Today we’d like to introduce you to Ann Mitchell.
Hi Ann, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I come from a family of artists, my mom is a painter and art historian and my father was a musician and documentary filmmaker, so in some ways, it was a given that I was going to do something creative with my life. Photography was an early interest and I started my career as a studio food and product photographer. At some point however, I realized my best work was what I had done for myself, which prompted me to go back to school for my MFA and explore what that could mean.
This was also around the time I started teaching and shortly after graduation, I was hired at Long Beach City College in a truly wonderful Art Department. It was during my first sabbatical that I started my series on the Austin Val Verde estate, located in Montecito which featured early twentieth architecture and design by Bertram Goodhue and Lockwood de Forest Jr. This was also when I made a creative leap into creating prints that went beyond the literal, capturing mood and space with warmth, strong design and a balance between softness and detail – this approach has stayed with me.
About a decade ago, I moved into photo montage with constructed images. I wanted to invent something that was almost cinematic, to be able to create worlds that existed in my own dreams. This is also when I started incorporating meditation and journaling into my creative process, often using prompts to inspire my visual imagery. I have returned to hand-made prints, using platinum palladium printing which is a 19th-century process – I love the mix of digital and vintage approaches.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Looking back is always an interesting experience – on one hand, it seems as if it was a struggle most of the time – but my struggles were of the average kind and not out of the ordinary. Divorces, raising kids, losing those you love, trying to be an artist, teaching, colleagues, getting dinner on the table – that’s the stuff most of us have to deal with.
What I loved about teaching was that you are, in a way, paid to learn and what I especially loved about teaching at the community college level was the diverse range of students that walked through my door. Figuring out how to connect with each individual, how to make information relevant to their lives – all of that was a challenge – but a good one. Actually what I love about being an artist is the constant challenge – the continual questions and questioning that is an essential part of the process.
My most recent challenge has been expanding my practice into working with clay – which is something I’d studied in my early undergrad years. Having to think in three dimensions and working with a process where so much can be out of your control has been fascinating for me.
What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I am an artist working in photography, animation and clay. My work is known for a strong sense of mood and often a darker sensibility that is present in whatever medium I’m using. My created worlds exist somewhere between a dream and a cinematic still – where we have a sense that the space and narrative continue beyond the frame, with echoes from a past existence. Starting with a warm, monochromatic palette to impart a sense of nostalgia, I use a visual language of objects that weave structures into a place where nature is returning. These are spaces of transition and I like the idea that in a balance between us and nature…nature will eventually have its way. The objects within the frame are the characters – they embody hope, loss, life, age, and strength…that is their role in these landscapes.
In terms of my work, what really brings me joy is often not my own artwork – but rather my efforts to connect and build community through multiple venues. thinkingaboutphotography.com is an online venue where I curate thematic showcases of interesting artists from around the world. Project Launch is an online group of women artists who meet every 6-8 weeks to discuss and give input on their goals – and the sense of support and camaraderie is wonderful! I also occasionally teach webinars through Los Angeles Center of Photography and have really enjoyed those as well.
What sets me apart from others? I don’t really spend time thinking about that. Life brings enough “apart” to the table – I’m more interested in connections and finding commonality.
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
Hmmmm. Luck is an interesting concept – I would say that I prefer the term synchronicity when thinking about how my life/business has played out. I was fortunate to have connected into the commercial and editorial photography worlds when doors were really open for women and budgets were fairly solid for the type of studio work I did. My decision to shift into fine art and teaching was driven by my own goals and becoming a divorced mom of a very young child – but that also coincided with an economic downturn (bad for commercial photos) and a turnover of the first generation of photography faculty (good for getting teaching jobs).
It’s a bit of a river, isn’t it? We flow with the current sometimes – against it at other stages – but either way, that sense of connection and synchronicity / luck / fortune moves with us.
- Website: www.ann-mitchell.com and www.thinkingaboutphotography.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annmitchell/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ann.mitchell.50
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/AnnMitchell100/videos
- Other: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user12965813
©Ann Mitchell on all images