“I wake up in the early morning, middle of the night, with art dreams.”
S. Gayle Stevens (born 1955) is a photographer working with traditional photographic processes.
She studied photography at “School of the Art Institute of Chicago” and is currently based in Downers Grove, Illinois, USA.
Interview with S. Gayle Stevens
S. Gayle, why did you become a photographer? And what does photography mean to you?
Hmmmm, I couldn’t draw. (laughs)
I was playing around with a lot of different media and I felt I could study photography forever and there would always be something new or something old to learn. It is my voice, at this point. But I am an artist not a photographer per se.
Why are you particularly intrigued by traditional analog and alternative photographic processes?
“Most of life goes speeding by, sometimes slow and quiet is good.”
I like the hands on aspect, the slowness. I am a big hands on person. I like to garden, bake bread, make soup, pour plates. Most of life goes speeding by, sometimes slow and quiet is good.
A photographer has many “tools” at hand to bring across his message: lenses, lighting, framing, color treatment etc. Can you elaborate a little bit on the techniques you used for this particular project in order to link form and content?
Actually I pick the camera or no camera depending on the idea or story I want to express. A great many of my self-portraits are handheld with a Holga. The Holga is lightweight, medium format camera so I can make creative, intimate images. My photograms, cameraless photography are shadows of what once was.
In other words: How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
I am intuitive. I don’t set out to find a project or design a project to work on. Generally, I just start finding or collecting objects or things just find me and intuition clicks in and…
Art dreams. I wake up in the early morning, middle of the night, with art dreams.
Some times I seek out more information on the things I find ideas that come to me and other times I just go down to the darkroom and muck about. I have about 3 or 4 projects going at a time with a couple of burning in my brain, lol. Basically it’s a mess, lol. Once someone told me I work more like an outsider artist and that is probably true.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at you photos?
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Sigmar Polke but he is an artist who worked in various media. He was very interested in alchemy. I respect his diversity as an artist and his “breaking” of rules. I like to push boundaries; I don’t like rules or being told I can’t do something especially without an explanation.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
“It takes work to get to the simplicity. “
She is a chef and cookbook author.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
Well I have quite a few cameras but at the moment I am working with my Holgas and pinhole cameras. I have a series of work Nocturnes with Judy Sherrod and we use a 20” by 20” pinhole camera that Judy built.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Lenscratch, Aline Smithson is amazing! LensCulture is great.
What book about photography would you recommend?
I am spending a lot of time with the following:
Sigmar Polke “Photoworks: When Pictures Vanish”
Etienne-Jules Marey “A Passion for the Trace”
The Breathless Zoo Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing
Errol Morris “Seeing is Believing”
These all make me think, expand, in different ways.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get started with photography?
Create your own personal style. Imitation is fine when you first start out but to be successful you must create a signature style. If you are passionate about the medium you will be successful.