you remember your first push of a camera button? first photo?
I did but I have to say I dont. I know I had a camera as a
child, my father let me use his Brownie camera. I remember spending
time in the darkroom at my high school but when I became interested
in photography again as an adult I couldnt remember anything
I had learnt before and none of the photos I took as a child have
survived. So I dont see my earliest experiences with photography
as being very important.
inspiration as a photographer often comes from painting and other
visual arts and I think that learning about art when I was young
was more important my mother loved the arts and she used
to take me around to art galleries on Saturday mornings, and I had
a very good art teacher in high school who taught us that in order
to draw you had to be able to see
first camera I bought (in 1985) was a Pentax K1000 and I still use
it. I thought I would buy a simple camera and use it until I understood
everything about it and then buy something more advanced, but I
never have. I have turned out to be a very low tech
photographer, not interested in fancy equipment.
so, how did you become an artist? what
was your way, your first steps? personal teachers, studies, universities
took me a long time to become an artist or to think of myself as
an artist. First I became a photographer and even that didnt
happen until I was in my early 30s, so it was a complicated journey
and it still is.
I was a teenager I wanted to be an artist, but I think it was a
kind of romantic dream and I didnt really know what it meant.
More than anything I wanted to go to art school but I didnt
have an obvious talent for art, I couldnt draw well or paint
or sculpt and I didnt have enough passion or the knowledge
that you need passion in life to do what you want. So I did other
things I worked as a secretary and then in a factory, I studied
political science, I wanted to be a journalist, I got a job in television
and began making short films with a group of friends
slowly I realized that what I desired was to create something but
also I wanted to work by myself, not with a group of people, so
I moved from film, which I found fascinating, to photography.
I didnt plan it that way. I started taking courses in photography
because I thought it would help me as a filmmaker but then I got
caught up in making photographs and I never made films again. I
didnt really know anything about photography when I started,
especially about the history of it as an art and what other people
have done. I have had to learn most of it myself. Apart from one
summer when I took courses full time at the art college I didnt
go to university to learn photography so in a lot of ways I am self
do you remember when you thought 'OK I'll
be artist'? and were there any uncommon reactions from your parents
or friends when you said 'I'm going to be an artist'?
thinking of myself as a photographer to thinking of myself as an
artist that happened after I started doing photography which wasnt
straight photography, once I started using toys and
dolls and making sets for them. And now that I have been drawing
and painting on paper negatives
I know that I am an artist!
of my friends are people who are creative or artists themselves
(my husband is an artist) so they dont think it is unusual
to be an artist but for my family it is harder to see me that way
since I have been through so many changes but the word artist
isnt so important, as long as I know who I am and what I am
I've read the text in your site, your thoughts
about the works, and I've found a lot of philosophy there, so your
work description is: 1. Philosophy 2. expression? I mean, when you
are taking the pictures you are more thinking or more feeling? how?
why? and so on....
I write something about my work like the statements on the web site
I always do it after I have finished the work. Sometimes the statements
are based on things that other people have said while looking at
the work. I dont write about my work easily and I hate to
do it. So I am not thinking about ideas while I am making the photographs.
I have tried to do that but it doesnt work for me. I need
to be able to let my imagination fly and trying to express specific
ideas seems to tie it down. But of course I have thoughts about
what I am doing but I never want those ideas to be too obvious,
again I want my images to appeal to the imagination of the viewer
and I find that if there is an obvious message then people never
go any further than that. I don't want my photographs to be political
or social commentary. That is also why I don't give my photographs
titles, I want the viewer to find their own meaning in them and
if there is a title then they only think about what my meaning is.
to what I am thinking when I am taking the photographs ... even
I don't really know! Mostly I am thinking about practical things,
about lighting and the dynamic of the image (composition), about
how peoples' eyes will move through the image, about where the eyes
of the dolls are looking (very important) and how to create the
illusion of movement. On the wall in my studio I have a reproduction
of a Vermeer painting to remind me about depth and different picture
planes and perspective. The other things I am thinking about are
going on underneath this and I am not very aware of them except
sometimes I laugh at what I am doing, either because it seems a
bit ridiculous to be playing with dolls but mostly because I think
the scenes I am creating are funny.
why 'art is hell'?
was a joke, we were trying to think of a domain name and I said
it should be "good art" or "art is good" as
opposed to bad art which I thought there was a lot of on the internet
and Tony said 'art is hell" and we thought that was fun. Also,
it is easy to remember ...
could you tell me more about your husband?
Calzetta (you can see his work on the other half of the Art is Hell
web site), he is a wonderful artist, probably not known as well
as he should be because he doesn't fit into any kind of grouping,
his work is very unusual, very individualistic. We have been together
for 10 years and we encourage each other as artists. Two artists
together is a bad financial combination, we never have enough money,
but it is wonderful to be with someone who understands the difficulties
and the discouragements and the successes too. Of course the art
we each do is very different from what the other does, we work in
different media and I know nothing about colour and painting and
Tony knows very little about photography, but we both allow our
art to be funny at times and there aren't many artists who do that
so that is a good bond between us.
about the reproduction on your studio wall,
is it Girl with Pearl Earring? the look of girl is like
the look of one doll in your photos. Am I right about that?
Vermeer reproduction in my studio is "the Music Lesson"
but you are right - I used the face from "Girl with a Pearl
Earring" in one of the photos from the series "Carnevale
at the Hotel of the Bridge of Sighs." [image]
and then Tomas asked me to write a description
of what it would be like to come to my apartment and go into the
studio and if there was a special object in my studio
street I live on in Toronto is called the Danforth and it is a very
wide street with lots of traffic and shops. It is known as Greektown
because there are many Greek restaurants on it. We live upstairs
from a restaurant but it isnt Greek, its an Irish American
bar called Allens. In summer, people sit outside on the terrace
and often they are people we know so we have a busy social life
coming in and out of our door. Even though I live in a city I feel
I am part of a village.
apartment is on the 3rd floor American style, (2nd floor Europe
style), two long straight flights of stairs up. When you come in
the door, straight ahead is the bedroom, living room, dining room
and kitchen, there are paintings and photographs hanging on every
available inch of wall and also some wonderful African masks
but if you turn to the right you go down a long hall past the darkroom
and the laundry to the studio. There are 16 of my newest photographs
hanging on one wall like in a gallery, on the other side is a storage
area, a big mess of paintings, filing cabinets, an old photocopy
machine and a staircase up to the roof. The studios are in the front
of the building with windows on the street. On Tonys side
there is a long wall where he can stretch large pieces of paper
or canvas, in front of the window he has carts with pots of paint
and boxes full of pastel and charcoal and other supplies that I
like to borrow.
studio is in the corner with a big table in the centre and bookcases
on all sides. On the bookcases
books, of course, but also
hundreds of small dolls and toys and boxes and boxes of things that
I might use or need one day. It may look messy but it is really
very organized, at least in my own mind. I dont have much
photo equipment - three 35 mm cameras, a few light stands and flashes
and a big box that our television came in that I painted
white inside and use to shoot my stories in. There is
a radio and a CD player, and I have a beautiful old wooden chair
that I inherited from my mother, it came from my great-grandmothers
house in Switzerland it sits in the middle of the dirt and
the mess, and the studio gets very messy when I am working, and
outside my window there is the frantic, sometimes crazy, street
life, but the chair always looks beautiful with its simple elegant
lines and I love to be able to sit in it and think and work.