What are your professional and personal goals for 2018?

Coming off the tails of finishing my undergrad in 2015, I went through the inevitable post-art school exhaustion period. Now in terms of my work, I am focussing more on portraiture and fashion-oriented images, hoping to blend some of my past more series or project-based work into a more editorial, and inevitably commercial place. Right now I'm working in the fashion industry so I'm exploring ways to insert my highly fine-art based past and education into something that is much more outside of myself, collaborative, and relevant within a fashion context. It's an enormous challenge, but it's going well.

Personally speaking, man oh man… there is always a lot of work being done there. The last 6 months have been about revisiting a lot of old stones and turning them over again to really examine certain events that happened to me throughout my twenties. I think I went through a lot of ebbs and flows where I was positive of my identity, then lost, then positive again. I feel like I had the privilege of being so many different people. I'm 29 now and I think I'm settling into understanding how much of the last decade was actually filled with rapid but spastic development. Now I'm really trying to comb through and understand what that development really meant for me and acknowledging and admitting that things didn't happen around me. I was very occupied by ensuring my resilience, but I have truly been revised by these things.

I don't like setting personal goals that are too firm because I find that overwhelming. But I suppose in 2018 that I continue settling into myself. I'm always searching for balance, so far I haven't made it but I've been successful in calming down. I'm looking forward to my thirties.

Where does your inspiration for photographic projects come from?

Oof. This is a very open question. It completely depends on the project, the subject, and the context in which I am working. I suppose I will talk about the work I've shared with you. "Landscape with Woman" was I project I made in 2013 while on a week long residency. In this work, I wanted to reappropriate the iconic art historical canon of the figure in the landscape seen in the paintings of artists like Caspar David Friedrich. The themes he works with, primarily the sublime, but also loneliness, mortality, and storytelling were all inspiration for this work.

I was interested in the concept of the sublime as a means for spiritual exploration and purpose through the contemplation of nature. Even more specifically I adopted Friedrich's approach known as "Ruckenfigur" which is simply a figure being viewed from behind (or without their face). Both women and nature have been perceived and experienced through art as an idealization revealed by the vision of man. Women have been excluded from viewing the sublime potential of nature because we were considered to be a part of nature. Enlightenment was for men, everything else were plants and animals. So I basically wanted to steal back the sublime, picturing myself as both the figure within and the creator of the image.

If you had to choose one thing you wished you did differently this year, what would it be?

No regrets.

How personal is your photography?

In the past, it has been very personal. I think the most powerful position a person can be in is a place of openness and vulnerability, and that's the position I have also chosen to work from. I worked almost exclusively in self-portraiture between 2012 and 2015. It felt like the most sincere place to be working from, and as I mentioned before, I feel like so much of the last decade of my life has been focused on myself. I'm a pretty self-centred person I think. I still continue to work this way but much more casually. I think that sharing aspects of myself publicly helps me work through a lot of emotions I have caught up surrounding my body.

I don't think that the themes I have worked with are necessarily caught up in me as an individual, but making nude self-portraits is inevitably perceived as personal. It's funny because I think the physical body is the least personal aspect of oneself, generally speaking. However, since that's a primary subject of mine, my work is always spoken about as being extremely personal. That idea in itself has been a concept I have explored, the twisted association of preciousness with the female body.

I am interested in both the physical form of women, which has been historically defined, portrayed and occupied by the male gaze as well as the performance of self. Reappropriating the female body as a subject and placing it/them into the hands of a female artist picturing herself has been a central theme in my work regardless of the approach I've taken across various projects. The performance of self is not a new concept by any stretch, but more recently this performance has become much more detectable as the "digital self" has become more prevalent. I am curious about this digital self and the myriad of new factors it has added to our contemporary lifestyles, how it relates to the physical self and ultimately our perception and creation of reality, whether it alters our own relationship to our bodies, and how and if these identities can be then further colored by changing contexts into the art institution.

When I haven't been working on literal self portraits, I have often worked from a place of personal exploration, or at times, documentation. Any past journalistic projects have come from a place of literally not being capable of working from anywhere else but still needing to work. Or the flip side, documenting the every day and the mundane is something I'll likely always do because it's important to keep low-pressure almost sketch-like exercises like that in one's practice because it's so easy to become disenchanted and resentful of the work you do. I think that's how so many people started out photographing to begin with, keeping track of the little aestheticized moments one stumbles upon.

Is photography still fun?

Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's horrible. It's like any job. Photography is such a general term for a very vast and nuanced milieu. Even within my own life, there are probably at least 3 or 4 different photographic practices going on simultaneously. When I take casual photos on a point and shoot or a picture of myself for Instagram, of course it's fun. When I have unreasonable deadlines, uncooperative models or a bad schedule, it's not so fun. Regardless, I am grateful every day that this is what do for a living. It's much more fun than anything else I think I'd be doing instead.

You can visit Katie Stienstra by heading over to her official website.