Rebecca Stumpf: EXED
JB: Do you want to tell us about your new show Exed? What is the show about? What is this work about?
RS: Exed is a personal project that was inspired by a breakup a few years ago. It began in that moment in between when two people break-up and before they exchange items back that were left at each other’s places. It was in that moment I decided to photograph my ex’s items as a way to hold on to them, before having to return them for good, thus cutting every last tie we had. The project grew from there when I realized I had quite a few items from other exes dating back to 2005 still around my house. These items were either created with an ex, gifted by an ex, left behind by an ex, or obtained with an ex. Why was I holding on to them? The work explores how objects can hold so much more than just their physical properties. While the project began as a way to hold on to something (love, connection, and sometimes the physical objects themselves), it evolved into something about letting go, loss, and love, and also tells subtle stories about the connection shared between two people.
JB: How long have you been a photographer? How did it all begin for you?
RS: It began as a young pre-teen when my parents gifted me a bright red plastic Vivitar camera to take with me to Girl Scout summer camp. But, the most recent continuous photography journey began in college when I took my first official photography class. From there, the rest was history. I fell in love with documenting people and places and things, and eventually went on to get my Master’s in Photojournalism. After some years at newspapers, I decided to begin a freelance career, which lead me to where I am today.
JB: Do you work with video at all? Is it tough to switch between to the two or does video kind of feel like a natural extension of photography?
RS: Video does feel like an incredibly natural extension of photography. I personally don’t do much currently (other than lightly dabble for fun), but because of the natural extension from photography, I have dreams of creating documentaries one day. I mean, I’m already telling stories with my images, so why not make them move, is how I think.
JB: Can you talk a bit about your process? Maybe tell us what goes into the planning of each series that you work on? Is there a ton of planning? Do you ever leave projects open ended and add to them later? What is your favorite part of your process?
RS: My process is so different for each project. For my personal work, (which comes about rather spontaneously with little planning), a spark of inspiration happens when the time is right, and then I build a set of parameters around that, which becomes the body of work. For my client work (which involves a bit of planning and prior research), it is the opposite – I am given a set of parameters in which to work (subject, time, location, etc) and I have to find inspiration within that. The process, though different, has similar aspects just rearranged. What I love about working on personal work is the process itself…I get to create whatever I want, however I want! I become my own client, and that allows me to change the parameters as the project evolves, and leave projects open-ended and add to them later (Riley continues to chew stuff, for example). I believe it is important for a photographer to have an on-going project at any given moment. I’ve got a couple other personal projects tucked away that I’m working on right now.
JB: Where do your ideas come from? Are they sudden or do they get built upon for a bit? Is your artwork super personal? I get a sense that some of it is.
RS: It’s funny, while thinking about this question, I thought back to all the personal work I have done, not for clients, but just for mere self-expression, and I realized that every single one of those projects came from deep within me. I think when something is super personal, it creates the fodder for expression. And within that expression is truth, and within truth is beauty.
JB: Do you and if so how do you differentiate between your work that is work and the work that is artwork? Is there a different process? Is there different thinking? Would you prefer to have your work seen in a magazine or hanging on a wall/ in a gallery?
RS: I am SO torn on this! Do I have to choose? Can I say both? I love the accessibility of magazines. But I love the formality of art galleries. In a sense, the two are actually a bit of the same. Magazines, in a sense, are mini art galleries people can look at on planes, at doctor’s offices, etc., at any moment. A lot of my work is for magazines, and I love it. But I also love seeing photos big, on a white wall. An art gallery creates an air of preciousness around the work and challenges us to be more in the moment viewing the art, not distracted by a million other things. In my mind there is this false belief that there is a line between art that should be in a magazine and art that is fit for a gallery. But that is totally bogus and I know it, I just can’t quuuuiiiitttte……..accept it personally. When an artist creates (and that is what I call myself), they create art, so that could be for any medium. I think, for me, what differentiates work that is ‘work’ and work that is ‘art’, is the personal aspect. My personal work that comes from deep within and is self-assigned seems more fit for a gallery than a portrait I took for Sunset magazine as an assignment. But that’s silly, right? Art is art.
JB: What is some of your favorite stuff to photograph?
RS: Anything with good light. But more specifically, food, people, places in this world!
JB: Do you always have a camera with you?
RS: Always. Even if it’s just a phone camera.
JB: I was poking around your website and I have to say I kind of love the chewed by Riley series! Especially after having met him last weekend. He seems soooo not the chewer! ! Is this an ongoing project for you? Sort of an archive of things he has chewed? You can totally add another chewed by and come see all of the stuff Homer chews….there is no shortage of destruction by his big old slobbery mouth.
RS: Haha, I should turn it into a huge collection of other dogs and what they have chewed too, huh? Riley only chews so much and so fast, so maybe this could be a way to expand? Maybe then turn it into a book? Haha, thanks for the idea! But yes, it’s an ongoing project, and a way for me to document that funny ways and things Riley chews..just something fun and personal.
JB: I think you have told me that you are from Longmont? Is this true? You left for a bit yeah? And now you are back! Wanna elaborate on some of that?
RS: It’s true. I grew up in Longmont since age three, and back then it was quite the cow town. Which is why I left at age 18 and didn’t come back till 34. During those in-between years, I went to college, grad school, worked, grad school, Peace Corps, worked, started my business. It is SO good to be back. Longmont feels like a new city to me.
JB: What is your favorite thing about Longmont?
JB: The plethora of creatives and creative entrepreneurs I am meeting here! It is such a friendly, collaborative place!
JB: Do you have a dream plan for Longmont?
RS: Oh gosh, don’t get me started! So so so many dreams! But, in short, I hope that Longmont grows in a positive way…a way that adapts to the many young people that are moving here and hoping for a progressive, creative, healthy, inspiring community. I also dream that Longmont will become more bike-friendly. Like, Portland-bike-friendly.
JB: What is next for you and your work?
RS: Well, maybe a documentary? Haha, but before that, I’d like to start a new personal project that is more meaningful than ex-boyfriends and the toys Riley chews..something that makes a statement, informs, educates, etc. I really miss my photojournalism roots. Then after that, I’ll be headed somewhere in the world this summer to teach photography for National Geographic Student Expeditions…my annual summer adventure. And after that…well, we shall see. Really in this career, you take things day by day.
JB: Who/what are some of your influences? Your favorite artists?
RS: There is so much that inspires and influences me! I mean, clearly ex-boyfriends have even influenced me! But really, I am influenced heavily by just the world around me…art, food, music, people, habits, beliefs, etc. As for favorite artists, of course there’s photographic greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank who made history, but my influences seemed to have come from personal connections. Two specific people are both National Geographic photographers I have gotten to know over the years. Bill Allard I got to know while living in Missoula, Montana, where he also lived and worked at the time. Bill has the most amazing way of capturing the spirit of a person that was inspiring in his portraits from the moment I met him. He has this project on the Hutterites of Montana that he began documenting in the 60s! The 60s in Montana on a Hutterite Colony?! Imagine that! Well, Bill had a knack for capturing the essence of the secluded religious colony….and this knack continues far and wide into his work all over the world today. The other, I got to know while teaching for National Geographic Student Expeditions (which I do every summer)…his name is Matthieu Paley. He is a world citizen, and his most recent project is true art (waaaait and miiiinnnute, AND it’s in a magazine….huh…so maybe my belief has been dispelled!). Anyway, the project is called the Evolution of Diet and he documented food, food culture, and food practices all around the world..focusing on more primitive cultures. It is seriously the most beautiful project. Anyone who is human should look at it and find inspiration.
JB: You are also a photographer as your day job right? Tell us about that!!! Is it hard to balance work and artwork? Does one ever cross over into the other?
JB: I am! I love it! I feel so so so lucky to know my passion and to be able to live my passion, and to make a living off of it! My work for clients that I do full-time is mainly assignment based and geared towards magazines and other print and web forms. When I’m creating personal projects, I still call it “work”, because even my personal stuff is challenging me and helping me grow as a photographer. So it’s great, if I don’t have a shoot one day for a client, I can work on personal projects or find inspiration for my next personal project. There is always time for both. I try and find a balance. Right now it’s like 85% ‘work’ work, and about 15% ‘art’ work. I think, ideally, one day, I will be creating work that truly in my mind feels like art, and the two will be blended. But I think I’ve still got some growth to get to that point.