Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Conversation with April Gertler

© April Gertler

From the moment I first saw April Gertler's work in 2002, it spoke to me. April's work always connects or articulates a thought, memory or feeling I am experiencing. April is an artist who is constantly exploring and pushing forward in her work, her art is never in stasis and she is incredibly productive. Later this year if all falls into place her first monograph will be published and currently April is showing her work via various outlets. Find out more in this interview.

We are proud to say that April participated in both Nymphoto exhibits.

© April Gertler

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

April Gertler: I was born in Germany but grew up in Santa Barbara and then moved to the Bay Area when I was 19. I went to U C Berkeley. Later in my mid-20's I went to art school and I guess you could say that everything started to become really clear. I got my BFA in photography from California College of the Arts and then my MFA in photography from Bard College in 2002. I officially moved (back) to Germany in 2003 and have been there ever since. I am currently living and working in Berlin, Germany.

© April Gertler

NP: How did you discover photography?

AP: While I was growing up, photography was always around me. My father had a darkroom in our house - although I never really knew what went on in there. My step-grandfather was a very good photographer. He was Hungarian and lived in Budapest (my father is Hungarian and grew up there). He would go out into the country side and shoot farmers and landscapes - always printing his own images at home in his make shift darkroom. But honestly I am not one of those people who has been shooting since I could walk. I actually started shooting in my early 20's when I realized I wanted to make a "career change" and go to art school. The medium made sense to me somehow - it was a way for me to explore the idea of seeing and as a result understanding what that meant to me. It was also a tool for me to consider other mediums - like drawing, collage and painting. Honestly I don't really consider myself a photographer. I guess I prefer to be considered an artist. Being a 'photographer' has too many limitations for me.

© April Gertler

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

AP: I always find this to be a really interesting question. On the one hand I have never believed that inspiration can be "found", rather I think it needs to be generated. Working in my studio leads me from one thing to the next and that is where my inspiration lies. The easiest way to answer this question would be to say that my inspiration is self generated and that generation comes from living and sharing my life. But that said, on the other hand I have to say craft and attention to detail make a huge impact on me. I have been regularly inspired by found photographs - because of their ability to immediately generate stories. The questions immediately arise; who, what, why and where. I can look at other people's family photographs for ages and get lost in the stories that seem to jump out of the photograph. The project "They are what they seem." is a direct result of this kind of inspiration.

© April Gertler

NP: It seems to me that birds have a special significance for you, is that true?

Birds have always had a special significance for me. Yes that is really true. Some people grew up with dogs and cats but when I was a child we always had birds as pets. It never seemed unusual or strange to me. When I was 11, my parents got a 3 month old Yellow Napped Amazon, who we named Sammy. Within 3 days she learned to talk. She was amazingly integrated into our family. She lived to be 23 years of age. Having Sammy around was fascinating for me on many levels.
(I did a 38 piece on her and you can read more about her vocabulary here: )

Not only was she a huge personality but she was also incredibly intelligent. But I think having Sammy around encouraged me to think about birds a lot. It didn't take me long to consider them as the perfect analogy to humans. Flying, nesting, attracting a mate and then possibly mating for life (at least some of them do), and migrating to name a few of the parts of a bird's life that seem to be analogous to how humans live. I think it is also fair to say that humans have been forever preoccupied with birds - merely the act of flying has inspired humans tremendously. So, I took these metaphors and worked with them very specifically in the body of work titled Still
( ). I have also worked with photographing diorama's of birds in various natural history museums around the world - that body of work is titled If Only ( )- suggesting "if only they could fly again..." - a bit of an ironic take on the way humans have managed to capture and control an animal that is by nature completely free and very often air born.

NP: How do your projects come about?

AP: One way that my projects come about is my interest in creating a structure for myself. I like working with self-imposed rules. Those rules manifest themselves in a variety of ways. The 38 Project (, which is a recent project that I finished earlier this year, is a good example of that. This project was generated out of a variety of reasons. But specifically it was about creating work that people could buy for 38 euros or dollars on a set day once a week. The project allowed me to get my work out and be seen in a way that was important for me at the time. The project was also about generosity and the idea of accessibility of art.

© April Gertler

NP: What's next?

AP: Even though it is not 'next' and it is more just 'now', I did just start a new project titled Wager ( That has been in the planning phases for a long time. I am excited about it and am looking forward to it gaining some momentum. The basic premise is that I am offering a work up for sale on a blog and anyone can make a bid on the work. The bidding lasts for 2 to 3 weeks or until the next posting is made. The highest bid gets the work. This project developed out of an interest in the current economic down turn coupled with the realization that I am a contributor to the "luxury goods" as an artist.
Aside from that I will be in a traveling group show opening in March in collaboration with Rojo Magazine to celebrate 8 years in print. The show will start in Barcelona and travel to 7 other cities. Also in March I will be participating in a bill board project in Leicester, England. A work from the series "They are what they seem." will be included in that project.
But the next big thing that I am most excited about is the publication of my book "They are what they seem." ( by the end of next year through Kehrer Verlag.

NP: Congratulations! And thank you so much!

© April Gertler

To see more of April's work, please visit:

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