Meet the Team: Sarah Stankey
Later this fall, Lenscratch will be celebrating its 10th anniversary and we thought it was time to spotlight the staff that adds so much to the site with a new feature, Meet the Team. A few weeks ago, we shared a post on Katie Harwood, and today, we feature the wonderful Sarah Stankey.
Four plus years ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Kevin Miyazaki, a terrific photographer and educator at MIAD in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I mentioned that I could really use some help with Lenscratch as it was getting too much for me to handle alone and still stay sane. The next day, I received an e-mail from Kevin telling me that he had two amazing students who might be interested in interning. Sarah Stankey and Grant Gill entered my life via Skype and we’ve never looked back, both now editors and integral partners in this site. Sarah has taken on a wide range of roles, co-reviewing with me at the Filter Festival of Photography, creating features on new photography book offerings, crafting a range of exhibitions, and most recently, writing posts on her experience in grad school in a series, On Getting an MFA. I am so grateful for her time and energies and for all she brings to this site.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Sarah, those big baby blues and an award winning smile, her thoughtful consideration of the natural world, and her enthusiasm for photography. Sarah’s work reflects on the “different aspects of nature as encountered by humans and considers our coexistence to animals. She is interested in the ways that people manipulate and interfere with the natural world”. Sarah recently received the Network Fellowship to be the curator for a campus gallery and will be receiving a certificate in environmental studies from the Center for Culter, History and the Environment (CHE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Sarah received her BFA in photography from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2013. She now lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin where she is working on her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her photographs have been exhibited in group shows regionally and nationally, including the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan and Soho Photo Gallery in New York City. Sarah’s work has been published both online and in print including Art Photo Index, Lens Culture, Aint-Bad Magazine and F-Stop Magazine. Sarah also fills her time as an exhibitions editor and contributing writer for LENSCRATCH.
Today we learn a bit more about Sarah and get a peek at her new project, Camp.
Tell us about your growing up…
I was born in Madison, WI and I grew up in the area as well. When I was a child, I was encouraged to learn and explore. I was in the scouts and often went camping with my mother and most of our family vacations were to a farm. My father is a retired engineer and a physics teacher and taught me how to paint and draw through observation when I was very young. He would keep magazine clippings of various categories that I would like to draw from. So, I’ve always had an interest in animals and nature and I expressed that through art and play. I would study scientific illustrations in books and collect items from the outdoors that I found interesting. It wasn’t until high school that I got a “real” camera and started using that to make art and collect as well. I’d say that the combination of all these things led me to become an artist.
What brought you to photography?
I loved drawing and painting when I was a child but once I was given a film camera by my mother I became obsessed with capturing my life that way. My high school art teacher was the one to show me how to develop my own film and encouraged me to pursue art as a career. It wasn’t until my undergraduate studies that I started utilizing digital photography. Though I was very weary at the time, I’ve learned to appreciate the affordability and immediate satisfaction of that way of shooting. Since then, I’ve been coming back to film, through shooting 35mm slide film.
What do you do at Lenscratch?
The main thing I contribute for the website is writing book reviews, features and putting together group exhibitions. I also enjoy being part of the jurying for our annual student prize, there’s so much impressive work that is submitted year after year. Since beginning my MFA program, I’ve also been writing articles titled, “On Getting an MFA” that works through the rigorous process of receiving a graduate degree in art.
Tell us about your photographic practice and any new projects you are working on.
Right now, I’m working on somewhat curatorial works of art. I’ve been thinking a lot about old natural history displays and museums. Looking back at historical archives and observing how people once understood animals and nature has been a pivotal moment for me. It’s fascinating how our appreciation for these things changes over time as our knowledge of them grows. My former artwork was primarily photo based so creating sculptures and utilizing appropriated objects like taxidermy is very new for me. I’m currently trying to figure out how my photographs fit into this new way of making.
What excites you about the Lenscratch community?
Living in Wisconsin can be somewhat isolating from the art world at large but having the Lenscratch community at my fingertips helps to make me feel connected to artists both nationally and internationally. Without the internet, there’s no doubt that I could not be doing what I’m doing now. I also really love receiving emails from people who have read my articles and found inspiration through the words I write or through the images that I share.
What has been your favorite post?
This is a lame answer but I truly believe it’s impossible to answer that. Typically though, my favorite posts are the student prize winners and anything that has even the slightest thing to do with Wisconsin, the Upper Midwest or the Northwoods.
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
I have a room in my house that is dedicated to my collection of vintage Star Wars and Star Trek toys. It’s also the guest room so anyone who spends the night gets to feel like they’re twelve again, sleeping on Star Wars sheets, dreaming of space.
And finally, describe your perfect day.
I wake up, turn on the tv, I won the lottery even though I didn’t buy a ticket, and my cat has been elected president. I head to the grocery store to pick up a frozen pizza when I see that Dan Marino and Shaq are there giving away free, unlimited Ecto Cooler. I come back out, and my car has transformed into the Jeep from Jurassic Park (the gas powered one, not the stupid electric death mobile). After eating my pizza and loving it, I head to the movie theater where The Sandlot is playing on repeat. After watching it five or six times, I decide to head home where my astronaut husband and Bill Nye have prepared a series of experiments involving chocolate and peanut butter.
Many people today find themselves caught between tradition and destruction in the delicate balance between preservations and harvesting resources from the wilderness. Historically, Wisconsin has had a strong cultural tradition of using the land as hunters, fishers, and lumberjacks, to name a few. The activities provide them with a deep connection to the land and a unique relationship to the animals in which they are interacting.
The photographs here were taken while I was exploring natural wildlife areas throughout the state of Wisconsin, the state I have lived in my whole life. I’m interested in the ways that I personally influence the landscape through selective framing of my camera and through the careful interactions I have with the living things I encounter, all while questioning the veracity of it all. Through this, I find myself wondering, what percentage of nature is still natural? –Sarah Stankey
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