LensWork Publication Skills Grant

Past Winner

Hold Your Breath

Arden Surdam - CA, United States

Hold Your Breath is a body of work recently exhibited in Los Angeles. The two year project is a series of portraits capturing handmade papier-mâché headpieces which are covered with found fabric & wrapped around models in a studio setting. The images arise from months living in New Orleans where I was engaged with the arts community learning how to build floats & costumes. If awarded this grant, I would be able to expand my skills beyond the studio in order to create a monograph or publication.

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While I have been photographing for over ten years, I have never created a book or publication of my work. For photographers, image making and books are intrinsically linked and my lack of knowledge feels like an obstacle in my practice. If provided with the opportunity to do layout training or take publication workshops, I would be able to design a monograph or catalog of a significant series of images and eventually create other publications in the future.

In 2015, during my last semester of graduate school, I began shooting images for Hold Your Breath with the support of my mentor, Jo Ann Callis. The work quickly became an exploration of the confluence of photography and sculpture through the use of textiles, varying models, and constructed headpieces. I became fascinated with the idea of prohibiting the viewer from seeing the subject’s face. By obscuring the face and consequently the identity, I constructed portraits that were complex hybrids of indiscernible gender and species, at once eerily familiar and impossible to categorize.

This year I exhibited select images from the series at SLOAN Projects in Bergamot Station. The show was an exciting chance for viewers to see the longstanding work, but due to a shortage of funds I was unable exhibit the entire series. By creating a monograph I would be able to print images of all the work as well as collaborate with a writer to further detail my thoughts about the photographs. Moreover, a monograph or limited edition book would serve as a fantastic way to share images for viewers who were unable to attend the exhibition or who are generally interested in the work.

Recently, I also attended this year’s Los Angeles Art Book Fair and was deeply inspired by the number of photographic publications. The visual possibilities of a limited edition publication, portfolio, or catalog seemed endless, and showed me how art, particularly photography, can be democratized through books. Moreover, the way in which we experience photography is shifted by a publication; rather than viewing an image on the wall we are holding it in our hands. If awarded the grant, I would be inspired to not only create new ways of informing the work in the publication, but also team up with a graphic designer to learn how to most effectively do this. In essence, the publication would be the next iteration of the series, taking on new forms and new life.

I am a young photographer living in Los Angeles. I graduated from CalArts’ MFA Photo & Media two years ago and previously studied photography at the International Center of Photography in New York. Since graduation, I am learning how to balance having a job while continuing my photographic practice in the evenings. Photography is a lifelong love of mine and pursuit I will continue to follow. I have exhibited throughout Los Angeles as well as in Paris and New York.



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