Had a Great Fall © Morgan Ford Willingham

Morgan Ford Willingham’s portfolio was a 2021 Denis Roussel Award Outstanding Work Selection.

Your mother-daughter collaboration, attesting to “selfhood” and possibilities is rich with potential. For me, the Notions and Impressions concept has plenty of room to evolve and can be interpreted in both literal and interpretative ways. If the project were mine, I would look to your self-portrait using multiple pieces of fabric as a focused direction. Also, perhaps more playfulness, self-photograms on clothing worn for the portrait, so that the voice of childhood is a bit more defined. Christopher James

Would you please tell us about yourself?

I’m a photographic artist and educator residing in Kansas.

Where did you get your photographic training?

I received a BFA in Art with an emphasis in Photography from the University of South Carolina and a MFA in Photography from Texas Woman’s University.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

Probably one of my biggest influences has been my graduate professor Susan Kae Grant. Susan was a powerhouse when it came to organizing both her artistic and academic careers and she was constantly researching new artists and approaches to art making. Other major influences to my creative process are Duane Michals, Marina Font, Carrie Mae Weems, Annette Messager, and Joseph Cornell.

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

Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison photograph, “The Architect’s Brother: Guardian”.

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

Before I started actively shooting for the series, “Notions & Impressions”, I had listened to a podcast about photographing and posting images your children on social media. This led me to reconsider permission, even in my personal relationships. “had a great fall” was the first image that I asked my daughter for permission to take her picture. It was a vulnerable moment for both of us. I learned the power of working with her collaboratively on the images in this series and gave her a sense of ownership over her own image and her role in my artmaking practice.

Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Denis Roussel Awards.

The work I submitted is a new body of work in which I investigate my relationship with my daughter and our individual and collective identities.

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

This is dependent upon the image. I enjoy taking photos in the moment just as much as I enjoy staging other photos. I also find analog processes, like cyanotype, to be very satisfying for my process-oriented mind. In this particular project, though, I find the collaborative aspects of working with my daughter now that she is older – she enjoys offering suggestions and ideas for new images we can make together.

Avocado © Morgan Ford Willingham

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

A couple of things tend to help – researching new points of inspiration, whether they’re photographic or other art forms, and continuing to make. Even if what you make doesn’t feel right yet, it always helps me to keep moving, even if they’re baby steps.

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

My phone camera – I used it to document art that is inspirational to me and to take quick shots of these I see in the world that I might want to consider in a future image. For this series in particular, I’ve found my UV light unit to be essential because I can keep the exposure time for my cyanotypes consistent as I print year-round.

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

I would love to work with a view camera in future. I’ve always loved working with film and a view camera would be a great excuse to return to film more long term.

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

It forces me to regularly reconsider what art I’m making and why. To constantly question my own beliefs out the world.

What is on the horizon?

I’m moving on to creating cyanotype collages that are referential of quilts. Working in a collage format creates a lot more room to experiment in my image making process and scale and to work more fluidly, as I tend to be very rigid and methodical.

To learn more about the work of  Morgan Ford Willingham please visit her site by clicking on her name.

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