CONTEST WINNER: Andrew Fladeboe
It’s always a joy to hunt down new photographers. Our recent Best of 12 Photo contest turned out some really wonderful images, and it was difficult to pick just one. Thank you to everyone who submitted! Take a peek at the work of our contest winner, Andrew Fladeboe.
Kim Sikora: Can you talk a little bit more about what led to “The Shepherd’s Realm” series?
Andrew Fladeboe: I did my thesis in school on portraits. I often had the subject’s dogs or cats in the portraits and those turned out to be my favorite ones. I continued shooting animals after I graduated but felt I needed to work on a different series because I thought animal pictures wouldn’t be taken seriously by fine art galleries. At some point a few years ago I decided I shouldn’t care so much about the art market, but just focus on what I love. And as it turns out a particular gallery owner in New York has been very helpful and supportive in creating this series.
Taking an approach to the work that stems more from painting and getting over my “photoshopped photos are not real art” bias, has really helped my work grow.
KS: You speak about the open narrative, and the climatic, or contextual moment that you place your animal protagonists in. Could you walk us through one of these images in particular?
AF: I read Rudyard Kipling’s “the Jungle Book” for inspiration. If you’re not familiar with the book, its a series of short stories with mostly animals as the main characters. I view these photos as scenes from a similar set of stories or myths. The goal for me is adding enough details to convince myself (or the viewer) that a bigger story may be taking place. For example in “Sleeping Bear” a golden bear is depicted sleeping on a mound of dirt. To me this image is about contrasts, a large dangerous beast peacefully sleeping in a curled up position using a rock as a pillow. The trimmed hedges in the background and the fact that he is perfectly placed on this tidy mound of dirt add an extra dimension to the work. What is he doing in this natural but obviously manicured environment instead of the woods? Is the bear domesticated? You know something’s amiss and there is more going on in the image than a simple photo of a bear. This scene is not the climax of the story that would be taking place, but I think it illustrates the bear’s qualities. Narrative is an aspect of the work I’d like to develop further and get more specific in what I reference.
KS: What have your biggest technical challenges with this series?
AF: In the ones that are composites, finding photos of animals and environments in my archives that match with the same basic lighting conditions, depth of field, perspective, etc…
KS: A lot of photographers struggle with the balance of personal work and commercial work. How do you make the time and money to photograph consistently?
AF: Well that’s the big question. I still haven’t quite mastered it. I have regular freelance clients, but that is not my main supply of income. I work 30 hours a week for a jewelry company doing product photography, I like it because I know how much I’m going to make every month, and it lets me hone my photoshop skills. I also have another part time job, so I work 6 days a week at the moment and its really tough balancing work and art. Now that its getting warm out its probably time to cut down my hours, but I try to do a little bit of work on my series every day and fill up my free days with shooting. My work is cyclical in that I shot heavily in the spring and summer and spend the winter editing and polishing off pieces. What gets me through the 6 day work week is knowing I’m saving up for a big photo trip in the future and all the great images that will come from that.
KS: In your statement, you speak about the idea of how the world “could be and should be”. How does this drive your process?
AF: This may be a little more meta-physical than I feel comfortable writing down and sharing. But I think it stems from the most basic of artist’s drives which is to make the world a much better and beautiful place through art. I think people forget about what a beautiful and strange world we live. There is such a large disconnect between society and nature, and maybe I can help bridge that gap by reminding people how awesome the world is by taking photos of these animals I love so much and have a deep respect for. Joseph Campbell talks about finding one’s “Bliss” and the path of happiness and success in this world will make itself apparent . Creating and sharing this work is my bliss, and I feel like my journey has just begun.
KS: Is there a new project you’re working on you’d like to tell us about?
AF: I’m still working on this project and should have a whole 2nd part done by the Fall. This series is probably a “lifer”, something I’m going to continue to work on until the day I die.
Make sure to check out more of Andrew’s work on his site.