Justin’s Bed © Mollie Schaidt

Today we are please to share the work of Mollie Schaidt, her work was chosen as one of the2019 Rfotofolio Selections.

“Each photo’s composition and lighting is engaging, but much more than that is how they are all part of a much larger story.  So intimate. I feel like the artist is telling me a secret.  This is what photography is all about to me these days. Storytelling. This persons story feels authentic. Beautiful.”  Sally Davies

“Quiet yet powerful documentary photography about the artist’s home and family. The viewer can tell this took great courage to examine one’s living conditions so harshly influenced by financial struggles. Bravo, keep up the brave autobiographical work, you have revealed truly poetic and enlightening moments, mixed with strong social commentary in these images of challenging lives and living conditions”. Brian Taylor

Would you please tell us a little about yourself? 

I am a multimedia artist mostly working in the mediums of photography and sculpture. I am originally from King George, Virginia, but I am presently residing in Philadelphia, PA. Currently, finishing up my first semester at Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, where I am pursuing my MFA in Photography. I received my BFA in Photography and Print Media, and 3D Media with an emphasis in Sculpture from Old Dominion University, located in Norfolk, VA.

Recently, I was awarded with the prestigious Future Faculty Fellowship from Temple University, so I can have the privilege of continuing my education. My work directly reflects issues that impact the lower socio-economic class in the United States. Specifically, subjects and traumas that negatively affect households in our nation such as: inadequate income, lack of education, insufficient employment opportunities, housing displacement, substance abuse, mental health issues, and low self-esteem.

My current series, When Pigs Fly, is an ongoing documentation of my family, and our personal experiences with these problems I previously mentioned. I have been reflecting on this project for close to 4 years, starting my sophomore year in undergrad (2016). In, When Pigs Fly, it is a mix of sculptural and photographic works all complimenting each other to convey the overall message. I find it important to keep pressing the topic of rural, suburban poverty through a very vulnerable perspective.

Where did you get your photographic training?

 I didn’t pick up a camera till my first year in college, at Old Dominion University. I had to take an intro to digital photography course as required by the program. I was super nervous. I really didn’t know anything about photography and all I could afford was a little point and shoot camera. The Professor at the time really inspired me to investigate more physically into a digital image, and not just seeing it as a piece of paper, or a 2D object. She encouraged pushing the boundaries using tactile methods that can be lost when working digitally to make images. The Professor had a “work with what you have” attitude that I really admired. A philosophy that is prevalent in my artistic practice presently.

Why do you create? 

I see my work as a process to heal, cope, self-reflect, speak, and harness all my emotions and express them to whomever is willing to listen.

Who has had an influence on your creative process? 

 I really have been blessed with a great mentor, Greta Pratt, the Professor of Photography at Old Dominion University. She encouraged the importance of story-telling and conceptual thinking through photographs. She influenced my clarity of, “what am I doing and why am I doing it”, and “why is it important”? I had the pleasure of being able to work with her personally, learning more about being a practicing artist and what it involves.

Also, my mother and father have supported me throughout the whole process—the ups and downs. I call my parents all the time to talk about ideas and collaborate with them, and to hear their thoughts. They have been willing participants within my project and I am grateful.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time. 

 An image from Alec Soth’s work, Sleeping by the Mississippi, titled, Bonnie (with photograph of an angel).

Pastor Mabe © Mollie Schaidt

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson? 

Pastor Mabe Sitting with Jesus, Milford, VA, 2019.

This image put in perspective the control I have over the camera, and just to slow down. When I slow down more magic happen and I can think and see clearly.

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking? 

 Hm. Great question. I work on my art mostly every day. A good day would be when I finally came up with an idea, thought, or new direction to explore. I get excited. I get into that creative mental space where everything is just flowing out perfectly. I love that. As an artist, a good day is any day where I feel productive, or satisfied with what I have created in the duration of that day.

Dad Working © Mollie Schaidt
Heavenly Glow © Mollie Schaidt

Please tell us about the work you submitted for the Rfotofolio Call. 

 I am a storyteller giving a voice to my family— and others like them— that live their lives silenced by social oppression. In my current project, When Pigs Fly, my photography and sculpture express memories of the past, as well as present experiences of living off the grid in a blue-collar household.

This work is made to bring awareness to the social structures and systematic ills of our culture, that directly impact the poor, and are psychologically traumatic. The myth of the aspirational “American Dream,” physically and mentally oppresses those living in poverty, supporting a state of hopelessness, and acceptance. I am part of this culture of people that are constantly marginalized and blamed for our predicament, robbing us of our dignity.

My intimate images and sculptural objects scrutinizes social class, the human condition, and the meaning of happiness. My photographs and sculptural works address issues and traumas that negatively impact most lower socio-economic households in our nation: inadequate income, lack of education, insufficient employment opportunities, housing displacement, substance abuse, mental health issues, and low self-esteem.

I am determined to be empowered by the place where I was raised—a simple home, frugal living conditions, and a loving family. My standard is no longer “everybody else” but rather my own conscience.

If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?

Jim Goldberg, his work, Rich and Poor, is such an inspiration to my creative thought process, and how I dissect what I am trying to convey through my imagery. Goldberg’s work as a photographer, a storyteller, is raw and provocative. I am a fan of everything he creates.

Backdoor Plate © Mollie Schaidt

How important is the photographic community to you?

Super important. I lean on the photographic community daily for feedback, support, inspiration, and friendship. I believe community is a huge part of artistic part—networking is vital.

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

The essentials are my digital camera, external flash, tripod, and my car, because I always travel back and forth from my where I am living at the time to my hometown to make my work. Also, I use a lot of materials from my home environment to create my sculptural works.

Mama Says © Mollie Schaidt

Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future? 

I use a lot of photo-based processes and would like to learn/experiment with photo-etching. I would like to work more with the transferring of imagery on objects.

What’s on the horizon?

 I am researching more into the topics of class and spiritually—looking at Southern American Folk Art as inspiration. The seamless ties I notice that have been a basis for the belief systems created by my family. I want to see how everything intertwines, and I am excited to see how it unfolds.

To learn more about the work of Mollie Schaidt please visit her site at Mollie Schaidt


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