INTERVIEW QUESTIONS What have you been doing since winning the bursary?
Since winning the Bursary in 2017, I graduated with my M.F.A. degree in Social Documentation from the University of California, Santa Cruz. With this degree under my belt, I relocated to Chicago, Illinois where I continue to freelance documentary photographic work, as well as develop my own projects. I have currently been experiencing a creative surge! I am working on a couple photographic projects, one long-form photo-essay, and one book, and recently launched my own Print Shop (www.cebeloomis.com/printshop).
How long have you been photographing?
I have been photographing since the tenth grade of high school, so thirteen years!
Can you tell us a little about your practice?
I am a social documentarian and visual anthropologist that primarily works with analogue photography. At an early age I was taught an appreciation for the materiality of film photography. My father, a fine art photographer himself, gifted me my first camera, his own 1980 Nikon F3. With this tool for interpreting the world hanging around my neck, I began to photograph my many hometowns: the American West of Los Angeles, California and Reno, Nevada; as well as the suburban streets of my Greek-immigrant grandparents’ neighborhood in Montreal, Canada. Today I am still creating portraits of both people and place through analogue photography. I walk. I talk. I sit. I listen. I record. I photograph. Additionally, I have come to understand how my analogue practices help me form a nuanced relationship with my photographic subject. When shooting medium-format film with my 1950s 1000F Hasselblad camera, I use to my advantage a mechanical process that it so worth the few precious minutes it takes to work through. In contrast to rapid-fire, digital documentary capturing, the analogue workflow allows me the space and time to speak and connect with the individuals I am photographing.The analogue camera as a social tool for my work is an essential element for beginning to break down the power dynamics inherent in the art of photography. As an artist and social documentarian, I am invariably questioning my own methodology, as well as issues of gaze, privilege and power. My analogue processes have come to prompt, inform and influence these questions and consequently, my photographic projects.
What inspires your work?
The day-to-day rumblings of people’s lives, of city streets, of quiet suburbia…of the world around me! If you can just take the time to stop, listen and watch, there is so much to learn from and be inspired by right in front of your own eyes. I think it can be scary though. To really be present in public, to allow people to see you, and for you to see other people. It is very freeing though, and this freedom sparks inspiration. There is so much to see and experience, even in your own neighbourhood!
Where is your favourite place or favourite thing to photograph?
I think this is an impossible question for a social documentarian! I don’t work in singularities or absolutes. Each place or thing or person brings its own story and inspiration for my work.
Where can we see your work?
www.cebeloomis.com or my IG: @cebeloomis
Who is your favourite female photographer and why?
I love exploring Women Photograph’s, Women Photographers of Color database (https:// www.womenphotograph.com/wpoc). Lately, I’ve discovered the work of Miranda Barnes (@mirandabarnes) and Ying Ang (@yingang), and have been loving their use of color. Additionally, a friend of mine from Vassar, Hannah La Follette Ryan, started the IG account @subwayhands and I can’t get enough!
Any words of advice for female photographers starting out?
Trust your intuition. You have something others don’t. Don’t second guess that. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to try and stumble. The process is always more important than the outcome.
What’s next for your practice?
I will continue to challenge myself, digging deeper into my practice and exploring my eye. I would also like to collaborate more! I think there are so many missed opportunities for collaborative conversation within the arts because we can be so focused on our own work, a very insular world. I plan to challenge my own methodology and practice by inviting more collaboration and partnership into my photographic process!
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
From the upcoming book, In My Yesterday
This image is part of my developing book project exploring my time attending Vassar College in upstate New York. I photographed my entire four years of college life—clear and honest photographs that captured my burgeoning relationships and adolescent experiences. My images were simply composed yet intimate and lively; in these pictures of young adults lying on the grass or screaming in unison at nothing, there is evident an underlying anxiety and uncertainty, coupled with absolute freedom and exploration of spirit.
Virginia City, Nevada
From the book, Tailings
An image from my RPS Post-Graduate Bursary funded project, Tailings. This long form, ethnographic book works to unpack how Virginia City’s custom of storytelling affects how place and identity is rendered, remembered, and endlessly remade. The book uses analogue photography (35mm/120mm), ethnographic text and personal testimony to explore how Virginia City and its 855 residents grapple with selling Wild West mythology to its visitors, while living their day-to-day lives in a silver mining town founded on colonial expansionism.
From my Print Shop.
This colorful beauty is featured in my newly released Print Shop (www.cebeloomis.com/ printshop). I remember capturing this image in Berlin in the fall of 2013, I was so taken with the color story. I have always been a fan of bright colors, and how they can truly transform a space.
Block Island, Rhode Island
This image is part of my newest, ongoing photo series, where I am reconstructing some of my most emotionally stirring childhood memories. This series is a slight departure from “true-form” documentary photography, but in my eyes, works directly with the discipline. I am using what I have learned over the past ten years as a social documentarian, to probe inwards…to document and interpret my own life story so I may better understand my photographic and artistic eye.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
An image from the body of work I created for UCLA Professor of Sociology, Patrick Heuveline. Since 2000, Professor Heuveline has been studying Cambodian family structures and their change since the Khmer-Rouge period (1975-79). I was commissioned to create a visual log of his research, entitled, Family and the Home. As a visual anthropologist and social documentarian, I have partnered on a handful of anthropological/sociological research projects. I truly love doing this work. Incorporating visual components within academic research is imperative when creating a body of work that pushes beyond expected ethnographic observations.