Shoot what you know.

I’ve been photographing my roller derby league.

I began preparing to try out to play roller derby last summer, and started training officially in the fall. I was “teamed” this past spring and now skate for New Hampshire Roller Derby — one of the best and most exciting things to happen to me in a long time.  Even though I typically document everything around me, I spent the majority of that time so focused on training, trying out, and “making it” (plus carrying around a gym bag full of skates, helmet and other protective gear — no safe place for a camera), that I didn’t take a single photo of derby until recently when I began covering the bouts for other teams in my league. I’m no sports photographer, so this was something really new to me — a very different way of shooting. But among the action and promo shots of athletic ability I’ve started to come across images that are turning into something else entirely — bodies in awkward positions on the track, my teammates with their children, facial expressions mid-fall, etc. When I first began training I had a hard time explaining to others what an intense and serious process it was to play this sport. Derby women are a dedicated, passionate, and possibly masochistic bunch. I’ve finally started being able to tell these stories through images. It’s just the beginning, but it makes me happy to realize it’s happening.

I like a slow start to any project. I like them to develop out of my passions, curiosities, experiences, interests… I’m not the kind of photographer who steps back very far to just observe. I tend to get involved, unapologetically. I like when a subject pops far enough info my life that I catch myself lingering longer on those particular photos, and start making more just to see what they do together. Unfortunately the necessities of making a living and paying bills work counter to this process. It seems like I’ve come to this a bit late, but for me, the sudden realization that I’ve found my new subject (which I’m already enmeshed in) seems completely fair. If I’d forced it before now, I probably wouldn’t have been telling the right story.

Documentary group show at DSI

I have one image in a group show right now at the gallery at Digital Silver Imaging in Belmont, MA, called VRW: Through Their Eyes (more info on the Griffin Museum’s website). The show was curated by Paula Tognarelli of the Griffin Museum and is a mix of work produced in the Visual Reportage workshops run by Michael Hintlian and Glen Cooper. My print is an image from my series This Family of La Antigua.

I’ll be at the opening reception this Thursday night, April 7, and am looking forward to seeing the other photographers in the show (some who I went to Guatemala with) and talking with others. I’m also curious to see the prints in the show, all of which were made by Digital Silver Imaging — they printed our digital files as silver gelatin prints on fiber-based paper. As someone who shoots both film and digitally (and who generally always makes my own prints), it’s really interesting to see my work printed in this way.

Check out the artist statement here.

Visual Reportage Retrospective

Come out if you can on Thursday to see the opening of Visual Reportage’s retrospective from the last few years. There are over 100 photos from over 20 photographers, and the opening will have food and drinks plus most of the photographers present, including myself. I’m also gallery-sitting on Friday, the 22nd from 6-8pm, so feel free to come by then as well!

Group show

I’m going to have 5 photos in a massive group show at the Gallery at the Piano Factory this month. Visual Reportage, the organization run by Glen Cooper and Michael Hintlian that holds documentary photo workshops in various locations in the world, is having a retrospective from the last few years. I went to Guatemala with them in 2008, and a few of my images from This Family of La Antigua will be shown along with the work of 20+ other photographers (and 100+ photos).

The opening event will be on Thursday, October 14th at 7pm. Most of the photographers will be present, myself included. It’ll be BIG! I’m looking forward to it.

Randy's Toy

Featured on Lenscratch

As you might have noticed, I’ve taken another hiatus from posting here. In my day job I work in the admissions department at a photography school and right now we’re in major crunch time as the latest incoming class enrolls. I’ve been working late nearly every day for the last couple months and last week I even lost my voice a few different times from all the talking I’ve had to do. In October I’ll be able to get back to writing and also keeping up with all my favorite blogs. Most importantly I’ll have some free time again to shoot new stuff that’s on hold, since my personal work has suffered a bit while I’ve been unable to make enough time for it.

Here’s a teaser from one recent project, which I’ve been reluctant to show anyone yet since I consider it a long-term project and it still feels very immature. This is from Route 1 near Salisbury, MA.

In the good news category, my work was featured on Lenscratch back on September 10th. I think Aline Smithson is fantastic and I enjoy her blog so, so much. She features an excellent variety of photography with such generous emphasis on the work, and without regurgitating the same themes and highlights that other blogs seem to go in circles around. Really, if I could only read a handful of blogs, Lenscratch would definitely be one, because among many other reasons (which include enabling my laziness in having to personally scour the world for great work to see), her choices of features are just so very thoughtful. She also recently featured Greg Miller, whose large format portraits I’ve been swooning over lately.

OK, enough gushing. I’m excited that she included my series Twist of Fate, which nobody has ever featured or really taken much notice to before.

Although I’ve been incredibly busy with the day job, I have been reading a lot (it’s what I do daily on public transportation) and something recently brought me back to my years of photo-theory-nerdness. Hopefully I’ll have some more in-depth posts for you soon after I untangle my overly-excited brain.

PS. Caleb’s show at Gallery Kayafas is fantastic and I can’t think of a more thought-provoking and interesting pairing than with Rania Matar’s new work. Go see it.

Working it out.

Well, we have clearly been busy around here and not blogging! It happens.

I was promoted at my day job and have taken on a bit of extra work for a while. No complaints though — I feel lucky that when I’m not making photos I get to work at a photography school I really love and believe in, and be around other photographers all day. I’m currently the Director of Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator at NESOP. I get to talk with future photogs every day about how they can actually make their dream come true. It’s exciting! This has been taking up a lot of my time but I did just begin a new personal project which I hope to work on for the long haul. It’s a little slow-going for now since it involves traveling to another state, and as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I am car-less. More on that later.

Recently I (finally – everyone else is doing it) made a Facebook page for my work. So now you can “like” me, if you’re into that kind of thing. And I did something I almost never, ever do. I took a self-portrait.

There’s a moth in my whiskey, © Steph Plourde-Simard

My first grant and a short update

I am so honored and psyched to have received my first grant award to help me fund a project. I was nominated and recommended for the St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award by another artist I’ve worked for over the last 2 years. I found out last week that I am one of the recipients of the $2,500 award. So here’s a big THANK YOU to my friend/employer/colleague who nominated me, and to the St. Botolph Club and judges! I’m really excited that this will help me get rid of some of the financial barriers to making more of my work. I can’t wait to get started and I’m already preparing.

In other news, I’ve been working a lot at my day jobs. While nearly everything I do is in the field  — I work at the New England School of Photography (NESOP) and for some other artists/photographers — and I enjoy it all, it’s been difficult to make time to continue my own work. I spend time on it regularly, but it often gets overshadowed and postponed by the other work that pays the bills, or I run into this problem where I find plenty of time to shoot but not nearly enough time to really examine what I’ve done, edit, print, etc. This is changing though, as of this week. Maybe it’s the season change, maybe it’s the encouragement and relief that comes from receiving a grant, or maybe it was attending the NESOP class of 2010’s graduation this weekend and feeling re-inspired after being in that position just 2 short years ago. Either way, good things are in the works for me. I hope to have better updates soon.