Interview #54: Ariel Rosenbloom
CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?
Ariel Rosenbloom: My mother was a photographer when she was younger and was always taking pictures of my sisters and I. I got interested in photography in high school, but it didn't really click until I was in college and took a darkroom class. Although I've been primarily shooting color for a while now, printing in the darkroom became one of my great passions (still is) and that's how I really became immersed in photography.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. Does your town/city/country affect your photography?
AR: I recently moved from Brooklyn to the Bay Area, and it absolutely affects my photography. I loved living in an urban environment, but Brooklyn was not conducive for shooting. I would take the train up 45 minutes north to my hometown to shoot because I really need nature and natural light for my images. California has so many beautiful, secret, out of the way places. I've really enjoyed finding those.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
CUS: Describe your average day.
AR: Get up, read on the hour-long commute to work, read on the way back, come home, have dinner, maybe work on some photo stuff, hang out with my boyfriend and cat. It's pretty busy right now, but we're thinking of moving to LA, which would be an exciting change. My days off are never average and always full of adventure and often, shooting.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
AR: Yes, I studied photography at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, and was very lucky in that I had incredible professors with whom I cultivated strong, meaningful relationships. If I ever get around to publishing a book of my work, I would dedicate it to my advisor and professor Robert Seydel, who passed away last year.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
AR: My loved ones, my camera, books, records, sunlight.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are you thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
AR: Sure, but that all depends on what being a "photographer" really means. I think that there are a billion reasons why people take photographs. Photographers nowadays get all bent out of shape about people taking pictures on their iPhone, and how that's ruining photography, but I don't really see how that makes a difference. If you're serious about being a photographer and enjoy and believe in what you're doing, then who cares what other people are doing? There's always going to be a lot of terrible photography out there. I try not to think about it too much and just focus on my work and look at other work that inspires me. As far as digital versus film goes, I will always prefer film, but I don't think digital is evil. Unless you're a millionaire or have a trust fund or something, you understand that film is expensive and digital is cheaper. To me it's still worth it to shoot film, but I'm broke all the time, so we'll see how that works out.
CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?
AR: Punctum (Barthes, Camera Lucida)
CUS: What is your fondest childhood memory?
AR: I have many, but the first that came to mind was picking and eating honeysuckles from a bush outside my childhood home with one of my sisters.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
AR: I'm influenced by many things- painting, architecture, photography, literature, music, theater, dance. Looking seriously at other art forms besides photography has been a major influence on my work.
CUS: How do you go about finding models for your photographs?
AR: I photographed my sisters for many years, which was not only very convenient and also better in a lot of ways than photographing other people because we're all so close. I tend to gravitate towards photographing people I know well, but have tried to branch out in the past year or two. It can be quite a chore to find people willing to pose for you. I'd like to get to the point where I can go up to strangers and either photograph them or give them a card with my website and email. That's one of my goals.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work?
AR: Absolutely. Any and all recognition I've gotten as a photographer has been because of the internet. It's an incredibly powerful tool and allows people all over the world to view your work. Of course there complaints too, like the fact that people reblog your images on Tumblr and you have no idea, etc. But the pros far outweigh the cons.
CUS: What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
AR: I'm actually on the last leg of my vacation right now. First my boyfriend and I went to New York to see family and friends, where I managed to shoot some new work. And now I'm in Canada at my boyfriend's parent's lake house, which has been very relaxing. I've spent a lot of the week reading, shooting, enjoying the lake, and watching the meteor shower.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
AR: Immerse yourself in art and literature. There is so much to learn and if you really want to grow as an artist you must learn and take in as much as you can. Also, work hard and stay focused. I don't get nearly as much time to work on photography as I'd like. But I've worked full-time since college, am in a ton of debt with barely enough money to get by, plus plenty of other responsibilities, and have still found time because it matters to me.
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
AR: I don't expect to make a living being a photographer. I'm still toying with the idea of getting an MFA so I can teach photography, but with the economy and teacher shortages it doesn't seem all that realistic, not to mention the exorbitant costs of getting a master's degree. I know I want to work in the arts, it's just a question of where and how. Once I have a better job I'll be easier for me to devote time and money to promoting my own work, which hasn't been much of a priority this year. What has been more important to me this past year is developing and creating new work, and I'm happy with what I've accomplished so far.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
AR: I recently made a big decision to purchase a Mamiya RZ67, which is very exciting. It's an incredible camera and so far I'm very pleased with the results. I've always gravitated towards portraiture, but recently I've also become interested in landscape and the idea of natural versus unnatural environments. I'd like to do a project dealing with those themes, possibly juxtaposed with close-up portraits focusing on awkward, in-between facial expressions. I've also started working on a series of male portraits. So much of portraiture today is made up of sexualized images of women, but rarely men. I'd like to help break that boundary.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Hannah Hayes, wants to know: What is one experience you wish you had photographed but did not?
There are so many times I see people on the street or in the subway or in the grocery store and wish more than anything I had my camera with me. There are certain people whose faces I am subconsciously drawn to and when one comes along something clicks. And then they're gone forever. I'm going to get a card made up so that at least there's a chance of meeting that person again.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
AR: I feel like a large part of becoming a successful artist today is related to money and having the means to work full-time on art. How has money (or lack thereof) had an affect on your photographic work?