the illustrious world of DSLR photography. For the most part, photographers, whether shooting professionally or as a hobby, all reach a point in their snapshot journeys where they can no longer deny that craving for an extra little piece of equipment. It may be completely unnecessary, but we all know that there's just something exhilarating about spending hundreds or (thousands) of dollars for a cylindrical metal canister with a piece of glass stuck to one end. Okay, I understand that it's a little more complicated and a great deal more technical than that, but I stand by my statement. I am currently one of those photographers - ready to take off my kit lens and excited to start the next phase of my lens journey. A good friend of mine suggested the Canon 50mm1.4 lens. It's sharp, small, light, not overly expensive and with a f 1.4, and fast. For any Nikon users this is on par with their 50mm 1.4
lens - highly reviewed and claimed to be an ideal first lens. But as I scrolled through countless websites I grew increasingly overwhelmed by the surge in lens price of late. The original price of the Canon 50mm 1.4 in November of 2010 started at around $330 and is currently raking in between $400-$420 big ones. I decided to put my investigative skills to good use to better understand what was spiking these lens prices over the last six months. For the most part Canon and Nikon lenses are manufactured in Japan. Due to the nature of the US Dollar in recent times, adjustments have been made to match the stronger Japanese Yen. The disaster in Japan has also forced the nation to limited power usage to make up for production losses and machinery to be recalibrated. To add to the growing costs of the lens piece, plastic happens to be a byproduct of窶話lack gold.' We're all familiar with the stuff, more commonly known for its ability to fuel our cars. From the day that the first oil well was drilled in quiet Pennsylvania farm country in 1859, the world
has been depleting its finite endowment of oil. There is no more being produced, period. As with any commodity that is in demand and becomes scarce, it is inevitable that its worth will increase. Thus, the worth of the products in which it is an essential ingredient, will increase. Unfortunately the outlook for the price of DSLR products is grim. So where to next? Do we bite the bullet and purchase, or are there other options out there that could save us money? Personally, I would advise you all to buy while you can, as prices will only continue to skyrocket. On the other hand, you can always ask a friend to borrow their equipment, but we all know there is the off chance that something will go horribly wrong. Depending on the length of your project or what you want to get done, there are many places that do camera gear rentals. The best way to do this is order what you need from a website like www.Lensrentals.com who will ship to most places in the country. But whatever you do, you better do it soon. That gear itch never really goes away.
... Photography by Gabriela Hasbun ... Words By Kelsey Frazier
orn and raised in San Salvador, Gabriela Hasbun was drawn to San Francisco for its beauty and rich history, both features which fit perfectly with her profession: photography. What started out as a hand-me-down gift from her sister in the form of a Canon AE-1 camera at the age of 18 would soon manifest itself into Hasbun’s main career pursuit, following her from San Salvador, to New Orleans, and eventually to San Francisco where she resides today. “I took my first photo class at a university in San Salvador which got me fired up. Later on I transferred to Loyola University in New Orleans and did my work study with the college photographer. By then I knew I couldn’t go work for Maytag upon graduating so I moved to SF to go to photo school.” While attending school at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, Hasbun developed what she classifies as a “fun, colorful, at times quirky” style. Working mainly in editorial photography specializing in environmental portraits, Gabriela finds much of her inspiration by simply paying attention to what surrounds her in “the streets, talking to people, and listening to stories on ‘This American Life’”. These influences are reflected in the subjects she chooses to focus her series on; from the streets in San Francisco, to the modern rodeo, to an editorial story about fat activists in the Bay Area. Hasbun and her camera have captured a little bit of everything. The result? An impressive CV accompanied by a collection of intriguing photos that bring viewers into worlds otherwise unexplored. One series in particular focuses on the infamous Mission Street of San Francisco. “We chose Mission Street because we’re both Hispanic and wanted to learn more about the area’s history. The Mission had become a predominantly Hispanic area in the early 80’s but was rapidly changing once again. Most importantly we really wanted to highlight some of the great, quirky shops that made a home along Mission Street like the ‘S.F. Comic Book Shop’”. But what started out as a proposed collaboration soon turned into an individual pursuit as Gabriela took the reigns and began photographing one business after another. “I took charge and picked my first business to document, Rafael’s Tailoring. One business lead me to the next and little by little I was learning all about the history of the Mission. The result is the brilliant Mission Street series, an inside look at the business that have called Mission Street, San Francisco home for over twenty five years. Nicknamed the “Mission Miracle Mile” after surviving both the 1906 earthquake and World War II, Mission Street “provided a shopping haven for goods and services of high quality” throughout times of hardship. From jewelers, to comics, to florists and food, Mission Street has a little bit of everything. Adding to the importance of Mission Street, is its reputation as a “neighborhood for the immigrant”, boasting a diverse
population of Jewish, Irish, Italian and Hispanic families that work and live in the neighborhood. This diversity is reflected in the individuals captured in Hasbun’s series. To make things even more interesting, many of the businesses photographed for the Mission Street series have since closed down. The shut down of these historic businesses adds a great level of importance to Gabriela’s work, transforming them from mere editorial investigations to important testaments to the past as the city continues to transform and develop in future years. In this way what once started as Gabriela’s own personal investigation of a district closely related to her own roots has now become a time capsule of what once was on Mission Street, San Francisco. The Mission Street series is just one of many interesting projects taken on by Hasbun. Her Polk Street series is a glimpse into the rich history of Polk Street, particularly in connection to gay culture. “I had no idea how important the area had been to economic and political development of the gay scene during the 60’s and 70’s. I only knew that there were a lot of gay and transgender bars in the area. Later on I learned how the area was the first gay cultural hub in it’s heyday. Also, many of the street hustler’s and sex workers from the bustling 60’s & 70’s still reside in the single room occupancy hotels all along Polk street.” A collaboration with journalist Joey Plaster, this series is yet another collection of images, intriguing both visually and narratively. And let us not forget her Fat. Fit. Fabulous! project, a long term venture that examines how women view themselves with an interesting twist, exploring a perspective on weight often ignored: being fat, happy and healthy. “A few years ago, I saw an article in Marie Claire magazine about these Bay area fat activists who were encouraging fat acceptance and loving your body. I soon began researching Fat! So? author Marilyn Wann and a few other local fatty celebs like the Phat Fly Girls and the Padded Lilies. Out of pure coincidence, my then editor, Justin Page, at the East Bay Express called me up to assign me a story about the fat activists in the bay area! The rest is history.” What all of Gabriela Hasbun’s projects have in common is a quirky, unembellished honesty. When asked about what she hopes to accomplish through her photography she responded, “I hope to tell the truth. I hope to share images that tell stories truthfully and honestly, without embellishments. I love photographing people as they are, doing what they love, showing who they are”. It’s this drive for truth in combination with a keen eye and lively spirit that inspires Gabriela and continues to be the foundation for her work. “Inspiration for stories is all around us, you just have to choose a subject matter that inspires you and moves you.” That said, Hasbun’s work serves as a testament to the fact that great photography doesn’t always require great distances, sometimes all you have to do is walk out your front door.
Gabriela Hasbun: Q&A Q: What’s your favorite place in San Francisco & why? A: I would have to say I go down to Pacifica a lot. I love the ocean. I grew up going to the beach and seeing the vastness of the ocean gives me peace. Q: Where did you go to school for photography? A: I attended the Academy of Art University. Q: What’s the creepiest thing you’ve ever done to get a photograph? A: Shoot at Masturbate-a-thon. Q:If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book with you, what would it be & why? A: It would have to be Tender at the Bone. Ruth Riechl is one of the most passionate and funny writers I’ve read. She combines all my passions into one book: autobiography, journalism, romance and food.
Q: Beyond photography, what are your other hobbies? A: I love swimming and floating around in water. Q: What are you vices? A: Swearing. Q: What is one important thing you’ll never forget learning in photography school? How has it helped you (if it has)? A: “Who you know is as important as what you know.” My color teacher, Dan Oshima, worked at the New Lab when I was in school and he knew all the photographers in town. One day he asked me what I wanted to do with mycareer and back then I was really passionate about documentary photography. So he said, ‘you need to go seeEd Kashi.” Long story short, I worked with Ed for over 3 years and learned a lot of the business from him and his wife, Julie Winokur. Through the and Dan Oshima I also met Zana Woods, photo editor at Wired Magazine, who gave me some of my first photo assignments.
To see more of hasbun’s work, check out her website at http://www.gabrielahasbun.com/
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA CAISSE WORDS BY EMILY SANDS Growing up in the 80's and 90's it was not uncommon to see a parent with an oversized camera recorder on their shoulder, capturing their child doing as they saw it, something extraordinary! It is often these recordings that bring families together. These glimpses of your childhood personality are depictions of yourself, a true and honest image of the person you have grown to be, often taking you by surprise and other times a true representation of your grown up self. Whatever these hours and hours of footage mean to you, we all can agree that they are a living memory, a story of one's life. Photographer and artist Jessica Caisse has a similar story to tell of her father capturing her childhood on camera. As Caisse puts it, he was capturing her life story making sure to collect and perserve each significant moment. Caisse took this belief of capturing and collecting and made it her own. Her father was an important influencer when it came to Caisse's work. “ In one of the reels it's Christmas time and he sets up the camera on a tripod
facing my mother, two brothers and himself. Standing in front of the tree he tells them, 'Now we should say something to the future because in 10 or 20 years we'll watch this and see ourselves. What do you want to say to yourself in the future?' I find myself coming from a similar place when I photograph. Not so much as a 'maker' as much as a 'collector'”. This engrained concept to capture and collect rather then to make and create is Caisse's mantra and it reflects in her work one that is filled with organic and natural undertones as well as a feeling of truth and understanding behind her subjects and their lives. Caisse's photography career has taken her on a journey that has lead her to many interesting places and has allowed her to meet people from all walks of life. Her career took a turn when she decided to transfer to California College of the Arts in her second year from a preforming arts school in Boston. She picked up her bags and headed off to CCA without really knowing what she was
getting herself into. She admits that her transition was nothing stellar and in all reality she closed herself off to many of the experiences in her first year at CCA. She finally came to terms with her luck in having found an arts program that allowed her to be creative, with inspiring and an amazing faculty, when she was invited to go out with some classmates for a celebratory drink. She realized in this simple moment that there was a place for her at CCA.“ I can soundly say California College for the Arts was one of the most eye-opening and influential experiences of my whole life, and I'm so glad that fate conspired to bring me there, despite my kicking and screaming on the way. They're an amazing institution and resource. I'm definitely a more interesting, if not better person for it”. In terms of Caisse's work and her belief that she is a collector rather then a creator, she makes it clear that it is important to her to never dictate how a portrait should be created. “I'm not a good enough artists to claim that I could
“THE COMBINATION OF MY NEUROTIC SENTIMENTALITY, MY POOR MEMORY, AND CREATIVE DISPOSITION MADE PHOTOGRAPHY A NATURAL CHOICE FOR ME”
ever dictate that best portrait of a person to themselves; That's more what a director does. I feel the same way about painting; I use watercolors, because I find that the nature of it is so capricious that the most beautiful things that happen are what it does on its own. People can be the same way.” Caisse see's herself as a non-threatening person allowing her subjects to trust her and to feel comfortable enough to show their true colors. This comfort level that strangers feel with Caisse can be seen in her scar series “Palimpsest”. The series shows various people all carrying unique scars on their skin. Each portrait is a story within itself. The viewer feels a sense of who the person is, and what their story might entail with Caisse's natural settings and the obvious comfort the subject exudes to the viewer. Caisse explains that the series “Palimpsest” serves two purposes,“ First to satisfy my own artistic intentions in the project, but second and more importantly it creates a platform for me and a total stranger to connect which allows them the opportunity to give me a very telling and intimate portrait of themselves.” Caisse's photographic process is simple and she never travels anywhere without a camera. She frequently carries around a medium format on her shoulder and only uses a tripod when she absolutely has too. With set up shots she uses a 4X5 and mostly takes her shoots inside people's apartments. Often times
Caisse finds herself having to move furniture and to work in very small and constrained spaces where she is fighting against the wall to try and get the perfect framing. An important aspect of her organic and natural process is that she never uses artificial lighting, just reflectors and windows. “ I like the painterly effect natural light has on the skin”. Her process has also lead her to the meeting of various types of creative people. She has in the passed used word of mouth to gather subjects but also has used the infamous Craigslist to reach out to strangers who may be interested in telling their stories through her camera. In one Craigslist experience, Caisse traveled out to a secluded apple farm where she spent the day following around a young man, tromping through the fields with her camera, talking and listening and discovering a new life to capture and to remember. Although at first this experience was frightening because Caisse was driving alone to meet a complete stranger, it ended up being totally worth it and an experience she will never forget. Caisse's hopes for the future is that she will be able to give back to the community through her artwork. “Images are a universal language, and photography is a uniquely powerful art form in the sense that it is capable of really registering immediate awareness and understanding to the viewer” This notion of giving back to the community and being a vehicle used to deliver truths is a
common thread and link throughout Caisse's work. Whether it is giving her subjects a platform to tell their stories, or the belief that she is not the director but the collector, Caisse's photography offers the viewer a rare insight into an untouched world; where the natural and organic process of capturing a moment in time stands true and can be seen in her series “Palimpsest”. Caisse is excited about the future, to her and to many others in their mid twenties it is filled with the wonders of the unknown while at the same time offering excitement and adventure. “ I think right now is a really strange time to be in one's mid-twenties. The social and economical paradigms are shifting pretty quickly, and it's difficult to find your bearings when everything is shifting underfoot (figuratively and literally). I don't want to jinx it, but I feel pretty optimistic about the things that could happen in the art world with so much pressure and emotion all around”. To end our conversation Caisse asked me if I might know anyone who has a scar that would be willing to be shot on camera. Sadly I could not return this request but if any readers out there no of anyone with a unique and interesting scar, I am sure Caisse would be thrilled! See more of her work and contact information on her website, http://www. jessicacaisse.com/
D R N U A O T I M R A G GL ita
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er back, curved and smooth, is framed elegantly by the V-shaped lines of the black dress. Her train falls softly behind her, forming a halo on the floor. On one side of the room, an old rocking horse with faded and peeling paint contrasts sharply with the intricately patterned, luxurious dress. She peeks hesitantly into the closet with one foot through the door, as if stepping through a portal that will take her into another world; a world full of wonder, excitement, and mystery. Or at least that’s what the photographer leads us to believe. But that is the role of a fashion photographer, to allow us to dream of ball gowns and fairytales—to imagine stepping through the closet door and finding a boudoir filled to the brim with Louboutins, Alexander McQueen dresses, and Gucci bags. Unfortunately for most people, myself included, those dreams are only as real as the magazines that we hold in our hands. The most we have is a fashion spread that we stare hungrily at, vicariously living through the images on the pages. Julia Comita, on the other hand, is close enough to touch and breathe fashion. An aspiring fashion photographer currently interning at Vogue, Comita is one of the rare few who gets direct
contact with the products of fashion. She interprets the designer’s creations with stories that she makes tangible in front of the camera’s eye. One month shy of graduating from the San Francisco Academy of Arts, Comita is on the cusp of diving into an industry known for its backbreaking competition and glamorous lifestyle. Here the giants in the business are superstars, and the rest are left clawing their way up. Yet she has no illusions about her position in the industry. Despite her impressive resume (currently interning for Vogue and lined up to intern with photographer Steven Klein), she describes where she’s at as “the very bottom of the food chain.” After graduation, her work for Klein will be archiving, running errands, and doing anything else the studio needs—unappealing tasks that Comita is willing to sit and deal with “for as long as it takes.” “It’s definitely a difficult industry to sort of tap into,” she admits. “I mean if you really involve yourself in it and you look, you study, you see the images, and you really put the effort out to meet the correct people that can help you shoot the right stuff, then that’s when you kind of get going. It’s just really within the last five months or so that I’ve been able to work with stylists that actually pull good designer pieces that are worth shooting that people will recognize.” Her biggest challenge as a student in San Francisco was finding other young individuals, particularly stylists, who were willing to trade for work and whose aesthetic matched her own. “To get the clothes which are worth photographing you
have to have either really good connections or a very good line of credit,” she explains. “A lot of young stylists trying to get into styling will literally pull clothes from Forever 21 and H&M. That’s a fine starting point if you need to learn how to style, but you can’t—I can’t—shoot that. It looks like garbage. If I had the resources financially to be able to pay people that were good enough to kind of get my [look]book off the ground, then I would’ve. But for a lot of students and young people, myself included, we just don’t have those resources so the best we can do, and all I’ve done, is really put yourself out there and say I’m trying to work, you’re trying to work, let’s help each other.” While much of her work relies on successful collaboration, Comita often struggles with balancing her fine art aesthetic with the demands of the fashion industry, sometimes resulting in a game of tug-ofwar between herself and the stylist. “Most commercial fashion is shot to [just] show the clothes and there’s really nothing else behind it other than a pretty image,” she says. “Because I’m shooting with an artistic intent, the clothes as far as I’m concerned, are just part of the story—they’re not the story. I’m still finding a balance because sometimes I get carried away trying to do this art piece when really I need to be more aware of how the clothes are registering in the shot.” Comita’s personal aesthetic is instantly distinguishable in her photographs. She is playfully gritty and while maintaining dark undertones that are expressed through bold, contrasting colors, and strong, sensual women. “I’m not really into reality. I know that sounds weird but... I like fantasy, let’s put it like that. I try to create images where you might not be able to tie it down to a place or to a here-and-now. It’s a very ‘no place no time’ kind of thrill, imagination oriented without [being] weird and digital art.” For example, Comita’s series of nudes posing with jewelry is just an example of her ability to tap into the emotive potential of simple objects. A spine created by a sculpture student at the Academy [of Arts] serves as an anchor for the pieces of jewelry that she showcases, tied together by a common element—all the pieces were made
from, or resemble, bones. The softness of the nude female body when juxtaposed against the hard, sharp bones that seem to pop out unnaturally from her body is as jarring as it is fascinating. The pieces and the anonymous body together express a feeling of pain and victimization that raises the images above what would merely be an accessories shoot. “The girl who made [the spine sculpture] made it because her mom had a spinal injury when she was young and has been paralyzed her whole life,” Comita explains when I ask what the inspiration was behind that series of photographs. “She had this traumatic event and she created this spine as a result. You know it’s hard core.” “I don’t know how to explain it,” she continues, “but I’ve always been into dark art my whole life. I used to photograph things that were, I wouldn’t say fetish oriented, but more so than anything else. My fine art was on the riskier side of sexuality. [But] that’s my personality reflected on the page. Not that I’m a depressed or morbid person, I’m not. I kind of associate that stuff to commercial and lifestyle. The darker stuff just feels more real, feels more raw. It feels more honest.” Nevertheless, Comita knows that she has a long way to go before reaching the level she strives for. While she continues to work towards improving her artistic expression, she has ultimately realized that fashion photography really is all about the clothes. “Now that it’s been a couple of years that I’ve been shooting fashion, I have a much better idea [of ] why certain pieces photograph better than others and how that shows up in an image. I know what looks cheap and why you don’t want to necessarily shoot that because you’re gonna look like an amateur. One of the biggest critiques from working professionals who have seen my lookbook recently is I need to photograph better clothes because the people in the industry know. They’re not gonna publish it no matter how good the picture is, you know. The clothes have to be good enough.” To see more of Comita’s work, head to http://juliacomita.com/
LIMINALITY PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENEE PECK WORDS BY EMILY SANDS
RENEE PECK took her first photography class in high school, where she learned the basic techniques of composition, the dark room, and that the best way to learn is through trial and error. Part of the last generation who got the chance to begin in analog photography in school, Peck feels a strong connection to the technical and hands-on genre of the photographic art form. “I still cling to my analog cameras and processes, despite the fact that many say it is a dying art. I would just prefer to think of it as endagered.” Peck represents just one of the new waves of analog photography, and it's effect is unmistakable in her work. Her prize series is Liminality, in which she uses exposure and the development process as a creative instrument to turn her simple images into a complex expression of human emotion. Each shot in Liminality was an adventure for Peck. “I was in a very transitional period of a lot of upheaval and change when I created the images in this body of work. My four-year relationship had just ended, and I was battling a bout of depression. I felt like I was in between my comfort zone and the life I had gotten used to, and leaving that to step into something more. I think transitional phases are challenging for most people, so there was a lot of darkness there, but also a lot of excitement and joy at not knowing what may lay ahead.” The photographer was continually dealing with the unknown, and her struggle became an essential part of what makes Liminality so breathtaking. Like the subtitle to one of her images, “self-reflection from the space in-between,” Peck strove to discover the space between who she was, and who she would become. “What happened thematically is really interesting in retrospect. I saw it forming alog the way, but it's clearer with distance. I was working through the process of letting go of ideas I had held onto about myself from childhood, and moving into more independence as my adult self.”
“ IN A WAY I SEE THE WOMAN DEPICTED IN MY IMAGES AS A PERSONA, BUT IT IS ALSO JUST DIFFERENT FACETS OF MYSELF” Peck uses her own body as her tool of expression - not only is she taking the pictures, but she is also the subject within them. “I have always been fascinated with identity, gender, and pyschology. Self-portraiture for me began out of convenience and curiosity, but then it got much deeper. It is about my experience moving through the world, but the emotions I am expressing and the stories they imply are universal.” Personal though her self-portraits generally are, Peck utilizes analogue techniques to universalize her subject. She allows the viewer to perceive as they will by making her character a semi-lucid blur. Location is also an important part of the emotional message of Peck's images. It takes a long time for the photographer to get the perfect shot, so she prefers to shoot in locations where there are few people present. The experience offers Peck the safety of solitude, a place where she feels comfortable releaseing her emotions for the film to see. “When I get to a location, I set my stuff down and just try to get present in the space, noticing what I'm thinking and what emotions are present.” Liminality was a three-and-a-half-year process that grew out of Peck's work towards a degree at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Her hard work paid off when she was awarded first place in the Fine Arts category at AAU's spring show last year, and though Peck has been on hiatus from shooting for the last six months, she feels she is now ready to pick up a camera again in hopes of starting something new. To see “what evolution will be revealed in my onboing self-portraiture” For more of Peck’s work, see http://reneepeck.com/home.html
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
OF SF CAMERAWORK’S FIRST EXPOSURES THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AT FIRST EXPOSURES TELLS EDITOR KAITLYN ELLISON ABOUT THE PROGRAM, MENTORING SAN FRANCISCO YOUTH IN PHOTOGRAPHY. Tell us a little bit about First Exposures - how did it originate? First Exposures was founded in 1993 at the Eye Gallery, which was another non-profit gallery around until 1996. The program was inspired by an exhibition called “Shooting Back” that the Eye Gallery hosted that was from Washington DC and created by a guy named Jim Hubbard. Jim put together a group of photojournalists together with homeless kids. The kids got to use the cameras with the photographers to create their work. One difference that we have is that our students keep their cameras for the duration of the year they are in the program. The “Shooting Back” project was really an amazing look into the lives of these kids and their families. Some local photographers thought why not do that here and First Exposures was born.
provide mentoring for those that could really benefit from it beyond just photography, but in life too.
What is your role in the program - what do you do? My title is Director of Education. It was Education Coordinator but as things have shifted the title shifted. For years my role was doing EVERYTHING which included all the mentor interviews, mentee interviews and applications, planning the classes, final projects, ordering food and supplies. Everything. Luckily, now that we have two classes there are two of us to do that. Kate Gentzke is our Digital Instructor and she absorbs a lot. Basically, I oversee the program and manage most of the mentors and mentees and their needs. I work with some of our fundraising and outreach as well. Most importantly, I try to be sure we are doing the most we can do within the mission of our program, which is to best serve the underserved, to
You were originally a mentor for First Exposures before you became the Program Coordinator - can you tell us about your experience mentoring in the program? I became a mentor after working in the photo industry for many years. i was tired of just doing photography for commerce or myself. I wanted to give back somehow. I had heard about First Exposures and applied to be a part of it, was accepted and began soon after. I was lucky to be matched with a mentee fairly quickly and had a great time working with him. It was a real eye opener when I realized that this isn’t just about photography, but it’s about life. We have the potential to really influence someone and offer guidance and advice for the rest of their lives. I saw that there were some real long term
How are the youths selected for the program? It’s an application process that the kids go through too. The young people come mostly from referrals from shelters, social workers, CASA workers, teachers at some of the local schools, and even through some of the current participants. We meet each applicant and really try to be sure they WANT to be here and can commit to it for the year. Our mentors are volunteers and we want the kids to understand that and that they really have an interest in photography.
bonds being created between the young people and their mentors, amongst the mentees and among the mentors. I feel like I have made some amazing friends through the program and feel fortunate to have seen so many amazing youth pass through and still remain in contact after all this time.
challenging for artists to collaborate, but it can be done. Our partnerships were very different with CJM and 826. CJM worked with us on an exhibition that was based on one they had called Above:: Marcio Ramirez, 18, with his mentor Don Anderson. Marthe “Jewish Identity Are there any stories in partic- cio graduates this year after being with the program since he was 12 Project.” We worked with their staff and ular about the youth particiBelow: Franchesca Hernandez, 17. She’s been in the program since artists to help formupants of the program that stick late and design the she was 11, and graduates this year. She’s going to SF State. out in your mind? entire exhibition. It We have had so many great stowas really great for ries over the years. Since I have everyone to see and been involved we have been learn the process. able to track that all of our stu826 was much more dents that graduated have gone of a direct collaboon to college. I am constantly ration between our impressed and amazed at what young people and our mentees do. I shouldn’t be theirs where they at this point, because it hapworked in teams to pens all the time. One really create final projects cool thing just happened this using image and text year. In February I received an to tell stories. We are email from a woman that was currently partnering a 12 year old student in the with Breast Canprogram in 1993 and had just cer Action network discovered that we were still creating a poster around. She asked if I had any and card campaign idea how to reach her former dealing with the enmentor, and I actually had her email so I put them in touch. vironmental impact on health. They have helped lead workTaneshia, the former mentee, and I has coffee soon after and shops and have been involved in the final process as well. I got to hear her story and now, at 30, she has her own nonprofit that is dedicated to helping young women find financial and life independence. All this was because she remembered what First Exposures did for her so long ago. We had both her and her mentor speak at our benefit last week and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!
Your program pairs up with a lot of other organizations for projects, like The Contemporary Jewish Museum and 826 Valencia. Are there any plans in the works for future partnerships? I really like the idea of collaboration. I think it’s important in life to learn how to work with others. I think it can be
When is your next exhibition? The project with BCA will culminate with an event on June 29 at the Bayview Opera House from 6-8pm. The work will be on display and there will be presentations and open to members of the community at large. This will be a one night event, but hopefully the projects will be used in their campaign.
For more information on First Exposures, see the website at http://www.sfcamerawork.org/education/first_exposures/index.php
Published on May 4, 2011
This issue of Snapixel Magazine focuses on the graduating classes of San Francisco Art Schools. Want to see work from some of the best alum...