All About Photo Awards 2019

Laura Heyman

American Photographer
Laura Heyman was born in Essex County, New Jersey. She received a B.F.A in photography from University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, and an M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

Heyman’s work has been exhibited at Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco, CA, Deutsches Polen Institute, Darmstadt, DE, Ampersand International Arts, San Francisco, CA, Senko Studio, Viborg, DK, Silver Eye Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, The Palitz Gallery, New York, NY, Light Work Gallery, Syracuse, NY, The Ghetto Biennale, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Philadelphia Photographic Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA, The Laguna Art Museum, Laguna, CA, The United Nations, New York, NY and The National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

In 2010, she was nominated for a John Guttman Photography Fellowship, and was awarded a Light Work Mid-Career Artist Grant. She has received the Silver Eye Fellowship, a Ragdale Fellowship and multiple NYFA Strategic Opportunity Stipends. Heyman has curated exhibitions and panel discussions at Vox Pouli, Philadelphia, PA, Wonderland Art Space, Copenhagen DK and the Clocktower Gallery, New York, NY, and her work has been reviewed and profiled in The New Yorker, Contact Sheet, Frontiers, and ARTnews.

Pa Bouje Ankò: Don’t Move Again uses the studio portrait to explore embedded hierarchies between photographers, subjects and viewers. The work is driven in part by longstanding questions around photographic representation, specifically those involving the voyeurism and objectification of so-called “third world” subjects by “first world” artists. Seeking to examine these questions in depth, I established an outdoor portrait studio in the Grand Rue neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti in late November 2009. Advertisements circulated news about a photography studio in the area, where members of the local community could schedule appointments to have their portraits made for free. Working in black and white with an 8x10 camera, I photographed one hundred and twenty people over a period of two weeks.

Three weeks later, the meaning of those images shifted with the earthquake. They became both records and memorials. That event also changed the focus of the project, which evolved to include various expanding populations in Port-au-Prince tied to future development and reconstruction.

Issues of representation, visual sovereignty and cultural protocol, central to the project from the beginning, became more complicated after the earthquake. When I first arrived in Port-au-Prince, I imagined that positioning myself as a “studio photographer” would allow me to escape or subvert the complex tangle of hierarchies at play in Haiti, as well as in the exchange between photographer and subject. Neither has been the case. Instead, layers of meaning and intention continue to reveal themselves, expanding the project's framework and engaging the myriad contradictions and impossibilities present in the work’s original question.


All about Laura Heyman:

AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?
I began making photographs in high school, and knew I wanted to be a photographer before going to college.

AAP: Where did you study photography?
At University of the Arts in Philadelphia, I studied with Jack Carnell and Alida Fish. At Cranbrook Academy of Art, where I got my MFA, I studied with Carl Toth, and also Grant Kester, who taught Critical Theory at the school during my first year there.

AAP:Do you have a mentor or role model?
I don’t know that I’d say I have a mentor – there are peers I look to regularly for advice and feedback on my work.

AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
One of my first shots was the stream in my grandparent’s backyard in Phonecia, New York. My grandfather fished there, and my older sister and I used to run around and catch salamanders and frogs.

AAP: What or who inspires you?
Artists like Collier Schorr, An-My Lê, Roni Horn, Robert Adams, Mark Ruwedel, Pieter Hugo; David Shrigley, Jennifer Dalton Ai Wei Wei; Richard Mosse and Liz Cohen. I’m inspired by artists whose work makes me think, those using humor in their practice, and artists who really put themselves on the line. Books and essays, movies and performance – I’m inspired by a lot of different people and things.

AAP: How could you describe your style?
The visual style of my work changes according to the subject – a constant is subjects or projects that can and do express a layered viewpoint, or pose a series of questions.

AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film?
While I sometimes shoot digital, mostly I work analogue, with a medium or large format camera. Lately that has meant using Ilford HP5 black and white film with a Deardorff 8X10 camera and a 300 mm lens.

AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?
For me, editing (by which I mean deciding what images are included in a series, not post-production) is at least fifty percent of the job. I spend as much, if not more time editing a series as I do producing it.

AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?
Collier Schorr, Robert Adams, Rineke Djikstra, Zoe Strauss, Luc Delahaye

AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer?
Know what you want. Shoot twice as much as you think you should. Be prepared to shoot and re-shoot until you get what you want.

AAP: Your best memory as a photographer?
A number of photographs I made of some friends while we waited in a car for the ferry. It was cold out, and we were all inside, smoking. The images captured the moment and the subjects very precisely – although this was over twenty years ago, they still have an immediacy that thrills me.

AAP: Your worst souvenir as a photographer?
A little while ago I was shooting some portraits on a very sunny day, and forgot to flag the lens. The negatives l ended up with were completely fogged and unusable.

AAP: If you could have taken the photographs of someone else who would it be?
Either Robert Adams What We Bought, or Collier Schorr’s Jens F. Both books have a real hold on me – I’m completely consumed every time I open one up. And after years of looking at them, they still surprise and fascinate me.
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