Last April I had the good fortune of meeting Heidi Kirkpatrick at Photolucida. I was enchanted by her one of a kind creations and featured her in my column American Connection for Black and White Photography Magazine this past October.
Here’s an excerpt from a chat we had months back.
SUSAN BURNSTINE: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
HEIDI KIRKPATRICK: I was a late bloomer to photography. My father in law bought me a “real” camera in 1992. He said he saw something in my “pictures” he liked. After moving to Portland in 1993, I threw myself into photography. I traded one addiction for another. I took every class I could get my hands on, spent copious amounts of time in the darkroom, I found myself. When the first image came up in the tray, I was hooked.
SB: You live and work in Portland? Are you a full-time photographer? Tell me a bit about your life outside fine art photography.
HK: I am a full time photographer, meaning I practice every day. I teach high school black and white photography at The Northwest Academy. I love to walk, whether it is on the beach in the forest or in my neighborhood. I love to cook and garden, also creative outlets. I have an amazing group of strong women to call friends. I am lucky enough to have the greatest husband in the world, if it wasn’t for his love and support I wouldn’t be answering these questions. I also enjoy being active in the incredible photo community we are so fortunate to have in Portland.
SB: How did this body of work come to life? Did the images come first or the process? Was Specimens first? What are the titles for the other approaches for this work? Are there series titles for other bodies of work? Or do all the works fall under one series? Can you explain your technical approach for each body of work, including the materials that were used.
HK: The first three dimensional pieces I made with family imagery about 10 years ago, mostly my female relatives. I started printing on film instead of paper, I love working with film for its beautiful transparent qualities. I was placing the film positives on the same types of materials I am using in my work today, copper plates, books, blocks and tins. In 2004 I moved away from the appropriated family imagery and began working with my own photographs. The overall title for this photo object work is “Lost and Found”. There are several series under this title; Souvenirs, women cramped in vintage souvenir boxes, Cigarette Butt, an image of a woman’s butt over a myriad of illustrations ranging from flash cards to cook books to music scores and biology books in souvenir cedar ashtrays, all complete with original glass ashtrays and some with lighters or cigarettes, Plates, reminiscent of 19th century tintypes, on copper and brass plates and Specimens, film positives layered over Gray’s Anatomy pages housed in small metal hinged boxes, referencing cased images of the 1800’s.
SB: Can you discuss the selection of images for this body of work and what they mean to you?
HK: I work with my friends and family for my models. A common thread in my work has been the female figure. Most of the images in this series are anonymous and a lot of times I use only part of the body. Hands, lips, the torso and extremities are recurring images in my work. Hands and lips are major sensory parts of the body. Most of my pain is in my back and hips, therefore images of the torso and lower extremities are commonly used.
SB: Can you explain your technical process and also include details pertaining to the found objects you use to create your art?
HK: I’m not a big techie. I don’t have a lot of fancy equipment. All of my work is done in my studio, from shooting to assembly. I process and print all of my own work. I print on film, just like paper, open tray process in my darkroom. I love things, especially old things. I try to breathe new life into these found objects by turning them into playful pieces of art. I mostly work with metal boxes and plates and wood blocks, but nothing is sacred.
SB: What inspired you to dissect a copy of Gray’s Anatomy and layer it under your images?
HK: I have experienced a lot of physical pain in my life. Dissecting Gray’s Anatomy helps me work through that. The pages find their way under those closest to me. The images clothe, bind and wrap the body.
SB: Do you select the pages of Gray’s Anatomy for each image in a random or intentional fashion?
HK: Honestly, a little of both. The pages are selected after the image has been printed. I sit at my work table and “work my puzzle” until I find what works visually for me.
SB: What are you working on now?
I am currently working on Plates, Specimens and Mah Jongg tiles. I have some new negatives to process; we will see what comes next.
To see more of Heidi’s work pop over to her website.