• Experiment and Experience: Peter Weiss Interviews Erica Simone

    Date posted: December 14, 2011 Author: jolanta

    Peter Weiss: You have a very energetic personality; you seem very confident and secure. Am I reading it right and to what do you attribute that security?

    Erica Simone: Yes, I like to think of myself as being confident and secure (most of the time). We do only have one life, one body, and one mind, so why waste time feeling bad about our failures or ourselves? All we can attempt is to improve what we don’t like or to just be accepting of it. And if you aren’t secure, it’s important to at least appear so. I think without it, people stop trusting you and you stop intriguing people.

    “I was never nude for that long, typically 20-30 seconds, and the whole time I focused on the other side of the camera…”

     

    Erica Simone, Begging on Houston, 2009. Archival fine art giclée print, 24 x 16 in,  Ed/6. Courtesy of the artist.

     

    Experiment and Experience:  Peter Weiss Interviews Erica Simone
    Peter Weiss

    Peter Weiss: You have a very energetic personality; you seem very confident and secure. Am I reading it right and to what do you attribute that security?

    Erica Simone: Yes, I like to think of myself as being confident and secure (most of the time). We do only have one life, one body, and one mind, so why waste time feeling bad about our failures or ourselves? All we can attempt is to improve what we don’t like or to just be accepting of it. And if you aren’t secure, it’s important to at least appear so. I think without it, people stop trusting you and you stop intriguing people.

    PW: You travel light and alone at times when you work, both here and abroad. Would you describe yourself as a risk taker or adventurer in your artistic pursuit? Do you see a difference?

    ES: I definitely identify with being an adventurer. I love to explore new territories and I love challenges, there is no fun in staying safe. I’m somewhat of a risk taker, but you won’t typically find me running into a flaming house … unless to save a soul.

    PW: What sacrifices do you make in pursuit of your art? What has been your greatest victory? What is your greatest missed opportunity or photo? Do you have a favorite piece and why? Are there pieces that are staged and should be declared as such or have you allowed confusion? Have you ever felt guilty about an image you have taken? Has it ever seen the light of day?

    ES: I don’t tend to think of the sacrifices I make as being “sacrifices,” but more so just experiences. In my nude project, I gave up the privacy of my own body, but it’s not in any way a sacrifice to me. I would never part with anything I couldn’t stand losing. I am passionate about my work, but if I hadn’t been comfortable giving that up, I would have never done it.

    In the Nue York series, I’d say the greatest victory was probably the subway shot. With the constant movement of the passengers, it took quite a while for the composition of the photograph to fall the way I wanted it to and then I only had 1 subway stop to capture it. By that time, I had already traveled from the West Village to the Bronx!

    There were a few times when I would manage to capture a wonderful image, but I was out of focus or some element in the photograph didn’t work. Overall, despite the technical challenges, I was quite lucky.

    In some cases, yes, I definitely needed the cooperation of other people in the photograph to capture what I wanted, but most of them were done guerilla-style.

    I’ve never felt guilt towards an image. I’ve felt insecure, sure, but I think that just goes hand in hand with being the model. We can’t always happy about the way we look in photographs. I know I’m not.

    PW: Do you consider the shooting of the “Bare Urban Citizen” collection interventionist/ performance art?

    ES: The project is not about performance, but about photography. I didn’t feel that I was performing when producing the photos, but rather, just trying to capture an iconic image. I was never nude for that long, typically 20-30 seconds, and the whole time I focused on the other side of the camera, not the people watching or what’s going on in the street. My goal is to go in, get the shot, and quickly move away from the crime scene. It’s about the end image, not the moment in itself.

    PW: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your act of taking pictures has offended the passersby or the subject? If so, did you continue despite the protests? If so what was your rational? During the Urban Nude, what gave you the idea? What are you saying with this collection? If you weren’t as pretty as you are, would that have impacted this collection?  

    ES: No actually, no one has ever overtly expressed discontent or being offended during my shoots. Most people laugh or applaud. I don’t think my physique or intentions are offensive to most people. Had I run around a church or a playground in my birthday suit—it would probably be a different story.

    The collection contemplates the use of clothing and fashion in society. We tend to first judge or analyze others by how they look on the outside, the same way we tend to act or feel differently depending on what we are wearing. I produced this series after asking myself certain questions: “What would life be like if we didn’t have clothing to express ourselves?” “How would we perceive or judge others, on what basis?” “How would we feel with our bodies, would we be more or less secure?” “What would the environment look like?”

    Thank you. I have no idea if the collection would have had more or less of an impact. Possibly, if I had been very out of shape, the collection could have been even more popular, because people would have been even more shocked: “How could this person possibly feel comfortable running around naked?” This brings up other questions such as “Why would one person feel more or less comfortable being naked just because of the way they look?” Some models are extremely insecure, the same way some overweight people are nudists. I don’t think one has anything to do with the other.

    PW: Does fame and fortune motivate you or are you an artist for artist sake?

    ES: Of course I would love to eventually be financially secure enough to be able to lead a stable life with the ability to make certain choices and as anyone, I would love for my work to be successful for my own sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, if I could use my skills and social position to make a difference and to help people, then this drive would make much more sense and have much more of an impact. I am a lot more motivated to make a difference than to be a famous photographer for its own sake, so hopefully they’ll go hand in hand.

    PW: Where does your ego fit into your career?

    ES: My ego comes and goes—a constant battle. I accept my flaws, as hard as it can be sometimes, but I also know that no one is perfect. We are all different, traveling on different journeys. All I can hope for is to keep moving forward, to keep learning and to keep making progress.

    PW: You are very attractive young woman. How does this affect your entree in your photography? Do you use your feminine charms to get your pictures? How far will you go?

    ES: Thank you, but I don’t think it takes a supermodel to get where you want in life. I do often use my feminine “powers” to get the pictures I want. Of course, I’ve found myself flirting with an old man to get his picture or batting my eye-lashes to get past authorities. As a woman, I think it’s a God-given right to use those charms! While men have their advantages, women have theirs and I feel it is fair game to rock what you have.

    PW: As a photographer you have a very diverse body of work. The categories listed on your web site includes, portraits, people, travel, photo-journalism, self portraits, personal work, fashion, and beauty. What does your selection of subject matter say about you as a person, artist and professional photographer?

    ES: I like producing a variety of work. My creative ADD introduces me to a diversity of subjects, which makes my job more exciting. I like exploring new ideas and concepts and I love a good challenge, so taking on new work is always something I have fun with. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to specialize in a certain area, there are too many interesting things to take pictures of; I want to take them all!

    PW: Dealers and collectors expect from the professional artist a cohesive recognizable body of work. This work should fit a particular genre. As you know this allows dealers a sharper target in which to market an artist’s work. It could be argued that if your creative spectrum is too broad, you can’t develop a style fully and you risk losing the focus of you subject matter and continuity. How do you feel this established criteria affects your work from a professional and creative perspective?

    ES: I’m not too worried about what dealers and collectors want from artists. I’m only interested in what I want to do, since that’s what makes me happy. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to develop a style fully regardless, if that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it’s all experiment and experience and as long as I keep learning and producing more and more interesting work, while paying rent, that’s all that matters for me.

    This article was published by NY Arts Magazine, 2011. NY Arts Magazine is published by Abraham Lubelski. Sponsored by Broadway Gallery, NYC and World Art Media.

     


     

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