We had the good fortune of connecting with Wendy Garfinkel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wendy, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
This is an excellent question. I want to answer right away by saying I have always been too curious to give up. Sure there were periods of time where I was unable to work on my craft for months or years – but I always got back on the bus as they say — I stay on track. I am totally fascinated by image-making. I have been in the arts my whole life—it is who I am. So now after decades, I am finally a full-time photographer. I was always inspired by visually creative work since childhood. However when it came time to decide on a career I chose graphic design over photography. My design training was very valuable and it gave me an excellent foundation for both commercial and artistic work. I have taken photos since I was 15. I contemplated a career as a photographer after college but the equipment was expensive and I could not afford to work part-time. So I stuck with photography in various ways over the years. During the 1990s I lived and worked in Pittsburgh as a graphic designer. During that time I joined a non-profit film center called Pittsburgh Filmmakers and rented my own darkroom. The DSLR revolution was barely in its infancy. So even though I was not a full-time photographer I continued studying and taking photos. I kept going because I have always been curious about photography. I learned how to shoot with a 4×5 view camera – I made pinhole photos – I used “plastic fantastic” Diana and Holga cameras. Everything has been a project done out of curiosity and this has never waned. Of course, I have made bad photos but it never stopped me. I have continued working on some aspect of photography every day since 2011. I am now at a time in my life where I can absorb myself in photography full-time. My best advice is to stick with your craft and wonderful things will happen.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am an artistic portrait photographer and my subjects are varied, from people I know or have just met, to full-time artistic models. I work with both natural and strobe lighting. Photographers speak of painting with light and that is essentially the challenge. We are either working in the shade or direct sun with our subjects. Light can be of a hard or soft quality. I also like to work in an allegorical way to tell a story and create a mood or an idea. The idea of allegory is challenging and one that I want to push further. It has not been easy and the preparation is only one part of the process. There are costumes to procure, makeup artists to hire, locations to find, and models to work with. It is more than pressing a button it is literally a small production. One of the models I work with has described this process as organized chaos. Our work also does not end when the shoot is over. The next stage is to cull through photos to find the ones we want to edit. Photographers are essentially like symphony conductors or film directors. I am proud of how far I have come I also have much more to do – ideas to realize – projects to put into action. Earlier on I mentioned my design training as well as working 20 plus years in the field of graphic design. I bring this up to let others know that we have to be able to critique our own work as this is a crucial part of our art. I am always studying and perfecting my craft. I am forever chasing that ever-present horizon to create quality work. I am happy when someone compliments me or tells me they enjoy what I am making, as that is an artist’s reward.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take them to the Atlanta High Museum of Art there is always something wonderful to see there. The Atlanta Aquarium is one of my favorite places as well as Piedmont Park. We would walk around Virginia Highlands and drive down Riverside Drive. I am also a fan of the Fernbank Museum. I would also drive to Stone Mountain so we could hike to the top!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I know we do not get where we are alone so I have to thank a number of my teachers from the University of the Arts in the Graphic Design department in Philadephia. I studied in the 1990s so many of them are retired but their names are as follows: Kenneth J. Hiebert, Christine Zelinsky, Hans-Ulrich Allemann, and Laurence Bach. I will also mention a gentleman I worked for in Pittsburgh, PA, Todd Cavalier who believed in my abilities and hired me to work for him in his company Informatics Studio in Pittsburgh, PA. I also want to mention Craig Gum who had the patience to teach me strobe lighting here in Athens, GA where I live. I joined Craig’s studio as a member a number of years ago. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.