Patricia Swanson (b. 1988, Lynnwood, WA) is an artist and educator based out of Philadelphia, PA. Working across the spectrum of photographic processes, her work investigates the connection between identity and memory and how photographs can serve as physical markers of time and experience. While the method of making images ranges from film to cell phone, the output is always tactile.

Swanson received her BA in Studio Arts and English Literature at Western Washington University in 2014 and completed her MFA in Photography at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA in 2017.



In Dreams explores how photographs, dreams, memories, and stories all exist in tandem with each other, one informing the other, causing them to overlap and intersect until they construct the lens in which we view our past, present, and future self. We misremember, we reconnect, we resituate the images in our heads into timelines that just barely hold together until we try to remember them again and the fragments get rearranged into a new poetic history.

When and where did In Dreams begin?

While in grad school I became drawn to the intimate power of books and how telling a story through images and text can be a way to be vulnerable and honest with the viewer. In the spring of 2017, I had wanted to create a book that felt like an excavation, like each turn of the page brought you deeper rather than simple moving from one side to another. I made a book dummy that was two overlapping accordions, where one side got bigger as the other side got smaller depending on the rate that the pages were opened, yet I didn’t have an idea of what I actually wanted to fill the pages with so I shelved the book until something came along that would fit the structure. 

I was already working though ideas about how I understood myself through my memories and how photographs function as place holders for stories and personal histories when I was gifted The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. I was drawn to how Bachelard discusses how a sense of self is constructed through layers of dreams and memories that are more poetic rather than truly historical. In remembering the empty book form, I was inspired to create a book that evoked the sense of a fragmented dream through images and writing that can be viewed in any order. 

The real ball got rolling when I began a 3-month residency at Jasper Studios in Philadelphia in April of this year and I finally had the space (and the deadline) to push me to make this book a reality.

Where do you see this work going?

My original goal was to make an edition of 8 handmade books but once I get going I’m a bit of a workaholic so by the end of the residency, I had made an edition of 12 books and 12 prints that are a combination of selenium-toned kallitypes and gum bichromate. I would say that the book part is done and while I wasn’t intending to make prints, I now have more ideas and images I’d like to expand the series with.

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

I teach photography and I get a lot of motivation and inspiration from my students. There has been a number of times when I’m helping them problem solve a project and I’ll come up with ideas I realize I actually want to implement in my own work. Plus I’m a darkroom lab tech at another school so even when I don’t have a a specific project I’m working on, I’ve created a habit of shooting film and making prints on a regular basis like I’m exercising. 

I always try to be in the process of reading at least one book at any given time. I’ve always loved to read and now that writing has become a part of my art practice, I find that I need the voices of other writers to push my perspective of the world and keep me asking questions.

What’s next for you?

Honestly, at the moment just letting myself enjoy a little bit of vacation and a moment to breathe before I really need to start gearing up for another semester with syllabuses to write and lessons to plan. I’m going home to the west coast for a short visit and I’m planning to bring a couple cameras along, I have some color slide film I’ve been itching to use. 

I took a bit of a break from applying to things after I graduated from school which was probably a mistake but was fueled by the all-consuming post-grad slump and a lack of disposable money. But having this new body of work has been reinvigorating my drive to apply for more shows, grants, and residencies in the future. Hopefully I'll be able to show this body of work again soon. 

I was also spoiled with such a great studio space at the residency and it cemented the fact that I need a dedicated space to think and work creatively so now I’m on the search for new place to fill that void.


*Those interested in purchasing a copy of In Dreams should contact Patricia directly.