Harrington Q&A: Photography Instructor Clarissa Bonet on Her 'City Space' Series and More
December 20, 2012
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Pervasive shadows, mysterious figures, glimpses of city streets – these are just a few of the things that characterize Clarissa Bonet’s City Space photography collection. After taking a look at her work, it’s no surprise that she recently won Photo District News’ (PDN) “The Curator” award for her outstanding and undiscovered fine art photography.
An internationally exhibited photographer, Clarissa also serves as an adjunct instructor for Harrington College of Design's photography program. Ms. Bonet received a B.S. in Photography from the University of Central Florida and continued her studies to obtain an M.F.A. in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. She also received the Albert P. Weisman grant for two consecutive years.
In the Q&A below, the talented Ms. Bonet shares some insights into her work and the topic of photography in general.
Tell us about your City Space collection. What inspires it, and what are you looking to communicate to or share with your audience?
My series City Space was inspired by the urban environment [see image below; scroll down for more from this series]. Before moving to Chicago, I had never lived in a big city. I was suddenly confronted with this foreign environment, and I used the camera as a means to investigate this space. I draw from my personal experience of the urban space for each image.
Can you tell us about any other projects you’re currently working on?
I am currently working on a new body of work that focuses on the city, but not on the pedestrian experience of its inhabitants like City Space. Rather, it focuses on the structure of the city. I am interested in the buildings themselves and the mysteries they hold. I don’t want to give too much away yet; it’s still a work in progress.
You recently won PDN's ”The Curator” award. What does this award recognize, and what did winning it mean to you?
Winning PDN’s “The Curator” was amazing. It definitely gave me confidence that I was going in the right direction with my work. The exposure alone from the magazine was great, and because of it my work has been published in other photo and art magazines around the world.
You're currently working as an adjunct instructor at Harrington. How has teaching influenced your perspective as a photographer? What has it taught you?
As a photographer and artist I have always been interested in light. As an instructor, I try to stress how important light is to creating photographs. Light is crucial to allowing photographers to not only create but also read and interpret photographs. Teaching has enforced this, and I can see it in my students’ work throughout the semester.
What are the top 3 most important things that photography students should be doing now to help set themselves up for success after graduation?
The most important thing a student can have, regardless of whether or not they have graduated, is motivation. Without it, you won’t go anywhere, especially after graduation, as there will be no one making you take pictures; there will be no deadlines. It will be up to you to make work, and if you want it badly enough, you will.
The second thing would be to look at photographs. New or old, it is important to be looking at and researching whatever you are working on. Find other photographers that are doing something similar and try to push it even further. You also don’t want to do what has already been done, so it is really important to know the current state of photography and educate yourself on its history.
Lastly, get your work out there. Once you have a body of work you feel strongly about, get out there and show people. Start creating a community, make connections with fellow photographers, show each other what you have been working on.
What's your favorite local shop (and/or website) for buying photography equipment? Do you have any advice on how to make effective purchases?
My favorite local photography shop is Calumet. Their staff is pleasant and so helpful. You can get pretty much everything you need there. They also have a great rental department, so if you are thinking about making a large purchase but unsure if it is right for you, you can rent and try out the equipment before buying.
What photography blogs do you read and recommend?
My go-to blogs are booooooom, Featureshoot, and Lenscratch, among others. But these are the ones I check a few times a week.
All photos ©Clarissa Bonet