Today we are pleased to share the work of Ross Sonnenberg.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
When I was young I always wanted to make movies. I was obsessed with them. My favorite memories were going to Universal Studios as a kid, and going on the two hour tram tour. I got to see more of the back lot, as well as, all the props from past films. In high school, I loved making Super-8 movies both for school and for fun.
When I was 23, I was about to enter Art Center Design Film School when I fell ill and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. For the next two years I laid on my parents floor while going through Chemotherapy. As I began to recover, I wanted to create art again. I always “saw in pictures”, so I turned to photography. I became the stay at home dad to my two wonderful children which allowed me to work on art during my spare time.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I’m self taught. Years ago I would go to the library and do research. Later on, the web was a great resource for training and researching other artists’ work.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
My “mentor” would be the late Jerry Burchfield. He was an artist and teacher at Cypress College in California. I would often send him work for his consideration prior to exhibitions. He enjoyed the artistic merit of my work, and it sparked an ongoing conversation. I took a few classes he taught including Alternative Processes. I also used this opportunity to do my first black and white darkroom print in my mid-thirties. He was incredibly generous with his time and I learned a great deal. I would highly encourage you to look into his work.
Why do you create?
The simple answer is that I have to. It feeds my soul.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
I came across an image by Marco Breuer that spoke to me. It lead me to try the photogram process which had previously intrigued me. I researched different artists who used that process, but his work stood out more than any other. His work was simple, a lit fuse on black and white paper. That was the genesis to my current work. I had the opportunity to see much of Breuer’s work with my son during a trip to the Getty art museum.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
The image that taught me my greatest lesson was the first color photogram I was able to produce. I didn’t know if my idea was going to work. You have to expose the image in complete darkness and you have to hand develop it. There are several variables that go into the equation. When I saw my first successful piece, it was magic. I learned not to be afraid of new things; failure can be just as important as success.
What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?
A day where I can spend hours making art. It recharges me, so I can function in the “real world”.
If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?
I would love to spend time with Marco Breuer because I love his work also, and of course I would have liked more time withJerry Burchfield.
What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?
In an ideal world, I would have a real darkroom. For various reasons, I use my garage, a fairly small space. I have a mishmash of equipment to expose and develop my work. It looks more like a mad scientist’s lab.
What hangs on your walls?
Over the years, I’ve had the chance to trade work with artists I admire. I have all types of such as a Daguerrotype, tintypes, ambrotypes and all kinds of different photograms and chemigrams that hang in my office to keep me inspired.
Whats on the horizon?
I’m always trying to experiment with different ways of making a photograph. Hopefully these explorations will lead to new bodies of work.
To learn more about the Ross Sonnenberg please visit his site at Ross Sonnenberg.