Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimberly Schneider. 

Hi Kimberly, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story. 

Hi. My story is one with so many twists and turns, it would give most  people whiplash, and I’m still not quite on solid ground, but at the time of  writing this, I’m pretty sure that as long as I can keep on hustling – just a  little bit longer, I’ll be able to get a lot a closer to a stable post-covid source  of income, and basically living the “impossible dream.” And just in the  nick of time… 

At the time of revising this, in-person hasn’t exactly started yet, as  unfortunately my first in-person (photograms) class didn’t have enough  students to run. Last Wednesday was actually the anticipated start date – and that was supposed to be the very beginning of in-person (beyond a few  private printing clients), for my covid-born analog photography-based 

teaching and fine art printing business, which is primarily run out of my  home darkroom, in lower Manhattan (NYC), via Zoom. 

I am currently open to all time zones (including international) for remote  work and pretty much working around the clock, trying to line up enough  new (or at least long-term) private and zoom students (and printing  clients), to justify renewing my lease (at the new jacked up rate), in April.  Moving the darkroom is not an option at this time, and I actually just got it  back during covid (after losing my prior darkroom to a former rent hike, in  2017), so I’m essentially teetering the edge of living the dream and fighting  to keep my current (home) darkroom… 

However, I’m much closer to living the dream at present time, and pretty  sure I can make it work this time (knock on wood), based on all the  amazing things that are either happening or in-progress right now. (But  yes, still slightly terrified). 

“Haunted (aka Owl’s Eye View)” – Unique silver gelatin print (photogram made sans  enlarger); Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, sand, flowers, glitter, and more.  Printed late 2022 (11×14”), Winds of Change series (born in 2023).  [Currently available via Scott Nichols Gallery] 
Before I get too much into the current amazingness that seems to have  become my life, I’d like to start with the birth of my covid-born black-and white photograms – which are not only responsible for the bulk of my  current income, but only happened due to having an unfinished darkroom  at the time of the shutdown [as well as 3 years of printing withdrawal after  losing the aforementioned darkroom and spending every waking free  moment since then, fighting to get it back].

Just a few months prior to the shutdown – after 7 months of searching, I  found one plumber willing to work on the wet side of my current  darkroom, as it is in (essentially takes over) my NYC apartment;  fortunately, his part was essentially done less than 2 weeks before the  shutdown. [The dry side would take considerably longer, but I am happy to  tell you that it’s been functional since late fall 2020.] 

Prior to the shutdown, I was much more of a purist (and a lot less flexible),  in terms of how I printed my photographs. While my way of printing  personal work is a bit different than most, and typically involves poetry as  part of the process, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with alternative  processes back then. 

Specializing in the art of the handmade (film-based) photograph – made  with an enlarger, for over 20 years now, before 2020, I was primarily known  for my true infrared and “traditional” black-and-white (film-based)  spiritual/landscape photographs. As a die-hard film girl who never got  around to learning too many alternative processes, and was born too late 

“Undercurrent” – limited edition silver gelatin print (16×20); Shot on true infrared film  in late 2012, printed 2013 and later. Awakenings: Point Lobos & Beyond series 

to meet so many of the Masters who inspired me, I was basically making  “straight (but dreamy and abstract) photographs” – until the photograms  happened and opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing…

Thus, if you asked me 3 years ago if I’d be bringing snow into the darkroom  or if my cement floor would be covered with glitter, despite how many  times it’s been vacuumed, I would have found it quite hard to take you  seriously, but snow has since become my absolute favorite photogram  material. 

But before I continue, I should probably explain what a photogram is to  those who may not be familiar or at least give you a better sense of how I  make my cameraless photographs… 

Made without the use of an enlarger or a camera, I pull out a sheet of  enlarging paper from my paper safe, place my materials on top of the  paper, and expose the materials with an alternative light source; my  

primary light sources are candles, sparklers, various firework LEDs and  flashlights (the latter are more for working with students who are  beginners), and I actually rig some of them for contrast. I then rinse the 

print and begin to process it [similarly to how I would a film-based  darkroom print]; However, since my light sources tend to be so bright  (even when rigged to create smaller apertures in the case of the non-fire  ones), or occasionally not quite as bright as they seem, development time  has to be watched very closely… 

“After the Rain (aka Heart in Your Hands)” – one-of-a-kind silver gelatin print  (photogram made sans enlarger): Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, sand,  flowers, glitter, and more. Printed late 2022 (11×14”), Winds of Change series (born in  2023).  [Currently available via Scott Nichols Gallery] 
With photograms, you basically never know if they’re going to come out  until you get them in the developer. I’ve been at this long enough that  most of mine turn out well, but I’ve had 3 years, 6 bodies of work  [including the new series I am debuting (in print) in this interview today],  plus class prep and nearly 2 years’ worth of demo prints, from working  with Zoom students, so quite a bit of practice.

With each new variable, there is another learning curve, and over the past  3 years, I’ve gone through so many learning curves and processes that they 

feel like second nature now, but that’s not to say that all of my cameraless  prints wind up as “keepers…” 

My current materials can actually be broken up into two sections, the first  is for photograms that I make in my home darkroom, and the latter is what  I call an “ICP friendly” group of materials, for the less messy photograms,  that create interesting textures, but are safe to use in the darkroom, at the  International Center of Photography (as in no fire and no sand or glitter!);  I am faculty there and use these same materials in other public darkrooms  (unless granted permission to get messier). 

At home, I’m all about ice/ice concoctions, flowers, glitter, sand, and  basically anything that creates an interesting texture; As far as the ICP Friendly materials, I’ve been testing out various herbs, flowers, grains,  vegetables, and other items that can be found in nature and/or the grocery  store. 

Further, I think of my one-of-a-kind silver gelatin prints more in terms of  (a combination of) sculpture and printmaking (the latter is actually my  second love and I do hope to get back into a printmaking studio later this  year), than anything else, as I work my materials a bit between (and  sometimes during) exposures, and have created some processes that were  actually inspired by intaglio (printmaking) processes, but were translated  for silver gelatin printing materials (such as my ice-rubbings). 

Before I go back to how this all started, I’d like to clarify a couple things… 

Many of you might think a photograph has to be of something instantly  identifiable, but the true definition of the word photography is drawing  with light. Thus, regardless of the method for making the photograph,  when photographic material is exposed to light, the result is an image,  making it a photograph – whether or not a camera was used to make it… 

“Shedding Skin” – Unique silver gelatin print (photogram made sans enlarger); Made  with ice, sand, spinach, flowers, glitter, and wax. The Many Rings of Saturn (series),  printed 2022 (11×14”) 

While my film-based images can be duplicated (but are only available as  limited-edition prints), my cameraless photographs are one-of-a-kind  (physical prints). The process cannot be duplicated.

Further, as far as I’m concerned, once a photogram sells, that’s it, it’s  gone. I don’t offer or exhibit digital versions of any of my darkroom prints; They are all unique or limited edition and there are only two exceptions: in  the case of work that is shown via a screen, as in not a physical print  (which I agreed to when it was for an awards ceremony at The Louvre, in  2015) and in the case of mural prints, which are simply not feasible in my  home darkroom but are available upon request. 

Returning to around May 2020… 

After nearly 2 months of near-total isolation, in an apartment that doesn’t  really get daylight, while practically tripping over the contents of the  unfinished portion of my darkroom (which was basically in pieces, taking  up every free inch of space in my front room), I couldn’t wait any longer… 

I was already dying to print, and as a spiritual printer, going that long  without printing – before the isolation, was already weighing me down; so, 

I began the process of trying to come up with some type of experimental  printing that would be do-able in the unfinished darkroom – and meet my  high standards for personal artwork. Beginning with rigging my entire  apartment, I was still uncertain of what I could possibly make that would  meet my standards (and not just be a way to kill time) when a  photographer based across the country sent me a wonderful care package  of various analog photography goodies to play with and try to help get me  out of my “traditional printer’s brain…” 

But before I ever got around to exposing the pre-coated cyanotypes I  initially planned to make in May 2020, I got sucked into rigging the  darkroom and trying to work out a way to at least distract from the  isolation and get me back to consistent (silver) printing. Fortunately, I still  had a ton of old paper that was still good, leftover from when I lost the  prior darkroom. Meanwhile, I did have a full-time job outside of (fine art)  photography at the time; While it was not the sort of position that could be  done remotely, at the time, I was told that my job was safe. 

In June 2020, I made my very first alt-process photograms with a flashlight  and some flowers. I really didn’t have the highest expectations, so was  blown away when the very first day of experimentation led to my first  post-2017 new body of work, “From the Ashes” – within the week. [I was  also grateful for the first photogram sale, which actually went to an  (AIPAD) art Dealer with quite the discerning eye (and an amazing  collection)]. I think of that body of work more as a prelude, as it began on  8×10 paper and came together so quickly. 

I have to say the alternate process community has been amazing since day  one. I am grateful for how welcoming and supportive so many artists I only  know through social media (thus far) were at a time when I wasn’t quite  sure how I felt about the photograms. Yet, I had 3 years’ worth of artwork  waiting to come out of me, and once I resumed consistent printing, I  basically couldn’t stop… 

My next series was considerably larger; “Into the Ether” commenced in  late June (or early July, I can’t remember the exact dates); By then, I had 

started to learn to let go of control in the darkroom and let the materials  start to guide me. By sheer luck, On Landscape Magazine reached out to  me a couple of weeks before my former job became an early casualty of the  pandemic (in July;) and wanted to do a follow-up interview to one from 6  years prior. 

They were actually the first to debut my photograms; The interview went  live 3 days after I was laid off, and this was before they were even scanned.  I actually sent them cell shots due to the horrid lighting and space issues  in my apartment and they were kind enough to tweak them a bit. That  interview sparked the very beginning seeds of my current covid-born  business… 

By the end of the year, I had my first new printing client, as the dry side of  my darkroom had finally been set up, but that was before covid started  getting bad again, so once isolation resumed being the norm, there wasn’t  really anything I could do for work. So, I just kept on printing, as the  inspiration was pretty much nonstop, and fortunately, I did have  unemployment benefits back then, so it wasn’t as dire as it sounds (minus  the isolation). 

In the meantime, the new series was complete and had already received 2  awards [“Into the Ether” placed 3rd in the 16th Julia Margaret Cameron  Awards, and the Black-and-White Spider Awards granted me an Honorary  Spider Fellow (for the title image of the series)] – and it was a few months  before the conclusion of the series when I began creating the first of my  much more experimental processes. 

Beginning with sparkler LEDs and actual sparklers, I not only made “dry  exposures,” but also started to experiment with moving water and multiple  exposures. The series debuted in 2 online shows via AS Projects before a  selection of the award-winning series was physically exhibited (in the 6th  Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography, in Barcelona); the first, a  popup teaser for the longer show, in late 2020, was actually extended a day  or two, due to popularity; the larger show went live in early 2021.

Around the same time, I (initially) learned that Penumbra Foundation  wanted to offer my first (online) photograms class. This was such a  wonderful turn of events, as I actually grew up teaching [my mother had a  reading clinic in our home and I also took on private reading and math  students on my own for a while] and missed it, but had never gotten  around to getting my MFA, so was pretty limited with what/where I could  teach (pre-covid). Further, with the photograms, I finally had an  alternative process course to offer, as pre-covid, Penumbra (The Center for  Alternative Photography) didn’t offer too many “traditional” silver gelatin  courses. 

So, I literally bought my first laptop in 20 years, in order to work out a way  for students to DIY it, as well as work a way for me to teach it remotely, so  they could take the class, even if they didn’t have darkrooms at home; “No  Enlarger Necessary” was initially slated for November 2020 but ended up  

getting pushed to the following spring. I am grateful that students reached  out, wishing to continue to work with me privately, after the course ended,  as well as grateful for the photogram sales that were lifelines when things  were still so unstable. 

But before I had even purchased the laptop – specifically for the darkroom,  a new series was born. My “Metamorphosis” series began with sparklers  and flowers and soon led to my first processes with sand and other  materials – including snow.

The very first images of this ongoing series commenced with flowers,  water, and underwater exposures (or at least partially so), and within a few  days of being scanned, debuted with the first poems of the series (in The  OD Review). But to my surprise, the awards for this series came quickly and  repeated with each cycle [Honorable Mention via the 16th Pollux Awards;  Runner Up (to the series winner) in the 17th Julia Margaret Cameron  Awards; Honorable Mention (for the first of the snow photograms), in the  18th JMCAs]. I’ve actually cut back on applying for the awards since then,  as so many of the competitions stopped accepting handmade prints, but  am grateful to FotoNostrum, for their ongoing support. 

I’m skipping over most of the shows and such, as with the exception of  maybe a few in-person exhibitions and several online ones, they were  covered in my prior interview, last June, but will briefly tell you about the  bodies of work that I made last year – as well as the very beginning of a  brand-new body of work, that just began, in 2023…

In February 2022, it snowed briefly in New York; I happened to get the idea  to grab some, to test out for photograms, during the last snowfall of the  season. My snow photograms led to yet another series, the following  month. 

“Fire & Ice” began as a full series of its own; this ongoing (16×20)  photogram series has since morphed into a mother series, with two 11×14  bodies of work as children (“The Many Rings of Saturn” in 2022 and & the  newest sub-series, “Winds of Change” – which just commenced less than  three weeks ago); this was my first body of work to incorporate fire and ice  – in the making of each unique print. As the work grew, I was inspired to  print on smaller paper as I began to design and refine a number of new  processes with ice, among other materials. 

“The Many Rings of Saturn” commenced with 4 (11×14) demo prints I  made while working with a private Zoom student, who needed a little help  getting out of her head; The title of the series actually came to me at the  end of that session and I was grateful when Frames Magazine reached out  and offered to essentially pay me to complete it, via a (paid) artist  residency, that I would literally shoot live – in my darkroom, via Zoom; My  A.I.R. began in August and before the residency was over, I debuted the  entire series via the magazine. 

“Shot Through the Heart” – unique silver gelatin print (photogram made sans  enlarger): Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, sand, flowers, glitter, and more.  Printed late 2022 (11×14”), Winds of Change series (born in 2023). 

Coincidentally, “Winds of Change” also began as the result of work I did  with a private Zoom student, in November. While the titles and orientation  just came to me in January of this year, she was my first lecture-and-demo  style photograms student and wanted to see just how far she could take  photograms, if she were to set up a DIY darkroom, in her home. I started  with frozen spinach ice (which I actually forgot about until right now), as it  was leftover in my freezer, from the late portion of “The Many Rings of  Saturn,” before incorporating sand, flowers, and glitter; the first 5 prints of  the series were made during that session.

Yet, it wasn’t until after they were scanned, early this year, that I started  playing around with image rotation, and the titles started to come to me…  It is too new in the series to get into the meat of what it’s really about,  beneath the surface, but 2 days before I finished writing this, the first  poems of the series started to pour out of me, and they haven’t stopped  yet. [I anticipate eventually showing the images, along with some of the  poems, as the work grows…] 

Three of these unique “Winds of Change” silver gelatin prints recently  debuted at Photo Forward LA (February 18 & 19), and are currently  available via Scott Nichols Gallery, in Sonoma, California. 

As far as what’s next… 

“Multiple Fractures” – Unique silver gelatin print (photogram made sans enlarger):  Made with ice, sand, flowers, glitter, and more. The Many Rings of Saturn (series).  Printed 2022 (11×14”)

2023 has been amazing so far. While I am still waiting to hear about a  number of things that are still in progress, I do have some really exciting  things to share with you today…  

Carmel, California 

I was so happy to learn (just a couple days ago) that guest Juror Hamidah  Glasgow (Executive Director/Curator of the Center For Fine Art  Photography, in Fort Collins, CO) selected “Multiple Fractures” for  inclusion, in Center for Photographic Art’s upcoming (online) member  show and exhibition catalog. I am so honored that this unique silver  gelatin print – from “The Many Rings of Saturn” (series) is one of only 45  photographs selected – out of nearly 2,200 submissions! 

While the link isn’t available yet, I am happy to share the opening and  award ceremony information today, and hope those of you who live in or  near Carmel (central California) – or who might be in town on April 1st, will  attend the reception, from 4-6pm. [As of now, I’m not quite sure if I’ll be  flying out for it, but if I can line up a few photograms students (and/or  other students if I can get access to a darkroom and/or light box) in the 

area, for the week of April 1st, that would certainly change things. So,  please do reach out if you’ll be around and have an interest in private or  semi-private instruction.] 

Center for Photographic Art – Opening Reception & Award  Ceremony Info 

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 4:00-6:00 pm 

In-person reception, walk-through, and award ceremony led by Ann  Jastrab and Hamidah Glasgow. 

Center for Photographic Art 

Sunset Center, 

9th and San Carlos Street 

Carmel, CA 93921 

ph: (831) 625-5181 

Sonoma, California 

As noted earlier, those in the Bay Area can visit Scott Nichols Gallery, if  they wish to see the first few photograms of my first new series of the year,  as well as some additional (film-based) silver gelatin prints, from earlier  bodies of work. [Since they aren’t on the walls right now, I’d encourage  calling the gallery ahead of time if you are able to plan ahead.] 

Scott Nichols Gallery 

450 1st Street East, Suite G 

Sonoma Square, 

Sonoma, CA, 95476 

Ph: (707) 3431928

Miami, Florida 

I actually have some exciting news for those of you either based in or near  Miami, or planning to travel there soon, as I am currently working out the  logistics with a new collaborator – who wants to offer some of my  photogram workshops there. We have a great space worked out for it and  are aiming to offer the first 3-day photogram workshops in May but are  still a few days or more away from locking down the dates, so please keep  an eye out for the official announcement. 

Back to NYC 

While I’m still working remotely in New York, for the most part, I’m  currently gearing up for a really fun printing job/artist collaboration, which I’ve been granted permission to share publicly… 

Luis Carle is an amazing photographer, who is primarily known for his  black-and-white street photographs. He’s also a friend that I started  printing for last year – and as soon as his paper arrives, I’ll begin printing  the first 10 prints of some of his most iconic images, from the 90’s (in New  York). This is a collaboration that will probably last for a while, as he  already has not one, but THREE museum exhibitions coming up, in New  York. [Those who are curious about his work can see some of the teasers he  gave me permission to share via my social media.] 

Outside of that, I’m currently waiting to find out which of the (7!) newly  designed classes I just pitched might be included in ICP’s upcoming  (continuing ed) summer term and have some other teaching collabs and  classes in the works. I also have access to a public darkroom (or two) in  New York, where I can bring up to 3 in-person printing students, so am  trying to transition to more in-person and less zoom, but that’s going to  take a bit of time… 

In addition, I have a couple other shows in the works on both coasts but it  is too soon to share that info.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work? 

Well, I should preface by mentioning that I actually fell into art by way of eastern religions, and it quickly found its way into my work – and never left. 

All of my (personal work) images are what I refer to as “natural equivalents” (or subconscious self-portraits), which reveal themselves during my printing process(es). The more I print, the more I see the part of me that was unconsciously exposed, and that revelation is largely what my work is about. 

Regardless of the process, all of my personal work is about looking much deeper at things, but in a completely organic way. I suppose you could think of it in terms of layers. Each layer of information in my prints reveals yet another – if one takes the time to look close enough... Further, it isn’t until I start to see something in the images, that the poetry starts coming to me, and the combination of two is largely what guides the whole body of work. 

Given how much new work I have right now (and quite a bit from pre-2020 as well), I’ll leave it at that, rather than go into specifics. However, I will say that “Winds of Change” is closely tied to what is going on in my life right now. And at this point, I have more poems than images in the series, and when they came to me, they were pretty mind-blowing, so it should be interesting to see how the series progresses in the coming months. 

Since I’m not ready to share the poems publicly yet, I’ve decided to close this little section with a quote that has not only always resonated with me, but also translates quite well, in the case of how I make photograms (I actually refer to it pretty often with students who need a little help learning to let go of control).

“…innocence of eye has a quality of its own. It means to see as a child sees,  with freshness and acknowledgment of the wonder; it also means to see as an  adult sees who has gone full circle and once again sees as a child – with  freshness and an even deeper sense of wonder.” 

-Minor White 

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor? 

That’s a longer conversation… I find that as long as you’re friendly (and in  it for the right reasons) – and not aiming for anyone too pretentious,  people are more willing than you might think, to either guide you, or  support you in some way (as long as you’re willing to put in the work). 

[If you’re brand new to this, you kind of have to put in the time to make  the right connections, but in my experience, the best mentors are the ones  that happen organically (and in my case, analog photo people tend to find  each other, I’m pretty sure that applies – at least to an extent, in other  industries.)] 

One thing that I have learned with this covid-born business is that  enthusiasm opens every door and I’m truly grateful for all the doors that  have opened for me [particularly the most recent ones, which are pretty  surreal, but not ones I can talk about publicly]. 

Some of you may already know this, but I started out interning under Hal  Gould (& Loretta Young-Gautier), of The Camera Obscura Gallery (in  Denver, CO), when I was just learning to print [as in I was still new to the  photo program while learning about editioning and pricing of prints, from  one of the masters]. I still remember my professor asking me how I made  that happen. I said, I simply walked in, talked to them, and asked. They  said yes… [You never know if you don’t ask, but use common sense and  common courtesy, which sadly is not necessarily as common as it should  be.]

Contact Info: 

“Winds of Change” – Unique silver gelatin print (photogram made sans enlarger); Mixed process multiple exposure with ice, sand, flowers, spinach, glitter, and wax. Printed late 2022 (11×14”), Winds of Change series (born in 2023).

Image Credits

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

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