Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Conversation with Kerry Mansfield

Today Nymphoto is delighted to present a conversation with artist Kerry Mansfield, whose series "Aftermath" was featured on this blog last month.
I first saw "Aftermath" at Lenscratch, along with images from Kerry's series "Aftermath".
"Aftermath" really made me stop and look, while "Borderline" made me dream.
Often people are curious to know more about an artist, to see who is behind the images. And seeing "Aftermath" and "Borderline" together indeed heighten my contemplation of the imagery.
While some might think the series are not related, I found the same strong vision of this talented artist in both.

NP: Tell us a little about yourself.

KM:I am a bit obsessed with empty space. Growing up in New Jersey while living in an old Victorian home, my mother had a penchant for covering every horizontal surface with objects. I, on the other hand, was in a constant state of editing my immediate environment down to as little as possible. If I had my choice I would live in one of Julius Schulman’s photographs where everything is minimal, clean and ordered. I studied architecture for a few years before returning to photography and fell in love with Modernism. I'm primarily interested in space and the pictures are not about my connection to certain objects. Instead I look at how an
object exists in relation to its environment. There are certain compositions that catch my eye.

from the Io’s House project © Kerry Mansfield

NP: How did you discover photography?

KM: Every generation in my family has one artist. My uncle is a brilliant painter and he started to teach me how to draw when I was 7. That same summer I was also given a cheap camera. In all of the photos I took on July 4th I cut off everyone’s head. It could have been a subconscious statement against authority but no one encouraged my photography after that. Over 10 years later during a summer photography lass at UC Berkeley I developed my first roll of black and white film. I was stunned at the simplicity and couldn't understand why I had wasted so much time drawing what I saw in front of me when the camera was so much more efficient.

from The Cabin series © Kerry Mansfield

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

KM: I live on top of a large hill in San Francisco facing the East Bay. Almost daily a tidal wave of fog rolls over my hill and slowly crawls across the city. When my apartment is literally submerged in the tube of white I feel like the universe is completely calm and perfect. There is an emptiness filled with undulations of light and mist. To be able to hear myself I need to get as far away from people as possible. My photographs rarely contain human beings because I feel like they get in the way of the environment I’m trying to see. The less people I’m around and the larger the natural space, the greater my creativity.

from the La Cueva Road project © Kerry Mansfield

NP: How do your projects come about?

KM: When I learned how to shoot 4x5 and process my own sheet film, every image was a painstaking process. There was something exacting and pure about it but I also felt locked down and constrained. Around the same time my sister bought me a Lomo camera. I decided to give myself license to shoot at will and make bad pictures. That was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. My first solo gallery show, entitled “Public Portraits”, came from the images I shot that year with the Lomo. The same process led me to my Borderline series when I became fascinated with reflections. I trust my eyes to find instances of light that other people don’t recognize.

from the Borderline series © Kerry Mansfield

NP: What’s next?

KM: My self portrait project “Aftermath” that chronicles my treatment for Breast Cancer is still in production. The larger body of work contains over 50 images so I will be working on those for some time. I’m also continuing my “Borderline” series and always searching for people who will let me come and shoot their homes. There are also two new concepts that I’m exploring for the future as well but my current primary goal is to find a gallery or publisher who’s willing to feature “Aftermath”.

from the series Aftermath © Kerry Mansfield

NP: Thank you so much!

See more of Kerry's work at

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