Chiq Clicks welcomes the new year with an exclusive interview with fine art photographer, Qiana Mestrich, who also runs photography blog, Dodge and Burn. With a tagline of Diversity in Photography – Dodge and Burn highlights topics on photography;
…often “dodged” from the art scene and “burned” in art history: photographers of African, Asian, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander and Aleutian heritage, women photographers and works of photography about these and other indigenous communities of the world.
Having interviewed almost 40 photographers for Dodge and Burn, the interviewer now gets interviewed - sharing her inspiration for art and motivation to run the highly acclaimed, Dodge and Burn blog.
1. How would you describe yourself in 1 sentence?
SEO by trade; Photographer by soul; Blogger by night.
2. As someone trained in fine art photography, how do you interpret what is fine art photography?
I consider the camera to be an artistic tool and ultimately fine art photography is the result of the photographer’s intention as an artist. Fine art photographers don’t just take pretty pictures, they’re interested in evoking emotion. Take for example the intimate work of Tracey Baran that elicit both humor and horror or the vast landscapes by Camille Seaman that connect us to the immense power of Nature.
3. What inspires you in creating fine art?
The way natural light falls on people and objects never fails to inspire me. I’m most fascinated by my surroundings so I create fine art to document my own experiences as a human being. Sometimes life moves faster than your mind can process it. Often my photographs reveal (to me) feelings or emotions that I didn’t even realize I had.
4. What gear do you use?
I mostly shoot with the Nikon D200 and my trusty 20mm lens but I’m hoping to upgrade to a full-frame DSLR next year. I’ve also shot with medium format film cameras like an old Yashicamat twin lens reflex and the Kiev 88.
5. What do you think is the biggest challenge in your field of photography?
The lack of affordable higher-education programs is challenge. I think there should be more fine art photography programs on the graduate level where students can find mentors, connect with other photographers, receive constructive criticism and take the time to focus on their artistic vision(s). To that end, last year I did extensive research to find free MFA photography programs in the USA, but we definitely need more.
6. You started Dodge and Burn in 2007, a blog which highlights the work of photographers from minority groups. What inspired you to do that?
From my experience with photography education, there’s been what I call the “canon of photographers” who’ve shaped the history of image making within Western culture. These masters are typically the names you hear in any photography (history) class; names like Stieglitz, Winogrand, Capa, Penn, Adams, Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston… While the work of these photographers impressed me, I always felt there was a voice missing – one that I could personally relate to.
I distinctly remember being in college and during a one-on-one with my professor asking whether or not we were going to study any African-American photographers in class. He quickly suggested I look at the work of Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson on my own but I was always disappointed that we never addressed the work of these women in class.
In 2007, after years of working in web content production I decided to start a blog that would document my own research on photographers of color and diversity issues within the industry. I just created it for my own education and honestly didn’t think anyone else would be interested in the content, but the reaction I’ve gotten tells me that there’s a true need for such a platform.
7. Can you describe the milestones you’ve reached with Dodge and Burn?
With the blog I’ve been able to meet other photographers from around the world and establish new friendships even though I haven’t met most of them in person. I’ve interviewed close to 40 photographers and still going. Photographers that I’ve interviewed have gotten exposure through my blog since my readers comprise of curators, gallery owners/directors, photo editors and other industry professionals.
Photography educators have told me they use the blog as part of their class’ required reading. I’ve been asked to write for photography sites and was recently featured in Wired magazine’s Raw File photography blog in a piece about photobloggers. Most importantly, photographers that I’ve interviewed have been “discovered” and offered opportunities – most recently South African photographer Rushay Booysen was contacted by a gallery in Dubai interested in showing his work.
I am just thrilled that Dodge & Burn can be a place where photographers are discovered and new relationships are formed.
8. What do you hope to achieve with Dodge and Burn?
- To create a space/publication online where I can showcase the work of photographers of color.
- To rewrite photography history and give exposure to those who’ve been left out.
- To inspire up-and-coming photographers.
- To develop the concept of Dodge & Burn into a curriculum that can be taught at the high school, college and graduate levels.
I also have dreams of doing more with the blog like producing video interviews – but after having a baby this year and with a new full-time job, I’m juggling a lot. Stay tuned!
9. What are your 5 tips for female photographers starting out?
- Believe that you are a photographer.
- Shoot everyday.
- Seek a mentor.
- Look at other people’s work, often.
- Fine tune your editing process.
BONUS TIP: Market yourself (use social media!) and develop multiple revenue streams using your photography skills. Don’t just depend on gallery representation or commissions – try selling your work as stock, selling your prints online or at an arts fair, teaching, etc.
These are all seemingly simple things I too struggle with but am determined to constantly challenge myself.
10. Who are the other women photographers who inspire you?
Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti, Elinor Carucci, Carla Williams, Sinden Collier, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Renee Cox, Consuela Kanaga, Diane Arbus, Graciela Iturbide and all the women photographers I’ve interviewed on my blog. Just to name a few…
Check out more great photography news and interviews on Dodge and Burn, and follow Qiana Mestrich on: