Q&A: Sonja Thomsen
The following is based off of a transcription from a live interview:

© Sonja Thomsen

Sonja Thomsen is a photographer working in Milwaukee. She received an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004 and a BA in Biology and studio art from Kenyon College in 2000. Thomsen currently is part of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design's staff. To check out more great things from Sonja Thomsen her website is listed below as well as some other exciting reviews and some current work.



Recent Review: http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/arts/43553617.html

Current Exhibitions/ Projects:

RSVP Arbor, Michael Mazzeo Gallery,

Pause to Begin /

H2O: Film on Water, The Newport Mill, Newport NH, August 8 - November 7, 2009

© Sonja Thomsen

Crystal Miller: What inspired you to be a photographer?

Sonja Thomsen: I took photography in high school and I think great educators can be very effective and influential. I had a pretty amazing high school teacher that just let you hang out, put pushed you when you needed it, but didn’t pressure, didn’t make it all about that you had to be great, just keeping it creative. At the same time my mom actually went on a trip and brought me back a monograph of Harry Callahan’s show in Washington D.C. That was my first monograph, so I spent hours just looking through that work and was so interested in how many different kinds of pictures he made and how prolific he was and I started to be more serious about it.

© Sonja Thomsen

Crystal Miller: Do you think prints and photo books will disappear now that the digital era is taking over? How important do you think those objects are?

Sonja Thomsen: I love the object. I hope not, I don’t think so. I think there are too many people who love the object too. I don’t think it will be as mainstream; it will not be as cost effective, but what happens to our history if all of a sudden our books are gone, and its just data, that’s backed up in this server and the server crashes? That just seems crazy to me. I met this artist in Santa Fe this summer, Dornith Doherty (http://www.dornithdoherty.com/). She is working on this incredible project titled "Archiving Eden" photographing a seed bank, a national seed bank. I don’t know enough about it, but basically we have this bank in case of a major disaster or an apocalyptic moment and there is a seed of every living plant species in this vault so that they could replant. It is so frightening to think that someone thought we would actually need that. So the artist is making these beautiful images of these seeds, she is x-raying the seeds so they are almost transparent, they are almost kind of hopeful, but are presenting this very negative thing. So I don’t know, maybe we’ll have books in a vault, I hope not.

© Sonja Thomsen

Crystal Miller: Do you think anyone can be an artist or do you have to be born one?

Sonja Thomsen: I think everyone has a profound ability to be creative, but whether or not its supported, nurtured, fostered or developed is the main path for it to either grow or deplete away. We hear such incredible stories of people that are scientists their whole life and then all of a sudden discover they want to express themselves in art or music, and their successful at it. I don’t think there is a completely left or right-brained person. It is almost how much you let yourself live in that kind of dream space. You have to be willing to take risks, it isn’t a nine to five, and there isn’t a certain track with a security blanket most of the time. So maybe you do have to be kind of crazy to say I’m going to make money being an artist.

© Sonja Thomsen

Crystal Miller: If there were only three things you could tell a photographer just getting started, what would they be?

Sonja Thomsen: You are going to be really discouraged at first because you’ll be rejected and you’ll be turned down, but you just have to keep hustling, and keep putting yourself out there, you have to be present, you have to show up. I would say you have to keep making pictures for you no matter what, even if you only have that camera on your phone, even if you can’t print them. Just keep making pictures so that you’re working your eye, and feeding your creativity, making that time for yourself to just be focused on how your looking at and perceiving the world, because that can easily be pushed aside with chores and jobs and marketing yourself. You have to have discipline to get a job and to keep putting yourself out there; after you’ve been rejected you have to the discipline to keep making pictures. When you see someone being successful you have to just celebrate their success and know that eventually you will find success, and you will find where you fit, but you won’t if you just lock your door and start eating potato chips. You have to go to galleries, even if you don’t ever intend on showing anything, just so that your there and people see you and get to know who you are and if someone needs a job, there you are and the opportunity will present itself. So make time for you, keep shooting, keep going when you get rejected, and just drown yourself with people that you respect and that inspire you. It might be hard, but you have to let people that try to bring you down just kind of sway out into the outfield in your life, because those people can really distract you and affect you in negative ways. So surround yourself and pay attention to and try to build relationships with people that you really admire.

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