Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work and words of Beth Dow.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m an artist who works mainly in photography. I’m married to photographer and master printer, Keith Taylor.
How did you get started in photography?
My dad was a photographer and film maker, so darkroom chemistry is in my blood. When I was young my dad had a color and black & white darkroom in the basement. He also collected cameras so they were all around me.
Did you have a mentor?
I’ve never had a mentor, but am envious of those who have.
If you could spend a day with any other photographer living or from the past who would it be?
The Apollo 11 astronauts! Much of the work I make is about how we experience the landscape, and I’m especially drawn to environments that surprise or puzzle me in some way. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to and see my own shadow on the dust of the moon. I was at first going to say Carleton Watkins, but definitely the Apollo 11 astronauts.
Would you share with us an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
The British photographer John Davies shot a photograph in 1983 titled Agecroft Colliery, Salford, and I think it is remarkable. There are different layers of human experience happening all within his luminous, silvery tones. There is a little rustic scene in the lower left, the part nearest the camera, with some cars and a horse, then there is a football game taking place, and the imposing industrial structures of the colliery in the distance occupy the center of the image. That photograph has haunted me since I first saw it in the Art of Photography exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London. There is beauty, mess, and menace all in this one glorious rectangle. I love that photograph.
What do you hope people will take from your images?
I hope people will see something they hadn’t noticed before, or see something familiar in a new way. That is the best I could ever hope for.
What challenges do you face as an artist?
Distraction! I am the most easily distracted person I know. This is why I am always working on at least five different projects at once. So the good part is my creative energy is always full steam ahead. The bad part is that it’s also full steam sideways. Over here, over there.
Is there one thing that you would like to tell people about your creative process?
I always feel that my work is a collaboration. I start with an idea, image, or phrase, and then get started. But along the way I take the time to observe what’s happening in the work. I let it tell me what it wants to be.
What is next?
I will be expanding my Dynamic Range series, and I’m so in love with this project. I am especially happy with my experiments in printmaking and sculptural forms. I also have a few artist books that I’m excited about, and I will start getting some of those out into the world in 2016.
Please tell us about one of your books.
Third Person was released only recently, and is a self-published volume of images I shot on 35mm black and white film. There is no text except a brief quote at the back:
“Events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily – perhaps not possibly – chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”- Eudora Welty
I am curious about the different ways we use photography to mediate experience, and Third Person uses the conventions of the snapshot as a way to gather, but not necessarily discern, information. I used my flash and shot into the dark, often having no idea what I would find. I began this project in Beijing, and used my camera as a kind of probe, or divining rod. It was like magic when I processed the film. This book combines images from China and Minneapolis, and examines how we struggle to decode signals from our surroundings.
Beth was awarded a 2016 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She will use this money to expand The Dynamic Range, using Lake Superior for her source images.
Thank you Beth for sharing your work with us. To learn more about the work of Beth Dow please visit her site at, Beth Dow.
You can find out more about the book Third Person by clicking on the title.