Kari Wehrs is a photographer and educator currently living in Tempe, AZ and attending Arizona State University for her MFA in photography.
As a child, Kari spent hours flipping through her Grandmother's family photo albums that dated from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. The photographs were compiled neatly, often with handwritten notations, which suggested to her that they were precious objects. Wanting to see the details of each image, Kari often examined the photographs with her Grandmother's magnifying glass. She found the idea that time could be recorded and "held" in photographs to be truly fascinating.
Originally from Minnesota, Kari attended the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse for her undergraduate education, and soon after attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, in the fall of 2007. Kari has been associated with the Maine Media Workshops + College in Rockport, Maine, since 2008, having taken on various positions such as photography labs manager and teaching assistant for the college program. She has been a Workshops instructor since 2012.
Kari has a deep interest in the techniques, technology, and history of the photographic medium. While embracing multiple methods in her own work, her most recent series is portraiture employing the 1850s wet plate collodion process (tintypes).
In an attempt to explore one aspect of gun culture, I set up my darkroom tent and tintype gear at known target shooting locations in the Arizona desert. I create participants’ tintype portraits, then give the subjects the option to use the image as a target.
Tintypes were the primary form of photography during the American Civil War — a time when the country was divided by geography and beliefs. Soldiers often posed for their tintype in uniform and with weaponry.
My use of this form of photography in contemporary time elaborates on these connections to history, particularly an America that currently exhibits a divide in the complex ideologies relating to gun culture.
Why Arizona State University?
The primary reason that I was drawn to ASU was faculty/mentor related. Specifically, I had met Mark Klett and almost instantly felt that he was a figure that I needed, and simply enjoyed. I respected his long career and he seemed to be a solid character (and 2 years into the program I am happy to say that he is an outstanding mentor and all around great person). I also knew that I was looking to follow someone who was both the artist and the teacher, and who truly managed both of those roles with all of their ability and energy. I'm incredibly grateful and feel lucky to have met Mark and to be a part of the photo community at ASU.
How has your experience at ASU informed or shaped Shot?
This project came about because of multiple factors; quite a strange marriage of things, actually. I needed serious back-and-forth between student and teacher, and it was exactly what I received. As a beginning grad student and I think in typical student fashion, I floundered and struggled to do something fresh, but I did the work and experimented. My instructors are keen listeners and were able to sift through what I presented, and reflect back to me what was important.
What kind of exhibition or arts-related job opportunities exist in the area for current students and recent graduates?
The Phoenix area has a lot to offer, specifically adjunct positions at surrounding schools and internships throughout the arts community. ASU also allows plenty of exhibition opportunities while in school.
What’s the most memorable piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?
I have 3 so far from grad school...
Betsy Schneider: Do something that scares you. (This was incredibly influential to the Shot project.)
Mark Klett: It's a long term game. & Stay out of your own way. (Both quotes are referring to navigating a career as artist/teacher.)
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to attend ASU?
Ask the faculty and current/past students anything you want to know. I had many questions answered that helped ease my way into the program and helped me to determine that the people and overall environment would work well for me. Visit with faculty and students in person if you are able.