Photographs by Anna Rotty
Interview via emails, May 2018
Where were you in your life when you began making photographs?
I suppose I got serious about photography my senior year of highschool when I felt the urge to document my friends and family around me. Looking back, I was afraid I would miss them and the scenarios of everyday life changing. I was excited to have a tool for creating reflection and to view things around me in a different way. I loved spending time after school layering negatives and printing in the darkroom.
How has photography played a role in your life, and changed over time?
I value photography’s role in my understanding of the world and in my art making process. Over time I’ve become more interested in breaking the boundaries of what I thought a photograph was and exploring the phases or states a captured image can go through.
In the past few years my intention in capturing an image has transformed a bit. For a while, I was concerned with the moment, or truth. More recently, I am usually shooting a photograph in hopes of collecting something. Later, after some time has passed, I’ll sit with the image as a memory and manipulate or alter it.
How did your process in projects like Take Care and Subject to Change emerge?
This emerged from taking photos of my family around holidays and vacations in our brief moments together. In this work, I photograph in the home, mostly of people sleeping or interacting. I hope to evoke more of a feeling or emotion rather than a clear and sharp image.
With this process I take a photograph and print it in a way that allows it to dissolve and change as it dries. I’m interested in how the paper resists the ink over a long period of time, allowing the image to move and change due to it’s environment, whether that involves my influence or is outside of my control. I think about how the prints change, like memory and perception, from the original moment as time moves on and is retold in our minds.
I hope this allows the viewer to step in and move into another state of consciousness in a way.
Why do you use a camera as opposed to other mediums?
Most of my work deals with time and impermanence. Using the camera as a tool to understand these topics creates a challenge and forces me to find ways of abstracting that moment of truth. I appreciate and understand photography more than any other medium. It’s around us all the time and has such a rich history. It changes so quickly with technology that perhaps that itself is something I’m interested in. Do I hold onto a certain idea, or keep moving forward as the medium changes? Sometimes I branch into installation or mixed media but the camera, and light, is usually involved in some way. Light continues to fascinate me and the camera lends itself to show us something about that. I learn something new with each project.
How does memory fit in here, what compels you to make work about the subject?
Memory and reflection is a big part of my work. As someone who often finds it challenging to live in the present moment, I find myself longing for moments before they are even over; thinking about distance. I’m not sure if this came from making the work, or if the work came from this, but I’ve become aware of how my mind and feelings can change throughout the day. I try to consider and experiment with that as I’m working and see if it withholds my current mind state the next day. Or maybe it changes and surprises me! Not much is ever certain and I’m interested in exploring that concept of interpretive memory.
Who or what is inspiring you in this moment?
I’m inspired by finding connectedness in everyday experience. I moved to San Francisco from Massachusetts five years ago and since then there are large gaps of time between seeing my family. I tend to rely heavily on these moments when we are together, and when we aren’t I’m interested in this blur of space and distance. As far as artists, I’ve been looking at the work of Edvard Munch. There’s a darkness and sincerity in his paintings that I connect with. I love Shizuka Yokomizo and Jessica Todd Harper’s photographic work. Psychological space, loss, and dream states are exciting topics to me. Someone recently introduced me to Gestalt Theory, where the brain creates perceptions based on past experience or visual information. That concept has been buzzing in my practice lately.
What in your personal life is influencing your most recent images?
I’ve been in a phase of nostalgia for a while and am using imagery taken the last few times I’ve been home visiting family. In particular, the women in my life have been very influential in terms of subject matter and as supportive strengths. I want to hold onto these moments of intimacy and belonging. I also react to love versus infatuation and how feelings cycle through us and change.
What interests you about sleep and dream states? What about the concept, literally or metaphorically, reverberates with your worldview?
In moments of sleep or dreaming, we are vulnerable. In this state, we are brought into another space. Lately I’ve been embracing the idea of vulnerability to connect deeper and blur the boundary between self and other. When I photograph sleeping people I become a voyeur in a one sided experience. Still I am an outsider. I’m curious about what walls can dissolve between myself, the subject, and the viewer of the photograph.
As an artist, do you ever feel too “in your head” ? Does your art practice help you to navigate that, does it contribute to overthinking, or does it do both?
It does a bit of both. My practice opens up my mind in many ways because I learn as I am making by letting go of some intention and initial concept as the work evolves. Where overthinking becomes a challenge is when I start to draw meaning from something that the viewer may not connect with. That’s something I continue to work on in my practice. That might mean letting go of what I see and giving that up to someone else. That’s also part of why I love working collaboratively or with materials that change over time. It’s a constant reminder to not get too in my head.