Class Interview: Susan Worsham

Zachary Seib: I know that your models are nonprofessionals, how do you keep them comfortable and not bothered with your presence during photo shoots?

Susan Worsham: I have always felt that my subject and I are making a portrait together. Sometimes I will meet people, and not take their picture just then, but share stories instead. I think using a view camera helps as well. I will often stand where I want my subject to stand, allowing them to look at me through the camera.( in the same setting and light). I like sharing that little bit of magic that I feel when I am under the cloth. When I photograph younger adults, I always get a lot of "Lemme see, Lemme see." Even if it is a large group. I make sure everyone gets their turn to "see."

Untitled, 1995 © Susan Worsham

Laura Hughes: What was it about (your model) Lynn’s appearance/presence that originally inspired your artistic interest?

Susan Worsham: I can still remember rolling down my car window and asking Lynn if she would be interested in posing for me. I had never photographed a stranger before, but I kept seeing her around town, and was drawn to her. I would even write "the red headed girl" in my sketchbooks. I think that I got very lucky, and that Lynn and I have something very special. I did not go to school for photography, and in a sense learned the most from photographing her. There is a trust between us that I think comes through in the photographs.

Andy Bartley: What type of camera do you prefer using the most?

Susan Worsham: For Some Fox Trails In Virginia, I used a 4x5 Graflex , borrowed from a man that I met in a camera store. My eyesight was not the best, and my pictures were coming out blurry using medium format, so I had been wanting a view camera.

A few years later I stopped my car to photograph an old X-Men video game I noticed sitting in a yard. The person living in the house said that my camera box looked familiar, and that he had one just like it in the basement. He brought out the box, and in it sat the same exact camera that I had been borrowing. The owner of the camera gave it to me, and now I have my own 4x5, courtesy of the X-Men.

To answer the question though, I think I would like to shoot with medium format again (if focusing wasn't an issue). I feel like I miss so many moments only using a view camera. I notice so many pictures with my eyes that are gone before I get the camera out of the case.

Alec Schuppel: What is the symbolism behind the usage of fruits?

Lynn With Cabbage, 1991 © Susan Worsham

Susan Worsham: In the first photographs that I ever took of Lynn, I had her hold cabbages to represent growth/fertility. Later she told me that she was pregnant, and in fact had been when we took those first pictures, but had just not known. So for me it represents the growth of our working relationship, the growth of our friendship, and the growth of her family, as mine passes.

Keely Weiland: In looking at your work, like I do with most artists, I looked for connections to other photographers works. Do/did you find inspiration in other photographers work?

Susan Worsham: I only had a handful of photography courses in college, and I remember being exposed to mostly black and white imagery. I was definitely drawn to the Virginia artists, Emmett Gowin and Sally Mann, but it was when I noticed a spot of color on the wall in a classroom, that I first saw William Eggleston's work and felt a real connection. I believe he had just won the Hasselblad award, and pinned to the wall was the announcement, showing his image of a redheaded girl holding bills in her hand. I did not see more of his work until I got a computer over 14 years later. With that computer came Shore, Meyerowitz, Sternfeld, and newer work like Alessandra Sanguinetti, Laura Letinsky, and Michal Chelbin.

Thirteen, 2010 © Susan Worsham

Olivia Obluck-Zager: Were you always drawn to color photography or have you experimented with black and white?

Susan Worsham: All of my beginning classes were black and white. We would share the darkroom with more advanced students. I can remember seeing a finished black and white print on Ektalure Fiberbase Paper, and from that point on, that is all I would use. Later, when I started using color, I would always bring both. I really like mixing color and black and white, but I do not see it often.

Lauren Howie Laur: Do you have a favorite photograph?

Snakes On My Childhood Bed © Susan Worsham

Susan Worsham: In my own work, it is Snakes On My Childhood Bed with my mom's wedding picture. Seeing my mom's face in one of my own photographs, is pretty special. I never photographed her when she was alive.

Megan Ramminger: In revisiting your past in Some Fox Trails in Virginia, did you discover anything new about yourself in the process?

Golden Silver, 2010 © Susan Worsham

Susan Worsham:
I never intended to photograph my old house or neighbors. When I knocked on the door of my childhood home, it was just to look around. Through this series I have become more conscience of bringing everything that I know up until this point into my work. I bring my own meaning to images, I think we all do, and sometimes we are aware of it and other times not.

There is a photograph called Golden Silver in my new series By The Grace Of God. It is a picture of old faded silverware that used to be gold, scattered on a table. Even though it was taken in Syracuse New York, it is still about me. It is me helping my mom dry and put the silverware back in it's drawer, or all of the family dinners we ever had. That was someone's new shiny silver at one point, that is now faded and worn, but used time and time again, with love. Now when I go into a house I want to look in their silverware drawer.

Joshua Ballew: What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in your career as an image maker?

Susan Worsham: I think like most artists, I struggle with the balancing act of having another job, while trying to establish myself. I waitress for a living, and quite honestly, sometimes I just let my bills go in order to take the opportunities that come my way. Every thing always seems to work out. It is tough to make your art your priority, but I, personally will always find a way to make pictures.

Jennifer Romero: What advice do you have to upcoming photographers close to graduating who seem to still be lost on how they want to apply photography as their career?

Susan Worsham: My advice would be to not pressure yourself. I was going to school for Graphic Design when I took my first photography class. I fell in love with photography and also sculpture. I stopped focusing on my degree, and started taking classes for myself, and in fact did not graduate. I guess what I am trying to say is do what you love. I do not think of photography as a career. I would be taking photographs regardless, and in fact, I hid my work for years, only showing cut up contact sheets to my coworkers. The internet has opened up a whole new world for me.

To see more of Susan's work, visit her website: susanworshamphotography.com

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