Bio. Offer us a short, snappy (not-copied-from-your-website or any publication), fun biography. Who are you?
I’m Annie. I grew up in Washington, D.C. and photograph topics that are rooted in my experiences and the experiences of those I love. I decided to pursue photography as a career one afternoon as I was working for a blacksmith who turned to me and said I couldn’t work in the shop and have my camera on my person. That was a few years back. Now, I particularly enjoy photographing in rural America. I have been to all but 4 states. I love country music. It is a goal of mine to photograph pop-country album covers. I typically put my watch on upside down and I have fire ant bites all over my ankles.
Beginning. Do you remember the first time you picked up a camera? The first picture you took? Tell us a story about your beginning.
I’ve been photographing since before I got my period and I feel so lucky that I didn’t grow up digital. My high school days were spent listening to pretty awful metal and very good punk in the dark room for hours on end. I had fixer stains all over my clothes. I was constantly confronted by the feeling of a print looking beautiful under the darkroom lights and then bringing it out in the open to see all of my failures. I scratched whole rolls of film while drying them off. I had to figure out how to photograph bad behaviors and secretly develop the prints and avoid teachers. One time they noticed my prints of self-harm and I got into so much trouble.
But my photography teacher, Allen Jackson, would never shame me or let me give up on a print or a concept. He taught me so much about diligence and communication and self-expression. Because of that, photography was the way I learned how to process what I am going through or concerned about. (This is also why I believe high school teachers matter the most and why that is what I want to be when I grow up.)
Being. What are you working on now? Where? How? Why?
Most of my self-initiated projects deal with gender, sexuality and trauma. For the past year or so I have been working on project with one of my best friends, partner, and writer Linden Crawford. The project combines my images and their words and surrounds their top surgery. It’s about self-expression and support and community. It began when we first met, near two years ago, because they needed a video to fundraise for surgery. Then we decided to develop the work, using still images and words.
And we didn’t know much about each other or each other’s work before we began. It just so happened that our dedication, approaches, and styles meshed. I find the project to be intimate and gentle, and love working from start to finish with this person, reviewing every aspect to ensure the images and text inform each other in the most meaningful way possible.
Between. Discuss the relationship between you and your subjects (whether people, objects, land). What is the nature of your relationship with the things you photograph or film?
I prefer to work in intimate spaces and to get close to those I photograph with. But I constantly remind myself that not all projects are meant to be long-form and not all relationships are meant to be intimate. For a while there, I put so much emphasis on those ideas—long-form and intimate—that I didn’t realize the importance of being present for the distant relationships and the strength of certain photographs made in fleeting moments. Either way, I prefer to meet people where they are at, suspend all judgement and let the work and relationship go from there. Also, trust and respect are essential.
Blown-away. Show us the last image that completely took your breath away (contemporary or historical—depending on where you’ve been looking). What do you love about it?
My mom sent me a text of this image and I want to own it in real life. It is of my great-grandmother and great-aunt on my mom’s side, who are Italian and who moved to Niagara Falls, NY. It is so friggin’ beautiful. It’s the kind of portraiture I am working towards. It’s slow and methodical and eerie and stunning. And speaks depths about the relationships between women in my family—a tough type of compassion and strength. The elder’s hand on hip, younger’s hand clenching fabric with the slight motion of the hands held, pulled in close. I relate to this—the way the women on my mom’s side of the family support, raise, and console each other. One part incredibly supportive and two parts take-no-shit.
Burden. What are some of the difficulties or challenges of being a woman [AF: person] who photographs?
I mean there is the fear that you will be raped, which is a constant scenario I make sure to secure myself against. Letting three people know where I am, having multiple exits, confirming check-in times, carrying bear spray, etc.
But more so, homophobia is what shakes me. When I’m photographing with someone who’s calling people faggots, I am not exactly trying to have them know I’m gay. Or when I am at a place that is damning all gay people to hell, I have to hold back emotions. And then I feel super confused because I have strong relationships with people who think this way, and feel that I have to withhold a part of my self from them, for both the work and for my safety. And then I wonder how the work becomes something outside of me—where I hold it in this other category in my mind and it has needs different than my own. And I also wonder what would happen if I didn't hold back? But all said, I have never lied when confronted with it. It's been experiences of blending in, not denying. But blending in is denying, too...
Beauty. What are some of the joys of being a woman [AF: person] who photographs?
I love the magic of it all. I love how tricky it is. I believe it can heal (and harm). I like having ammo tins upon ammo tins filled with negatives and not knowing what it all means until years down the line. I like being welcomed into spaces I otherwise have no business being in. I love how it makes me feel and think and how it informs my relationships and sense of home and safety and security. I especially love the moment the shift happens, when someone you have been photographing with realizes they don’t have to speak to you or acknowledge you and you are simply present during someone else’s life.
Balance. When you are not photographing, what are you doing that keeps you grounded? What (else) do you do for fun?
I am trying this new thing where I check my e-mail when I wake and if nothing is urgent, I walk away, I sit on the porch, read, and drink iced tea. I want an hour of screen-free time in the morning before I begin my day.
I also like to run and jump rope. I need to read. I like to bike. I try to have a bunch of plants to take care of. I like to drink wine spritzers on the porch with friends. I like to canoe. I like to blast pop country and go out into new places and make Polaroid landscapes when my anxiety about a story or access is stressing me out.
Best. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard? (It doesn’t need to have been given to you personally or be about photography specifically).
Freak what you feel.
Beyond. Tell us about a future project or challenge that you hope to tackle.
I need to better learn how I communicate through portraiture. It is a constant part of the craft, but not something I have delved into in the way I have with other aspects of photography. I am getting back to work on my project Deafening Sound, which looks at gender-based violence in the United States. So, I am researching for this portrait project. It will be rooted in the past, so I want it to look historically water-colored.