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Interview with Julia Schlosser, Artist, Art Historian, and Educator

Interview with Julia Schlosser, Artist, Art Historian, and Educator

Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Julia Schlosser, an artist, art historian, and educator living in Los Angeles, California.  A selection of Julia Schlosser’s work is displayed below.  Please visit Julia Schlosser’s website to view more of her work!

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as an artist and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: When I was an undergraduate student, my roommate took me to a series of lectures by some well-known photographers including Jo Ann Callis, Larry Clark, and Lewis Baltz.  The next year, I got a Canon AE-1 camera, and started taking black and white photographs of bands at my campus radio station.  Before I got that camera I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life, and photography has been the only thing that has made sense to me since that time.  I also love to write, but I almost always write about photography, or my writing gets included with my photographs.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study art formally?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: My undergraduate degree is in science from UC Berkeley, because my parents wanted me to have a practical degree.  After working in a science lab for a while, I applied to graduate school at California State University, Fullerton where I studied with Eileen Cowin, and I got my MFA in photography.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How do you describe your style?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: My visual style is eclectic.  The thing that ties my work together is my interest in the corporeal or visceral.  Even if I am not actually photographing a human or non-human animal body or an object associated with the body, I am still trying to evoke an embodied response to the photograph in the viewer.  With the Roam series, I hope the viewer will get a sense of the freedom that the dogs feel running in the dog park.

roam_006

From the series Roam

 

KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating photographs was absolutely something that you had to do?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: While it took me a long time to “commit” to photography as a life path, I have never found anything else that has given me the satisfaction that photography does.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin photographing dogs?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: At the time my father died in 2001, I was also taking care of two very sick cats who died shortly after he did.  I was grieving, and I began looking around for artwork that reflected my emotions.  I started photographing people taking care of their own pets.  Then Tess, a lovely German shepherd/Border collie mix, came into my life, and she inspired me to continue photographing at the off-leash dog park near my house.  These images evolved into the Roam series.

roam_007_re

From the series Roam

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How have your own dogs influenced your artwork? 

JULIA SCHLOSSER: I started photographing my pets because I wanted to see artwork that reflected the way I feel about them: how much I value their companionship, the bonds we share and their own self-directed sense of agency.  Most of the photographs of dogs that I saw back then were more traditional reflections of animals, which either treated them as symbols for human experiences or as possessions.  So now when I photograph, I try to emphasize the animal’s point of view, the choices they make and their self-directedness, or something that we share together.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?

 JULIA SCHLOSSER: Being creative means active problem solving in an area that excites me.  So I try to solve visual problems, e.g., how can I present images of animals in a way that allows the viewer to consider them as individual beings with a self-directed sense of agency?

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being an artist?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: Making photographs is a very personal, intuitive, non-verbal process for me.  During the process I can’t really articulate what I am doing.  But showing my work involves engaging a different part of my brain in order to conceptualize the work, write an artist statement, and figure out what it really “means” to me in the process of getting it ready to show in public.  I find it hard to make the transition between these two activities.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How did you come up with the idea for your series entitled, Roam?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: I tried to come up with a way for me to spend more time with Tess and still make artwork.  The dogs seemed so happy at the dog park, so “in the moment” and I wanted to show that side of their experience.

roam_004

From the series Roam

 

KATHERINE CARVER: Your images capture the interaction between humans and their animals in a non-sentimental manner.  What led you to work this way?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: I knew how much my companion animals meant to me and felt like there had to be a way to capture our interactions visually in a way that felt genuine.  When I think of my animals, I don’t think of them in a sentimental manner, so I didn’t want to portray them that way.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going with your work and what keeps you motivated?  

JULIA SCHLOSSER: Going to galleries and museums and talking to other artists about the work is one way.  Reading also fuels my desire to make photographs. Right now I am reading Artist|Animal by Steve Baker (Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0816680672). 

food_tess

Tess’s food container with feeding instructions for pet sitter

From the series, Tend

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What kind of patterns, rituals, and routines do you have while making your photographs?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: Since I teach, take care of the animals I live with, make artwork and write about photography, time is always at a premium for me.  So, I try to find ways to fit picture taking into my daily life.  I worked with a scanner instead of a camera for a while and it was easy to use.  I didn’t have to set up the camera or lights.  I just opened the scanner and scanned whatever I was working with, whether it was me, an animal or an object.  (NB: I am always careful to keep the animal’s eyes protected while I am scanning!)

tesssurgery1019111045amsmall

Tess and Julia (Tess is recovering from surgery on her foot) 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: Looking back on your accomplishments, to date, what are you the most proud of? 

JULIA SCHLOSSER: I had a portfolio of my work published in exposure: The Journal of the Society for Photographic Education, Fall 2012 issue.  It is called The Lives of Others: The Work of Julia Schlosser and it was curated by Ciara Ennis.  I got the cover so I am pretty proud of that!

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: My series Tether involves me photographing while I am walking Tess, my dog, on leash.

tether_01_01_2013

From the series Tether

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire your work?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: Martha Casanave’s series Beware of Dog (http://marthacasanave.com/dog.htm);

João Bento’s series of dogs on the beach (http://www.faunaandflora.org/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i5vB0UCjHk);

Stephen Berens (http://www.stephenberens.com/books/regular/Italy_dogs.html); and

Tony Mendoza (http://www.tonymendozaphoto.com/pages/bob.asp).

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring photographers and other artists? 

JULIA SCHLOSSER: Find your niche and then commit to that.  Since I found the Animal Studies community, I feel more “at home” as a photographer than I ever have before.  I get a lot of support from other scholars and artists interested in the same things I am, and I always have a direction to point myself in when I am working. 

tether_12_30_2012

From the series Tether

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view your work?

JULIA SCHLOSSER: This is my website: http://www.juliaschlosser.com/.

My work was recently reviewed in Four&Sons: http://fourandsons.com/2013/06/12/free-run/.

I wrote a chapter which is included in this book: Experiencing Animal Minds: An Anthology of Animal-Human Encounters edited by Julie A. Smith and Robert W. Mitchell (Columbia University Press, 2012, ISBN-13: 978-0231161510).

The Roam series images were published in Ich, das Tier.  Tiere als Persönlichkeiten in der Kulturgeschicht (I, the Animal: Animals as Personalities in Cultural History), by Heike Fuhlbrügge, Jessica Ullrich and Friedrich Weltzien (Reimer, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-3496013853).

tether_12_23_2012

From the series Tether

All photographs are courtesy of Julia Schlosser.

You can read additional interviews here.

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