Born Richmond, VA. Jan 7, 1985 / BA Art Institute of Colorado WI 07’ / FT Photographer

Terry A. Ratzlaff is a visual artist. His photography draws inspiration from brief encounters with people and situations that are overlooked by others or which are disapproved of as unsafe, seamy, or uncomfortable. In doing so, he captures the relationships that humans try to create with environments or social contexts from which they are detached or isolated, but in which they hope to be accepted. Ratzlaff also works with found objects. They are often documents of the lives of the overlooked classes, such as personal photos, drug paraphernalia, and religious propaganda. These objects are personal, and they reveal the desires their previous owners had to belong in a society which may be indifferent to them.

In his work, Ratzlaff hopes to bring more attention to the overlooked. Within environments that have been constructed to emphasize the positive and attractive sides of life, Ratzlaff captures the darkness of reality: either its visual darkness or its darker mental states. He brings people face to face with people or situations they may feel uncomfortable with, but which, at their core express a universal desire to be accepted or wanted. 


But The Eyes Are Blind One Must Look With The Heart

2015 – present 

But The Eyes Are Blind One Must Look With The Heart examines the darker realities of love and sex, contrived in cyberspace and materialized in reality. Through voyeurism and anonymity, the work deconstructs the romantic fantasies and clandestine utopias presented in the form of personal ads throughout the Internet. The collision of fantasy and reality creates a space where pleasure and lust dictate behind the veil of discretion. The photography and accompanying personal ads serve to confront the viewer with the realities behind people’s phantasmic attempts to connect sexually with other human beings. 

© Terry A. Ratzlaff

© Terry A. Ratzlaff

© Terry A. Ratzlaff

When and where did But The Eyes Are Blind One Must Look With The Heart begin?

Like most projects, the subject matter began to slowly reveal itself while pursuing other work that was outside of my comfort zone in late 2015. After a few chance encounters, I became fascinated with how people used the internet to pursue sex and love. I needed to know how these online attempts translated into reality. As I went deeper into the internet these characters began revealing themselves. After much persistence and dedication, I was welcomed into their lives. I was hooked on these interactions with the men and women I met online and then in the material world. At this point I am still pursuing this work and have been focusing on it for almost three years 

Where do you see this project going?

At this point, I feel like I’m moving closer to finishing the work. I hope to find a publisher for the work in 2018/19, if not I will eventually self publish it. I would also like to see the work as an exhibition. I have some interactive installation ideas I’d like to work out, but I’ve really been trying to take my time with this work, there’s so much pressure to make a project and get it seen as fast as possible, but I want it be right. At this moment I feel I still have a lot work I need to do with it. 

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

I’m really into photo books. Reading, looking and making books consumes a lot of my day. This has led me to The Basement Window, a small imprint I started to keep my thoughts and ideas focused on creating books and separate from the everyday photo workload. 

What’s next for you?

Looks like I’ll be starting my MFA at UNL in August 2018! I’m very excited for the change in location and pace and the opportunity to focus on creating work in a totally new space. In 5 years, I have no idea where I’ll be. Hopefully I’ll have published a couple books, received an MFA and living somewhere new! 

What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?

Sophie Barbasch, Shane Rocheleau, David Kasnic to name a few.