Monday, October 1, 2012

Sandra Elkind

Sandra Elkind received her MFA in photography from Parsons in 2010, and her work has been exhibited nationally. She describes herself as a "visual artist and memory collector".

Learn more about Sandra here:

Ashley Kauschinger: Flat Pennies & Other Tales forms a connection between memory and fables. What are your thoughts on how memories evolve into fables and how that is integrated into your work? 

Sandra Elkind:  I believe that memories evolve into fables because they are intangible and personal.   While being created they are filtered through emotions and because of their lack of form they are inherently fluid.  Over time the line between fact and fiction becomes even more blurred leaving the mind to fill in for the missing information.  

In Flat Pennies & Other Tales (FP&OT) I am specifically working from memories of events that were not captured by a camera. But, I believe that all types of memories, even those associated with images, are vulnerable.  A good example would be when a memory holder relies on an image that was created by anyone other than the memory holder.    If the photograph was edited and composed from another person’s point of view that will eventually affect the memory of the event.     

In order to create a physical representation of this evolution in FP&OT, my sets are built with a mixture of both two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects.  While building, I am using a verbal recalling of the event as a reference.   I find that sometimes I am guided more by the way a person recalls the event then the story itself.  The more dramatic they are, the more dramatic the lighting and color palette become in the set.  The final product is created when I photograph the set flattening all the layers into one.   

AK: How do you collect the memories your photographs are based off of and then go about interpreting them? (I believe you use others memories and not your own?)

SE: Over the years I have found that strangers feel comfortable opening up to me and sharing with me personal stories.  Because I have spent a fair amount of time on the road for past projects I have had the opportunity to meet many fascinating people.  In 2009 I had a particularly moving conversation with a gentleman on a train from New York to Washington D.C and at that time I decided to start collecting these stories.  I now keep with me at all times a little kit with tools that will help me document these spontaneous conversations.  Since starting this practice I have been commissioned to reconstruct past moments for clients and I have also worked with memories of my own. 

My interpretation process has some similarities to a set designer’s process for theater.  After studding the story and analyzing the key points I create sketches of my ideas and build mockups from those sketches.  The final sets I build are large enough for me to physical engage with them while they are being photographed and because of this in the final image you only see about 50% of the original set.

AK: Your sets are beautifully constructed, how long does each set take you to build, do you collect the objects over time, and how to you combine elements like the miniatures and a photograph or a projection? 

SE: Thank you. Each set is very different because the stories I work with are based on such different themes. I have two in my studio right now that I have been working on for six months because I am having difficulties creating the desired aesthetic.  But I have also had sets that are done in two weeks. 

I have no idea in advance what the stories will require and some of the props are custom made.  When it comes to combining the projections and photographs with the sets I have a lot of freedom. My sets are more like maquettes; they are not permanent and are never on display. This gives me the ability to use any means necessary to install inside the set and not worry about wires or preservation.    

AK: What is your process of self-promotion? How do you make a balance between making work and promoting it?

SE: I am an emerging artist and so self-promotion takes a lot of my time.  I spend the majority of this doing research.  To see if the people I reach out to, the competitions I enter, the portfolio reviews I attend or the groups I work with are right for my work.  There are some key events that are helpful for emerging artist.  Attending fairs like Art Basel give you a chance to see in person galleries from around the world and the work they represent.  For photographers, attending the more established portfolio reviews, like Houston, give you a chance to be face to face with some of the most important gallerists, editors, collectors and critics in the world.  That type of access is worth every penny you spend to attend. 

I am only able to strike a balance between making work and promoting it because of my desire to create.  If you do not have this desire then you have no new work to promote. 

Thank you, Sandra for sharing your thoughts! 

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