Monday, January 12, 2015

Heather Evans Smith

From the series, Seen Not Heard 

Heather Evans Smith is an award winning fine art and conceptual portrait photographer based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her work captures both the everyday and the whimsical, telling stories of women and struggle, reality and the surreal. Smith’s work has been featured in solo and joint exhibitions, magazines, literary journals and online publications. Recently, she was chosen as a winner of Ron Howard’s Project Imaginat10n and one of the Critical Mass Top 50 of 2014.

Artist Statements

From the series, Seen Not Heard 

Seen Not Heard

For the past few years I have been creating images to express the emotions of motherhood. My daughter has never been included in those images. But as she has grown from a baby into a force of nature all her own, I was drawn to pull her into my world of conceptual photography and explore our relationship during a time when emotions of love, stress and confusion are high.

Seen Not Heard takes its title from the Old English adage “To Be Seen and Not Heard”, a term often thrown about in reference to the desired behavior of children. These images are silent, but they create a voluble visual narrative on the relationship between parent and child. They explore the cycles that are passed down through generations and the tension between keeping to what is known and forging a newer, and perhaps stronger, path. As strong as the close, forever bond between mother and daughter is, there also exists a distance inherent between two different individuals.

From the series, The Heart and The Heavy

The Heart and The Heavy

Life is full of stories – some deeply personal and specific, others universally relatable. My story is beautiful and complicated and bittersweet and hard. Life is just that way. So are photographs.

The birth of my daughter was life-changing, but not in the way I expected. Though there has been no greater joy for me, the responsibility of another life has proven to be at times a heavy load. Thinking about this in a literal sense, I imagined a heavy home on my shoulders, yet held tightly with love – a burden and a joy, a challenge and a reprieve. This became the first image in the series The Heart and the Heavy.

From there the stories evolved, just as my life has. The genesis of an image comes from moments of life, like a still from an old movie. Movement and pain and the simple joys of being alive are frozen in time – a study of fictional worlds based in reality. Compelled to shoot these stories, I am haunted for days and months until it is released in an image. Telling someone’s tale in a world not quite like our own.


From the series, Seen Not Heard 

Ashley Kauschinger: The Heart and The Heavy and Seen Not Heard both explore emotions associated with your daughter. How did these two bodies of work come about and develop? Did one grow out of the other? How are they connected and different?

Heather Evans Smith: At the end of 2011 an image kept entering my thoughts of a woman in a field, house strapped to her back, holding it tightly with love yet with so much weight. That vision became the first image in the series The Heart and The Heavy. My daughter at that time was two and I was experiencing some of the most powerful emotions that I had ever felt: love, connection, stress, heaviness. For the rest of the series I explored different emotions through images of myself and others. After two years of working on the series I was ready to approach something different. My first inclination was to take some of my previous The Heart and The Heavy ideas and try them with a child. I wanted to see how the image changed with a simple change of age. That idea morphed into using my daughter as a model and exploring the parent/child relationship through conceptual imagery.

From the series, Seen Not Heard 

AK: What brings you inspiration?

I am inspired by many things: a song lyric, a vintage item of clothing, an emotion, daily life, an old movie. I keep my mind open to new ideas and immediately jot them down. Sometimes I will shoot these images right away and at times it may take years for the timing to be right.

From the series, Seen Not Heard 

AK: How do you go about constructing narratives within your images?

Some ideas are specific at the time of the shoot and others tend to reveal multiple layers after the photograph has gone out into the world. I tend to think about the idea or emotion I want to express first and then how I can show that visually in the photograph. This can also happen in reverse order. When I stumbled upon a vintage hand-painted puppet theatre, I had no idea what I would use it for. That prop started the brainstorming that later became the image, The Roles We Play.

From the series, The Heart and The Heavy

AK: What technical approach do you take in your work? 

In The Heart and The Heavy series I wanted the images to look as real as possible, so everything is there at the time of the shoot. For the image Collide, instead of photoshopping the beach balls in later, I had 4 friends throwing balls at different heights in the background. Photoshop is definitely involved to a degree but all the details are originally in the frame for a realistic look. Most of the images are shot at 16mm for a cinematic feel.

For the series Seen Not Heard the approach is simpler. I shoot in the darker rooms of my house with open windows to create a more painterly light. Since the images are of my daughter, the series is more personal and shot closer with a 35mm prime lens.

From the series, The Heart and The Heavy

AK: How do you think about the balance of life and being an artist?

It is difficult being a full-time mom and artist. I don’t get to go out and shoot on a whim. Though limited, my time dedicated to my art is used wisely. Luckily with Seen Not Heard I am not searching for a certain sliver of time to shoot with a model or in a specific location, for my model and location is within my home. This isn’t always going to be the case, however, it has been nice to bring my daughter into my world of photography.

From the series, The Heart and The Heavy

1 comment:

  1. Heather is one of the most talented photographers out there right now and I'm so happy she is continuing to get the awards and recognitions she deserves. Her work is brilliantly creative and deeply moving.