Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work and words of photographer Ann George.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
My native ground is a small Louisiana town where traditions are strong. My modest roots and southern values from where I grew up guide me and sustain me. I love “found objects” and all things old and unusual, which guides my vintage eye in my work.
When I was a little girl, I was too busy building forts out of sticky sharp smelling pine needles, gallivanting on my bike, swimming in a lake called Valentine and catching fleeting fireflies to be exposed to the arts, nor was there an opportunity. My daddy painted and penned his Louisiana as I watched. This was the only art I counted. The results were treasured by my family and hung proudly on our wall. It was the closest thing to a gallery I ever knew.
I flew through high school drenched with a flurry of friends and memories, which were as far away from the arts as the moon and followed that path through college, finally settling on a nursing degree. This profession turned passion led me to start a chain of hospitals based on a different approach to providing care. Other than raising my four boys, this, I thought was my life’s work and calling and the source of my passion.
“How did you get started photography?
While working in New Orleans, I meandered through the French Quarter and happened upon the A Gallery For Fine Photography, now located on Chartres Street. I had never visited a gallery before, much less a photographic one. I didn’t think I would be interested, however, I liked the look of the quintessential New Orleans vintage feel of the place and so I stepped inside.
What happened next caught me totally off guard. There, in the tiny tight landing before a set of discreet stairs, hung the image that changed me. “Susana San Juan”. It inflicted a type of burning radiation under my breastbone. A surging glow of light developed in my solar plexus–warm, gooey and piercing at the same time. I had an instinctive calling that was directly opposed to the intelligent. It was as if someone dumped a bucket of understanding of the creative blessings of photography over me and I was dripping wet with enlightenment. At once I understood why all the fuss about art.
I hungrily devoured more and more of these works by Josephine Sacabo. “El Vuelo”, “El Arbolito”, “El Final”, and “El Camino”.. . which I now proudly own, all called to me. I had to will myself to leave the gallery. Knowing not one thing about photography, I wanted to create an image one day that could make me feel what I had just experienced. I followed Josephine’s work, sharing it with everyone I knew.
In my little spare time, I began teaching myself how to photograph by reading profusely and practicing, developing friendships with other photographers and going to workshops when I could. I think I owned every photography magazine and book I could afford. The Internet was not as prolific at that time and I don’t even think Google was invented yet. It took me awhile to grasp the technical, as I was still totally engrossed in my career and family. I considered photography as a hobby. My life’s work and career calling was my nursing and my hospitals-or so I thought.
It was not to be but for a season of my life. As fate would have it I was diagnosed with MS, and the nurse became the patient. This, among the needs of my family and demands of the business, led me to prune what I thought was “my best fruit to save the vine”. I let go of my beloved hospitals, and said goodbye my co-workers, friends, and patients who believed in our mission and in me.
To ease my pain, I picked up my camera and began to photograph, reaching for “THAT ONE” image. I have yet to create “THAT ONE”, and have now relaxed about striving to please myself at that level. For me, creating the one that melts my soul into a putty of gooey cream is now not my point. I am satisfied to share the fire that is lit in me with others and for their work. More importantly, I feel blessed for the relationships I’m building through the excuse of photography.
I still love the fluttery, giggly feeling when an image I am working on reveals itself and pleases me. I respond to the cocoon of working on my own projects by accepting each image created through my work as a gift. Whether or not anyone sees them but me.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
You asked about my challenges as an artist and I have to say the biggest difficulty I face in creating my work is the physical limitations as a result of MS. My left side has been affected and I don’t have much use of my left arm and hand. I have learned to do almost everything I need to do, to do what I want to do. If I can’t I do it, I just get help. I barrel through, always thinking of the end result I am trying to obtain and just figure it out.
Moving from film and the traditional darkroom freed me to focus more on the creating and less on my physical limitations. Even still, I like others, went kicking and screaming into the digital age for no reason. I thought I missed the texture and depth I felt my silver gelatin prints possessed. I sought different ways with paints and glazes and varnishes to deepen my love for the medium alongside it’s aesthetic. I am totally in love with the options and tactile depth I feel I can coax out of my work using the computer, printer, glazes and varnishes. To appease my soul for historical and vintage aesthetic, I also print my work as photogravures that produce the deep and long-range tonal values I love. I still love getting dirty and this process fills that void.
I am a visual being. I see the ends of things before I begin and then I work towards that end. This was true for me even in the vision I had for my hospitals, even in remodeling and decorating my southern home. With photography this is overwhelming as the options of photographic endings for me are limitless. I choose to narrow my field of vision through storytelling either by loosely depicting a book a poem or a human circumstantial journey. I sense this easier for me given my southern background and its affinity for storytelling, gossip, and literature and tradition.
Did you have a mentor?
Although I truly do not believe in coincidences, it is curious how things still surprise me when they come full circle. As It turns out the author of those images that enlightened me long ago became my mentor and most avid supporter. Yes, it was Josephine Sacabo who saw my work and embraced me. She taught me the photogravure process and took me under her wing then pushed me out of the nest, as she called it, to expose my work for public consumption. She is the only reason you are seeing my work now.
How do you over come a creative block?
Most artists I talk to about creative blocks seem to be able to create in chaos and produce their best work during the pain of circumstance. I am not that artist yet. I have been waiting for the way out of this latest block and finally see inspiration peeking out from around a corner. I am beginning to work again and the images and desire to do them are talking to me. I can only assume that for me that time, trust, patience, and faith are my answers. I know the choreographer of my steps, the crafter of my designs and the sculptor of my creative heart. I am always caught by surprise in the midst of my creative process. The theology of beauty, as I see it, is in its end, is beauty from ashes. An excerpt from the book, God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You,by Jody Thomae says this. “I believe that the most beautiful creations of humanity are those that are born out of pain. There is something reflected in the glory of it that resonates in the human heart—something we recognize unconsciously. Somehow we realize this beauty born out of pain, the beauty from ashes. Somehow it connects us to the Divine. Even when we might choose not to believe or acknowledge God, his glory cannot be denied. “
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
What I hope the viewer takes from my work is an awakening of his or her own creative spirit within, as well as, to invoke an emotional response. To use this spirit to re-interpret the world of disorder and meaning and reminder of a universal language that can only be spoken through the vision of allegory or symbolism in art.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
How I view this language of art affects the way I see the world. We are really all the same and none of us is immune to pain and suffering and the quest for meaning and purpose in it. I now see photography, in a “sense”, as a language. It is a powerful way to communicate which cannot be fully communicated with words. Imagine yourself desiring to communicate with someone who cannot speak English. Words have no meaning. How do you tell them what it is you want them to hear? You may choose to do this through gestures and signs, facial expression, mood, props – all visual and non-verbal. They may or may not understand what you are saying but enjoy the interlude either way. I attempt to express the disorder in my world and the human condition through the visual global language of photography. Although I would love for the viewer to “get it” the sense of pleasure of this interlude is just as rewarding.
Although it is a departure from my dark and moody work, one such image that is most easily understood in this light is “Indifference”. I will refrain from explaining it and allow the viewer to interpret through this visual language.
Would you like to share any upcoming projects ?
I am currently waiting for my new project to reveal itself. I have at least three or four ideas percolating that I am working on and will reveal soon. I continue to work on my “Evangeline” series and adding to it as I am moved. I am playing now with color and find it very satisfying. One other incredibly satisfying collaboration is with The Posse. Myself along with four other photographers; Anne Berry, Bryce Lanyard, S. Gayle Stevens, and Lori Vrba join together with free flowing ideas to create pop up shows of our work at different venues. We all shoot differently, process differently, and use different ways to communicate the photographic language. Our community is our excitement. The process of sharing ideas and working together and the end results of our efforts you can seen in last years Slow Exposure which took place in Zebulon, Georgia. The Posse returned to Zebulon to Slow Exposures this past September with “Time, Place and Eternity: Flannery O’Connor and The Craft Of Photography”.
Where can we see your work?
You can see my endeavors on my website. My work is represented at Nevares Fine Art, NY, NY and Lionheart Gallery, Pound Ridge, NY. I am currently showcased on Artsy and 1stdibs through the Lionheart Gallery where my work will be exhibited this fall.
Thank you Ann for sharing your work and words.
To learn more about Ann George please visit her site at, Ann George Photography.