Interview with Deborah Samuel, Fine Art Photographer
Interview with Deborah Samuel, Fine Art Photographer
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking with and interviewing photographer Deborah Samuel. Deborah Samuel is a Canadian artist, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is the author of Dog and Pup. After establishing a career in commercial photography, Deborah now focuses exclusively on her own photographic projects.
KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: I worked commercially for many years in the music industry and branched into fashion and editorial portraiture in order to make a living and to remain creative in the photographic arts. I worked in this industry for thirty years. I was drawn to work that was conceptually strong and creatively compelling. I was always drawn to the art of communication in photography. I studied photography at Sheridan College, located outside of Toronto, Canada. After college, I worked as a printer for two commercial photographers who worked in the fashion industry. This provided me access to a studio to pursue my personal work.
Then, in my early twenties, in the late 1970s, I opened my own studio in Toronto, where I focused on fashion, entertainment, and editorial portraiture. While working in these arenas, I always continued to work on my personal work, pushing the creative envelope. I prefer to work on a variety of different and conceptually stimulating projects. My personal projects are typically one to ten years in duration. My work is very intuitively based. I no longer live in a big city; I live in a quiet community outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is very isolated and peaceful, which I find is an optimal place to create my work.
KATHERINE CARVER: Did you formally study art/photography?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: I studied photography at Sheridan College, located outside Toronto, Canada; and I have thirty-five years experience working as a photographer.
KATHERINE CARVER: Did you envision your work with dogs to become published books?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: When I first started working with dogs, I did not envision this work published in book form. I photographed dogs for ten years, from approximately 1997 through 2007. In 1997, Ernie, my sixteen-year-old Yellow Laborador died. I was heartbroken. At that time, I realized that I had not taken a formal portrait of Ernie; I only had snapshots of him, and I did not want this to happen again.
Three new dogs came into my life after Ernie, all different breeds, and I found it fascinating to see how they all reacted differently to different issues posed to them. I became really enamored with the emotional differences between each breed, which began my work with dogs. I began searching out different breeds, and one thing led to another, and I began photographing and working with cross-breed dogs as well as I became interested in the breed differences not only physically but the emotional differences as well. I have always had a love of dogs and animals, and I continued to compile more and more material relating to dogs. I was fortunate to obtain a book deal with Chronicle Books who published Dog, 2001 and Pup, 2002. However, my work with dogs ended when my Boxer, Jake, died, in 2007. This was a very difficult time and I began contemplating the life/death divide, which was the catalyst for my next body of work entitled, Passing, exploring the journey of life and death using botanicals.
KATHERINE CARVER: Where do you show/exhibit your work?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: I have exhibited my work in numerous galleries and traveling exhibitions. I really credit the expanded interest in dogs, and my work with dogs, to the advent of the internet. Dogs and other animals have always been a large part of our lives; however, we have become more isolated socially due to the arrival of internet. As a result, our animals have become much more important to us as a means of connecting emotionally to ourselves.
KATHERINE CARVER: What gear do you use while photographing?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: I prefer my Hasselblad camera. I prefer to use the square negative format. All of my work with dogs taking place during 1997 through 2007 was shot using film. I experiment with different cameras and mediums as well.
My current exhibition, Elegy, was recently exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum, located in Toronto, Canada, part of the Contact Photography Festival in Toronto. Elegy, will be moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I reside, in the fall of this year. I used a flatbed scanner to create the Elegy images – a series of animal bones photographed against black. With today’s accessible technology, it really brings into question – what is a photograph now? Photography is different from other art mediums because of the evolving digital technology. Photography is entering a new realm, which is really exciting to be a part of an evolving art form. I do not affect my digital negatives anymore than I would affect my prints in the “silver printmaking world” by primarily utilizing burning, dodging, and spotting.
KATHERINE CARVER: Looking back on your accomplishments, to date, what are you the most proud of?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: This is a difficult question to answer. Each body of work I have completed is important in its own unique way. My work with dogs was very important as it gave dogs a voice emotionally to be seen and heard. Also, animal activism is important to me – leaving people with a new way of looking at animals in the natural world. Most of all, I am in my element when I am creating and making my work, which I am very passionate about.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: I typically do not disclose what I am currently working on because the work can and usually does change during the process of working through ideas.
KATHERINE CARVER: What photographers inspire your work?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: The photographers who inspired me are Horst; Diane Arbus; Arnold Newman; Irving Penn; and Yousuf Karsh.
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring artists/photographers?
DEBORAH SAMUEL: Follow your passion, even if you do not know what lies on the other side. Passion is infectious to people; and passion is at the root of creating art. Keep believing in your work and use your passion to help you push through and keep going. The right thing(s) happen when it is supposed to happen. Most importantly, put your work on the line and keep pushing your boundaries.
For further reading, please visit Deborah Samuel’s website.
All images contained in this blog post were used with the permission of Deborah Samuel.
You can read additional interviews here.
really stunning work. I remember Dogs and Pups when they came out but the images from Passing are so extraordinary.
Yes, Deborah’s work is very good and her images are also very moving to me.