We are extremely honored to introduce you the new member of the 3rd annual B&W CHILD 2016 PHOTO COMPETITION judging panel – one and only HEATHER EVANS SMITH!
Heather is a master of whimsical imagination and emotional storytelling!
Her work has been featured in solo and joint exhibitions nationwide, magazines, literary journals and online publications. She has been invited as a guest lecturer at colleges, universities and photography conferences such as Australian Exposure in the Gold Coast, Australia.
And she is now one of the judges on 3rd Annual International Photo Contest in B&W Child Photography!
Q: For the beginning, we have to say that we are extremely happy to have you as one of the Judges in The Second Half of B&W CHILD 2016 PHOTO COMPETITION. How are you? How do you feel about the role of a judge on our B&W CHILD 2016?
A: Thank you for having me! I am honored and thrilled to be one of the judges for the competition. It’s a daunting task. There is so much great work out there!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Has art been a part of your life ever since the early age, or you happened to find it later in your life?
A: As an only child I turned to my imagination to entertain myself. I even started conceptual photography at this early age, taking photos of my cats in precarious situations. Looking back, I believe this type of childhood molded my art.
I eventually left my hometown but not the state of North Carolina. I married, had a child, two different careers (first as a graphic designer, followed by photographer) and immersed myself in different types of art over the years. My yearning to create was always there. I just didn’t know what to do with it at times. Classes in b&w darkroom photography ignited my love for the art form. Almost 10 years later I would dive into photography and watch it unfold into another career.
Q: How did living in a rural part of North Carolina influence your work and creativity?
A: The south will always be that third party in my work, in the landscapes as well as the heritage and traditions. It’s familiar and comes naturally.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your photographic career?
A: Believing in myself and giving myself a break. The more successful one becomes, the more pressure one puts on oneself to do bigger and better things. That pressure comes from within. I have learned (and am still learning) to cut myself some slack and work when it feels right to me.
Q: Let’s talk about your ongoing project “Seen not Heard”. Can you tell us more about the urge to express the feeling of motherhood? How did that influence relationship with your daughter?
A: For the past few years I have been creating images to express the emotions of motherhood. My daughter has never been included in those images. But as she has grown from a baby into a force of nature all her own, I was drawn to pull her into my world of conceptual photography and explore our relationship during a time when emotions of love, stress and confusion are high.
Seen Not Heard takes its title from the Old English adage “To Be Seen and Not Heard”, a term often thrown about in reference to the desired behavior of children. These images are silent, but they create a voluble visual narrative on the relationship between parent and child. They explore the cycles that are passed down through generations and the tension between keeping to what is known and forging a newer, and perhaps stronger, path. As strong as the close, forever bond between mother and daughter is, there also exists a distance inherent between two different individuals.
My daughter and I worked on these images for two years. She was a huge collaborator in the project. You can only direct a child so much. Her poses and movements and “mistakes” led to images that were stronger than originally planned. She enjoyed the dress up and play of it all.
Q: Does shooting on emotional level sometimes wear you out? It is constant looking into your soul, and it can easily drain you and make you feel stuck. Have you ever come across that feeling?
A: At times. I envy those who can bring their camera wherever they go and enjoy the process of photography, capturing all that’s around them. Having such a conceptual/emotional focus means that there is so much planning and stars aligning. I would love to be freer with it.
Q: How did you feel about transition from local artist to having been spotted by Italian Vogue, Ron Howard and Australian Exposure Conference?
A: You know, honestly it doesn’t feel any different. It seems different from those on the outside but my daily life hasn’t changed much. I work in my own little bubble balancing projects, motherhood and home life. It’s always surprising when someone meets me that’s familiar with my work.
Q: What is the piece of advice you always give to people when giving a speech?
A: The most amazing opportunities can come from the most ordinary situations. I’ve been disappointed by events that seemed like a sure fire way to success and in the end didn’t work out. The amazing opportunities came through unlikely people. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the connection until several years down the road.
Q: What are the artists that greatly influenced and inspired your work?
A: I’m inspired by the emotional qualities of Francesca Woodman and Sally Mann, the dress, props and sets of Tim Walker and the cinematic feel of Gregory Crewdson. However, it’s not just other artists that inspire me: a song lyric, a vintage item of clothing, an emotion, daily life or an old movie will ignite an idea. I keep my mind open to new ideas and immediately jot them down. Sometimes I will shoot these images right away and at times it may take years for the right timing.
Q: You are one of the few artists that successfully manage to balance between personal and commercial work, what is your perfect formula?
A: I don’t know that I have a perfect formula, but have found that staying true to your style and story will lead you to client work in that same style. If the commercial work is equally engaging and moody then it can be just as satisfying as the personal work.
Q: What is the importance of self-portraits? Do you feel more involved and connected to the final images in which you are the subject, or it is more about the process which is more intimate?
A: I started out shooting self-portraits. Initially, it was convenient. I was always available and knew what I wanted the scene to look like. I found that the result was a deeper emotional connection. Over the past couple of years I’ve moved away from self-portraits. I’ve enjoyed the change from being in front and behind the camera to just behind. I can see the scene as it is playing out and that is satisfying for me. However, I am sure I will make appearances here and there in future work.
Q: How do you constantly keep your creativity flowing, do you sometimes experience a struggle to come up with a new, distinct artistic vision?
A: I have not yet experienced a block in creative ideas, just difficulty finding the time and energy to shoot the ideas. When your child is your subject matter you never want to force the work. During Seen Not Heard we would take several months off at a time. It should never be mandatory for your child to model for you. I spend a lot of time collecting items that will eventually become ideas for new shoots. I keep working on this scavenger hunt of sorts, and when the mood strikes get to work.