Interview with Monica Siwiec

May 12th 2010

Interview with Monica Siwiec

Placing her work “between the realms of ‘reality’ and aesthetics” Monica Siwiec creates her ”Environmental Landscapes”, not only to the document moments of real beauty, but also to bring attention to the damage we have caused the environment. With no use political slogans or ‘finger pointing’, Siwiec lets her images speak for themselves, subtly reconnecting the viewer with the environment allowing for  ’a hopeful contemplation.’

IS: Photography places you in the role of the observer, documenting the situation at hand.  When dealing with environmental issues, as your work does, how do you feel about the balance between observing or commenting on a situation and actually taking action to help make a change.

MS: In order to propel any kind of change, first and foremost I have a responsibility to try to understand the condition of our current environmental state. Photographing this subject matter has allowed me to confront these issues. Something I have repeatedly questioned is the mediums ability to alter our attitudes regarding the relationship we have with the planet. Does art have the capability to make a change? I believe so. Being a spectator who documents these concerns enables me to contemplate the ways in which I communicate with audiences. If through various methods of expression, viewers can engage in a more diversified consideration of reality and choice, then hopefully I can challenge the notion of a traditional landscape. The theme requires for me to practice what I preach; continuously examining these matters through diverse ways forces me to reconsider how I see, create, and do. Becoming involved in a more “hands on” approach, through volunteer programs and environmental groups, is part of this process. Photography for me is a catalyst for motivating a shift toward awareness.

IS: How do you feel about the rise of digital technology within photography? Do you think it is important to preserve traditional techniques?

MS: As someone whose work is rooted within a traditional approach, personally I have struggled with adapting to the rise of digital technology. Naturally, I have come to realize its importance, the variability that working digitally permits is irreplaceable. In a time where almost everyone owns a digital camera, there is an abundance of visual information available to us. Still I feel an understanding of the “basics” is crucial; the two must inform each other in order to forge a more varied discussion. On a personal note, I hope our preservation of using traditional techniques remains; I cannot imagine not shooting with color film or having the ability to make darkroom prints.

IS: Your work seems to lend itself to a larger scale.  How do you feel about the 4″ x 6″ size limitation of this project? Do you think this familiar photograph format alters the way your work will be interpreted?

MS: Size most definitely alters the interpretation of these photographs; the sort of “grandness” of the landscape lends itself to a larger size. However, limitations can also provide artists with a chance to tackle other ways of conveying a similar idea. Having recently begun working with more “mixed media” methods I am curious to see how the smaller size will both challenge not only my own production, but also force the viewer in taking a closer look at a similar scene.

IS: What are your thoughts on the value of exchanges between artists, whether it be ideas, skills or resources.

MS: The value of exchanges between artists is crucial, especially among young students like myself. When you are able to converse and think about your own work, and also support others, that bond can truly strengthen our beliefs regarding art. The process of creating can sometimes be incredibly private; the exchange and importance of conversation becomes secondary. Communication, however allows us to share our skills, and suggestions broadening the ways in which we think.

IS: How important do you find critiques from your peers, in the development of your work? Do you think this kind of feedback is readily available in New York?

MS: Critique is evidently crucial to the development of my work. Personally I have learned a great deal through exposing myself to the works of my peers, it is a constant test of expression and acceptance. As a student all of these resources are readily available within the institutionalized academic environment. Once outside the mandated group discussions and critiques of the class setting it becomes the artist’s duty to continue to build upon that foundation. In a city such as New York, feedback is definitely available; however, it is up to us to surround ourselves with genuine support groups.