Photographer Interview: Kim Weston

Photographer Interview: Kim Weston

Copyright Kim Weston

Where are you from and where do you live/work now?
I was born in Philadelphia and raised in New York City and I still live between two cities. Now I split myself between New Haven, CT and New York City.

What was your first experience with photography and when did you decide it was a medium that you wanted to engage with artistically?
I was just twelve years old when my mother enrolled me into the Jamaica Art Center in Queens, NY. After taking basic art classes for a year she wanted me to try the photography class. Little did she know she put freedom in my hands when she handed me my first camera. It was a way for me to see outside the world I was born into. The camera gave me a means to discover and understand the life around me.

You’re just about to graduate from the ICP-Bard MFA program. Many artists/photographers battle with the decision to continue their art education. What made your want to pursue an MFA degree?

I had brain surgery 2 ½ years ago when things didn’t go as planned and the doctors had to resuscitate me. It was shortly after my recovery that I made the decision to follow my dream to pursue my MFA in photography. Six months after the surgery I was accepted into the ICP-Bard program. I had come to a place in my life as a working artist where I felt that I just needed more. I wanted to be challenged artistically and academically.

Is there any advice you would give to others thinking about going to graduate school for art?
Do it. Put your ego in your pocket and be open to expand your current ideas and be willing to research and discover new ones. Graduate school is not easy, it challenges all aspects of who you are emotionally and intellectually. It’s an investment in you and in your creative process and practice.

Copyright Kim Weston

Tell us about the title of your show, Seen Unseen. What does it mean?
The title came to me when I tried to explain why I shoot. I’m interested in what we see and what we can’t see and the space in between… When we are put into positions and question if what we are seeing is real.

The photographs you’ve made have an ethereal quality and create a strong sense of atmosphere. Tell us about how you shot these images.
Most of these photographs where shot at Native American powwows or ceremonies. I sit on the ground while shooting so I can feel the drum in my body. It’s important that I’m in sync with everything around me. The music and dancers movements have an emotional affect on my spirit that I can’t explain with words. So I use my camera to capture what I feel when I’m there. I don’t expect people to feel what I feel but these images are a direct result of my spiritual experience.

Copyright Kim Weston

Some of the images in your show are printed on fabric. What was the reason behind this non-traditional photo printing?
The fabric prints allow light and movement to change the state of stillness. The paper print is static. The fabric mimics the flow of a dancer or person during a religious ceremony. It gives motion to the moment that is captured in the images.

How do the sculptural elements of your show relate to the photographic pieces?
The turtles represent Mother Earth, foundation, home, time, fear, courage, endurance, life and possibility. The red bundles stuffed with tobacco are called “tobacco bundles” or “sacs”. Native Americans use these bundles during ceremonies and give them away to show appreciation or gratitude. Good intentions and prayers are said while making these so they can be carried close. These pieces ground the photographs and continue the dialogue about life’s movement.

Copyright Kim Weston

You are also a mother of two. How did/do you manage to do both your artwork and raise children?
I’m not sure how I do it all, I just do. When I look at all I have to get accomplished in a day I get overwhelmed at first, then I make a list and prioritize it. Since the surgery, I have this fire in me to live my life to the best of my ability. I could not have done it alone. I have to say my wife is my biggest fan. She took on the act of being a single mom as I pursued my MFA. She did everything for our family. She allowed me to take as much time as I needed to complete assignments or stay in NYC for as long as I needed.

There were lots of “I’m sorry, I can’t” and then there where the tough moments when I had to choose between my family’s needs and an assignment for school. My seven and eight-year-old children have been patient and supportive of me during the last two years. Taking them to galleries and museums was one of the best ways to kill two birds with one stone and have a good time.

Are there any photographers whose work you can’t live without?
Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and Dawoud Bey. Their images are just as beautiful as they are. I was fortunate enough to meet all three of them when I was younger.

What are three things that sustain your art practice?
Keeping a studio space separate from my home has been essential to my practice. Having that quiet space to read, write and create work without distraction is fundamental when you have kids.

VIDEO: Watch photographer Kim Weston talk about her ICP-Bard MFA thesis work, Seen Unseen.

Dodge & Burn is a blog dedicated to documenting a more inclusive history of photography and supporting the work of photographers of color with photographer interviews.

This blog is published by visual artist and writer, Qiana Mestrich. For regular updates on diversity in photography history, follow Qiana on Twitter @mestrich, Like the Dodge & Burn Blog page on Facebook or subscribe to Dodge & Burn by email.

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