Standing among the many shelves dedicated to photography books, on the 2nd floor of the famous Strand’s Bookstore in New York City earlier this month, a thought occurred to me. I don’t think many of my friends or family realize that my professors at ASU, are working and successful professional artists. My teachers here, are more then just teachers, not only are they my key into breaking into the hustling art world, but their work and their ideas are directly affecting my experiences and my vision as an artist. With that said, I am going to gradually start introducing some of the faculty that I have interacted with.
Stephen Marc Smith is currently my Senior Projects teacher. I have been working closely with him in evolving my Letters from Stephen project, as well as talking to him frequently about graduate schools. The one thing you need to know about Stephen is, he is a walking story book. I challenge you to walk into his office and not stay for longer then 45 minutes, because I am telling you.. it’s not possible. His insights and knowledge are limitless and he is more then willing to share with you every ounce of advice he has. And he has good advice. His knowledge is based on experience. He taught at Columbia College in Chicago for twenty years, and has been at ASU for twelve. He’s had work commissioned, countless exhibitions, two books published, and is sponsored by Olympus Camera.
The photographs he’s making currently, are complex and full of layers. For the past ten years he has traveled to over 20 states and taken thousands and thousands of photographs exploring the history and effects of the Underground Railroad. He creates digitally manipulated photo montages exploring the relationship between the past and the present. He collects and documents historical artifacts such as newspapers, old photographs, dolls, flags, signs, postcards, and clothing dealing with slavery and the war and he places them in modern scenes of these once historical sights. He is combining the contemporary with the historical, he is asking us to think about the history of a place and the effects of time and change. His research and knowledge of every aspect of each part of his photographs is astonishing. These photographs give more then just a visual experience, they are informing, and transforming, and forcing us to think about the relationship we have with our nation’s history. This work is published in book called “Passage on the Underground Railway” and he continues to work on the project.
A couple girls in my class have created a Twitter account for all the memorable quotes he says during class. “Stephenisms” as we like to call them.. Here are a few of my favorites, but please feel free to visit the account.. here
“You have to figure out when it’s appropriate to give yourself a pat on the back, and when you have to give yourself a boot in the pants.”- Stephen Marc
“You have to remember that there’s a difference between taking a photograph and making a photograph.”- Stephen Marc
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”- Stephen Marc
“Nobody cares what you had to go through to get it to look right. They don’t care if you get hit by a car, chewed on by a dog, whatever”- Stephen Marc
|“This Mississippi montage merges a wrought iron fence and houses (possibly an extension of the slave quarters) in Vicksburg near the Cedar Grove Plantation, a cotton field and plow, torso with Phi Beta Sigma fraternity brands, and text from a slave owner’s letter defending his decision not to emancipate his slaves (Mississippi State archives).” – Stephen Marc , Courtesy of http://herbergercollege.asu.edu/marc/montages.html#
“This is a section of the Colored Cemetery outside Fort Erie, Canada, with the Niagara region “running man” sign marking an Underground Railroad site. The gentleman is holding a “Let Freedom Ring” commemorative brick at the Broderick Park UGRR dedication ceremony.”- Stephen Marc. Courtesy of http://herbergercollege.asu.edu/marc/montages.html#