What do you do?
primarily fine art photography, much of it abstraction
Where can we find
So far this year I've been in the 2012 Statewide Juried Photography Show at
the Triton Museum, the Silicon Valley Artists' Collaborative group
show at Art Object Gallery, Axis Art Gallery, and in the Center
for Photographic Art in Carmel's 2012 Juried show. I am also happy to say
I have my first work in a show in NYC at Denise Bibro Fine Arts in the Chelsea district
at the end of May. Additional shows will be posted on my website.
What inspires you to
create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?
I tend to document my life with my photography so I never run out of
material. I find interesting and beautiful images no matter where I am, even in
unexpected places such as an ugly, rusting dumpster or a graffiti-covered wall.
My biggest challenge is making time to sit at the computer and work on the
massive amount of images I collect. Capturing an image that delights and
intrigues me keeps me going.
What do you think is
more important content/finished product or technique/process?
I can't answer this question. I have seen a lot of photography with
fantastic technique that I consider content-free. For me I suppose some emotion
in the work trumps the number of pixels in the details and the f-stop, but a
marriage of the two is heaven.
Who are some people
who influence and/or inspire you?
In my past life as a graphic designer and art director at places like
Apple, I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic pro photographers, one
of the most influential was a former photojournalist Doug Menuez who taught me
to look for an honest, real moment of expression rather than attempting to
manufacturing one. We did several really great photoshoots of children in the
act of discovery and learning that still resonate with me. Other favorites
include Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Edward and Brett Weston, Diane Arbus,
and Sally Mann. Plus painters such as Klee, Miro, Kandinsky, Klimpt, and
If you could be any
fictional character who would you be?
Rose, the character played by Kate Winslet in "Titanic." She was
based on the fantastic ceramic artist Beatrice Wood, who lived an adventurous,
creative life and was friends with artists from Alfred Stieglitz, to Duchamp
and Man Ray. She also became a writer as well and lived to 105 with the last 25
years of her life being the most productive.
When do you get your
I get my best images at unexpected times. The closest way I can describe it
is that I allow myself to drift and explore. A wrong turn can often lead to the
most amazing subjects and moments to shoot. I get a prickly sensation on the
back of my neck with I find something magical and the light is just right. If I
try too hard or attempt to repeat myself it usually fails. I need to allow my
muse to guide me.
do you use most to create your work?
My main camera is a digital Nikon with a high quality zoom lens. I also
have little pocket Leica that I can take video with. I occasionally play with a
Lomo or Holga and black and white film (their plastic lens and leaky cheap
bodies allow for wonderful accidents). I am a pretty good printer and do most
of my own printing on an Epson with archival inks.
Are you self-taught
or formally educated, how do you think that has influenced or affected your
I started doing photography for the yearbook in junior high in order to get
my hands on a real camera. In high school journalism class, as the only
photographer, I was left to my own devices in the darkroom, so I consider
myself mostly self taught. I attended 10 years of college part time in 4
different cities. At one point I was so frustrated by getting a "D"
in tennis that I quit working for a degree and decided I would just take
classes that interested me like art. I finally dropped out and apprenticed myself
to a graphic designer. The affect has been that I don't quite fit into a
specific genre and I am not very technically oriented. I am fine with walking
my own path.
What would your
creative work taste like?
Recently a really great LA/NY gallery owner who represents lots of big time
artists called my work "delicious". I was elated. I guess it might be
like a chocolate cake with a layer of beautiful glazed fruit on top.
When you are not
creating what do you like to do?
I love movies and and interacting with other artists. I have become an
activist for the local arts scene and experimented with opening my own gallery,
plus doing some freelance curating inSan Francisco. I am dabbling with a bit of
writing as well. I am also addicted to flea markets and collecting.
How did you
learn to access your creative talents and gain the confidence to put it out
there for everyone to experience?
It was a long slow process. I was very shy and insecure. As I have gotten
older I decided to stop wasting time and just go for it. I push myself to take
risks now and have gained much more confidence, even speaking in public
occasionally. I have also dedicated myself to being very prolific, a bit easier
as a photographer than a painter.
What advice would you
give others just beginning their creative adventures?
Practice, practice, practice; work, work, work. Visit lots of galleries and
museums and see the work close up. Get to know other artists and ask questions.
Don't be afraid to approach artists you admire and ask them for advice or offer
to do some menial work for them. You'd be surprised how many of them could use
an apprentice or some free labor.
Don't get lost in the art school mentality, find yourself
and listen to your inner voice. Don't waste time thinking about making money
from your art. If you are one of the lucky ones, fine but do it because you
have to do it. Don't be afraid to fail or waste time and materials, some of the
most important things come from mistakes. Being an artist is the only thing I
ever wanted to do and I wasted decades listening to those who said it wasn't
practical, and being in fear of criticism. Be disciplined and apply yourself
even when it gets rough.
There is room for all of us as artists somewhere in
the ecology of the Arts. And don't let your ego get the better of you (being
either over confident or insecure). It is the art that is important not the
Deborah Mills Thackrey - Photo taken by Tricia Leeper