Last spring, I met Andrea Galluzzo at Photolucida and have kept in touch since. Andrea’s solo exhibition “Know Myself in All My Parts” opens this Saturday at Camera Work Gallery in Portland, Oregon. The opening reception is this Thursday, February 23 from 6:30 to 8:30pm The continues until March 23rd and there will be a closing reception on March 22nd from 6:30 to 8:30.
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation that Andrea and I had last week.
SUSAN BURNSTINE: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
ANDREA GALLUZZO: I started photography when I was 20 while getting my BFA in college. I was hooked to the instantaneous quality of photography and the ability to create a scene to photograph, rather than creating straight from my mind on a blank canvas. Ironically, given my current work, the main teacher that I had through my college education preached two things: 1. the quality of a good print (he was a protege of minor white and Ansel Adams, and a firm believer in the zone system) 2. Digital was “the Devil”. Needless to say I kept one belief, and ditched the other.
One of the ways I ditched my inherited preconceptions towards digital photography, and how I grow as an artist, is continually asking if photography still works as my chosen form of expression. After graduating I was still working with my medium format camera that I used through school. I was working on a few projects, but felt unfulfilled about the process. I never really felt the magic of the darkroom. It was always the process of shooting that I loved, but I did want some way to develop the images that I was shooting. I feel like it wasn’t until I embraced the realm of digital photography and it’s boundless realms did I fully feel like this was the medium that I had been looking for to satisfy my creative desires and fulfill what I was trying to say.
SB: Who were some of your early photographic influences and who inspires you now?
AG: I have always loved the human form, so Edward Weston’s nudes was an early favorite, and I also loved artists who captured a certain dark or nontraditional sense of beauty. Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel Peter-Witkin, and Sally Mann all are exquisite photographers that unearth aspects of human nature that are startling and captivating.
The work of Robert Parke-Harrison is a huge inspiration to me, and his ability to tell such complex stories in a single image. I am drawn to the surreal work of Josephine Sacabo and Kamil Vojnar. And, I am not just saying this to suck up, your work Susan, the liminal quality in your pictures continues to inspire me.
SB: What was your personal impetus for creating your body of work Know Myself In All My Parts.
AG: There was a technical force that drove me as well as an emotional response to what was going on in my life that compelled me to create this series. Like I mentioned earlier, before this series I was questioning where I wanted to go with photography or if that was still a medium that worked for me. I had been sketching and painting over my photographs in a journal as a way to loosen up the stifling feeling I was having creatively and it was an outlet to express what I was feeling emotionally at the time as well. With little experience in Photoshop I looked to one of my photos I had taken in the studio of a friend and model and began treating it like I would one of the pages of my journal, drawing and adding layers. The result became the figurehead for this series entitled “I am the Queen of My Life”. This image was the destination that I was longing to get to both conceptually and creatively. It involved a process that was intuitive and painterly, and represented what I wanted in my own life, to be my own authority, to be a Queen. As I continued to experiment I realized that the series was turning into not what it is to be the Queen of ones life but the journey to find that place in oneself. This driving force to create this series started from a place of processing my own personal story, but evolved into a desire to portray the pain struggle, and release that I feel are universally present when we face the challenge to truly be ourselves.
SB: These images have the appearance of charcoal drawings. Can you discuss how you achieve these effects?
AG: Photoshop has been a great program for my work, and allows me to be intuitive and push certain ideas and then pull them back to a place that works. I feel that sometimes the danger of working in Photoshop is getting captivated by all that can be done, and images can become a mess. A technique that I have found that works well is combining textures that I scan or have found on the web with photographs. From there I use a tablet and draw using various brushes. I feel much of the success of my images is achieved through continual experimentation while at the same time keeping my aesthetic standards from traditional photography. To give an idea about how much it takes to get the effect, each image consists of more than 30 different layers.
SB: Is this an ongoing body of work? If so, do you foresee any new directions for this project?
AG: After 3 years I feel like this project is finally complete at 21 images. I feel that all elements of this journey are represented. Now I am working on the best way to get the body of work out there. Shows and individual sales have been great, but there is a certain power when viewing the portfolio as a whole so I am playing with ways to make that available, whether it be a book or a special edition folio.
SB: Your previous bodies of work were straight nudes without any type of post processing manipulations and are vastly different than your newest series. If you could summarize all of your work over the past years in a phrase or in a few words, what would that phrase be?
AG: The power present in our human vulnerability
SB: What are you working on now?
AG: Much of my energy is going towards making little fingers and toes right now: I am almost 6 months pregnant. It is extremely exciting, and terrifying, so much of what I am creating right now also looks to themes of what it is to be born into a human body, what is our connection and process of death, and what is our souls connection to the universe around us. Some of my new work can be seen in the current issue of Diffusion Magazine in their “Muse” feature.
To see more of Andrea’s work, pop over to her website.