Monday, September 3, 2012

Daniel W. Coburn

Daniel W. Coburn recieved his BFA with an emphasis in photography from Washburn University where he was the recipient of numerous honors including the Charles and Margaret Pollak Award. He is currently an instructor and graduate student studying photography at the University of New Mexico. His writings and photographs appear regularly in regional and national publications including Fraction Magazine and Photo-Eye Magazine. 

I feel a significant connection to Dan W. Coburn's series Next of Kin. It conjures up deep rooted emotions regrading family connections, memory and childhood.  I am honored to share his thoughts and work in this week's post! 

To learn more about Daniel, visit his website: 

Ashley Kauschinger: Next of Kin is an intimate portrayal of family relationships. Do you think the dynamic you have with your family has changed through the creation of this work and did your model/photographer relationship differ from your family relationship? 

Daniel W. Coburn: I feel like I am much closer to my family now because I have worked with them under some stressful circumstances.  Many of the photographs that you see in "Next of Kin" represent a culmination of memories and experiences I have had with family members over the course of my journey into adulthood.  In recreating these memories I give specific directions to these people that are very close to me and sometimes put them in awkward poses or subject them to a compromising environment.  When photographing my parents, this means reversing the parent/child power dynamic.  This complicates our relationship and usually leads to confrontation.  It's been a trying experience but has led to some interesting conversations that have improved the way we communicate.  I feel this approach and process is much different than it would be if I were photographing a stranger of even a close friend.  
I understand the intricacies and mythology of these people, and this unique environment.  I am the only person that could deliver these images and I try to do it with honesty and compassion.

AK: What attracted you to exploring your memories of childhood and what do you think you learned about yourself by exploring it? 

DWC: I am in my mid thirties now and I am beginning to discover that my memory is unreliable.  I believe that memories are malleable and are vulnerable to change.  Our recollection of events is altered by life experience and our own motives of self-preservation.  Taking these photographs helps me transform a thought or memory into something tangible and that is very important to me in this stage of my life.

AK: Each of your images has its own narrative that contributes to the series overall narrative. What goes through your mind when composing a narrative? 

DWC: I think very much about which family member I am photographing and try to describe what makes them a powerful force in my own existence. What is there strongest trait? What is expected? What is unexpected?  For instance, the photograph of my mother in the pool. I feel like that is an effective portrait because it speaks to my mother’s personality, which can be both sinister and fragile. Many of the photographs happen through natural observation.  I will see my dad in the yard doing chores and I will somehow find a photograph in that. Other times, my images are totally previsualized and they often exist as a series of sketches or drawings before I ever pick up the camera.

AK: You write for Fraction Magazine and Photo-eye Magazine. How did you get involved in writing about photography and find your way to these publications? 

DWC: I enjoy being a lively participant in the discourse on photography.  Not only through my work, but also through critical examination of my contemporaries.  Fraction Magazine is doing great things for emerging photographers and knew that I wanted to be a part of it.  I met David Bram (founder of Fraction Magazine) at Review Santa Fe a couple of years ago.  I asked David if I could contribute and he gave me the opportunity to write book reviews.  I had already been writing for Fraction when I met the good people at Photo-Eye magazine.  They liked what I was doing and gave me the opportunity to write.  It's been great working with other people that are passionate about photography and equally vigorous about supporting good work.

AK: What is your process of self-promotion? How do you create a balance between making work and promoting it? Several galleries represent you. How do you feel this has changed how you self promote, and how do you think gallery representation has benefited you? 

DWC: I would say that I spend about thirty percent of my time making work and the other seventy percent promoting.  The act of creation is the most exciting part of my career as an artist, but it’s also very important that my work reaches the public.  I actively promote my work to the press, to publishers, and to gallery directors.  I spend a lot of my time making phone calls, setting up meetings, and attending portfolio reviews. Galleries have been important to my success as an artist but the gallery scene can be a difficult territory to navigate.  I have found a couple of dealers that are enthusiastic about my work and have had success promoting it to their clients.  As a result, I have had my work placed in public, private, and museum collection internationally.

Thank you, Daniel. Your interview is an insightful contribution!

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