The Southern Glossary Instagram account is 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 and designer Stephanie Wexler.
Location: Memphis, TN
How did you interest in photography begin and how did you arrive at your current style?
I earned a BFA with a concentration in design; however, since childhood, I have enjoyed documenting my life through photography using various cameras—from a Polaroid Land Camera and Kodak Instamatics to the iPhone 6 and a Nikon DSLR. The internet and social media allow me to become immersed in photography, and consequently sharpened my eye for composition. And participating in classes at local art schools has sharpened my skills.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
I think that artists’ immediate surroundings can shape their work, but don’t necessarily define it. If an artist is dedicated to a medium, the work can happen anywhere.
How do you choose your subjects?
I have lived in Memphis my entire life and have worked as an interior designer with archimania architects for eleven years. While I still have a love for my hometown and the place where I work, I felt a need to look beyond the surface of things that were all too familiar and find beauty in the places and people I regularly come in contact with. So I started taking photographs on my commute to and from work through one of Memphis’s oldest neighborhoods—a vibrant but impoverished community called Cleaborn Foote. I seek spontaneous moments where I can capture the raw, uncontrived characters and landscapes of the neighborhood.
Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?
Starting in middle school, my family and I traveled to New York yearly and visited a number of art museums. But I always insisted on returning to MoMA and the Whitney because I enjoyed the simple yet impactful art forms and learned about the masters of modern art and photography.
I am also an avid fan of William Eggleston’s work and have collected his books, photographs, and show prints since the early 90’s. A few years ago, I had a tremendous opportunity to assist the Eggleston Artistic Trust with a project that entailed tracking every photo in their archive—from black and white to color. His ability to find beauty in ordinary subjects and surroundings really resonates with me.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
My inspiration stems from leaving my immediate surroundings. I’ll get out and walk, drive, head anywhere: from an undiscovered neighborhood nearby to an obscure location outside the city just to find something new and stimulating.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
To some degree, yes, and am always longing for greater satisfaction. In the world of architecture and design, the time it takes to get from project conception to completion can take months—sometimes years—with increments of satisfaction along the way. But photography offers instant gratification, which makes for a healthy balance with the delayed satisfaction received from design.
Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.
I am currently working on a photography book with a Memphis-based organization that provides healthcare services to the under-served. The book will be published in September and honor their 20-year anniversary. We selected eight photographers to document the communities where clinics are based; some photographers have a relationship with their neighborhoods through work or by living there, others do not. The diverse perspectives have been refreshing.
Earlier in the year, I used a self-publishing platform to create a book of my own images. The most fulfilling part of the process was selecting the order of images in a way that helped tell a story. It was a good primer to prepare for the anniversary book.