Tell us about yourself and how your photography has led you to this point in your career?
I grew up in North Carolina with a mother who encouraged me to follow a path in life that I was passionate about, which for me has always been photography. I started taking pictures when I was a kid. Looking back, photography was a tool that helped me express myself during my parents divorce and later became a reliable and creative outlet that was uniquely my own.
I honed in my photography interests starting in high school and again at Pratt Institute where I received my BFA. For a while I worked as a photography assistant in NY. I worked as a photography assistant for several years in NY. Soon after I took a series of trips to Central and South America and worked on a number of personal projects. I eventually settled in Boston and received my MS in Arts Administration from Boston University.
I served as Executive Director at the Griffin Museum of Photography for five years. It was wonderful. I had the opportunity to combine my skills in photography, curation, and arts administration. We were a small team but we worked tirelessly to make the museum a preeminent location for photography in New England.
However, after five years, I missed having time to shoot. I decided to go back to photographing for a living. Now I shoot editorial and fine art projects, I teach photography, and occasionally curate exhibitions.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished a short body of work with Proof: Media for Social Justice. The project is called, The Legacy of Rape. We focused on a group of women in Columbia, offering a voice to those who had survived rape or sexual violence during times of conflict. The final images are accompanied by interviews with the women—hung in a public art display—scheduled to show in the Congo, Geneva, and United States Institute for Peace in DC.
Additionally, I’ve been working on a new body of work called “Princess” that addresses today’s popular princess culture. The images reveal girls dressed in their princess dresses in environments that complement or contrast their girly-girl nature.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Much of my fine art work is inspired—on some level— by experiences in my own life. In many ways, I draw inspiration from my family.
I’ve had a long-standing interest in women’s issues, girlhood, and identity, all of which are reoccurring themes in my work. I have also found inspiration from reading several Peggy Orenstein books—elements of her research have related directly to my life.
And of course, I also find inspiration from the work of other photographers and artists I admire. Be it legendary photographers or photographer friends that are continually building on their careers.
How do you stay positive about your work?
There are a few key people I feel comfortable being vulnerable around, I lean on them for creative feedback. I believe that to some degree, most artists feel a sense of insecurity as they begin building a new body of work. (I know I do.) Between my husband, sisters, and a few photographer / curator friends I get well-rounded feedback that keeps me motivated and positive.
I try to remember that everyone has his or her own creative process and style. Staying true to my style of working helps me stay on task and remain positive.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
I’d be happy knowing that the viewer had some sort of personal connection to the work or found an image particularly poignant or relatable.
What’s your advice when it comes to pursuing a career in photography?
A few things:
What’s the first photo you remember taking?
My first memories of taking pictures are of my sister Emily. We were close growing up and she was my go-to subject. I remember shooting pictures of her while we were on a camping trip on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The photographs are of her walking through the sand dunes on the way to the beach.
What does your ability to express yourself through photography mean to you?
I feel most comfortable expressing myself through photography. Therefore, it means a lot to me to be able to share my ideas through a medium I am passionate about and good at.
What does public art mean to you and how do you see the mission of PNB supporting public art?
I love that public art projects are accessible to everyone. They expose the public to art that they may not normally access to. In regards to PNB, and what I’m most excited about, is the notion that they are not exclusive to established photographers, but that PNB is a collaborative for all types of image-makers—moms and kids to amateurs and professionals. Great photography can be made by anyone and PNB gives us a chance to share images that inspire.
To see more work by Blake Fitch, visit her website (here).
All images courtesy of Blake Fitch.
Interview by Elaine Totten Davis. Elaine is a member of the PNB executive board and a certified life and career coach, founder of ETD Coaching.
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