Interview! Book award winner Amy Friend

The Critical Mass book award is a primary part of our Critical Mass programming – being able to work with the book award winner to produce a beautiful monograph of his/her book is always a privilege, and we truly enjoy the process. To date, we have published 16 monographs as part of Critical Mass – and, in addition to distributing it, we send a copy to every photographer who entered Critical Mass and every juror who lent their talents to viewing and voting on the work, as a thank-you for being part of things.

Photolucida is currently in the design stage with the Critical Mass 2014 book award winner, Amy Friend. Amongst communication about sequencing, spot varnish vs. aqueous coating, and file sizes, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to Amy, who has been such a pleasure to work with, and whose work from her Dare alle Luce (an Italian phrase used to describe the moment of birth, but literally ‘giving to light’) series we are so pleased to be translating into book form. 


Amy Friend


Tell us a little bit about your photography background and how you came to choose photography as your life’s “calling”.

It might sound cliché but I have always had an affinity for the arts. As a young adult I was mainly interested in painting. I entered University with the intention of becoming a painter, but my direction changed dramatically when I enrolled in an undergraduate analog photography course, I was hooked. I left school for some time to travel and explore – but my interest in photography continued to grow. I explored the medium on my own terms, eventually returning to my formal education, where I spent countless hours “playing” in the darkroom.

Tell us about your Dare alle Luce series. What led you to first source found images and play around with manipulating the photographs?  Was it difficult (or easy?) to translate your concept from idea to finished image?

The Dare alla Luce series began like much of my work. I start in a specific direction, but I prefer to experiment and play with the possibilities of my ideas in order to let them form in a manner that is natural. My previous work presented a particular interest in the “family album” and this continual interest led to my focus on what I like to call the “lost images” – photographs that are without a home. In my own albums (some quite old and given to me by my Nonna/grandmother) hold images that are lost despite being housed in the albums. Nobody can identify the people in the photographs. I wanted to make these photographs precious again, to somehow validate that loss. Initially, I began by embroidering on the photographs. I aimed to transform them into a new object. While sewing I would hold the photograph to the light in order to determine the placement of the pinholes. I recognized that the pinholes themselves were far more interesting to me and decided to work toward exploring the light and holes that I found so intriguing. My process often flows this way; I start ‘somewhere’ and allow it to happen, rather than control every aspect along the way. After working on a few photographs from my personal albums, I thought it important to look for images that did not directly relate to me. I began to search in vintage markets and online. Sometimes the photographs would have minor notations that indicated a place, person or time frame and at other times their history was completely lost. This presence and/or absence of history became an important part of the work. I feel that the titles are extremely important to the work as they comment on the actual photographs and on the medium of photography itself. I aim to play with the way we encounter these images through the titles; I want the viewer to wonder about the discrepancy in description and detail.

Are We Not Stardust?

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered on your creative path? Any advice, big or small you can share with others?

I have learned that not everyone is going to “like” or appreciate your work and that is o.k. Listen to yourself and believe in what you are doing and be sincere in your approach and result. This is not as easy thing to do! There are so many people with so many opinions and many are valid and wonderful, but in the end the work has to come from a place that is meaningful. Listen carefully to criticism, learn from it, enjoy it, and continue to challenge yourself. Question what you are doing and why. I have to remind myself to stay true to my work and investigate it until I feel that it is where and what I want it to be.

What are you working on now? It seems like personal family history plays an important element in your work?

Family history is important but as I continue to work through my own history I am haunted by the “unknown” stories that are everywhere around us. As society becomes more fragmented and in many ways, less social, I find myself reflecting on the unknown stories that hover in every neighborhood, home and life.

Currently, I am working on a new series that specifically takes inspiration from a small box of items that belonged to a great-uncle, who lived mostly as a hermit for the latter part of his life. I met him as an older man, but never knew him well. This box was given to me after his death mainly because nobody else knew what to do with it. The box contained a few letters, photos and intimate items but they leave an expanse of blank spaces in his history. I have always been attracted to the “blank” spaces. To what is not concrete.

How are you able to juggle teaching, family, and creating your own work?

I’m not! Or at least that is how it feels most days! It is an interesting struggle, but I adore being busy; I bore easily and get quite antsy when my mind is still. The creative work is a necessity and when I am not able to be in the studio for long periods of time, I feel like something is not quite right. I need that time and so, I make room for it after my daughter is in bed or in the wee hours of the morning. There are always negotiations with family and obligations, but I somehow plug time into my studio work.

Though we are still in the production phase of publishing your book, what are your thoughts on having your work published in monograph form, and out in the world?

I am absolutely thrilled. I knew at some point I would publish work from the Dare alla Luce series, but I did not expect this opportunity; it is amazing! I love that these photographs, which have been pulled from so many places, will be presented together in a book and sent back out into the world. There is something so pleasing about knowing they, (all those faces and moments) will be seen and touched.

What’s another interest of yours, outside of photography (something we might be surprised to learn about you)?

I wanted to have an especially crazy answer here, but I don’t think that is going to happen. So here are a few tidbits…many moons ago I was a competitive soccer player! I still love the sport!

I am obsessed with travel, although current obligations prevent that from happening much these days. I traveled through Morocco and found myself on a small camel caravan in the Sahara desert.