Interview with Valerie Shaff, Photographer
Interview with Valerie Shaff, Photographer
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Valerie Shaff, a photographer living in Germantown, New York. Valerie Shaff photographs animals and people. A selection of Valerie Shaff’s work is displayed below. Please visit Valerie Shaff’s website to view more of her work!
KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
VALERIE SHAFF: I started making photographs when I was a young child, around seven-years-old. I studied photography in high school and worked in the darkroom and developed film. In college I majored in photography, and since college graduation, I have worked professionally as a photographer ever since.
KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study art or photography formally?
VALERIE SHAFF: I began as a painter in college. Later during college, I changed my major to photography. At my college, Bard College, there was not a photography department when I first began college. However, later during college, a photography department formed at my college and that is when I made photography my major during college.
KATHERINE CARVER: How do you describe your style?
VALERIE SHAFF: My style is quite naturalistic – based upon my belief system that we all are connected – the individuality and connectedness of all living beings.
KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin photographing dogs and other animals?
VALERIE SHAFF: I was quite fascinated with dogs and other animals being as natural as they are. I am very fascinated with animals being themselves.
KATHERINE CARVER: How have your own dog(s) influenced your artwork?
VALERIE SHAFF: My dogs confirm my feelings concerning the depth and experience we can have with other species and being able to articulate this depth of relationship with other living beings artistically.
KATHERINE CARVER: Where do you show/exhibit your work?
KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?
VALERIE SHAFF: This is a good question. I believe that everyone is naturally creative, and being creative is part of everyone’s life each day. Everyone has the opportunity to express themselves just by being alive. Additionally, artists employ other strategies to help communicate creatively.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being a photographer?
VALERIE SHAFF: I think that the most challenging aspect of being a photographer is dealing in the realm of making a living – specifically translating what I do into commerce. I am not as much interested in marketing and promotion as I am in actually making photographs.
KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?
VALERIE SHAFF: My need to make photographs and express myself visually. Specifically, the process of seeing a project into completion engages me and it is quite satisfying to complete a project.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are the most rewarding and satisfying part about being a photographer and making photographs?
VALERIE SHAFF: The most rewarding part of being a photographer is all of the little surprises that occur while utilizing my skills that I have developed. These unexpected surprises are a gift that just happened to occur by chance during the process of creating art. This is very satisfying to me. Also, sharing my work is a valuable experience as it helps to clarify ideas and find a clear means of presentation.
KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe the process of creating and publishing your books?
VALERIE SHAFF: Each book that I have published has, fortunately, been a very fluid process. I have been fortunate to have great agents and a wonderful co-author, Roy Blount, Jr. You can view my books here.
KATHERINE CARVER: What kind of patterns, rituals, and routines do you have while making photographs?
VALERIE SHAFF: The medium of photography has changed over the years. The photography equipment and process is quite different. Therefore, there are different preparations that take place today. I am trying to be more spontaneous in my photography and practice.
KATHERINE CARVER: Looking back on your accomplishments, to date, what are you the most proud of?
VALERIE SHAFF: I am most proud that I am associated with very accessible work. Many different types of people can respond to my work from a lay person to a person who has studied art formally. I really enjoy that my work is non-exclusive. I am also proud that I have been recognized as doing something original, which is very affirming.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?
VALERIE SHAFF: I live in the country, and I am currently building a studio in my back yard. I am working on my personal work, exploring relationships. Previously, I did a lot of commercial work, which I was fortunate to have an opportunity to work on. However, with a client comes many expectations that I was expected to satisfy and deliver, which is much different than creating my own personal work. While doing commercial work, I had much less of an opportunity to get lost making my own personal art work and experimenting.
KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire your work?
VALERIE SHAFF: Nobody comes to mind right now. I am most concerned with getting to know the artist in addition to viewing the artist’s work. I do like to attend local art shows and see new work being made.
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring photographers and artists?
VALERIE SHAFF: Do not second guess yourself. You need to question what you are doing, but you also need to follow your instincts. Often times, what you are working on will lead to something else as well. It is also very important to appreciate the process. Additionally, it is important to be confident and to develop your own work. When you are not as concerned about what others think, you will create stronger work. It is also important to be playful and be committed to the process of making art. Finally, for me, it has been very helpful to have a spiritual practice to help understand yourself more deeply and knowing that we are all connected.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view your photographs?
VALERIE SHAFF: You can visit my website at http://www.valerieshaff.com/; and you can contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please not that all photographs are courtesy of Valerie Shaff.
You can read additional interviews here.