Teresa Christiansen

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born and raised in NYC and now live in Portland, OR.
What necessities do you require when making your art (radio, specific paintbrushes)?
I shoot with a range of cameras: a digital SLR camera tethered to a computer, a medium format, and a large format camera. Necessary to my art are a wide range of supplies outside of photographic equipment: lots of artist tape, exacto blades, a good cutting mat, a large collection of inkjet prints of my photographs that I have selected and printed out, colored papers, glue, mirrors, scissors, paint, and a collection of objects that I have come across or sought out as ideas come to mind.
Have you always worked with photography?
I studied painting in undergrad, but always practiced photography as an art form since my first photo class in seventh grade. After college, I worked as an Assistant Photographer in the Photograph Studio of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, documenting works from the Museum’s collection. I started to become fascinated with the ubiquity of the photographic medium, and its ability to function on so many levels in our culture. My pursuit of an MFA in photography was an exploration of the role of photography as a conceptual medium. I now teach photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art and my work is constantly fueled by the questions my students pose about this complex medium. I particularly enjoy using photography as a medium to engage in a dialogue with other media such as painting and sculpture.
Making the actual photograph is only a small part of the process that leads to the construction of what is set up in front of the lens and ultimately depicted. — Teresa Christiansen
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
My time in the studio is spent playing: setting things up, taking them down, trying new configurations, learning from failures. Making the actual photograph is only a small part of the process that leads to the construction of what is set up in front of the lens and ultimately depicted. I spend a good amount of time in the studio writing, reading, researching, and moving materials around until an idea surfaces. Once it does, I usually try several approaches to resolving the concept I had in mind before I choose a direction.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
My work is deeply rooted in process and experimentation, so spontaneity plays a large role. I’ve learned that the images I am most satisfied with are not ones that I pictured in my mind from the start, but ones which emerge through an unplanned route.

Floral Still

How do you choose your materials?
The objects I photograph almost always have personal significance for me. Most of them resonate with memories I have, either from my own experience, or from recollections of artwork I have seen. Some objects I come across and an idea forms, others I have sought out specifically to match an image in my mind.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
I am invested in the idea of landscape and how humans relate to their surroundings. A houseplant for me represents a desire to connect to nature at the same time that it symbolizes a disconnection. My practice explores again and again different ways to represent the landscape in photography.

Other themes that recur in my work are: photography’s relationship to painting, the inherent flatness of a photograph, what is means to layer photography through process (photographing, then re-photographing…), and the tangibility of the photographic print.


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