Please welcome our week 17 presenter, Bukutgirl, as curated by smoothdude
1) What are you trying to get from your subjects when taking a portrait?
Portrait / candid photography of people is one of my favorite things to do. When I’m shooting someone – if they are aware of it or not (I love to go to street fairs and stand still in one spot for a few hours and just catch what happens around me) – I’m looking for honesty, and clear emotion. That point in the day when a person is not distracted by other thoughts and they are completely within themselves. I think in some cases this is actually easier to do with people who don’t know you’re shooting them vs. planned shoots. If I have a planned shoot with someone I spend a few hours with them beforehand eating something, chatting, having the camera out – shooting them randomly just to get them used to a camera being there. I guess in the end I want the portrait to capture that person as completely as possible as they were in that moment.
2) Can you show us an early of yours that got you really excited about photography?
I was driving back with a friend over thanksgiving weekend from a car race (I went up to photograph the race – classic cars – it was a blast but really cold) it was about 2 am and we were getting back to the car through the parking lot and passed this trucker. I don’t know – it just lit me up.
3) Your photos have a very gritty real quality about them. Do you attribute that to your style, surroundings, your emotion going into a photo?
I moved to Baltimore shortly before getting on flickr and starting to shoot again – besides the very few shots I actually took while in peace corps (maybe 4 rolls in 2 years) I really hadn’t picked up a camera in about 10 years. I was very much alone in this city when I first got here and surprised by the intensity of this place. Baltimore is guts – so many people here don’t even know if they are going to eat that night – or if they’ll have a home next month – it gives the city – and even those of us who are a little more financially secure – a rawness – by living around it all the time. Being a nurse at a local Baltimore hospital influenced this as well – many of my patients were end stage AIDS patients – and it made me so angry at the world – that is a fate no one deserves. I also have had quite a number of major physical problems in the last three years that have at times brought me really down and have made it hard to want to continue to be. A lot of my self portrait work has been about getting some of that out and the war you get into with your own body when it is a constant source of pain. So I guess it’s a bit of everything – the urgent surroundings – the at times desperate nature of life in Baltimore – and my own physical / emotional pain – that pushes me towards gritty.
4) How does Baltimore influence your photography?
This city is fascinating – as I’ve said – it has guts –the fabric of this city is really rich, from the vibrant arts community, to the families that survive and are happy despite all odds to the gruesome realities of some parts of this town, it’s an interesting place to live. When I’m shooting or editing I like to just open up – internally – and feel the city – maybe that sounds really foo-foo but these old buildings and streets have so much energy to them – you can’t help but absorb/channel this place.
5) I found your set of self portraits to be one of the more interesting I've seen on flickr. Talk about this set a little bit.
When I first moved here – and actually for about 2 years – I lived alone and kept really odd hours. I was a full time student and then a nurse working night shift. I ended up doing a lot of self portraiture because there really wasn’t anyone else around when I had time to shoot. As I mentioned the last few years have been hard on me physically and mentally. Between being hit by a car in ’01, having a major medical mishap that left me with permanent nerve damage in my left leg in ’02, two knee surgeries, a nasty cancer scare, heart issues and herniated disks, it’s really been a trial. I haven’t felt very integrated – my body really wasn’t my friend for a long time. Luckily things are calm now and I really don’t have much pain most days. But I really struggled with anger and depression and physical pain there for a while. But shooting myself is also like writing a journal – you catch the good stuff and the bad stuff – I’ve kept a journal since I was little – I guess I just changed media these last few years. On some levels in the past few years I’ve also been learning to accept myself – and exploring what it means to be an adult woman – the consequences and the joys. Much of the work I shot during my first round of school here in Baltimore revolved around my identity crisis of having switched fields (I used to do bench research – and I gave it up to do nursing) and moved across the country away from the landscapes of Oregon I love so much. I had a lot of self doubt about my choices. While I was a nurse I found myself shooting about my interactions with my patients. Who knows, now I work with cockroaches and the elderly so I have no idea what will come out of that!
6) Many Spotlight Seven presenters are either working as photographers or freelancers with aspirations. You're not trying to become a photographer though. Why? And tell us what you are doing.
I have trouble imagining on some levels that my work would be interesting to others. I make images that I like to see – that I haven’t ever seen before. So seriously considering working as a photographer just hasn’t been on my mind. The few times I’ve shot in a semi professional role I have encountered a lot of anxiety – you only really get to shoot once – if I’m shooting for me – no big deal – but if its for someone else it feels like a lot of pressure – so I can’t imagine wanting to do that full time. Instead of a career in photography I’m working on a double masters in occupational and environmental public health nursing ( a masters in nursing and a masters in public health at Johns Hopkins). It’s an upstream approach to preventing downstream health problems by making sure they don’t have an opportunity to get started in the first place. I’m currently working with an elderly / disabled public housing highrise in Baltimore City. The residents and management are working with me on getting a handle on their pest problems (mice and cockroaches) in order to improve the health of the people living and working in the building. We’re using an approach that has worked well in other cities (most notably boston) – it’s an environmental approach – i.e. lowering the carrying capacity of the building for pests via structural and behavioral modifications. The basic idea is to cut pests off from water, food and harborage. It takes a little longer than just going in and spraying down the whole place, but it’s more effective in the long run and doesn’t expose people to the nasty chemicals used in pesticides. A lot of people don’t know that cockroaches aren’t just annoying – they also cause and exacerbate asthma – as do mice. It’s challenging work but I really enjoy it. I’m currently in the process of applying for the PhD program in Public health.
7) If you could photograph one person who would it be?
Patrick White. He’s a noble lit. prize laureate, and his books have informed my thoughts and attitudes since I first encountered them at 18. He’s long dead, but I’ve read everything he’s ever written – and I feel like I have a relationship with him now (I know – crazy) but I would have loved to have been able to sit down and get to know him and try to capture the internal person I got to know through his work – via his exterior existence. If you haven’t heard of him one of his best books is Voss.
8) Show us two photographers on flickr who have inspired you.
This is tough there are sooo many people that I look up to and get inspired by…but if I have to:
Tous les noms sont déjà pris... pfff...'s
Here’s the link to his stream: all_the_names_are_already_taken_pfff/
His work blows me away and makes me strive to get cleaner and heartier.
Another would be: Brett Walker – his street work is unreal. I love the grit and the emotion and the clarity.
9) Tell us something about your favorite portrait we chose for Spotlight Seven.
“My Home in East Baltimore” – this little girl’s older siblings were out working with a friend of mine in a community garden in E. Baltimore. I went out for the day to shoot their activities. This little one – Ochi – is 2 years old and she was so beautiful and fresh and loved by her siblings it was wonderful to see. There was a stray cat that kept going in her yard – that she could see from the garden and she kept saying, “Get outta mah yard!” it was really funny – but really stark at the same time. This is a shot with her older sister behind her, in front of their house. The zipcode they live in has a higher murder rate than certain areas of Iraq right now. These kids are full of so much potential, its hard for me to think about all the things that will come at them as they try to grow up. At least Ochi has a loving family and knows how to chase away the strays.
10) Show us a photo on flickr you wish you took.
The 10 chosen photos: