Woman Crush Wednesday: Laura Beth Reese
Interview by Jiaqi Zhang
How did you come up with the project "Iowa?" What's the idea behind it?
I was born in and adopted from Iowa and this project was born out of my lifelong fascination with Iowa, or more specifically, an idea of Iowa that I had. Growing up, my parents would talk about Iowa as if it were another world, a strange place filled with cornfields, but the place that they found me. I thought of Iowa as a place that would be impossible to reach, but that held the answers to questions that I had about myself and the person who gave me away. And in 2016 I was lucky enough to receive a grant that allowed me to visit Iowa for six weeks, during which I used photography as a tool for exploration.
Your photos are very dreamy and implicit, do you think photography as a way of self-expression?
When I started this project, I wasn’t sure of exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn’t want to make pictures that illustrated the story of my adoption, or photographs that document Iowa in the ways that we often see the Midwest depicted. Instead, I tried to find spaces within the state that would lend themselves to photographs that seemed dreamy and filled with feeling. As I worked, I leaned into the ambiguity of the images with the understanding that I wouldn’t be able to control the experience of viewer. Each person who sees the pictures will see them uniquely and I think that’s part of their strength. While I am trying to use photography to express my complicated relationship to the landscape of Iowa, I’m not sure that it’s as important as the way in which others interpret the work.
How did your feeling towards Iowa, your birthplace, change after you completed this project?
At first, I was disappointed to find that Iowa was not that dissimilar from where I grew up (New Jersey) or other places that I’ve visited in the United States. But I still maintain the idea of Iowa as otherworldly and magical and I hope that my photographs can do justice to the Iowa that I believe it to be.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach a one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
Probably digital printing. I think the quality of a print can really elevate a photograph.
If not digital printing, then I would teach a class on Microsoft Excel because I love spreadsheets. I plan to make an artist book soon made entirely of spreadsheets.
What is the last book your read or film you watch that inspired you?
The Florida Project. The way that Sean Baker (the director) was able to use a place and it’s landscape to evoke a mood really resonated with me.
What is the most played song in your music library?
Kendrick Lamar - DNA from his album DAMN which I played on repeat for at least 3 months after it was released.
How do you take your coffee?
Iced! With simple syrup.
More of Laura's work can be found on her website here.