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Susan Burnstine Interview

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Los Angeles based photographer Susan Burnstine, the 2008 PhotoNOLA Review Prize 2nd place winner, was recently interviewed by Ann Marie Popko.


How do you describe your photographic style?

Blurry. 🙂 ….That, and modern pictorialism.

When and how did you start your career as a professional photographer?

From the early age of 14 until graduating college, I worked as an assistant to one of the top portrait photographers in Chicago. Initially, I was convinced I wanted to be a commercial photographer, but the business side caused me to burn out by the age of 21. Following careers as a performer and writer in Hollywood, In a twist of fate, I returned to commercial photography. I began my unintentional journey into fine art photography when I created my first homemade camera in March of 2005. I consider my image In Passage (below) my first successful homemade photograph, taken in June 2005 at Paddington Station in London. And from that day on it’s become a large part of my daily life.

Who is your photographic hero?

I have many….Sally Mann, James Fee, Edward Steichen… In truth, my biggest influences are painters.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?

I feel very fortunate to have pursued all of my interests and succeeded at the two I care about most, photography and writing. If I had to pick another, it would probably be an impressionist or realist painter. (my biggest influences in my work are the impressionists and also Andrew Wyeth—specifically Christina’s World) Sadly, I had to give up my dream of being a painter at a very young age after I won first place in kindergarten for painting a cowboy wearing purple chaps standing next to a green spotted cow. I realized I could never top that achievement and would never be as good as Andrew Wyeth, At the age of eight I saw Dorthea Lange’s infamous Migrant Worker image hanging at The Art Institute of Chicago. I was mesmerized by the power of that photograph and instantly decided I wanted to be a photographer.

When you teach, what is the most important thing you want your students to gain?

Confidence and succeeding in defining their vision. The most rewarding part of teaching is witnessing a student achieve that “aha” moment. When suddenly all the pieces in the puzzle they have been struggling with come together.

You’re a very successful photographer and artist…what are your future creative goals?

To be challenged and fulfilled by the images I create on a continual basis.

Anything else we should know?

That I write a monthly column for Black and White Photography (UK) that focuses on what’s happening in the American black and white fine art scene. Link:–Black-and-White-Photography–1003BW.html
Also, that I was recently nominated for Center’s 2009 Santa Fe Prize for Photography. (Results will be announced at the end of March)

Susan is represented by:
Susan Spiritus Gallery, Newport Beach, CA,
Verve Gallery Of Photographs, Santa Fe, NM,
Kevin Longino Fine Photographs, Greenwich, CT,
John Cleary Gallery, Houston, TX and
Wallspace Gallery, Seattle, WA.

You can see more of Susan’s work at She will be exhibiting here in December during PhotoNOLA 4 at the Canary Gallery on Julia St.