Abby Quinlisk is a photographer based in New York and graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2016 with a BFA in Fine Art Photography. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and she has worked for photographic education institutions such as Maine Media Workshops + College and Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Amen
2017 – present
When and where did Amen begin?
Amen began on a road trip from New York to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was moving to Santa Fe for a few months to work at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops for their spring season in 2017, and decided to finally do the "All American Road Trip" that every American dreams of doing. The initial inception was just to photograph a country I've lived in my entire life but seldom seen, a pretty standard project. It developed later on as I started to think about what this road trip meant to so many people and how in a way it became the new American Dream, a manifest destiny of sorts. With the current state of our country, the American dream has morphed. No longer is the ideal that if you work hard you can make a life for yourself in America a reality, the one thing we have left of this American Dream is the road trip. This body of work was photographed entirely on disposable cameras, and showcases the timelessness of the road trip while also highlighting the fragility of this newly constructed America.
Where do you see this body of work going?
Amen is still a work in progress, and I hope one day when I accumulate enough pictures and stories to turn it into a zine. I have submitted this body of work to various exhibitions and competitions, so I hope it is chosen to be published, but ultimately I am still uncertain where I want this body of work to end up. It's still so new and developing that I'm unsure what the final outcome will be.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
As cliche as this might sound, just shooting every day. Photography is like a sport in the sense that if you don't practice every day you're not going to get better. I try to photograph every day and on the days I'm unable to I look at other photographers to get inspired and motivated, even if it's as simple as checking instagram. Also sending my work to my friends who are creative and asking for their honest feedback. A fresh pair of eyes on unseen work can really help you develop your ideas and further improve your project. Lastly, I try not to take myself too seriously, and what I mean by that is just allowing myself to make mistakes and take stupid pictures that won't be featured anywhere. I think it's important to be serious about your work but don't get strung up on the details or the "meaning" behind an image, most of the time an image worms its way into your work and when it all comes together it makes sense.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, I'm not sure! I've been considering grad school a lot recently so that might be the next big thing for me, but otherwise I've just been photographing a lot and trying to improve with each new shoot. I've been having a lot of fun photographing on disposable cameras so I think I'll keep doing that for a while. My future is a little uncertain right now, but that's been kind of the fun of it. I really don't know what's next and it's exciting, a lot of possibilities on the horizon.
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Sophie Barbasch is currently my favorite photographer and right now she's in Brazil working on a Fullbright Fellowship, which is amazing. Her work is beautiful and moving.
Ben Davis. Ben is my good friend and he makes amazing work, seriously stunning. I couldn't recommend him enough! His new body of work, Sugar House, is probably my favorite he's done so far.
Emily Barresi. I went to school with her and she was one of the teaching assistants in my photo class. Besides being a wonderful person she makes stunning work that is breathtaking.
James O'Connell. I met James when we were both working at the Maine Media Workshops + College, his work is timeless and he recently did a road trip of his own and made a new body of work called "Manifest".
Sarah Sampson. Yet another good friend of mine! Her body of work about her grandmother is beautiful.