Susan Simmons Photography

I want to make better work. I come from industry, specifically advertising. It’s only recently that I decided to tackle photography full on, in a serious way. I don’t know what changed in me. When my husband died suddenly, the only response I had to this was to attempt to find what was authentic in my life. I do not understand death and in not understanding death I feel like I do not understand life. Photography is a way to understand life, to hold what is before me still. 

I think human beings are filled with grief. I think we try to hide this with a sense of belonging to a made up community or we hide grief with material possessions or we focus too much on our children trying to protect them from this very thing. No one teaches us how to live with grief. We are all on our own. All the sadness comes out in the photo.

There is a lot of activity swirling around me; I would like to find a single focus.

I mainly shoot portraits. In my experience, the photographer must risk herself as much as the subject in order for something to come out. Whether I’m shooting a person or their environment, I am interested in exploring the space between people, in this case, me and my subject. I think we are always hiding from ourselves, from each other. But there are these openings, moments of trust when somebody really comes through. I like how an image can be totally transformed in a second by a single gaze. So for me, photography is about our connection as human beings. To try to capture that on film and in a still image always remains fascinating. Somehow “that connection” shows up in the photograph but what it is remains a mystery.  

I like the immediacy of photography. Video presents problems in editing (time constraints, drive space and storage), but I would love the luxury to explore it more too.

I’m looking at Rosa Barba, Fiona Tan, Zoe Leonard, Jeff Wall, Wolfgang Tillmans, Sasha Pirker. Even though Rosa Barba is not a photographer per se, I like that she makes books that go with her films. I like that the camera apparatus is part of her work. I like that it is exposed and not hidden. I like to use that same concept in photography. I like making books. I like keeping the process open. I like for all the errors to show. I aspire to that kind of depth and beauty.

When did I start taking photos?

My father bought me my first 35mm camera when I was in high school. In the beginning I had trouble understanding aperture and f-stops and film speeds. I just wanted to take a good photo. I always used photography or video to see myself.  I do the same with others.

I am always looking to discover a tension so balanced in an image that it is complete. Photography is a system of visual editing. The ease of execution and the richness of the possibilities in photography both serve to put a premium on good intuition.

About “Marfa Project”:

I decided to explore Marfa in a different way, in a slow way. Marfa has a population of 2000 people. In the summer of 2013 I started working on a series of 300 portraits about the people of Marfa and sometimes others who are passing through. Often, the portraits include a subject’s possessions or living or work space to tell a story about who he or she is.

My rules are to shoot only medium-format film; to use no more than three rolls of 120 ASA film, to photograph my subjects once and to do it quickly (in 30 minutes or less). Lastly, there must be a connection. I am interested in crossing boundaries, both mine and others’. My parameters provide an immediacy and intensity to the portraits.

After my husband’s death, I might have gone anywhere. But Marfa allowed me to pare everything away that was extraneous, to set my own rules rather and to have the clearest view of myself and my relationships to the world. Having had the time to reflect and to look forward, graduate school is the obvious next step to further my practice and to define a new path.

 

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