Amy Stein is a contemporary photographer and i was attracted to his work via her series ‘domesticated’, where she stages the photographs using urban landscapes and wild animals, exploring the relationship between man-made features and the wilderness. This series is based on true stories, read on local papers or oral stories, staged and constructed to achieve those beautiful photographs. The photographs also explore (in my opinion) the tension between the natural world and our world, a relationship that doesn’t always work as intended, animals are portrayed like they are out of this world, a entity that doesn’t belong here, when in fact we are the trespassers of their territory. ‘Domesticated’ is a series that make us wonder and marvel at Amy Stein’s narratives and visual stories, beautiful but uncomfortable and full of tension.
How do you started taking photographs and why?
I began taking photographs somewhat later in life. I was 31 when I started pursuing photography. Prior to this I worked in politics and for a series of Internet companies. I found these jobs somewhat unsatisfying. Luckily, the Internet bubble burst and I was laid off. I say “lucky” because it forced me to question what I really wanted to do with my life. I decided to pursue photography in a serious, focused manner, to explore issues that interest me and provide commentary in creative ways.
In your opinion, what makes a good photo?
I was just asked this question by Jörg Colberg of Conscientious. I’ll tell you what I told him:
“When viewing a good photo you feel an initial visceral rush of excitement, but a great photo elevates that commotion and keeps pulling you in over time. A great photo continues to reveal deeper layers of meaning and intent that excite on both emotional and technical levels.”
What makes you want to capture a photo? What you must see in a subject to make you release the shutter?
My current series, Domesticated, are staged photos, so it’s a little different scenario than point and click photography. I construct the scenes bringing together the location, people, animals and objects before I press the shutter. A typical shoot can take anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, but the scouting and prep work for any given shot can take months. Because the shots are staged, I have the luxury of trying a few different angles and combinations to best achieve what I am trying to express with the image.
Do you have a routine to take the photos for your projects or you just let it happen and see where it takes you?
My projects are highly structured and planned. I typically decide on a topic and then do an intense amount of research on the subject before I ever take a picture. I rarely wander around and just shoot things.
At the end of a shooting session how do you choose the photos that are worth to show in your portfolio?
I’m usually looking for one great picture from each shoot. If I get the negatives back and the shot isn’t there I will go back and reshoot, but typically I will have a number of good shots after the first shoot. Sometimes the best photo is obvious and I go with it, but other times I will live with a couple of pictures for a while before I decide which will go into my portfolio. If I can’t decide I will often consult other photographers to help inform my choice.
Name a few photographers that inspired you and your work and why they inspired you.
Alex Soth is a masterful photographer who works in a way that I really respect. His work is stunning, and he shares his personality and intellect through teaching and his candid and thoughtful blog. Some younger photographers that inspire me daily are Brian Ulrich, Lisa Kereszi and Matthew Pillsbury. While their work is different it shares a certain intelligence and concern with formal beauty and thought-provoking content. I also love the work of Todd Hido, Tim Davis, Charles Traub and Pieter Hugo.
How digital technology changed the way we look at photography as art?
I consider digital photography to be a tool. I use it in my own work (I shoot film; scan the negatives then create digital c-prints as my final output). The advent of digital photography has allowed me to simplify my work flow and have more finite control over my final product, which allows me to spend more time doing what I love: conceptualizing and shooting new images. There is little question that photography is now considered art, as evidenced by it’s prominence in serious art publications and record auction sales. Perhaps digital photography has caused some people to question the difficulty of making a worthwhile and thoughtful picture. Images that will stand the test of time will always be difficult to make, through digital or more traditional means.
© Amy Stein