Sunday, July 8, 2012

Deborah Mills Thackrey

Name: Deborah Mills Thackrey

What do you do?
primarily fine art photography, much of it abstraction

Where can we find your work?
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 Pollack.

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 best ideas?
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.

What materials/tools 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 work?
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 artist.
Deborah Mills Thackrey - Photo taken by Tricia Leeper

No comments:

Post a Comment