Q&A: Tealia Ellis Ritter

Floating © Tealia Ellis Ritter

Tealia Ellis Ritter is a contemporary photographer from Illinois.
For further information visit her website.

Kathryn Kmet: I noticed you use Artist Statements quite often in your work, How important/useful is it for you to use artist statements in your separate works?

Tealia Ellis Ritter: Writing artist statements is something that most artists do as a way of introducing the work to viewers. I actually don't enjoy writing them but they are useful because they force you to organize your thoughts and clarify broadly what you're doing. At the same time that I don't enjoy writing them, I really like reading other artist's writings on their work. It's the best way, aside from talking directly to the artist, to understand the artist's motivation.

Kathryn Kmet: How do you come across your subjects, what about them individually grasps your attention?

Tealia Ellis Ritter: In general I meet my subjects by chance on the street or grocery shopping or doing some everyday activity etc. I approach them, explain what I'm doing, exchange information and ask if they would be willing to be photographed, from there we usually e-mail back and forth and talk for awhile before the actual photo shoot. As far as what attracts me to each subject, that is a difficult thing to explain. I guess it's a bit like any attraction, it's part magic. In general there is something about each person that I feel I relate to, I think I recognize the desire for something beyond the present.

Kathryn Kmet: What has most inspires you in your photography?

Tealia Ellis Ritter: I would say that I am most inspired by whatever my current surroundings are. That may sound simplistic but in general my work is a reaction to the world around me and the issues that arise from my life.

My dream it to sleep with no nightmares © Tealia Ellis Ritter

Kathryn Kmet: What really attracted you to the medium of photography?

Tealia Ellis Ritter: My father was an avid photographer and he really introduced me to the medium. My mom is also an artist and she exposed me to art at a very early age. So art and photography have always been a part of my life. What I love about photography is the way that it is able, unlike any other art form, to walk the fine line between truth and fiction. Each image is this complex representation of the artist and the subject and what they have created together. People's willingness to believe in the truth of photographs provides photographers with an interesting ability to effect/manipulate the viewer.

Kathryn Kmet: How did going through school influence the way you photograph now? How long did it take you to realize your style?

Tealia Ellis Ritter:School was great for me. Many people believe that art is a totally intuitive thing that just spontaneously emerges from the artist and although I often work intuitively, having an understanding of art history and being able to talk and have critiques with other artists is invaluable. I continue to seek critiques from other artists and I am constantly looking at other artists' work...just like in any field, knowledge is always helpful.

Margot talks with Death © Tealia Ellis Ritter

Kathryn Kmet: I was very interested to see that you have a minor in printmaking from the University of Iowa. I am also a printmaking minor, I am interested to know if your have ever used the medium in your photographic work?

Tealia Ellis Ritter: I think that printmaking heavily influenced the body of work titled Specimens. Printmaking made me very aware of texture and manipulation/control of value which I think is important in that body of work. I also used photographs in my lithography which was an interesting way for me to see my images. It gave me a different appreciation for printing with light vs. printing with ink.

Figure, found alongside the highway © Tealia Ellis Ritter

Kathryn Kmet: As a photographer who had studied in the midwest, how did you get started in the art world? Was it a challenge for your or was it easier then you imagined?

Tealia Ellis Ritter: As far as getting started in the art world, I think that is still a work in progress. What I have found is that having a community of artists with whom you can share information and network is very important. Also, putting in the time to work and send out slides is key.

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