Monday, August 13, 2012

Cynthia Henebry

Cynthia and I met when we were both juried into the Portfolio Showcase at The Kiernan Gallery, which is on view now until August 25th. I was intrigued by her way of delicately navigating the intricate nature of childhood in her photographs.

Visit her website to view more of her work:

Ashley Kauschinger: Your series, Waking State, has an evocative sense of the complexity of childhood. How do you view the idea of childhood as a mother and also looking back at your own childhood?

Cynthia Henebry: Originally I started photographing my children because they're the subjects I have on hand. I also wanted to do what any parent does, capture moments that pass too quickly; make the mortal immortal; somehow figure out how to slow it all down or at least help myself to have some memories for later. But then I realized something else was at play for me, because I became just as interested in photographing my children's friends and cousins- really any child will do, if the kind of moment i'm looking for is going on. I have always been aware of how few memories I have of my own childhood, and I became aware that the process of taking pictures of the children in my life might help me to understand something about my own. 

Growing up is not a simple task for any human being, and a child's experience of the world is anything but. I don't think its necessarily more complex, but I believe a few things are true for children that are less true for adults. I think they feel things more deeply than we do, and also that so much of the world is completely out of their control. About four years ago, I had this moment with my oldest son when I realized that I could tell him anything and he would believe me. I could have said, when you wake up, there will be an ocean under your bed. And he would have said okay. Of course, that kind of open endedness when it comes to their lives also represents tremendous possibility and magic for children, and that's the part that we like to focus on. I do love that part about childhood, too. And I like to photograph it all. 

AK: Your images feel spontaneous, like they are living alongside your children. Do you plan your photographs or shoot in the moment? 

CH: Until now, I haven't planned my shots; in fact, the charge they carry relies upon the spontaneity of the moment I am capturing. At least this is the premise I have been operating under. I usually have a camera with me if I know there will opportunities for shooting, because you never know when the right moment or the right light will occur. Its almost like a sport for me. I am planning a couple of projects for the coming year that involve more formal and planned portraits, however, and I am truly curious to see whether I can accomplish that work in the way I imagine or hope to, without the spontaneity of a found scene.

AK: What are the children's reactions to being photographed?

CH: At the moment, our oldest son is more into it than his younger brother, but I try to be very careful to stop when either of them says they don't want their picture taken. I am mindful of the complexities of complicity when it comes to photographing any child- that even if they are okay with it in the moment, they (or their parents) might feel otherwise down the road. When at all possible, my goal is to ask for my subjects' permission both before the photograph is taken as well as before it is shown to a wider audience. But for now all of the children I photograph seem to really love it. To clarify: in the moment, they don't usually notice it happening; after the fact, they love seeing their picture in print. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much both the parents and children have appreciated more complex images of their children or themselves.

AK: What is your process of self promotion? How much time do you think is spent promoting your work and what sources do you utilize?

CH: I don't spend a whole lot of time doing self promotion. I'll apply to shows or grants if they look relevant or interesting, maybe one every month or so. I begin my MFA this Fall so perhaps I will be doing more of that then (or after), but up to this point I've been balancing the roles of mother, acupuncturist, and photographer, which is quite a lot. I'd much rather spend my non-photographing photography time doing things like talking to photographers like you, you know what I mean?

I do Cynthia! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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