Anna Leigh Clem is a fine-art photographer working with still and moving imagery. A recipient of the Robert Elder Scholarship in 2008 and an Honorable Mention in the 2015 FotoVisura Grant, Anna's work has been recognized, published and exhibited on numerous occasions.
Anna attended high school in New Paltz, New York where she discovered photography. In 2012, she graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in photography. Since then, Anna has returned to the Hudson Valley as a working artist.
Hi Anna, please tell us about your work
I photograph, first and foremost, to document. While I keep a written journal for the conscious mind, photography is how I record my inner-works, a sketch of the unconscious. My obsessions overflow into my physical surroundings as if I have run out of space in mind to tend to them. The outer reflects the inner, and it is these reflections that assist me on my journey. I cannot say where I’m going exactly, but it is beneficial not to know just yet. The question is posed, but my findings expose inquiries more complex than the first.
Your work is a combination of photography, drawing, moving image and found images - what inspired you to work with these different mediums?
Before I chose to focus on photography as an art form, I had plans of becoming a writer, and then a visual artist through means of drawing and painting. It wasn’t until I took a photography class that I realized the potential of the captured image. Despite my ongoing obsession with making photographs, I feel limited, almost suppressed by taking scenes from the found landscape without alteration. I’ve dealt with it by double-exposing negatives and fabricating scenes, but more recently I’ve incorporated other mediums in order to push past this boundary. By drawing outside of a photograph’s borders, I extend the scene into another dimension of reality, one that sprang from my imagination. Like how the words in a poem bring you to a different place than if the words were spoken plainly, I hope to gain access to somewhere new, some place otherwise invisible.
Where did you learn your craft?
I began learning how to use a camera and print in the darkroom in high school, where I experimented with different films and capturing methods. I felt devoted enough to major in photography, which I did at Rochester Institute of Technology. There I learned more advanced techniques and gained the skills to develop a body of work. Since graduating, I have connected what I learned at school with my original passions and intentions, which were momentarily pushed away by academia.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
Photographs and other documents that I’ve kept help me to recognize patterns and details that I missed along the way, which lead me to learn more about myself and the world surrounding.
Where in the world are you and what are you working on at the moment?
Last summer I got word that my childhood home in Hoboken, New Jersey was torn down to make way for a new condominium. In back of the building where I grew up was a large, lush garden that we shared with our next-door neighbor. When I went to investigate the wreckage, I found that the beautiful garden, once my kingdom and refuge, was also missing. However alarming, its disappearance makes sense to me, hypothetically. Since we left Hoboken, my memory of the garden has become obscured by time and countless visitations. As an inner-mind sanctuary, how could it exist in the real world? In order to rebuild the garden, my latest project combines new and old photographs, drawings, and dream journal excerpts. Currently I am living and working in Kingston, New York where I have a small urban garden to call my own.