On Collaboration: Reciprocity
For over seven years, Andie Meadows and Patty Carroll have worked together on building custom environments in Patty Carroll’s studio on the “Anonymous Women” series of photographs. This series is about a lone woman in her fictional home encountering her various tasks and obsessions. Simultaneously, Andie has created her portrait series, “Queens Who Bathe,” in her own studio/bathtub. This series is a tribute to Chicago LGBTQ community through personalized and constructed sets. There are many visual and conceptual similarities in the process for both projects; dependence on color, appreciation for all things vintage and elaborate details. Both series are based on personal experiences with the intention of addressing larger, more focused feminist issues. The working relationship between Patty and Andie has grown into a collaborative venture complete with idea development, physical craft and set building, with laughter and arguments along the way.
Reciprocity is a relation of mutual dependence, action or influence. In the camera, it is the key to the perfect exposure as aperture and shutter speed work dependently and inversely to capture light. In positive social-emotional terms, it is a process of exchange for mutual benefit.
To celebrate the reciprocal bonds that enrich our photographic practices, Woman Made Gallery, the longest running feminist art gallery in Chicago, invited us to jury a group exhibition. We asked photographers to pair their work with that of another practicing artist with whom they are in conversation and reflect on the ways they support each other.
While the pandemic has disrupted the ways we work, it has thrown light on the importance of connection. We believe no work is ever ours alone. Whether through aesthetic bond, mentor/mentee relationships, friendship, family, photographer/subject or teacher to student, our artistic practice is sustained by these relationships.
Themes emerge in the Reciprocity exhibition. Nature provides lessons, as we walk and talk and see, side by side or across distances. In portraiture, the subjects create their own conversations. The complexities of family and memory are shared and softened. Vision is reflected and amplified in deep listening. We invite you into these conversations. (Artists’ statements on reciprocity accompany their images)
Lois Bielefed and Ebtihal Shedid met for the first time at SFCamerawork two years ago. Since then they have started a regular exchange. While they come from different backgrounds, in their practices both have been considering family and memory. In 2019 they both started their MFAs and since then there has been a reciprocity through sharing ideas, work, and headspace. As a queer feminist, Lois has been attempting to create space through making to negotiate difference with her conservative Evangelical family. Ebtihal’s dad was denied a visa to come visit her in the States and since then she has been thinking about finding a way to invite her dad to San Francisco. “You have no reason to go back” is a piece that invites her father to come to the States. The reciprocal threads in their work enable them to develop conversations about memory, family, and belonging further.
As friends from elementary school, we were lucky to be quarantining together because we share creative sensibilities and processes, silently trading images and music as we independently work. In Wireless Fidelity I & 2, we want to portray the technological nature of friendship in a pandemic. The blue light of technology tints our skin and the whites of our eyes. We hunch over our phones, we become statues in front of screens. We dream about zoom classrooms and read news on social media. As digital natives, online is where we find community, maintain friendship, and the algorithm can feel like a friend who shows us only what we want to see. We have also felt first hand its toxicity: powerful people abusing their platforms and over-active feeds leaving no room for our own thoughts. Our connection to one another is stronger than our wifi will ever be.- Juna Hume Clark and Maia Eriko
Our conversations and friendship, which began over a decade ago, have been enriched by our walks: through parks, in the woods, along the river.
We’ve used this time together to explore what we hear as well as what we see, to discuss what we’ve read and how we are faring during this year of isolation. Our walks have been a journey of mutual growth and a constant nurturing of artistic ideas.
As photographers, we collectively seek how to better understand and interpret how the pandemic has affected us, as individuals and as a society. These images, in their shared depiction of thresholds, help us to imagine what can be when we have finally passed through this uncertain time. They act as portals through which we each can find meaning and hope. – Gina Costa and Kay Westhues
We are working on a daily visual dialogue starting from the paradox of creativity within limitations due to ongoing quarantines in our respective locations, as perceived through the lenses of two US-born women living in Colombia and Italy – outside of our original cultural contexts – and thus pre-conditioned to feelings of confinement as foreigner/immigrant even before the pandemic. Our conversation, through an ongoing exchange of images and objects, serves to connect, encourage, inspire and challenge us as a daily practice relating to art and language.
We’re excited about the exhibition as a dynamic space of creation and dialogue, especially within the curatorial framework of reciprocity, which has inspired us to develop this project further. We have frequently discussed collaborating; this call solidified our ideas, prompting difficult discussions about art, identity, and perceived otherness, that we aim to address visually, showing the process of making in a non-hierarchical manner, including the prompts, distractions, as well as outcomes. – Sarah Crofts and Nancy Y. Kim
My daughter Maya is a photographer and I am an assemblage artist. we have collaborated on several occasions, especially when working on memory and family pieces.”Vorgarten Market” is a collaboration of Maya’s black and white photo of my mother Gisela shopping at her favorite fish shop in Vienna at the beginning of her Dementia. The “upstairs” portion of the assemblage box is the foyer of her dark apartment, with a photograph of the wallpaper and vintage miniature furniture, as well as the narrow toilet adjacent to the foyer, which had no heating and was freezing cold in the winter. Gisela was a holocaust survivor, very frugal, she could make the best meals from very little ingredients in her tiny kitchen. In her final years she started forgetting recipes, so she went across the street to the farmer’s market and bought freshly made fish filets with potato salad. The piece is our tribute to her. – Maya Dreilinger and Dwora Fried
One Conversation: Two Voices: Brenda and Carol met, cameras in hand, around 2015. Our life experiences were quite diverse, but that did not hamper us on our journey of exploration together.
We are both mostly self-taught, aspiring to evoke, mood, emotion, and movement thru our lenses. We like thinking outside the box, looking inside the box, and creating a voice for the box. Photography has rules, but sometimes pushing the envelope reveals something amazing.
Carol Estes is now retired, allowing more time to press her photographic concepts.
Brenda Bowyer, a mother, wife and long time PBS Producer, pushes to carve out time for shooting.
We chose to show how many common threads we have in our vision. All our work has been created isolated from each other. Yet, we still have conversations that reveal how the ordinary can be extraordinary. – Carol Estes and Brenda Bowyer
Our relationship began as teacher and student and has evolved into one of mentor and mentee (these flip-flop), colleagues, and friends. The creative exchange, which once felt more asymmetrical is now increasingly balanced and strengthened by conversations about design, curriculum, concepts, and material play. Over the years, we have volleyed ideas, founded a small business, and become supportive friends. A few key elements have provided the scaffolding of our relationship – time for trust and respect to be built, consistency of regular check-ins for accountability, and a playful and inspiring exchange of objects, images, and ideas. – Marianne Fairbanks and Erica Hess
Walking and Taking, Seeing and Snapping: Bogdonoff and Figliuzzi have been friends for many years and share common interests in art, natural materials, the thrill of a flea market hunt, and being outdoors. Avid urban and rural walkers, they have spent time together in both places, exchanging ideas and lively conversation, pointing out all that captures the eye, and noting the memorable with photography. These photographs become visual diaries, their personal sketchbooks. They both, then, use those images to create very different bodies of work. Bogdonoff takes the photo as inspiration for strong, woven sculptural forms that reference shelter and home, and Figliuzzi creates intimate, delicate, haunting images of nature in all its fragility. Influences from each other are seen as emotional threads throughout their final pieces. Same walks, shared talk, similar photographs, different art. – Teri Figliuzzi and Stacy Bogdonoff
I recently began researching the Three Fates: The Maiden, The Mother, and The Crone in response to my mom becoming ill. I hoped to find a way to express the thread that binds women, not just between mother and daughter, but also between sisters, friends, and in the case of Pinky/MM Bass and myself – mentor and (dare I say…) protégé. I wanted to create a collaborative body of work between three women that would demonstrate this bond as a thread of inspiration expressed in our art. A woman at the beginning stage of her career would metaphorically represent The Maiden. As a mid-career artist, I would stand in as the metaphorical mother. And Pinky/MM Bass would metaphorically represent the wise crone guiding us all as an established artist. Pinky generously agreed to participate, and we have held exciting collaborative critiques through Zoom throughout this interesting year. These pieces represent some of the works created from this conceptual thread, these works have come from an experience of reciprocity. – Tonia Hughes and Pink/MM Bass
We met over a dozen years ago when we were both darkroom photography students. As our lives and work developed alongside one another’s, we have both explored the dichotomy of the natural vs. artificial and the implications of human interference with nature. Mankind already possesses the technology and power necessary to coexist with nature and to provide the refuge that the two of us have already found within her. – Caroline Knickmeier and Sarah Stankey
Socorro Mucino, printmaker/photographer and Ann Kogen, photographer, first met at an art collaboration group. They combined printmaking techniques and photographic images to depict each of their stories of getting lost as children. Enthralled by a caterpillar, Socorro was inadvertently abandoned by her school group. Sent to her piano lesson alone on a bus as age 7, Ann traveled miles beyond her stop not knowing where to disembark. Both Socorro and Ann were rescued by the kindness of a stranger. Through sharing stories, ideas and techniques, they found an artistic synergy that produced these images that illustrate their stories. Were you ever lost as a child?
Forced into quarantine with our partners and our children, as the Pandemic took over our lives, the domestic landscape became more contemplative and at the same time suffocating. Every corner was efficiently transformed to fill a purpose. We re-connected during the Pandemic when Jess asked Karen to participate in a new video piece for which she was interviewing mothers about their experience in quarantine with their families. This act of social-emotional reciprocity, quickly transitioned to discussions about our art practice, about how we can find ways to support each other more consistently, about what we needed right now to feel grounded in life and through our art process. We were both exploring themes of domesticity- Jess was exploring the changing sound landscape while Karen was discovering the changing visual landscape of her home. They were both finding ways to control what they could through mundane domestic tasks that quickly took on a more therapeutic role. – Jess Levey and Karen Dana Cohen
After attending the same university at separate times, a mutual photography mentor insisted that the two of us needed to know one another. Our mentor, Mike Smith was absolutely correct and we immediately bonded through our love of the landscape, hiking, photography, and being adventurous, wild women. We have a mutual connection of understanding through the landscape. We influence each other by pushing the boundaries of photography through sculptural and conceptual forms.
Throughout the pandemic we have kept one another company via Zoom. Our virtual hangouts provide us with creative accountability and encouragement to get outside, make art, and stay sane. Additionally we have been communicating through photographs from our daily walks. We take turns sending a photograph and responding with another that has visual similarities. Although we live roughly 2,824 miles apart, we remain connected through the landscapes we walk through daily. – Amanda Musick and Meg Roussos
At the beginning of the 2020 quarantine, Lydia Panas and Aline Smithson began a visual conversation as part of a group project that facilitated pairs of photographers in dialogue. The artists both have a long legacy in portraiture and were excited by the potential of their exchange. They discovered many overlapping ideas and threads that ran through their work: womanhood, motherhood, nurturing with eyes wide open. Both create emotional images and don’t back away from deep seeing. The result has been a rich pairing of aesthetics, offering a chance for insights into each other’s archives and visual histories. This thread has bonded them in a special way. Surprised by the parallels in each another’s image making, they are grateful for one another’s strength and sense of beauty. There exists a generosity in the exchange that has been greatly needed throughout 2021. And more importantly, a profound connection with another photographer. Lydia Panas and Aline Smithson
Ours is a long distance friendship which spans 3 decades. We steal time away together on small trips to new landscapes making images in a shared environment. Approaching the exploration of nature and light with vastly different styles, the collaboration that follows these trips inspires and sustains us.
We began as film based photographers, but work digitally on these outings. Through the use of a slow shutter speed and neutral density filter, Rie captures the dissolution of nature’s familiar forms. Laurie’s images are representational where figuration is central. Without direction, we create our work independently at the same location within minutes of each other.
Through editing these pairings, during countless hours of phone conversations full of laughter, tears, encouragement, disappointment, pride and love, we feel most connected with our images and friendship. No matter the distance, our shared work feeds our souls. – Laurie Beck and Rie Jones
As artists and mom-friends of 6 years, Madeleine LeMieux and Angela Shaffer’s shared and parallel circumstances have often offered reciprocal interactions in both parenting and art-making. Having become graduate peers at the University of Missouri in 2019, there are mutual exchanges in critiques and studio visits as they focus on similar visual content and research. Shaffer and LeMieux have created photographs of their relationships with their children independently and curated these pairings from their aligned practices.
Shaffer presents a portrait of her son being carefully preened by her partner, while LeMieux and her daughter exchange in a blind mutual application of lipstick. Together the images offer up a comparison of gender and an aesthetics of care.
Nature is the ultimate example of reciprocity. The give and take and the delicate balance that supports all life on this planet is in a constant state of movement and change. Humans like to think they understand it but still feel compelled to rule over it. Understanding nature thoroughly is allowing self to be one with it in all its strength and vulnerability. – Brenda Steller and Karyn Stetz
We like to call ourselves “art soulmates.” Our friendship began on Instagram a few years ago- Grace noticed Roslyn’s work and immediately felt drawn to the images that seemed to relate to her own and couldn’t help but to reach out to make the connection. Our styles are different, but related. Cousins, not sisters. Since then we’ve started our own publishing house and art partnership that has helped us both to grow as artists and people. These images were ones we made and couldn’t wait to show the other to get their feedback and support. Our images constantly feel as if they’re having a conversation of their own. Everything we make now is bounced off the other, as simultaneous mentors and mentees- we both learn from and teach each other so much about our work and ourselves. – Grace Tyson and Roslyn Julia
My work examines how culture and its identity can be understood from its women’s status and circumstances, such as the roles they play in society, the rights they enjoy (or not), and most pointedly, the dress codes to which they must adhere. For this collaboration, I wanted to depict a woman with a chador, a black veil that swallows the woman in its form. I wanted to envision a woman who struggles with her thoughts, a woman who attempts to hold or release something. I try to visualize an impression of being safe or being insecure. My work depicts the hiddenness, which is in contrast with Lara’s work. Mine is a silence, and hers is a scream. Mine is a secret, and hers is a manifest. From my view, this familiar contrast identifies the same situation. Even though we are from different lands, we face similarities because of our sex. This collaboration helped me to understand the meaning of being a woman in another culture. These similarities make us as a woman to be closer together and have respect for our struggles. – Lara Vaienti and Sanaz Haghani
First meeting as teacher and student, artists Clare Weeks and Maisie Neale soon solidified their bond exhibiting together in ‘The Artist as Mentor’ in 2016. Since that time, they have both continued their respective practices while maintaining an aesthetic connection which binds them. Joint interests in themes of human experience and exploration of self, have seen the pair continue to influence each other’s work over the years. Clare often finds herself in awe of Maisie’s conceptual approach to her practice and is fortunate to be someone that her friend still confides her ideas with. Both artists utilise self-portraiture as a means to challenge the viewers perceptions of femininity and the divergence between internal and external experiences of the individual. Utilizing soft, feminine and often erotic aesthetics the artists lead the audience into a viewing experience that is both intriguingly rhythmic yet strangely repellent.
Barbara Ciurej is a Chicago-based photographer and graphic designer. She has a BS in Visual Communications from the Institute of Design+Illinois Institute of Technology. Ever looking to the art historical past to invoke order and harmony, her search for narratives to explain the plight of how we got here has fueled 30+ years of making pictures.
Lindsay Lochman is a Milwaukee-based photographer and lecturer at the University of Wisconsin /Milwaukee. She received her MS in Visual Communications at the Institute of Design+Illinois Institute of Technology. In her quest to organize the natural world, she is inspired by the intersection of science, history and the unconscious.
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