Hello, friends – it is so good to be here at Viewfinders today for my quarterly post! Since the last time I was here, I have been working on a collaboration with my husband, Evan. Some of you are familiar with his photography, and will know that he and I have been casually collaborating for several years now, but when I finished grad school in May, we decided to create more cohesive body of work together.
While Evan and I have mostly collaborated on photographs in the past, our current work is a combination of photography, text, audio and three-dimensional objects. We will be posting to our blog, Eroding Veil, weekly with a new piece, along with thoughts and musings.
The inspiration for this series comes from our experiences living in the southeastern United States. The work is our reaction to our surroundings, and an attempt to present a parallel narrative for a region which differs from what has been written in history books. While the work centers around the region known as “the South,” it is also an examination of the human experience.
Since this work is in its beginning stages, we decided it might be beneficial (it was, in the end!) to interview each other about our process, and our feelings about this new experience. Below you will learn a little bit more about the series, our backgrounds, and what it is like to collaborate with your spouse!
Q – Anna: You have a background in archaeology. How has your experience in archaeology shaped your work as an artist?
A – Evan: Since childhood, I have been drawn to history. It started with a fascination with the American Civil War, spurred on by Ken Burns’ documentary, and blossoming into a greater appreciation and desire to learn more about the American experience. This led me to study History and Anthropology in college and to pursue working as an archaeologist for over five years in the tidewater region of Virginia. I feel archaeology made history a much more personal narrative, it was no longer words on a page, it had become simultaneously tangible and somehow more mysterious. Many times I have reclocated historic burials and the act of exhuming an unknown person, forgotten by all, makes you confront the tenuous nature of your existence. I have certain themes that run through all the work I create and I feel most are heightened by the experiences I had as an archaeologist. History, death, loss, religion, and the unknown are ideas I have been pondering for years and easily lend themselves to the creative process.
Q – Anna: In our collaboration, we often use words as a prompt or inspiration for a photograph, and you are the one who can really take an abstract idea and translate it into something visual and tangible. How do you go about translating a word, or words, into an image?
A – Evan: It happens on a very subconscious level, so I haven’t really analyzed it before. I take the words and think about the root reaction I get from each separately and together in all their possible combinations. I also try to conjure up all the synonyms I can for each word to help flesh out possible visual ques. I try not to over-think the concept, as keeping it simple works best for me. My first ideas are usually what I come back to in the end.
Q – Anna: Do you think the fact that we are married makes our collaboration easier, or more difficult/complex?
A – Evan: Without a doubt, easier. I am always so thankful that I met you and that we share so much together. Our love of art and history makes working with each other a joy, a conversation that we can have without the need for words. We have been sharing our time while we have created in the past, but this is our first attempt at truly creating together.
Q – Evan: Describe how growing up in Georgia has informed and influenced your work.
A – Anna: Well, not only did I grow up here, but I have also lived here my entire life – I did my undergraduate and graduate studies here, so I have only left the state when I have been on vacation or business. With that said, Georgia is really all that I know. At the same time, it is a place that I struggle to understand. When I was a little girl, my father and I would hike in the fields and along the river near our home. We would spot endless Native American and Civil Warm relics, and from a very young age, I was struck by the fact that people had existed in, what was then my literal backyard, for thousands of years. From an early age, I felt very connected to the landscape – the physical earth itself – of the region, and the landscape has become the basis for much of my work over the past three years. I view the landscape as a treasure trove, a keeper of secrets.
Q – Evan: Do you think that the fact that we are married makes our collaboration easier, or more complex?
A – Anna: I think for us, personally, the fact that we are married makes collaboration easier, because we are both pretty easy-going and we’re always together. I don’t know if I would recommend collaboration for all couples, though – it is emotionally strenuous, as any art-making can be. We met each other because of our interest in photography (thank you, internet and Flickr) so photography has always been sort of a central point in our relationship. As a couple, we talk openly about our views on topics such as human interaction and relationships, religion, race, power, privilege, loss – all of the ideas that inform our work. So, that sort of openness lends itself to collaboration.
Q – Evan: When translating your love of history through the art-making process, are you inspired more by imagination or fact?
A – Anna: You know, I think that “history” as we know it is mostly fact, with some imagination thrown in, depending on who is telling the story or recounting the event. While you cannot deny that certain events have transpired throughout the course of history, there are endless interpretations of those events, and some of the interpretations conflict, even. With that in mind, when I am inserting any sort of historical reference into my work, it is highly imaginative, because it is highly personal, and since it is highly personal, it contains my own biases and agenda, because let’s face it – I’m an artist, not an historian.
~Anna & Evan~