No. 137 - Fall 2017 : TRANSITION

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The first Issue from new publisher Douglas Beasley and editor Elizabeth Flinsch, SHOTS 137 marks the beginning of a new chapter in the magazine's history. The new Shots is larger, has eight more pages and is printed on quality paper with high ecological standards. Thank you to everyone who made this transition possible.

Artist Interview: Nancy Rexroth
Emerging Photographer
: Evy Huppert

Cover Photo: Hope Kahn-Hoffman ↪
Main Spread: Leslie J. Yerman ↪
End Photo: Angie Brockey ↪
Back Cover
Tiina Kirik ↪

Elizabeth Bailey
Sarajane Berge
Oksana But ↪
Hilde Carling ↪
Sharon Covert ↪
Ewa Cwikla ↪
Summer Dorr ↪
Gloria Baker Feinstein ↪
Terra Fondriest ↪
Kathryn Fredrick ↪
Maryanne Gobble ↪
J. M. Golding ↪
Paul B. Goode ↪
Rene Humphrey
Andrew Janjigan ↪
Jennifer MacNeill ↪
Marc von Martial ↪
Lisa Mauer Elliott ↪
Rebecca Moseman ↪
Dale Niles ↪
Aphra Pia ↪
Dawn Suratt ↪
Svemart ↪
Tasha Thomas ↪
Jacqueline Walters ↪
Michael Weitzman ↪
Merethe Wessel-Berg ↪
James Wigger ↪
Mandy Williams ↪
Joan Zachary ↪


-Interview by Douglas Beasley

Nancy Rexroth Boys Flying

Boys Flying, Amesville, OH © 1976 Nancy Rexroth

Nancy Rexroth was a natural choice for our first feature interview. Her work embodies the SHOTS aesthetic; dark, meaningful, rich, and spontaneous. As we begin a new phase of SHOTS, we hope to reacquaint our readership with established photographers whose work influences and informs the way we make and see photographs today. Some photographers using plastic cameras today may not know how Nancy’s work in the 1970’s with a Diana camera put toy cameras into the limelight in fine art photography for the first time. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Nancy about her work and her recent second publication of her book, IOWA.

DOUGLAS BEASLEY: What is your background? Where did you learn photography?
NANCY REXROTH: I first learned about fine arts photography from a boyfriend I had in college. He would take me to the school darkroom and show me how to print and such. It was because of him that I decided to take a photography class and right away I was hooked on the whole process of taking and making photo images. Right from the start, I felt that photography was “all mine” and I had a personal license to do whatever I wanted with it, even if I was trespassing on someone’s property, or photographing a stranger on the street.
     In college, I took photojournalism courses, and that got me right away into dealing with photo art in the real world, with real people. In my beginning photo-journalism class, our first assignment was to photograph 3 rolls of film, with 36 exposures each, of strangers on the street…just like that! I am by nature a very shy person, but somehow, I learned that I could easily hide behind my camera, metaphorically, or in reality, and be quite aggressive about getting the best camera shots. It opened up quite a world of possibilities for me artistically, and in my daily life as well. I learned how to do or ask for what I wanted, and how to “push the envelope” as the saying goes, in the world of art. I just needed to unhook some part of me and move on forward. Things in life can be more accessible, if you can take that kind of stance in your life.
     And from that time forward, I shot photographs assertively, and in the photo-journalism style of taking many photographs, moving in fluid ways, in a spontaneous flow of movement. I courted serendipity, and I would get very high when I photographed. I actually would photograph until I was exhausted, and really done with the shoot. It was sort of like going into a store, and looking and assessing everything in the store, on every shelf, and then making one final important selection. I used to tell my students that “Film is Cheap” and to try every angle, and every possibility of dealing with life in front of your camera. And so, when I started using the Diana camera, I already had a spontaneous way of photographing that went very well with the camera’s playful feel.

Why the plastic camera? What was it about the Diana that resonated with your vision?
With the Diana camera, I was able to access a subconscious part of my mind. I was photographing and responding to the Appalachian area of southeastern Ohio, where I was living at the time. There was something there in those sad Ohio railroad towns, a pulse or a feeling, an atmosphere of vibration in the towns of Pomeroy, Ironton, or Nelsonville. I now call this feeling “The Mind of Iowa.” It is a place we all go to, sometime, and we recognize it when we do see it on our arrival. It is a part of the human zeitgeist, and has always been there, morphing away on the dark side of things, sad and joyful, and filled with incredible longing. The soft focus and vignetting of the Diana camera were a perfect fit for this poetic “vision” I was having there in Southeastern Ohio in the early 1970s.

Did you learn with a more traditional camera first and then switch to the Diana?
Yes, for several years, I photographed with a Nikon 35 mm camera, with some sort of wide-angle lens. I really liked its lightweight feel and the fact that the camera didn’t chop off any part of the image. This was important to me, because I was a stickler for good composition. Making interesting compositions was like a fun game that I played, along with the flow and thrust of photographing. I was chasing moments in a dance done on the fly.

Tell me about the power of snapshots. Skill or good fortune?
Well, “snapshots” are made by amateurs, and have much to do with intuition and serendipity. When I started working the Diana camera, there was a new appreciation for the innocent power of snapshots. People would go to thrift shops and yard sales and find these little Brownie camera images, and they really had a wonderful beauty to them. Random things would make for interesting compositions. There might be things unplanned going on, such as a person sticking their hand into the frame of the photograph, or the camera might be off kilter in various sorts of ways. I do love snapshots, but they were not my inspiration. My root for the IOWA work is much darker than that, perhaps even having slight references to the work of Diane Arbus. My Diana photographs have that sort of sad underbelly to them, a longing for things that are gone in life. The landscape of IOWA is one of a grainy black and white winter. There are people and children there, but they are quickly fleeting in movement away from a disappearing picture frame. I quote from the Postscript I wrote for the new IOWA book: “…children all flowing through a backyard of leaves, dried mud with bits of toys and paper ground into it…and there was the winter wind, all around…and the sadness of times dark and wonderful, and never to be again…with children collapsed in exhaustion, piled into a heap of arms and legs…”

Why “IOWA”?
I used the Diana camera for years, not knowing or caring what I was doing with the imagery. I had no idea of a style, or intent in what I was doing. Then I applied for an art grant of money. I realized that I had to name the project I was doing. I decided that the body of work was referential to my summer visits to the family back in Iowa. I named the work IOWA, with the notion that a photograph doesn’t have to necessarily to do with the subject matter at hand.

What can we look forward to in the second publication of your book?
The design of the book is referential to the original IOWA, with washes of faint lavender throughout the writings in the new book. There are now a total of four introductions, and two postscripts in the new book. The introduction by Alec Soth is quite amazing in its comparison of my work with the Bergman film “Wild Strawberries.”
     Anne Tucker has written an essay. Mark Power’s wonderful introduction is also included from the first edition. My original introduction is used, and I wrote a personal postscript as well, in the poetic style of stream of consciousness.
     I have removed 20 photos from the original book and added 23 new ones, unseen before, with an emphasis on photographs of children playing, giving a lighter/deeper feel to the work. And there are also several more images of Emmet Blackburn in the new book. There is now more of a feel of the ‘found’ in the IOWA imagery, with a sense of over-ripeness, as though the atmospheric earth there in the towns of Pomeroy or Gallipolis could produce a sort of a special lonely feel from out of it. IOWA is now its own Country, with its own space in the world of feelings. ■


-Interview by Elizabeth Flinsch

Evy Huppert Remnant

Remnant © Evy Huppert

I first met Evy traveling on a workshop in Ireland with Douglas Beasley in 2016. We were strangers assigned as roommates in a cottage in the small town of Westport on the west coast of Ireland. By day we traveled up and down the coast, making pictures in the soggy Ireland mist. In the evenings we shared images and listened to music in the local pubs. At night we laughed like boarding school roommates at the joys and absurdities of making pictures, and our other misadventures.
     I was intrigued by this witty woman hauling her Hasselblad over pasture fences in the rain, cursing as she changed her film under her raincoat. As I got to know her imagery, I was struck by her vision. Her photographs are spacious, often quiet, inviting the viewer inside a mystery of sorts. Her eager sense of adventure and humility brings a sense of wonder to her work. I developed a great admiration for her.
     Perhaps she is an unexpected choice for our first Emerging Photographer feature. I am proud to feature a mature woman with grown children who is pursuing great pictures with great passion. To me it is a welcome break from the young camera superstars we are shown so often. While much of that work is stunning, I like to be reminded that emergence is not only for the young. Below is a conversation I had with Evy about her work and how she came to photography.

ELIZABETH FLINSCH: When did you start making pictures and why?
EVY HUPPERT: When I turned 9, I was given a Kodak Brownie. At the same time, I started wearing eyeglasses, and I must have been really myopic because I remember being amazed when the green fog in the trees became distinct, individual leaves. I think making images was literally learning how to see. I photographed everything I liked: the boy next door in the slanted evening light with my shadow in the edge, the winter view from my bedroom window of kids making a snowman, patterns of light on the ground, recess life at school, my family and our trips. Through pictures I wanted to keep and share friendships, times of happiness, special places, adventures, love, and humor. As Gordon Parks said, “The camera is my weapon against the things I dislike about the universe and how I show the beautiful things…”

Who or what has most influenced your photography?
As a child, looking through Life magazine every week opened up the world to me through the work of W. Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke- White, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, George Silk, Robert Capa and more. I don’t know that their influence shows in my work, but they influenced my life, my values, and my understanding of what a photograph can be.
     I’ve had no formal art education, but I took a few community photography classes at the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 1970s, which I loved. I had a used Leica M4, and one lens, for equipment, and learned to read light without a meter, develop film and prints, and experimented with gum bichromate, view cameras, and ultra-grainy films. I was introduced to the printed work of Paul Strand, Minor White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Andres Kertescz, Robert Frank, and Emmet Gowan, and I also met Imogen Cunningham in person with a small group of students in her studio, where at 92 she was still working. In these wonderful experiences, I developed an aesthetic of simplicity and authenticity, awareness of the primal importance of light and composition, and had the start of knowing that a great photographer makes images that are about something deeper than just what the eyes can see.

Tell me about your process; why film?
I’m working primarily with a 35-year-old Hasselblad 500CM medium format camera handed down to me by my cousin Nancy at the time I decided to return to film. I spent a few years exploring digital imagemaking when I first got back into photography. Digital was a great learning tool because of its instant feedback, unlimited number of tries and experiments I could make, and because I could process my color photographs late at night at the dining room table, after work and or family needs were done for the day.
     But when I had learned the basics I began to feel there was something missing, and that I wanted to make more personal, emotional, maybe even poetic work. Maybe because I started with little black and white square prints from a Brownie Holiday, or maybe it was the old Life magazine images calling to me, but I just had an urge to go back to film. And I found that both the qualities of film and the square format of the camera have felt rich and inviting to me. I also love the actions of the camera work, the physical loading of film, the turning of the aperture, shutter speed, and focus rings, the reading of a hand-held light meter, the pulling of the dark slide, and the push of the shutter button. I even like that you only get 12 images on a roll of film, which serves to make me more aware that each one counts. These qualities all have slowed me down quite a bit compared to my digital camera work, and the methodical, sometimes meditative requirements of my equipment have been, I think, good for my developing vision. I also do some work in digital and I have the ubiquitous cellphone camera as well.

What is at the heart of a picture you are particularly proud of making? Can you tell the moment you make it that it is going to be successful?
At the core is a moment when someone or something in the outer world is resonating and connecting with something in my inner, personal mythology, where the picture is of one thing and yet again of another. I may not know what that other thing is, precisely, but when it is happening, I do know it intuitively and I experience a kind of certainty of what to do, of fitting the image into my frame the way it needs to be. And if the finished photograph connects you to something personal yet universal —wondering, questioning, feeling, imagining, or remembering something, then that is the kind of success I feel is important.

You became serious about photography at an older age than most. Can you tell us about your journey?
Actually, I was a very serious 9-year-old photographer and my first job after college was in a photo lab contracted to make many, many sets of 24 x 36 inch black and white high gloss prints of the first photos taken by the astronauts of the earth from the moon, for the Library of Congress and other archives. My position was at the end of the line, squeegeeing the prints before they went on the drying racks. I learned a lot from staring at those Hasselblad–made pictures all day every day for 6 months, and perhaps that’s the reason I went back to film and a Hasselblad a few years ago when my cousin offered me her 500CM kit from 1982.
     I went to work in the field of personal growth workshops, nonprofit programs, and later, in higher education. I married and had two wonderful children, who patiently and generously became my photographic subjects. I always had my camera and I was always the one snapping away. But for decades I set aside any thought of going further or deeper with photography. It caught up with me ultimately, this need to be an image maker, and an urgent desire to express myself reawakened as I became single again, an empty nester, and confronted with the long length of the past and the shortness of the coming years.

What does it mean to be emerging as a photographer at this time in your life? Does that have any meaning to you?
It means learning to see all over again. ‘Emerge’ means to come to or bring to the light, and that’s what photographers do. Emergence can occur at any time. I don’t think it is ever too late to become yourself, to work creatively at something you love and to try to honor that by giving it your best. When others see artistic growth in my work, that is a true joy for me, but it is not a necessity. Becoming yourself and expressing your vision—that really does matter. This is a wonderful time of life to emerge. While I regret not recognizing this part of myself at an earlier age, I couldn’t be happier looking ahead at the prospect of spending the rest of my life apprenticed to this compelling craft and art form. ■