Last week Southern Glossary launched our Instagram account, which will be curated by a new artist or photographer each week. Every curator will put their own spin on the account, showing off work, their process, and their surroundings. Here's a Q&A with last week's curator, photographer Kevin O'Mara.
How did your interest in photography begin?
While in high school I had interest and moderate proficiency in various artistic mediums (illustration, painting, etc.) but never the level of success that I desired when it came to getting the idea in my head translated to the canvas. Discouraged, I stopped pretty much all artistic endeavors for a few years until one day I saw something while I was out in New Orleans' City Park and thought, "I could take a photograph of that and use that image to tell a story." I mean I didn't think those exact words, but that's the condensed and clarified version. When I saw that the photograph was what I expected it to be and that it was a far greater match between initial expectation and realized output, I was sold. I haven't stopped since then.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
New Orleans is a blessing for photographers because there is never not something interesting to photograph. Even when your concentration has nothing to do with landscapes or architecture or street photography the city is always supplying you with great backgrounds and a parade of interesting people. Sometimes I suffer from burnout and I think, "I can't possibly post another New Orleans image. My friends and followers must be so tired of all this." Recently, though, I saw an image by Rapid City, SD photographer Erin Zieske, and it hit me really really hard. On the surface it's nothing mind-blowing - it's just a good shot of a house in snow. But everything about that photograph is foreign to me - the architecture of the building, the materials in its construction, the leafless tree, and especially the snow. The whole thing came together as something alien to a long-time resident of the deep South, and it sent a clear message: the things around me that seem so everyday and banal are exotic and fascinating to *someone* out there, and it renewed my feeling of obligation to document my surroundings and show people the New Orleans in which I live.
Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself?
There is an art critique group here that I have attended on occasion. Though it is composed of wonderful people and a few dear friends, I don't feel that I fit in well because I didn't go to art school, much of their language is foreign to me, and I'm the only photographer in the lot. I do keep track of and occasionally talk to other photographers here in New Orleans, but I wouldn't say that I have a group of which I am a definite part.
On a broad level there's a never-ending supply of opportunities for photographers in New Orleans. Between tourists looking for wedding portraits or magazines needing parade shots, or even food blogs desperate for photographs of the interiors and dishes of [insert name of hot new restaurant here] there's just so much to do. Narrowing the answer down to my personal experience: I've participated in some commercial endeavors - I have done the primary photography for Cure, for example - but for the most part I'm not looking for financial opportunities. I try to keep my photography separate from my work so that I can shoot what I want to shoot when I want to shoot it, and never feel that it is a burden or something I need to escape. Photography is my escape and if I turn it into work, well, I'll have to find another hobby.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
My contacts on Flickr alone give me so much to consume and to be inspired by that I am never at a loss for inspiration. If somehow I am, well, all I have to do is pick one of my favorite photographers and go look at their favorites, and then it's yet another level of stimulation and motivation.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
Yes and no. I feel that I am creating at a decent level of quality and when I get ideas for projects I'm able to produce something with which I am satisfied. Lately, though, I've been remiss in creating opportunities for myself and instead subsisting on opportunistic photography, mostly landscapes and architecture stuff. I need to be more proactive in contacting people I know and saying, "Hey, do you want to come collaborate on this shot with me? Do you want to pose in whatever strange tableau that's forming in my thoughts?"
What are you working on now?
Not long ago an online site ran a deep deal on photo books so on a whim I put together some New Orleans shots and had maybe two dozen printed. They disappeared instantly, and I'm still getting requests for them. So, with that in mind, I've been talking to a local print shop about doing a larger - but still limited - run of a book with wider scope and greater number of pages, but still concentrating on New Orleans.