SELF. December Gallery Show at RMSP

For December First Friday Art Walk in Missoula, the Rocky Mountain School of Photography Gallery will be exhibiting a new show featuring works by Career Training graduates Sarah Joann Van Nortwick and Wyatt McCollum. The show is a collection of self portraits presented in diptych format. I was able to correspond with Sarah and Wyatt as they enter the final week of preparing for their show to ask a few questions about what to expect on First Friday. Here is the conversation that transpired.


Sarah and Wyatt, you both have your first gallery show coming up on
December 7 at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography Gallery. Can
you tell our readers a bit about the show and what prompted each of you to
start shooting self-portraits?

WYATT: Sarah and I have very different pictures, so the show will have an
awesome contrast of each of our styles. We are displaying them as diptychs, to
emphasize the juxtaposition of how we each imagine the world. I started taking
self-portraits when I was really young, posting them online. My friends put the idea in my head, saying, for some reason, that they liked them. It’s cool getting to be both in front of and behind the camera at the same time. I’ve realized how much I love both.

SARAH: I’m really excited for the show. It will be interesting to have a bunch of
photos of my face up on the walls for strangers to see. Wyatt and I have spent
months preparing everything; a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (literally) have gone
into this show. As for what began my self-portraits, I was really enamored by a
few self-portrait photographers and friends that I’d found online, so I really just…
well, started. My first self-portrait was taken against a white wall in my parent’s
house. I was smiling – I didn’t know what else to do. And it all escalated from
there into what is now a lifelong project.

How did it come about that both of you started shooting self-portraits?
Was it by coincidence or did you both plan on embarking on this endeavor

SARAH: After we had both attended the Career Training program, we were
asked to do a show with both of our self-portrait portfolios. Since then, we’ve
been on a couple shooting adventures together, and he is a hoot. We’ve noticed
so many similarities between ourselves, even though our photos are very

WYATT: We really are so similar! That’s funny, because we didn’t actually
meet until a couple months ago. She grew up in Alaska, and I grew up here in
Montana, so us crossing paths is all thanks to RMSP. I am excited that after
spending time together working on this show, we’ve become friends.

Wyatt, in the press release your style is described as “mysterious, moody
and wide-angle.” And Sarah it states that your style is “colorful, vulnerable
and up-close.” What factors do each of you think contribute most to your
individual styles? Where does your aesthetic come from?

WYATT: I love when people describe my work, because it’s a lot different than
how I am in real life. I’m really not that moody or mysterious, but I like creating
images that take me away from everyday life. I want my viewers to experience
the same escape of reality that I do. I love combining nature and the human form
to evoke a certain emotion. I try to reveal the hidden beauty in everyday things.

SARAH: I LOVE color. I mean, that’s pretty evident in my photos, but even in
everyday life, color just makes me happy. I think my images stem a lot from that.
For each photo, I try to use both color and my expression to create the mood I’m
imagining. As far as aesthetics are concerned, I have no clue where my style
comes from. I just kind of do it. Often, a photo will simply document how I’m
feeling during a day. I try to use composition, lighting, and processing to make
very emotive images. My goal is to have every one of my self-portraits be able to
stand on their own as a thought-provoking piece. I want people to ask, “I wonder
what’s on her mind?” when they look at one of my photos.

Briefly, can each of you describe your process? Do you stew on an image
for weeks before creating, or are you more spur of the moment? And what
sort of tools (camera and software) do you use to achieve your look?

SARAH: 90% of the time, I wing it. I like to just throw a bunch of clothes in my
car, drive into the middle of nowhere, and see what comes to mind when I arrive.
Very few of my photos have been thought out before they are shot, but if they
are, they’re usually refined anyways once I start shooting. I shoot with a Canon
7D named Phinnegan, who does everything I could ask of him. And of course
I have to use my trusty tripod, and a wireless remote to try to avoid the ten-
second dash. And I like to make my photos look clean and bright with my editing
process. I also place a heavy emphasis on post-processing, using both Adobe
Photoshop and Lightroom.

WYATT: All of my images in the show were taking during my 365 (taking a
photo a day for a year), and that usually forces me to come up with things on the
spot. I always venture out with my tripod, and 7D camera, while running around
pressing my ten-second timer. I use the Brenizer method when taking each
photo, and then using Adobe Photoshop to create the final image.

Anything else you would like to add?

SARAH: I’m so lucky to have this opportunity and I hope the viewers can relate
in some way to my photos. Each one is a small piece of myself, and I’m a little
nervous to share so much me with the world.

WYATT: I am honored to be having my work shown by RMSP, and its even
better that I get to share it with my friends in Missoula.

Self portraits by Sarah Joann Van Nortwick and Wyatt McCollum

Rocky Mountain School of Photography Gallery
December 7, 2012 – February 25, 2013
Gallery Hours: M-F  8am – 5pm
Opening Reception – December 7, 2012 – 5 – 8 pm – Artists will be in attendance

To see more of their work, please visit both Sarah’s and Wyatt’s websites here and here.

2 thoughts on “SELF. December Gallery Show at RMSP

Will Olivet-Gallo

I remember looking at Sarah’s Flicker (I think) page before I went to RMSP, and thinking wow, this girl has talent. I easily spent more time looking at her stuff than any other site. Her photos are so creative. It’s crazy to think that she is only going to keep getting better and better. I wish I could go to see both her and Wyatt’s (also a very good photographer) show.

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