Johanna Warwick is a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design MFA Photography 2010, and Ryerson University BFA in photography 2006. She is a British born, Canadian raised photographer now working and living in Baton Rouge, LA where she is Assistant Professor of Art & Photography at Louisiana State University since 2015. She has exhibited in New York, Toronto and other major cities across North America. She was exhibited in Fresh at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn NY, and was a selected artist by Lesley A. Martin as part of her Guest Room curating for Der Greif magazine. She had a solo exhibition Monuments to Strangers at the VisCom Gallery in Dallas, TX in 2016 and in 2017, she exhibited Monuments to Strangers in a traveling two-person show with artist Kristine Thompson. Monuments to Strangers will be exhibited in a solo show summer of 2018 at Basin Arts in Lafayette, LA.
Monuments to Strangers
2013 – current
In this work, I utilize news images and materially re-contextualize them to emphasize the limitations of photography as an emotionally and factually accurate record of the time. I combine analog and digital processes to underscore the ways in which news photographs have been produced and how that production affects our understanding of cultural history. The photographs look at the selective representation of the individual within printed daily newspapers from the 1880s to the1960s.
The figures in the blocks are unknown, but they were at one point important, or significant enough, to have their image produced in this way. The images reveal how versions of history were presented publicly. I photograph to highlight how women and minorities were vastly under-represented, and in re-presenting these images hope to reveal and question our flawed history. The images are etched into copper or zinc, creating long-lasting portraits that have proven permanence over time. I imagine the names of the figures, question what they were once important for, and explore the social context behind them. I don’t seek to make a document as they were used before, but to photograph them as visual monuments. Men are abundant; women are few and far between. The images pertain to births, graduations, professions, weddings, and obituaries. Through these images, a story begins to evolve of the major life events and rights of passage that people continually move through then and now.
The objects I photograph were originally made by a photomechanical process to reproduce photographs for publication and is an invention of Fox Talbot’s. It was the first time in history images of reality could be reproduced on presses reaching the public, rather than an image interpreted and altered by hand. While in use for over 80 years, it was an imperfect process that eventually was made redundant by offset printing in the 1960s. An outdated process, today these blocks have no use. They have become antiquated, much like the newspapers that they were once printed in. I am photographing them to present this historic process and lost imagery in a new way, using the technologies that made them obsolete. In re-photographing these images, my photographs are several iterations of light-sensitive materials being exposed; the original photograph, the re-photographed negative, the photomechanical produced block, and my exposure. Each image thus goes from a positive to a negative, recorded once again as a negative, then inverted to a positive. It is in this long chain of events, which traverses over decades, that the glow of light and color occurs. In the portraits of women, I use the original antique printing block and ink it onto a sheet of film. I then expose the film, process, scan and print it.
The photographs are hung individually and in groups separated out by the depicted subject’s sex, age, and race. Consequently, there are large groups of men printed smaller, and smaller groupings of women printed larger to point out their lack of representation, while also trying to reclaim their importance in history. The photographs describe the history and limitations of photography and reveal contemporary practice at the same time.
Why Louisiana State University?
We are incredibly lucky to have 3 full-time photography faculty; Kristine Thompson, Jeremiah Ariaz and myself. Having 3 full-time professors is a strong asset to our program as we all approach and think about photography in quite different ways. Students are exposed to a broad range of critical issues and aesthetic perspectives by studying with each of us who represent diverse artistic concerns. We have an incredible visiting artist roster and over the past few years have had Kara Walker, Alec Soth, Abelardo Morell, Dario Robleto, David Maisel and Carrie Mae Weems all come to LSU. In Fall 2018 we are hosting the South Central Regional Conference, where Alfredo Jaar and Alexandra Bell will be our keynote speakers. Every year I am thrilled by who we are lucky enough to bring to campus. We are located in Baton Rouge, just an hour from New Orleans and all of their great museums. I’ve been in Louisiana now for three years, and I can truly say it is a unique culture. Being a part of this community has been a surprising and inspiring part of living here.
What courses do you teach?
I am lucky to teach both graduate students and undergraduate students ranging from freshman to seniors. I love being able to teach such a breadth of courses. It is magical to work with freshman that have never used film or stepped into a darkroom before, all the way up to seniors who are in the throes of putting together their first solo exhibition. Getting to teach students at both ends of the spectrum is a great way to gauge the successes in the program and see just how much our students have grown.
Basic Photography, Advanced Photography, Digital Color II Photography, Large Format, The Studio & Light, Senior Projects and the Graduate Seminar in Photography are all courses that I teach regularly or on rotation. I’m very proud to have created two new studio courses at LSU, New Archive and Social Media and Photography. These are offered as special topic classes and are based around specific interests I have using archival imagery as material for bodies of work, and how the relationship between photography and social media can shape your practice and encourage new modes of working.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
We start students in the darkroom so they learn the core skills of exposure, I believe that film always holds them much more accountable than digital at the beginning of learning. Film allows them to truly fail, which is an invaluable part of learning. Students then progress through taking more film classes and digital classes concurrently. Once in the advanced courses, it is always a student’s decision to choose what format is best for their work. We teach them all of the tools they need, to then be able to make informed decisions. Each course is always a hybrid of instruction, lecture, reading, writing and lab time. In all of these components, we expose students to other artists working in a variety of ways for inspiration and to understand the canon they are working within.
Describe the process of output for photographs.
Students are required to produce prints for all critiques. That said, we are not restrictive that students have to necessarily always make photographs. Certainly, in the upper-level classes we encourage students to produce work in the best way for the concept, sometimes this has become sculptural, video-based, online, books or written and more. The important part is to produce- to create something. Photography is a part of the School of Art, so we do have great facilities in other mediums that students can work in if they have taken classes or receive faculty permission. In the photo area, we have multiple large format Epson Printers, a darkroom with open lab hours, an alternative processes darkroom and two digital labs. These facilities are only for students enrolled in photography classes.
Describe the critique format.
Critiques are the greatest! We have such strong and vocal undergraduate students in the classroom and we strive to create an atmosphere that students feel confident to share in. Generally, a critique will consist of the students in the class, they occur on a frequent basis and are considered a really important part of the curriculum. We want our students to feel confident speaking about their own work, and that of others. When we do have visiting artists they will usually do studio visits with graduate students for one on one critique. For the undergraduates, they often come to the class for a group critique or discussion.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?