Monday, August 19, 2013

Christy Karpinski

Christy Karpinski is a fine art photographer born and raised in Arizona. She received a BA in Women’s Studies from the University of Arizona in 1997 and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2005. She currently teaches photography and web design at Columbia College Chicago and Evanston Arts Center. Christy is also the founder and editor of F-Stop Magazine, an online photography magazine that promotes contemporary photography from established and emerging photographers from around the world with the intent to inspire and support a community of artists.

View more of her work here 

Visit F-Stop Magazine here 

Ashley Kauschinger: What started your interest in photographing early childhood? Have your thoughts on childhood changed or evolved since you started working with children (during the series Stella's Head and Formation)?

Christy Karpinski: I have been around kids under the age of 3 most of my life at this point - as a nanny mostly. The first family I was a nanny for when I was 17 gave me a stack of books to read before I even began. These books opened me up to a bunch of ideas about child development and interacting with children that I really connected to. I could see how all of these ideas were relevant to being an adult and interacting with adults not just children. So I think for me, spending time with kids has been a way of learning about who we are as people. I think making photographs about early childhood began because so much of my time was spent in this context and because I have thought a lot about being a child. I think working on these projects has pushed me to identify and articulate my thoughts and opinions and has led me to new theories and ideas that tie together a lot of my existing ideas. So I think I would say my thoughts of childhood have expanded through working on these projects.

AK: In your statement, you talk about how artists and children experience the world in a similar way. Can you discuss this connection and how it has influenced you?

CK: In making these pictures it has come up often that they are of a “child’s point of view,” but for me, I am always thinking, well no, this is my point of view while relating to these kids. Somewhere in the process of sorting out what this was all about, I began to find references to the idea of the artist as child or as childlike. I think what is behind this is the idea that being an artist can often involve being open and aware of everything around you to more of a degree than is typical to being an “adult”. In a lot of ways artists are often more tuned in to their senses, taking in more of the world in this way or, what I would suggest is the case for me, never having disconnected from that way of experiencing the world.

AK: What is your shooting style? What are your thoughts on the present, and the moving forward of moments as you are searching for one to capture?

CK: At its best, interacting with young kids for me is being fully engaged with where they are at, which in my experience (with the under 3 year olds in particular) is very much in the here and now with what is in front of us, and very much taking it in through all of the senses. At some point I began having my camera with me all the time which prompted me to begin to make photographs in this shared time and space. There have been particular discoveries or visual pleasures that have stood out to me as something to try and capture with my camera. I suspect they may relate to my own childhood experiences or they may just be what my senses enjoy in the current moment. When I am taking pictures with kids, it is usually just a matter of continuing to talk and play but bringing the camera into it. Granted, as soon as I start making pictures of these moments, I am no longer really in that moment; I am removed a bit and sort of marveling at the beauty of it. Most of the time I am just looking through the camera as things happen and taking pictures, but sometimes I will ask the person to hold still so that I can capture something that would otherwise be a fleeting moment. I don’t think I set out to make pictures about the present moment so much as that seems to be what I later see in the pictures. I think by placing attention on little sensory based things, everyday things, it evokes the idea of the present moment. Perhaps because when we take notice of tiny usually unnoticed things like the way light hits something or the texture of skin, we are at that moment conscious of the present.

AK: What is it like transitioning from editorial and commercial assignments to working on your personal work? Do they inform each other? What is your process of searching for commercial work?

CK: The editorial work I have done has been very much based in the way I usually take pictures - spending time with the kids, talking, interacting, playing and taking pictures. It is great when my way of seeing is what they are looking for. The differences would be that I have to work a lot faster and I have a shot list of ideas guiding the pictures I take. I would say my personal work very much informs that work. In the commercial work I have done it has been completely different; the pictures had very little to do with my usual approach visually. I haven’t done commercial work in quite a while.

AK: Congratulations on 10 years of publishing F-Stop Magazine! Can you talk a bit about how it formed, and what it is like to run an online magazine? How do you balance being a photographer and running F-Stop?

CK: I started F-Stop in the fall of 2003. At the time there were very few online photography sites that just showcased images, most were commercial oriented sites or technical sites. My desire to see a lot of “fine art” or documentary photography all in one place online led me to creating the magazine, along with wanting to share work I found interesting and inspiring. Running the magazine is, most of the time, answering emails and sharing “call for entries” and other announcements. Putting an issue together usually is done over the course of two weeks and then the rest of the time between the bi-monthly issues is managing email. Working on F-Stop can be done mostly at any time of the day so I am able to fit it in between the other work that I do. There are a lot of ideas I have had for ways to expand what F-Stop does in the photography community that I have not been able to for lack of time, but I am hoping to change that - starting with the current issue I have expanded the blog for the magazine to start to include essays, interviews and other kinds of posts by contributing photographers.

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