Post-studio: reshaping photography in the digital era
– an interview with Kate Steciw
Kate Steciw lives and works in New York. She has exhibited extensively in New York, in solo and group shows at galleries including Toomer Labzda, Higher Pictures, Horton Gallery, BAMart, Stadium and Foxy Production. Her works has been exhibited internationally at Gallerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris, France; Neumeister Bar Am, Berlin, Germany and Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy, among others.
Photo of Kate Steciw by Alex John Beck
"I didn’t have a studio or a fancy camera, or even enough money to develop film but I was exposed to other people’s images and this powerful [Photoshop] software on a daily basis - it opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking about images and how they are made and consumed."
Could you tell us about your artistic practice and how it has evolved over the years?
In a word, unexpectedly. I did go to graduate school and had hoped to develop a practice there but when I graduated with debt to pay and few job prospects, I had little time or resources for art. After graduate school, I got a job in the photo lab of a high-end fashion retouching studio that required long hours and didn’t pay well but I was exposed to the “hidden labor” of commercial image making and that changed everything. Eventually, I learned Photoshop and started retouching which eventually inspired the practice as it exists today. I didn’t have a studio or a fancy camera, or even enough money to develop film but I was exposed to other people’s images and this powerful software on a daily basis - it opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking about images and how they are made and consumed.
You are often associated with a generation of artists and photographers belonging to the post-internet movement. How would you define your practice in relation to the movement?
I like the terms “post-studio” and “born digital” a little better more because that’s how I experience the evolution of my practice. I guess I feel like we are all “post-internet” now and the influence of web-based culture is so pervasive that the term bares little relevance now. Things changed fast. That said, I think the term is historically important because it delineates a generation of artists that came into visibility at a very specific time in the evolution of the internet. A lot of us are not what you’d call “net-natives” and I think that generates a unique perspective/aesthetic.
What does a typical day at your studio look like?
I usually start by staring. I stare and then I do some casual image hoarding (grabbing from stock sites, old hard drives, other people’s social media, screengrabbing whatever I am watching). Then, I start to choose which images I want to work with that day. If the piece is a digital work, then I bring that selection into Photoshop. If I am shuffling through scraps of prints, then I start laying things out and gluing them together. Lots of cutting and pasting both digital and physical. Lots of gluing my fingers together.
Could you tell us more about ‘031521d’? What is the genesis of this work?
This work came about in the usual way. I am drawn to certain images usually for their colors and shapes and I start trying to rearrange those colors and shapes in a way that pleases me. My process is very intuitive so there is not much “intent” in the making other than to please myself. The pieces that please me the most are the ones that, once completed have some kind of strange resonance with others as well.
What is your definition of art? What makes a good work of art in your opinion?
Ooph that’s hard because I think so much of what we do and make is art. I think art is a human impulse to make something for the sake of making then share that with someone. It’s good when it connects.
Kate Steciw, 031521d, 2021View work
What are your artistic influences, if any?
My peers are my biggest influences. Seeing their fearless pursuit drives me on. Second to them (and it’s a close second) is early man.
If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?
The cave paintings at Pech Merle but ownership is overrated.
Do you listen to anything when you work?
Usually and it’s a wide range. Right now it’s Slavic dark wave but it could be Rush or Beyonce tomorrow.
What inspires you?
Riding my bike, Kurt Schwitters, the German Expressionists, dogs, my deteriorating vision, early man, the relentless march of time.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on some collages (as usual). These ones are printed on aluminium which poses unique challenges.