Rfotofolio is pleased to share our interview with Barbara Moon Batista.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in downtown Los Angeles in the post war era. I was the eldest of five children. My parents had a rough time and ultimately split up when I was eight years old. We moved around southern California quite a bit. One of the most fascinating places we lived was the Yucca Loma Guest Ranch in Apple Valley. It was a large adobe complex that had been used as a retreat for artists and actors from Los Angeles. The place was full of art, murals, iron work, sculptures, pottery and mystery. We lived there when it had been abandoned. The year I lived among all of that art was a huge influence on me. My mother had always wanted to be an oil painter and she had self-taught skills. She moved us all to Carmel in 1959 to study. This set up my exposure to photography from a rather young age, as well as, other art forms that were plentiful in the Carmel experience.
How did you get started in photography?
My earliest memory of a camera in my hands was looking through the waist level view finder my father’s Twin Lens Rollei. The next thing I knew I had a green Brownie camera of my very own. I must have been about eight. I took all kinds of pictures, but saw only a few of them. I found a bunch of exposed, unprocessed roll film in my mother bureau one day and realized where they had gone. I started to babysit and before I knew it I was watching Al Weber’s children, Cole Weston’s children and meeting all kinds of people who I had no idea who they were at the time. I saw a lot of photography, darkrooms, and photographers in my teen years and I was “bitten by the photo bug” as the saying goes. I spent my senior year of high school at MPC, our local junior college, taking classes from Al Weber, Henry Gilpin, Steve Crouch and others. The path was chosen and the journey had begun. The next fifty years is too long for this interview but it has been an adventure.
Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire?
I have a long list of photographers I admire, but first in line is Imogen Cunningham. Her print of the unmade bed got me through a lot of long nights in the darkroom. Women photographers in particular are my heroes. I know from first hand experience how much courage and persistence it takes not to quit. Richard Garrod and Al Weber have helped me so much, not just with craft but philosophy of life.
Did you have a mentor?
Yes, that would be Al Weber. He took me under his wing when I was fifteen and his guidance, advice, and friendship still sustain me.
Would you share with us an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
There are two. “The Unmade Bed” by Imogen Cunningham and “The Wave” by Al Weber.
If you could spend the day with another photographer living or from the past who would it be?
Boy, that is a tough question due to the fact that so many of my mentors are elderly or have passed recently. I think I would want to hold a conclave of all the people I have worked with or admired and have one-on-one sessions with each one. I would want to go way back and catch the fever that Niece and his contemporaries had for this new medium.
I could go on . . . the past is full of wonderful imaginary friends and conversations.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
Yes. It is very personal and I have to make it.
Please tell us about your process and what is the perfect day for you.
I have been a commercial photographer for forty years and occasionally taught a workshop through various colleges. I work closely in a team with my husband and photographer, Fernando Batista. We met in 1973 and founded Batista Moon Studio in 1974. Originally, my plan was to get my degrees in museum curatorship so I could afford my own photography passion. “A woman needed a paycheck”. My take away from years of being around photographers.
I had no intention of going into commercial photography. My new husband said give me two years and you can go back to school and finish your MFA. Well, 40 years later . . . I am returning to my roots . . . I started teaching at an adult school in 2008. I have a passion for teaching others about photography, whether it is process or craft. I teach Beginning and Intermediate Photography (mostly digital), Lightroom, Portfolio Development, and private tutoring. We also run a few remote workshops.
My process is pretty unusual. It does cross over between fine art photography and commercial photography. It was not a popular belief in the early days and even now the worlds can be very separate. Personally, I don’t believe that commercial art has to be bad. It can be inspired and rise above the common thought. I am a story-teller. It doesn’t matter if it is about a person, a concept or a package. They all have a story to tell. I am fascinated with endings which evoke new beginnings. You will see in my work a lot of exploration of the past, death, and life processes.
What challenges do you face as an artist?
Time. The time to immerse myself in the work. The time to make mistakes and come back to the piece days if not months later. Time to practice new and old skills. I do miss the darkroom a lot. I am a photographer who spent a lot of time in the darkroom and now I sit in front of a computer and I miss the darkness, the suspension of time. We have friends who walk into the house and ask why it is so dark. I do forget to turn on light or draw the curtains when I am working.
I am also closer to the end of my life then I am to the beginning. Time really matters now.
What is next?
I am working on three portfolios. “A Life-Work in Progress” was started with 8×10 Polaroid Transfer. It was interrupted with the end of Polaroid. I have had several small shows with the ten completed pieces. I am in search of a digital process that mimics the Polaroid process so I can continue.
“Ireland-land of my ancestors”. I have completed a small folio but it needs more work, including another trip or workshop in Ireland.
The third, I am not talking about this one just yet . . . waiting for it to gel.
Thank you Barbara, we look forward to sharing more of your work in the future.
To learn more about Barbara Moon Batista, please visit her site, at Batista Moon.
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