Michael © Anna Rotty

Anna Rotty was a Outstanding Work selection in the 2020 Denis Roussel Award.

“Your portfolio has some beautiful work in it and I truly love the concept of Phosphene (the stimulation of the visual system other than by light), The experience of contemplation in solitude – and rendered as cyanotypes toned in yerba mate tea – is profound. For me, in this particular selection of work, the missing element is the rest of the body and its visual representation and relationship to the whole experience. It is more than just the head and I suspect that there is more work in this beautiful series.”

Christopher James

Would you please tell us about yourself?

I’m an artist living in Oakland, CA. I moved to California eight years ago from Massachusetts where I grew up. Community and collaboration is an important part of my practice. I love seeing what other people are making and having a dialogue around image making.

Where did you get your photographic training?

I studied Studio Art, with a focus in photography, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Although I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist, moving between processes and mediums based on the project, nearly all of my work is rooted in photography in some way.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

My mom is an artist and she had a huge impact on encouraging me to pursue art further as I grew up. Seeing her make her own work, and teach workshops in our dining room as a kid, sparked something deeply inspiring in me. I looked forward to her open studios each year as a chance to observe and chat with dozens of artists about their work and lifestyle.

Susan Patrice of Maker’s Circle has had a huge influence on my recent work as well. I learned a lot of my alternative process practices at a residency stay with her. Through conversation, she also has a talent for finding threads that help push an idea further and find its meaning. A lot of my work is an intuitive exploration trying to get closer to a question I have. Sharing work in progress with peers helps me stick with an idea long enough to consider why that question is there and get to the heart of it.

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

Shizuka Yokomizo’s Dear Stranger photographs have stayed with me for a long time. I first learned of her work in college and was enamoured by the photos and the profound act of making them. She put letters in the mailboxes of strangers, asking them to show up to their window for a portrait that night with the curtains drawn and lights on inside. They would never meet. There’s a vulnerability, distance and connection in this work, and those themes often come up for me.

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

For a while I was focusing on an alternative digital printing process where the paper resists the ink allowing the image to change over time as it dries. I had one that I really liked drying in the garage and one day I went to check on it to find all the ink had pooled into the center, turning the image into something unrecognizable. I learned to be patient with myself and to learn not to get too attached to something early on. In hindsight, that piece was only the beginning of a project that needed much more time to develop.

Melanie © Anna Rotty
Anna © Anna Rotty

Please tell us about the work you submitted to The Denis Roussel Award

I submitted an ongoing portrait series I call Phosphene where I explore the experience of contemplation in solitude. I attempt to understand the difficulty of turning oneself inward in reflection in our current world of constant stimulation. I am curious if it is possible to understand all our human multitudes in the vulnerable presence of one another, and think about how to demonstrate the limitations and possibilities found in dark space for introspection. These are intimately sized cyanotypes, toned in yerba mate to give the dark charcoal tone.

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?

I love the opportunity to have a dialogue about imagery with other people. I love seeing what others see in the work and learn a lot that way. Lately I’ve enjoyed a slow and isolated process of creating. I’m typically someone who likes to be surrounded by others constantly, but I have a new love for slowing down, making work alone and getting to escape into my thoughts that way.

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

If something isn’t working out as planned I’ll usually take a break and switch to another project. I’ll seek out advice through friends and artist peers. Usually having another perspective is an opportunity to learn and move something along.

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

Light! One of the reasons I’m in love with photography is how light continues to show us something different all the time. A lot of the work I do is done post-camera, in editing and printing. Whether it’s alt-process cyanotype, or alternative digital printing processes, the materials like my printers, papers and chemistry play a big role in the final result.

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

I would love to spend some time with a 4×5 camera. I’ve always combined digital and analog processes but I’m sure I could learn a lot from focusing on in-camera shooting. I think it could open up some doors to explore.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

I think my art shows me that nothing is black and white. Everything is impacted by perspective and what we choose to show or choose to recognize, whether it’s intentional or not. Making images has helped me pay better attention to everything around me and see how everything is in relation to something else.

How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?

The pandemic has definitely impacted my art practice. I got laid off at the end of March which forced me to re-examine a lot of things and allowed me more time to focus on my art. Having many options cut off forced me to spend a lot of time alone creating. Having limited funds for materials also allowed me to push the boundaries with what I have available. I started shooting in my home, making little worlds with light and reflections. It felt liberating to know I had all these ideas to work with so close to home.

What’s on the horizon?

I formed a collective with some photographer friends over the last few months and I’m excited to keep developing projects with them and push ourselves further. I’m starting to think about grad school so working on writing and developing the projects I have in the works for a portfolio. I’ll be working for the San Francisco Dept of Elections helping coordinate the upcoming election over the next few months and I’m looking forward to putting energy into that as well!

Thank you Anna. To learn more about the work of Anna Rotty please visit her site at Anna Rotty.


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