We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Schneider and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kimberly, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?

(I’m addressing this in the context of artists and the like) 

Hi. Well, I’m a die-hard, and literally spent 2017-2020 fighting to get my darkroom back, after losing my prior one to (NYC) rent hikes, so the way I  see it (in terms of silver gelatin printing at least), is if it isn’t in their blood,  they won’t have the dedication needed to keep it up. 

That said, I’m what you refer to as a spiritual printer, and I don’t print my work digitally (well, unless someone has a need for a huge mural print, as I  can only do up to 16×20 in my home darkroom), so when I was between darkrooms, I essentially had to put artwork on hold, as there was no other medium that filled that void.  

Before I start giving too much advice, I think it would help for you to know what it took to get where I am now, after losing it all – and FINALLY being so close to getting it all back, right before the pandemic changed everything… 

Despite moving back into my former darkroom-friendly building in April ’19 – with the contents of my prior darkroom, it took 7 months for me to find 1  plumber willing to work on my private space, much less one who had any clue about darkrooms (and wouldn’t charge an insane amount to do so). That happened right before Thanksgiving of that year. His part was nearly done a few weeks before the shutdown. However, it would take much longer to get the dry side set up. And the pandemic didn’t help. 

Meanwhile, I was living in total isolation (sans sunlight before it became safe to at least do essential errands) and dealing with 3 years of printing withdrawal; By June 2020, I got to the point that I just couldn’t stare at the unfinished darkroom any longer. So, I began messing around with photograms made via alternate light sources – and had zero expectations (beyond a way of dealing with the aforementioned). I really didn’t think I  could do much with the then-current set-up that would result in prints that met my very high standards.

However, the photograms took on a life of their own. Very quickly. By the end of the year, I had 2 new bodies of alt process work, which not only met my standards, but would also start to receive the first (of several) awards early the following year.  

“Comet” Unique silver gelatin print (photogram), selenium toned (11.8×15.7”); Mixed process multiple exposure with flowers and wax. Into the Ether series (printed 2020) (16th Julia Margaret Cameron Award – 3rd place, Nominee 16th Black and White Spider Awards)

Further, the photograms have become my most stable source of income (via teaching) since losing my former day job to the pandemic, as my experimental processes translate really well online, and no darkroom is needed to take the class or learn privately (it’s super easy to DIY on the cheap). I’ve also been very fortunate in the print sales department. 

At present time, I am mid-way into my 4th body of alt process work, “Fire &  Ice” – and the first 2 images of this series, which commenced in March ’22,  actually just debuted at Art Intersection in Gilbert, Arizona [I have 2 one-of a-kind 16×20” prints in the “Light Sensitive” Exhibition, which is up through  August 27th, 2022]. 

I will close this section by noting that if I hadn’t fallen into experimental work, I wouldn’t have been able to stay at my current residence long enough to get the dry side of my darkroom set up, while things were so unstable with covid. Not only is the dry side set up now, but I now also print for other artists and enthusiasts (and am currently in the early stages of a  new film-based series, entitled “Haunted,” which has been a long time coming).

“Confliction, Carmel, CA, 2012 Silver gelatin print (limited edition), selenium toned (8×8″); Shot on true infrared film. Haunted series (printed 2020)

So going back to advice…  

First of all, regardless of the medium, for those of us who truly identify as artists, it’s not a choice, as much as a need. There’s simply too much that has to be sacrificed for those who aren’t completely dedicated to their craft,  that life WILL get in the way, if it’s really just a hobby for them.  

My advice for those questioning whether or not to keep at it, despite the uphill battles (and yes, there tend to be many along the way) would be to think about just how much they are willing to give up, in order to keep doing what they love. And to think about whether it’s truly something they need/love/live for, or just a fun thing to do every now and then. 

That said, for those who don’t need it, but truly love it, there is a middle ground. [I would call those who fall into that category enthusiasts as  opposed to artists, but there’s nothing wrong with that.] In that case, I would encourage enthusiasts to keep learning, to find out what inspires them,  what processes might translate best for their visions, perhaps to even use their artwork as a form of therapy… [Those who fall into this category tend  to have much easier lives, so they probably don’t have to worry quite so  much about whether or not to give up.] 

As far my advice for those struggling due to lack of confidence or experience, I’d encourage them to stop listening to what everyone else thinks and just make art that they want to make. Or find a good teacher to help them get there. (And not to let rejection letters get in their heads.) 

However, for those who might just struggle on the financial end (believe me, I get that), they just have to work out how much it really means to them, and what amount of sacrifice they’re ok with, in order to keep making art/doing what they love. [Regardless of what you do for work, the fact is  that you’re going to have to hustle for a while if you aren’t independently  wealthy or extremely lucky.]

“Rising (From the Ashes)” Unique silver gelatin print (photogram), selenium toned (11×14″); Mixed process multiple exposure with snow, sand, glitter, ice & flowers. Metamorphosis series (printed February 2022).

For me personally, as a Visual Artist, Educator, and Master Printer, who fell into analog photography by way of philosophy (a lifetime ago), silver gelatin printing is actually kind of a physical need, so I will never give up as long as I can afford to keep my darkroom. As far as I’m concerned, it was worth it to get a horrible case of covid before the shutdown (that I’m still not 100%  over) to get the darkroom back. [The fear of losing it before things become stable is not one I can leave behind just yet, but if I let fear stop me, I  wouldn’t be the artist I am today…] 

For those who still aren’t sure if they should keep going, I’ll leave you with  this: 

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives  and led them well” 

Teddy Roosevelt

“The Golden Triangle” Unique silver gelatin print (photogram), selenium toned (16×20″); Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, flowers, sand, glitter & wax. Fire & Ice series (printed March 2022).

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

Uh, well I have a covid-born analog photography-based business, and as I  mentioned earlier, in-person is still a ways from being stable, so at present time, I am working around various time zones (including international on a  fairly regular basis) to accommodate remote students, meet with potential collectors, gallerists, printing clients, etc – 7 days a week. I do have 1 in-person client at the moment, but everything else is still online, and not everyone can afford my private rates (even with discounts, which I do give  to those in need) for more than 6 weeks, so I am always looking for new students (and printing clients), pitching classes and collabs, applying for funding and exhibitions, looking for side gigs, and struggling to find enough time to devote to personal artwork (also working towards having time for a  social life once more people are willing). 

In addition, I do a lot of Zoom print viewings, and due to my small space  (it’s pretty decent sized for NYC, but the darkroom pretty much takes over the apt), I have to rearrange furniture when switching between Zoom/print viewing mode, printing mode, and having room for (human) visitors, so that does take up a good chunk of time. 

Presently, I am doing a month-long (virtual) Artist Residency for Frames Magazine – and am literally bringing viewers/readers into the darkroom with me, as I make work for this 4-5 part series. [Since the article was not quite ready to share publicly when it first went live, I’m happy to share some very new updates on my residency, today (August 11th).]

Part 1 just went LIVE on Monday and I’m currently in the process of re-shooting the video for part 2 (for the 4th time now), on account of some sound issues that just got worked out; However, I have been pumping out prints all along and am gearing up to start shooting part 3 over the weekend [All can view a portion of my residency here, whether or not they are current subscribers: https://readframes.com/frames-artist-in-residence-kimberly-schneider/; Current subscribers of the magazine can view the video portion (and more) here: https://readframes.com/air-kimberly-schneider/]. Part 2 goes live on Monday, August 15th…

Further, I have also just signed a contract with 1st Dibs (aiming to get more of my artwork on the site this weekend), am way behind on website updates, and as of late have been sending email announcements out twice a month (have a lot happening right now). I also share my work regularly on social media (or at least as often as possible, have gotten a bit behind on that as of late).

As things get closer to a semblance of normal, I also intend to travel elsewhere for both teaching work and making new artwork (and potentially to work on representation via certain galleries), am already working on funding for my next, next body of work, which will be photographed out west (and also have plans to start meeting with select publishers for a  potential monograph, and possibly a book of poetry in the near-ish future). 

Honestly, I’ve had to become a forced hermit, covid or not (even though I  am still kind of terrified of getting sick again/being unable to work), as if I  don’t have something scheduled early in the morning, I’m usually working well past the time most people have been asleep for hours. 

However, despite all the work involved, inspiration has never been a problem; I am ALWAYS inspired to make new work, which is quite time consuming, so tend to have to leave (personal) printing for late nights,  leaving far too little time for sleep, among other things.  

“The Wave (aka Wave of Mutilation)” Unique silver gelatin print (photogram), selenium toned (16×20″); Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, glitter, sand, flowers & wax. Fire & Ice series (printed March 2022). [Currently on view at Art Intersection]
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

Well, the only person I have room for at my place is my best friend, who isn’t an artist, but she’s literally been my best friend since the womb, and I live in NYC (am from Chicago originally, which is where she still lives), so of course I’d drag her to at least a few art shows (I’m an upper east side gallery girl for the most part, outside of a handful of galleries in Chelsea and 1 in Brooklyn). Music would be amazing too, but that said, I’m still trying to avoid big group things for the most part, so not sure where we’d end up outside of galleries if she were to visit before covid is less of an issue. 

Probably the Metropolitan Museum of Art, maybe a few openings, at least one totally cheesy thing she wants to do, and hopefully could drag her out somewhere for dancing somewhere that won’t be super crowded (even if I end up just dancing next to her, she doesn’t really dance). Not sure where, maybe a reggae spot I used to go to ages ago (drawing a blank on the name at the moment) or BOB bar if they still make White Gummy Bears (a super sweet drink we both love, literally tastes like a white gummy bear) and play good music. And probably Iona in Brooklyn, where friends of mine work (and spin records). 

And I’m sure we’d end up eating out at least a few times. I’m not quite sure what’s still around, as a lot of places have closed over the past couple years, so kind of tough to give you specifics on that, but chances are that we’d end up at a few of my favorite galleries (not my only ones, so please don’t be offended if you are a NYC gallery owner and not mentioned here). Those would be: Gitterman Gallery if we head north, Rick Wester Fine Art, Deborah Bell, & Yossi Milo if we do Chelsea, and Klompching if we make it to Brooklyn. Maybe some others, depending on what’s opening when she’s in town…

As far as anyone else visiting, where we go would probably depend on where they were staying and what other plans they had for the trip.

“Missing Lobos (aka The Whale)” Unique silver gelatin print (photogram), selenium toned (16×20″); Mixed process multiple exposure with glitter, sand and flowers. Fire & Ice series (printed March 2022). [Currently on view at Art Intersection]
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Many thanks to Art Intersection for all that they do – honored to have 2 prints in their current “Light Sensitive” Exhibition, which opened in Gilbert, Arizona on July 16th and is up thru August 27th, 2022.

Many thanks to Frames Magazine, I’m so excited to be your August A.I.R.!!

Many thanks to Penumbra Foundation, for just being awesome. Honored to be one of your instructors and grateful that you guys exist.

Many, many thanks to FotoNostrum/The Julia Margaret Cameron Awards (and the 16th Pollux & Black and White Spider Awards), for all the photogram love. It’s truly an honor to have received so many awards over such a short period of time from you.

Special thanks to Steve Anchell (aka author of “The Darkroom Cookbook”), Scott and Kristy of Scott Nichols Gallery, Aeonian Magazine, Analog Forever Magazine, AS Projects, On Landscape Magazine, Freestyle (Photo & Imaging Supplies), and those of you who supported me along the way. 

Extra special thanks to my family, friends (you know who you are) and those of you who have hung in there while I was fighting to get the darkroom back or discovered my work after I did. Your support means more than you know.

Too many others to list, but I hope they know who they are. It’s been a long road!

Unique silver gelatin print (photogram), selenium toned ice-rubbing print (16×20”); Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, glitter, sand, flowers & wax. Fire & Ice series (printed March 2022).

Website: https://linktr.ee/kimberlyjschneiderphotography 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kimberlyjschneiderphotography/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KJSPhotography 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimberlyjschneiderphotography 

Other: Main Website: (Personal artwork and teaching/printing  services) https://www.kimberlyjschneider.com

Image Credits

Image 1: © Karen Vierbuchen
Images 2-7: © Kimberly Schneider

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