Adrienne Moumin is a true photographic artist who continues to use a darkroom to develop her work. Her work has an “old school” elegance that comes from a refined eye and ability to uncover hidden beauty. We had a great chat …
MICHAEL: Adrienne, Your work is amazing. First of all, tell me about your obvious love of black and white photography. How did it come about?
ADRIENNE: I came to this late in life. I always wanted to take photographs, but only had access to very rudimentary equipment until my 20's and had fun shooting once I got a decent rig, color film that I got developed at the drugstore! In the 1990's I began shooting black and white. My first roll was a disaster and grueling to shoot, but I soon caught on to what was special about this and I learned the rudiments of darkroom work.
I loved it so much and wanted to learn more in order to produce what I saw in my mind's eye. I began going to exhibits and one of my very early influences was Paul Strand. I was simply mesmerized by his work and still love it to this day! I studied privately at Penguin Prints, a small darkroom in Tribeca which is no longer in existence, while attending Empire State College. I ultimately graduated in 1999 with a BA in Documentary Visual Studies and Society.
In addition to documentary projects (one that never made it to my web site is here: http://bit.ly/138cXpJ), I also create surreal mixed-media photo collages (http://picturexhibit.com/html/mixed_media.html) and http://picturexhibit.com/html/sin.html), as well as my Architextures series of geometric abstract collages (http://picturexhibit.com/html/architextures.html), made from multiple hand-cut-and-assembled prints of architectural and urban landscape photographs. I have been working in mixed-media collage since childhood and started the Architextures series in 2003, during a period when I had no access to a darkroom. It has gone from something to do "in the meantime" to one of my main art forms. Well, this was fun - as you can see I am a great ham and love to talk about my life and my work, on both of which I am the foremost authority!
MICHAEL: Do you still use film and develop in a darkroom? Many photographers today swear by the whole digital process.
ADRIENNE: Yes, I do, you can see it, along with some technical info on my prints, here: http://picturexhibit.com/html/technical.html I really don't adhere to what many or most do; I follow my own muse, heart, and vision. I "swear" by the superiority, and creative satisfaction, inherent in the handmade over the digitally-produced. I simply *love* working in the darkroom, while sitting in front of the computer editing images feels interminable.
MICHAEL: That handmade quality and love clearly show in your work which also reminds me of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work too. It's so naturalistic and mis-en-scene rather than montage in approach obviously. What makes a great photograph to you?
ADRIENNE: Thank you, Michael. Good tonal range, interesting subject matter and composition.
MICHAEL: I love the fact that you said you came to your art late in life. I have too with my art writing. Have you seen any advantages in coming to something later in life?
ADRIENNE: I feel there are several advantages to beginning to make and market my art later in life: I’m more focused and disciplined with clearer ideas of what I want to do (less experimentation w/different media/styles so less time is spent on unproductive activities). I have more certainty that my art is good (more sure of myself and my skills and vision than I was in my younger days) perhaps because I hold myself to a higher standard than I would have when I was younger. And I’m less shy than I would have been as a younger person, about putting it out there - less worry about the approval of others.
MICHAEL: Your collage works are very intriguing and lovely. What inspires you to create them and how do you do it?
ADRIENNE: The "Architextures" series of handmade photo collages began in 2003, during a period when I had no access to a darkroom and in advance I made multiple prints of some of my photographs to cut up as collages. This eventually went from something to do "in the meantime" to a fully-realized body of work, which I continue to this day. I enjoy every aspect of the process: shooting and processing the film, making the prints in a traditional wet darkroom and cutting up and adhering the pieces of prints to a substrate.
MICHAEL: Everyone seems to have a camera these days and people seem to be taking photos of everything all the time. Has this changed the way you work and what you will or won't photograph?
ADRIENNE: Yes, a camera or an iPhone or an iPhone app ... and yes, we are a very photographed world. It has changed my work in that I find myself shooting less "random" stuff that I might have shot "because you never know" even as recently as a year or two ago. While some may posit that this means I take fewer chances, the way I see it is that my life is finite, my vision is clear and getting more finely honed all the time, and I still continue to hand-process every roll I shoot!
MICHAEL: What's the difference between a photograph and a work of art?
ADRIENNE: Everything and nothing! A photograph can be a work of art, although it doesn't have to be if it doesn't actually "serve" that "purpose." Eye of the beholder!
MICHAEL: Finally Adrienne, does your body of work have an overall message? And what role do you think art plays in the world today?
ADRIENNE: I don't think there is one overall message in my body of work. I’ve been at it too long and too many discrete "bodies" for that! The main thrust of all of it, however, is that it is completely handmade. That is important to me. I think individual works have different meanings for different people. Despite what an artist may think or want or believe or intend, it’s ultimately the meaning that people viewing it bring to a work. I think art is a necessary and therapeutic antidote to the human condition. If all of the art in the world suddenly disappeared, never to return, the world would be a very gray place.
MICHAEL: It would be worse than that. Thanks Adrienne. Nice chat.
ADRIENNE: Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions. I really enjoyed myself and I learned some new things about myself in the process.
Check out Adrienne’s work at www.picturexhibit.com.