Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Conversation with Amy Stein

From Domesticated © Amy Stein

We are honored to start 2009 by presenting a conversation with photographer Amy Stein - an artist that all of us at the collective greatly respect. Amy Stein does not require introduction. If you are interested in contemporary photography, you most likely have encountered her work. And once you have seen Amy's images, they will stay with you for a long time. You'll find yourself pondering Amy's exact message, how she did it , how others perceive the work and in the end you might find yourself rethinking the images again.

From Domesticated © Amy Stein

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Amy Stein: I am stricken with an insatiable curiosity into the lives of others. I love delicious meats and Charm School and I think those two interests are related somehow. I own fourteen pairs of jeans, twelve black shirts and five pairs of clogs. My greatest childhood memory was traveling from Pakistan to Washington, DC without flying. Someday I hope to become a word class violinist, but I have never played the instrument and have no musical background. I would leave my husband for Jonathan Richman.

from Domesticated © Amy Stein

NP: How did you discover photography?

Amy Stein: I discovered photography in a moment of couch-bound inspiration. I was in my early thirties and doing the dot-com bubble thing and wanted more from life. I decided I would be a photographer and have been shoveling coal into that fire ever since. It's only been a couple of years since I picked up a camera, but I know this is what I should be doing with my life and that is very satisfying.

from Halloween in Harlem © Amy Stein

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

AS: Police blotters, grocery store checkout lines, talk radio, truck stops, the ingredients on the side of soup can...It can come from anywhere. Recently I heard interviews with Bob Dylan and Neil Young where they both talk about not being in charge of their creative output. It just shows up and they are fortunate enough to recognize it and invite it down on paper. I kind of feel the same way about my own inspiration. I don't own my ideas, I just rent them for a while.

from Women and Guns © Amy Stein

NP: How do your projects come about?

AS: Interest in a subject or idea is the primary motivator and then it's a lot of plumb and vigor. I usually begin with a basic concept and then start doing a lot of research. That research usually opens up new meanings and new tangents and the idea starts to become a project. After that I put my nose down and work like the devil to make it happen. Travel, scouting, interviews, requests for access and then finally I begin to shoot. With each image I question my concept and search for opportunities to push the images farther. I refine and review constantly and then seek input from people who's opinions I respect.

from Stranded © Amy Stein

NP: What's next?

AS: My goals for 2009 include turning my Stranded series into a book, finishing my new project where I examine the origins of the universe in a parking lot in Queens, secure grants for the compliment project to Domesticated, and finding the right New York gallery for my work.

NP: Thank you so much!

To see more of Amy's work , please visit: The prolific & award winning Domesticated series was recently published as a book by Photolucida and is availble for purchase via


Anonymous said...

I love Amy!!!

nina corvallo said...

so do we :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea she was so new to art photography. Now THAT's inspiration!

nina corvallo said...

Thanks, Andy!

Anonymous said...

Great interview

Anonymous said...

I was confused about Amy's comment regarding the "couple of years" since she picked up a camera. I know some other people had taken that comment to heart as well, but I think it was just a confusing choice of words. When I looked at her CV I noticed she's been in shows as far back as 2004, and got her MFA in photography in 2006. I imagine she was photographing before that.

I would love to hear more about how she has built her career over time and her advice for getting work seen.

Amy Stein said...

Lane - You are correct. I should have said "a few" instead of "only a couple." I picked up a camera in 2002. At that point I didn't know what I was doing or what I wanted to do. I didn't really get serious about photography until 2004 when I decided to go to grad school. The rest is history as they say.