Monday, November 5, 2012

Stephanie Dowda

Stephanie Dowda is a photographer, curator, and member of the board of directors for Atlanta Celebrates Photography. She received a BFA in photography from Georgia State University. Her work most often examines the past and how our memories build our frame work in the world. She lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. 

You can contact her through her e-mail:
and see more of her work here:

Ashley Kauschinger: In your series, Natural State, you have been investigating Georgia State Parks for two years. How did you begin this series and how has it evolved over the years? 

Stephanie DowdaI started hiking in Georgia State Parks on the weekends as a way to clear my head. Though I was quickly drawn to the beauty of the scenery and started shooting landscapes. I would hike with my large format camera; I liked to imagine I was an explorer, even though that is a lofty comparison. I would often go back to the same parks and spots to shoot. I also noticed I was drawn not to the most picturesque views but scenes where a nature was combating man made influences or where minor disasters had occurred. My interests gravitated towards those things that were not pleasant or expected. And after visiting many parks frequently over time I realized a lot of the washed out bridges, downed trees, overgrown, and lost trails were not repaired. This revealed an interesting interdependency between the Park Service and nature to constantly be in conversation with each other and because of the continued funding cuts to Ga State Parks, the services could not be performed. At this point, I’m still very interested in the continued affects of funding cuts to the park service, but I’ve turned to focus on specific parks and scientific experiments which show the long term affects of forest systems that cannot be properly maintained?

Topophilia grew out of the series Natural State, which was a collaborative project based on landscapes taken in Georgia State Parks. I wanted to turn my attention more to an imagined sense of memory collected by nature. Topophilia is more of a collection of secret places or secret ideas that I have visited. For instance, Topophilia 30080, is taken from a rock quarry that is now on lock down in Atlanta. It used to be accessible, via trespassing, and many people would go swim there in the summers. After word spread about the spot authorities from the city made the quarry nearly inaccessible. All that exists of this spot is my memory of it as well as these photographs. I like to imagine these scenes as stories or secrets that the natural world has revealed through coaxing of my lens.

AK: I know that you like to have a lot of projects going on at once. You are currently working on three bodies of work, Natural State, Topophilia, and The Clearing (a newer series exploring the cosmos). Do you feel that when you work on more than one series at a time they bleed into or influence one another? 

SDCertainly that can happened and has for me in the past. Though I think there are similar undercurrents to both Natural State and The Clearing, they started from two very different places. I don’t believe the content or process influences the separate bodies, since Natural State is all large format black and white and The Clearing utilizes the photogram process with another film technic; but both are loosely about loss. Topophilia is more of a collection from travels and experiences. It feels like this body of work is shot from the hip. I’m continually drawn to the those moments when a places speaks to me or sparks a sense of mystery. I like having multiple projects happening, it’s how my brain operates and how I transmit the inspiration I receive in life. 

AK: You are very involved with the art scene in Atlanta, from curating exhibitions to Atlanta Celebrates Photography, and Burnaway. How did you get involved in these projects and what are you currently working on?

SD: My involvement in the Atlanta arts scene as an artist, curator, board member, and art administrator all help me achieve my ideal vision of Atlanta. Atlanta already has so much going on and I want to continue to push our art community to do more, be better, and keep challenging ourself.  I love my city and I believe in the power of our creative community. I believe in the power of individuals to create change and continue the impact of the arts. 

Up coming, I have collaborated with GSU Photography Professor Jill Frank to curate a photography and video exhibition at the Welch School Galleries titled Shadow Puppets: Traces of New Documentary Practices which features a collection of contemporary lens based works that question documentary practices through the use of fiction, fact, manipulation to reveal a greater truth. Some of the artists featured are Joel Sternfeld, Daniel Bejar, Michael David Murphy, Paul Chan and Possible Press. Along with the exhibition will be a panel discussion with James Elkin, Cinwue Hicks, Susan Richmond and Daniel Bejar on February 7th at GSU. Also opening in the beginning of February is the new selection of Dashboard Coop artists, of which I have newly been accepted. I'm very excited about this opportunity. I'm also working with an amazing team of individuals to launch the first CSA, community supported art, for Atlanta. This project was engineered by WonderRoot (

AK: What is your process of self promotion? How do you create a balance between making work, promoting it, and all of your other endeavors? 

SD: I have to admit that I don’t feel like I’m very good at promoting myself. Most of my time is spent working on my art and my community projects. I think I try to rely most on creating  really sound work being that in the craft and concept and hopefully drawing an audience that way. I think self promotion is an art itself, and it is honestly hard for me. I also feel mostly uncomfortable talking about myself; but it’s definitely important. Some of the best moments have been when I’m engaged with people by talking about the ideas or process behind my work. People like to be connected and informed, I strive to provide that platform in most of my projects.

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