• Photo Diary: Marfa, TX with Emma Rogers

    We love the work of Marfa-based photographer Emma Rogers, whose work perfectly mixes artful minimalism with just enough dusty West Texas grit; a succinct metaphor for making art in the middle of nowhere. We teamed up with her for this exclusive photo series and sat down to talk more about life in Marfa and inspiration that comes from her vast surroundings.

    Where are you from and what led you to Marfa?
    I grew up on a houseboat in Portland, Oregon. I’ve lived primarily on the West Coast in San Francisco and Seattle before moving to Marfa, Texas. I ended up moving to Marfa to work with the Chinati Foundation and their internship program in arts education and public programs. My move here was also my response to an internal need – I wanted to experience a new landscape with a different scale, both geographically and socially. I’ve lived here for six months and am staying indefinitely.

    Can you share more about this series you shot?
    Living in Marfa has allowed me to investigate my visual language against the backdrop of the West Texas desert. This series focuses on the landscape and neighborhoods of Marfa, as well as the glory of the “backyard” we have here. I chose to shoot dear friends who live and work in Marfa, as well, as they’re inextricably linked to the landscape and what I see. I wanted to capture the colors here, as we’ve been having a lot more rain than normal. The wildflower blooms in spring are unreal, and for this series I captured the colors of the landscape and its essence.

    When did you first start taking photos?
    I started out in analog photography and still work with film today. In high school, I had a dark room photography class that inspired me to keep up with the medium. I learned how to use an analog camera to shoot film, develop negatives, and print black and white photographs.

    What are the current projects you’re working on?
    An ongoing project is a hashtag I started called #shadowsofmarfa. You can capture shadows anywhere in the world, but I’ve found the visual language of shadows in Marfa and the light in general to be extremely unique and graphically strong. I also really like Yoko Ono’s “Shadow Piece” from 1963, which says, “Put your shadows together until they become one.” This visual metaphor resonates with me, as I’m somewhat of a dark person and like to explore this concept through photography.

    What is it like living in Marfa and working with the Chinati Foundation?
    I’ve met some talented people in Marfa who either live here or are passing through, which has led to different collaborations and projects. I am a contributor to the publication “Marfazine,” which is a free weekly zine that includes artwork by locals or visitors that relate to Marfa in some way. I’m collaborating on a clothing line with AYSM, which is now based out of Marfa via Los Angeles. We are working on some pieces that involve silkscreened graphics and images, and I’ll also shoot the lookbook. I’m also modeling and helping direct a photo series with local designer Ashley Rowe.

    The Chinati Foundation internship experience has informed my visual language greatly. Being able to live and work intimately at a museum is a very different experience. I’ve been very inspired by Donald Judd’s 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, because of the way the works respond and interact with light, reflections, and shadows. The majority of my internship involved teaching the youth of Marfa and the few surrounding towns arts education and art practice. One of my favorite projects with the students was teaching them about pinhole photography. Kids, me included, are constantly taking photos on their phones but often have no idea what the fundamentals of photography are. We directed the project in a way that allowed them to think about taking photos as recording light, and I thought that was really interesting. The majority of them had no idea that they could create an image with just a little bit of cardboard, tape, and photographic paper (plus some chemicals). It’s really exciting to see young people find magic in creating something from square one, instead of just using a phone and having no idea how it actually produces images. The experience at Chinati has also helped me realize the importance and fulfillment I receive in seeing the same work over and over, as it has made me a more critical thinker.

    How has living in such a remote place influenced your own work?
    Living in a remote place, I feel like I can visually solidify my images clearly, since there is less visual noise than you would get in a city. Visual noise is great too, but sometimes I feel like it can be distracting for me. I want frame and shoot more controlled or simply.

    Marfa's known for being a crossroads for a lot of interesting music, art, and creative people to pass through. What are some of the best things you've seen since living there?
    Zoe Leonard – 100 North Nevill Street. A Chinati Foundation temporary exhibition in which the artist turned a huge industrial building into a camera obscura.

    Diamond Hymen – Local punk rock band performance at the theatre, in which all ages from 2-90 years old attended. The musicians performed behind a large screen and had colored lights set up behind them in a way that distorted their silhouettes and created interesting shadows and shapes.

    Dev Hynes and Connan Mockasin — The two performed on stage for Marfa Myths Festival and it was pretty sweet.

    If someone is visiting West Texas, where would you suggest they visit?

    I suggest they visit the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa, The Chinati Foundation and/or Judd Foundation, Marfa Thrift Store, The Capri for lunch, and Mimms Ranch for a walk.
    Outside of Marfa, I suggest going to the McDonald Observatory star party, Big Bend National Park for camping or hot springs, and downtown El Paso, Texas.