By Maeve Wade
Local photographer, Bastienne Schmidt, will soon be facilitating a two-day workshop at the Southampton Art Center for artists hoping to strengthen their personal voice. Here, Ms. Schmidt talks about what inspires her and how she found her own voice.
You were born in Germany before moving to Greece when you were nine. How do you believe these places have influenced your work?
I can only say that it has inspired me in many ways. First is the presence of the light. It’s very important, especially for photography because photography is writing in light. Also, the prevalence of the certain color scheme. It has also influenced me in the sense that you can observe simple things very acutely there … Every time I’m in Greece, I collect my materials and when I come back, I feel newly inspired and I make things.
How does this area inspire you?
First of all, the opportunity to work quietly in my studio. I have more space, more thinking space, than I had when I was living in the city. That’s very important. Also, the light is equally as beautiful, although it is different than it is in Greece. Also, the ocean. I love seeing the horizon line over the water. The other thing that’s really important to my husband, Philippe Cheng, who is also an artist, is the art community that we are a part of that keeps evolving and growing. It’s really inspiring to be a part of that
How did you get into photography?
Because I moved to Greece when I was 9, I initially didn’t understand the language and I still had to learn Greek at school. It gave me the sense that “I’m the observer” and I think that’s a very good skill set to develop at the beginning of becoming a photographer or an artist. Observing how people talk to one another and how they create things together. To observe quietly, take it in, and make something for yourself out of it … Great observers make great artists because they bring the energy out of what they observe in visual ways.
I’ve read that your father’s archeological work inspired you as a child?
Totally, and in the sense that, we only understand history in retrospect as an attempt to reconstruct what was. We never would know for certain. So the artistry of history offers as a puzzle to really understand something about the human spirit at a different period of time. I find that incredibly fascinating. I think we, as artists, also make our worlds and deconstruct our own worlds into things that we collect, observe, and dream of. So, it’s kind of a creative process like archeology. We observe, but then we make something else out of it.
Your upcoming workshop at the SAC, titled ‘The Personal Narrative- Photographing with Light, Style, and Intent,’ focuses on finding your personal voice as an artist. Can you tell me a little about how you found your personal voice?
In my work and the work of others, I always look for a narrative. I think a lot of artists might misunderstand what makes their own story special. I’m a big believer that every person has a very authentic voice, but you need to tap into it. It’s more than just grazing the surface. It’s understanding what excites you and where you draw inspiration from. (…) I’m also very interested in the history of art and photography. You see yourself in reference to history. You can take it or disregard it, but it’s good to know what people did before us.
“The Personal Narrative- Photographing with Light, Style, and Intent” will take place at the Southampton Art Center starting with a portfolio review at 11 a.m. on August 3 and a photoshoot at 11 a.m. on August 4. Tickets are $125 and $100 for members of the SAC or ICP. To purchase, call (631) 283-0967 or visit southamptonartscenter.org