Be Our Guest: Projects and Practices

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We’re pleased to welcome Clarice Barbato-Dunn as our guest photographer this month. Clarice began her career as an art historian in New York City. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, teenage daughter, and their two dogs, Harry and Charlie. When the dogs see Clarice grab her camera and put on her hiking boots, they know it is time for an outing in the woods.  You may find Clarice on Instagram @claricelbd and her website: http://hearth-arts.com.

I have recently completed my first project and am experiencing how it feels to put that work out into the world in physical form. Three years from conception to a self-published photo book and prints, The Spaciousness Project has begun its grown-up life.

The themes include loss, memories, and growth, explored in black and white and color.

For nearly two years I have been making monthly visits to a local farm to shoot for another project, Gregory’s Desert. Soon I will make work prints and see what seems complete and what parts of the story may be missing.

This project is not a documentary of the farm, but rather a reflection on what I see in the layers of this urban land that is steadily changing. The work is inspired by Gregory, a man I met there one day who grew up in the neighborhood, and told me how unsafe this area used to be.

Ever since photography became a regular part of my life ten years ago, I have had a daily photography practice that is completely separate from my projects. I bring a camera along on neighborhood walks, family travels, and breakfast at my kitchen table.  Having no particular goals I wish to achieve, this routine is self-rewarding.

I make these images because I need to get outdoors, change my mindset, celebrate the arrival of spring, mark the beginning of my day, and slow down time.

When I invited film cameras into my life a couple years ago, my routine became an opportunity to become more comfortable using them. Polaroid and toy cameras are quirky and need lots of light, and I needed patience and commitment to work through my frustration.

As my interest in the results of the film captures grew, self-critical voices in my head became persistent. “None of this work goes together,” and, “It’s not about anything.”

With suggestions from an online class, I made groupings of images that have similar palette and texture.

I wrote down words to describe what I saw and felt in these photos and went deeper with the definitions: fluid, changeable, uncertain, unpredictable, imperfect.

I put together black and white images from meadow outings and wrote: change, untamed, chaotic, uncontrolled.

I felt like I was finding some cohesiveness within folders of film scans and piles of instant prints.

I hope over time I will add to these small collections. This process of uncovering feels backwards, yet I believe that there is opportunity for self-discovery.

I see myself continuing to balance the projects and the practice, even as I begin to understand that themes of change, uncertainty and unpredictability are interwoven throughout both.

I have ideas for other projects, but for now they live in my head or as notes on a page. They are dreams for someday when time and readiness align.

PS: The online class I referred to is called The Visionary Portfolio, and is taught by the wonderful Laura Valenti.

Do you want to Be Our Guest?  Leave us a comment below with a link to your blog, Instagram account, or other place you post your images.  You can also add a hashtag to your IG images: #viewfindersio_beourguest.

See you soon.

xo lucy

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for being our guest Clarice! It’s so wonderful to see snippets of Philly through your eyes! I love hearing your thoughts about photo projects as well. I have so many different projects going on at one time, or ideas of projects, that outside of my morning coffee photos, they are definitely scattered. I love the idea of looking through them and pulling together ones that work better as a series. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! We should get together and photo walk in the Wissahickon sometimes!

  2. Clarice, I am delighted to see your work featured here! I’m not on Instagram these days, but I do remember your photographs posted there and recognized your work immediately. Reading your thoughts on how you develop personal projects, I am reassured. Like you, I often find that the ideas don’t come before the vision, but rather when we begin to explore the scene and look back over our work, we see themes and connections emerge. I understand that at times our work seems “all over the place” but I see this as a stage in our evolution as artists. Your collection of images on finding space in our lives is at once heart wrenching and uplifting. Are there any copies of your book for sale? Thank you for inspiring me.

  3. Donna, thank you for such kind words. Recently it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen your photos for a while on IG. I hope you are continuing to make your beautiful work! I do have the books available. I will reach out to you separately.

  4. Thanks for sharing with us, Clarice. I appreciate the encouragement to think critically about the work, trying to identify themes, etc. I’m inspired! Love the b/w set here too!

  5. Oh how these are wonderful. And I am so grateful to you for sharing your thoughts about your process.
    The polaroids were particularly magical. Thank you. x

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