Visiting Photographer Shares Recipe For Creative Growth

Paul Karabinis is an associate professor of Photography at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, who will guest lecture at Auburn’s art museum on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm. The artist talk, “Minor Details and Small Events,” is free and open to the public.


PK3_weblgKarabinis teaches courses in alternative photographic processes and the history of photography. Most recently he served as co-curator and catalog author of Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography, which opens at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University on Friday, January 24, 2014.

His photographs have been exhibited in museums and galleries including: University of Maine Museum of Art; Pacific Northwest Center for Photography, Portland, Oregon; College of Southern Maryland; Texas Tech University; Soho Photo, NY; Polk Museum, Lakeland, Florida; Mobile Museum of Art; Norton Museum, Boca Raton, Florida; University of Notre Dame; and, the Ferencvarosi Prince Gallery in Budapest, Hungary.

Here is Paul Karabinis, in his own words, describing his creative process and what he hopes aspiring artists might learn from his own experience.

Your own work includes photographs created with a camera and camera-less. Can you explain that process?  

I work primarily with historical photographic processes such as cyanotype, salted paper and albumen printing. Most of my work is done on a tabletop where I create two and three-dimensional collages composed of objects, my photographs, and my drawings and scribbles. I also work with a method called cliché verre that involves “smoking” a piece of glass with kerosene soot. By drawing or scratching through the soot, I create a design on the glass that can be used as a matrix or negative from which to make a print. Sometimes I scan the smoked plate and manipulate the image in Photoshop before making a print using one or more of the processes above.  I’m drawn to the idea of photography as a hybrid printmaking process that relies upon light sensitive materials rather than etching acids and ink. I’m also driven by a belief that there are many ways to make pictures using light sensitive materials and that these pictures need not always reference reality. Working with historical processes has, for me, broadened my understanding of how a photograph can be made, how it can look, and how it might function as a picture.

What from your experiences as an artist would you like college students to know? 

I’ve come to believe that the recipe for creative growth is not very complicated. It involves developing a work ethic, having an awareness of the history of the medium you work in, and being able to articulate, in words, the underpinnings or what propels your work.  A good work ethic is probably the most important ingredient. I like using the analogy of musicians who practice more than they perform. Most of what any artist does is practice – and much of what every artist produces is not particularly significant. What is important is the growth and occasional strong work that can occur as a result of continuing, undistracted practice. Practicing what you do with constancy eventually gives birth to a mindful attitude that not only develops an affinity with the processes you work with, but also leads to honest self-scrutiny.

Karabinis will also attend the JCSM member preview of the exhibition on Thursday, January 23. If you are interested in becoming a member and attending the special event, contact Cindy Cox, membership officer at 334-844-3005 or join online. Auburn University students may join free online and attend these networking events.

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