What Is My Work About?
I create large-scale photographs that subvert the legacy of the idealized landscape. I investigate underrepresented histories, and those subsequently rendered invisible. My work defies the illusion of three-dimensional photographic space. Instead of following the desire to make photographs look more and more real and accurate, I choose photographic approaches that reject the notion of definitive depiction. There?s an element in my work that is left open to chance; using processes such as pinhole photography, lumen prints, chemigrams, and extremely long-exposures, I allow nature to invade and dictate the quality of the image, and rupture the illusions of the photographic print.
I remember the first photograph I developed – watching the latent image being revealed from nothingness. The image looked exactly like what I had framed, and it looked nothing like what I framed. Because photography emulates the visible world so effectively, the process and consequences of creating an image are easily forgotten. This conflict solidified my interest in photography, and began my examination of the materiality of the photographic process.
I create large-scale photographs that subvert the legacy of the idealized landscape. I investigate underrepresented histories, and those subsequently rendered invisible. Just as all photographic images are created, history is told through the frame of someone, serving as a mirror of their biases and/or objectives. The more time that passes, the more diluted the histories become.
My photo works defy the illusion of three-dimensional photographic space. Instead of following the desire to make photographs look more and more real and accurate, I choose photographic approaches that reject the notion of definitive depiction. There is an element in my work that is left open to chance; using processes such as pinhole photography, lumen prints, chemigrams, and extremely long-exposures, I allow nature to invade and dictate the quality of the image, and rupture the illusions of the photographic print.
Conquest of the Vertical pinhole images
In 2011 I created a series of pinhole images shot in remote California locations where mining occurred in the 1800’s. Photographic pioneers of that era used covered wagons for their darkroom – I built a 6’ pinhole camera and used a U-Haul to as my traveling darkroom. Several decades of mining permanently affected these landscapes, and my intent was to let the landscapes affect the prints. Photographing with a 6-foot pinhole camera in the middle of sand, wind, and snowstorms, diminished my control over what the final image would look like. I traded precise framing, a sterile working environment, and metered exposures for a method through which I could not predetermine the edges of the picture, and that allowed nature to make its own marks on the pinhole negatives. This was the first series in which I used an alternative photographic method to bring the process of creating an image back into the equation. The vertical orientation of these photos evokes the body of the photographer, the viewer, and those rendered invisible through relocation.
Fireside Lounge digital prints
This series of color digital photographs documents the route of a contemporary homosexual hate crime in Wyoming. Each photograph is a compression of time and space. I traveled five miles from the Fireside Lounge where Matthew Shepard was abducted, to a deer where he was beaten and left to die, documenting the route in one single exposure. Next, I returned to the Lounge, just as the participants did, documenting the return route in another single exposure. The series was exhibited as a photographic installation, where only two photos were installed. On one wall floated a large print of the ride to the deer-post; on the opposite wall, the return. Half of the room was painted a cool shade of grey, the other half warm, treating space itself as material to be framed.
As with the Conquest of the Vertical Series, I have been writing short stories based on my experiences photographing in these remote landscapes:
It really didn’t matter to me what the photos looked like, and I was afraid if I left the LCD screen on I wasn’t going to be able to resist looking, judging, altering, trying to make better. The point of being out here is to travel the same road Matthew Shepard and his two kidnappers drove, making photos that are a record of that drive. Whatever appears, appears.
I didn’t want to know what the photos looked like because I was afraid nothing was going to record at all. At one point I turned my headlights off so I could see, and there was nothing there at all. The prairie was instantly absorbed into black, and I was floating through time and space. My eyes darted left and right but had nothing to land on. If not for the sound of my tires spinning on pavement I’d be convinced I wasn’t moving at all. Before panic could set in, I closed my eyes. My frenzied eyes continued to dart around, and finally relax once patterns of light appear. These same patterns appear when I close my eyes to go to sleep- when my body is tired but my mind still active. This time they come to help me make sense of this place. My eyes open, headlights back on, and off in the distant is a small light, probably the light of a ranch countless miles away. I finally had something to land on and it made me feel small, insignificant and alone. *
Louisiana Bayou series
I am currently working on a series about the islands in the Louisiana Gulf Coast that are sinking in part due to underwater drilling for natural gas and oil. These wetlands and coastal communities have become extremely polluted, and the mining operations have caused irreparable damage to the intricate system of wetlands and islands. I use lumen prints (a camera-less process in which images are created by exposing photo paper directly in the sun) to photograph in the polluted bayous of Louisiana’s oil channels. Rather than taking photos of contaminated waters, I let the contamination create the image. These photographs contain a 48-hour history of the reaction of gas, oil and toxic run-off, with the silver in the photographic paper.
*excerpt from “Phosphene,” one of several of my short stories inspired by my experiences traveling to remote locations to photographic landscapes. The stories are scheduled to be published in a collection of hand-made books by Rosanna Albertini.
2005 MFA USC, Los Angeles, CA
2000 BA University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA
2014 “Fireside Lounge to 41.296111, -105.515000,” 2A project space, L.A. CA
2005 “Sunday”, Roski Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2004 “Skintight”, F-Space Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Selected Group Exhibitions
“Julie Shafer and Ginny Cook”, Public Display Photo Magazine
“Being Here and There”, curated by Sant Khalsa, Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster CA
“Love Is In the Air,” organized by Calvin Phelps, 2A Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
“Primer III,” curated by Marco Rios, Luckman Fine Arts Complex, CSULA
“Sea Level Change”, curated by Enid Baxter Blader, Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, San Francsisco, CA
“Che Mondo”, curated by Carole Ann Klonarides, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
“Carte de California: Contested Terrain,” Kellogg University Art Gallery, Cal Poly Pomona, CA
“Being Here,” Andi Campognone Projects, Pomona, CA
“The Mentor’s Hand,” The Gallery at the Creative Center for Photography, Los Angeles CA
“Twisted Selves”, California Museum of Photography, Riverside CA
“Under Construction: Photography and the Word,” Huffington Post
“Revisiting Beauty,” curated by Peter Frank, Orange County Center for
“Outside the Project,” Raid Projects, L.A. CA
“Building Paradise,” 7+Figueroa, curated by Kyungmi Shin, L.A., CA
“DIVAS! An Exhibition of Immodest Photography” Robert V. Fullerton Museum
“Chain Letter,” High Energy Constructs, Los Angeles, CA
“Many, many guys and girls, all real beauties,” curated by Julian Hoeber, Circus of Books, West Hollywood, CA
“Orion’s Shorts,” curated by Jill Giegerich Joshua Tree, CA
“Pardners”- Domestic Setting, Los Angeles, CA
“Genderosity”, 4-F Gallery, Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA
“Grand Opening of Roski Gallery”, Los Angeles, CA
“Grand Opening MFA Group Exhibition,” F-Space Squared, Los Angles, CA
“Open from 10-19-2003 -11-19-2003,” F-Space Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
“Inaugural Exhibition,” Beal Center for the Arts, UC Irvine, CA
2014 Julie Shafer artist talk: “Fireside Lounge to 41.296111, -105.515000” at 2A Gallery
2013 TEDx conference – presented a lecture about my photographic series “Conquest of the Vertical”
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles CA– in conjunction with “Che Mondo (What a World)” exhibition
Kellogg University Art Gallery, Cal Poly Pomona– In conjunction with “Carte de California: Contested Terrain” exhibition
2011 Artist lecture at Art Center College of Art and Design, Pasadena CA
Commissioned to photograph iconic scenes of Southern California for “Splash;” a video installation by Hilja Keading at the LAX Tom Bradley
Commissioned to document archived historic maps of Los Angeles for “Los Angeles in Maps” by Glen Creason, Rizzoli Press, New York
Presenter for “One Image One Minute” for XTRA Magazine, organized by Micol Hebron
– Wagley, Catherine “Critics Pick- 5 Artsy things to do this weekend; Julie Shafer artist talk: ‘Fireside Lounge to 41.296111, -105.515000’ at 2A Gallery”
The LA Weekly, December 10, 2014
– Johnson, Robin “Exploring the IE through an amorous lens,” The Inland Empire Weekly- Art and Culture, April 18, 2013
– Henn, Sean “Inland Empire Artists Capture the Sense of ‘Being Here’,” Artbound KCET, April 25, 2013
– Tuck, Geoff “Notes on Looking- Julie Shafer has a piece in the LACE auction,” May, 2012
– Thompson, Kristine “Twisted Selves,” catalog essay, The California Museum of Photography, May 2011
– Yury, Carrie “Under Construction: Photography and the Word,” The Huffington Post, January 2011
– Creason, Glen “Los Angeles in Maps,” October 2010
UC Irvine, Irvine CA
Photography Instructor: Issues in Photography- Advanced photo theory, The Constructed Image, Intermediate Photo
Art Center College of Art and Design, Pasadena CA Photography Instructor: Fine Art Photography
Cal State Los Angeles, Los Angeles CA Photography Instructor: Advanced Color Photo, Intermediate Color Photo
USC, Los Angeles CA Photography Instructor: Beginning photography
Cal State University at San Bernardino, San Bernardino CA Photography Instructor: Beginning photography, analog and digital
Hybrid, studio lighting
Cal State Fullerton Photography Instructor: Creative Photography