June T Sanders is a photographer & writer from the shrub-steppes of Eastern Washington State. She lives there still. She received her BA in Media Disparity from Fairhaven College and is an MFA candidate at Washington State University. Her work is about gender: dirt: expansions: home.
daughter of something
"As trans beings— bearing the weight of uncertainty within our personal & political futures — we have learned to craft new worlds through our pictures. How we move through them is not unlike how we move through this one, though in our own creations we are free to imagine, shape shift, and resist consumption. The ambiguity in our photos is what drives the possible."
This work is an ongoing, and often influx, collection of images that explore ideas of trans-futurism, reimaginings of family, home, and self, and the relationship between bodies and the natural & cultural landscapes surrounding them. I’m invested in creating work that complicates and expands the function of queer & trans representation — by moving through poetics and metaphors and reclamation — and by creating a world that is imagined as much as it is documentary.
Why Washington State University?
To be honest - a large reason I came to WSU was because I felt like I had a score to settle with this area. It was the only school I applied to. WSU is roughly 2 hours from my hometown of Kennewick, WA. And it sits about half way between where I grew up and where a large chunk of my family is from in Western, MT. I felt like I needed to be back here so I could explore some whim I had at the time: Something about sagebrush and the desert and trans-ness and the spaces between home and everything else. I still don't know if I made the right decision. But i’m learning to live with my irreverent decisions and embrace where they take me (or take me back to).
Practically, though, they do give a full tuition wavier and a nice teaching stipend. And the interdisciplinary nature of the program brings a wide range of perspectives to your work. Im not sure i’d be the same if I spent most of my time mainly around other photographers.
How has your experience at your school informed or shaped your work?
This may be basic, but having my own studio has greatly impacted my work. Being able to make a photo, develop it, print it, and pin it on my wall in a matter of hours is such a luxury to me. And it’s allowed me to sit and live with my work in a new way — and make connections and sequences that might not have happened without a dedicated space. I also had a very stern idea of what I wanted to do when I got here. But how I view my work (and myself, for that matter) has changed drastically since entering grad school. I believe that throwing yourself into a new place or community can greatly impact and/or improve your work, but I believe the same is true for diving into a place thats familiar. Both challenge you and force you to shift your mindset.
Teaching, also. Having to explain some of the conceptual & emotional aspects of photography to someone with zero knowledge on the subject really helps bring you back to basics and to why you got into the medium in the first place. And some of my students have said such insightful & poignant things about the work I've shown them. It’s been a humbling experience to say the least.
What kind of exhibition or arts-related job opportunities exist in the area for current students and recent graduates?
There isn't much in any conventional sense. We do have a wonderful museum that employs some of the students once they graduate, but beyond that there isn't much here for art related jobs/opportunities. Most of the time we just end up hosting art shows/poetry readings/performances/etc at our houses. It’s a fairly rural area. But Spokane is less than 2 hours away and they've seen a great burst of arts-related jobs and opportunities lately. I think a lot of people in this area are looking there for a viable option for being a working artist.
What’s the most memorable piece of advice you've received from a mentor?
You’re a better writer than you are a photographer.
A few people I look up to have told me that. And I used to take it badly. But over time I think I've learned to unpack it. Ive always tried to separate those two worlds — poetics & photography —because I found those two modes of looking at the world to be very different. But I've since learned the power in combining them — how it can create more nuanced and emotionally driven work. Maybe someday they will say the opposite to me.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to attend your school?
WSU doesn't have the biggest or most robust photo department out there, but we are strong in our interdisciplinary approach. It’s great for folks looking to use photography as a means to an end: for those looking to take a multimedia approach to their work.
Also, since the program is so small, we all seem to be invested in each others work and successes. Usually there’s only one or two of us doing a particular medium. I hear about more competitive or stressful atmospheres in larger programs and i’m thankful I'm not in that kind of environment.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Ian Lewandowski, Elle Perez, Zach Blas, Chris Vargas, Lorenzo Triburgo, Micha Cardenas, Tabitha Nikoli, Alec Logan Smith, Tyler Healy, Apolo Gomez, Melissa Kagerer, Elissa Ball, Vaughan Larsen, Chase Barnes, Nick Simko, to name a few.