CD: Sarah, you are young and talented in several fields. How did it all come together for you as a photographer, artist and digital asset queen. Tell ‘em how the VTC gig came about.
Sarah Hauser: My first serious introduction to photography was in high school where I was lucky enough to spend some time every week in a dark room. I remember discovering the camera as mechanical, cyborg-esque extension of my inner thoughts and perception of the world around me.
Fast Forward- After four years in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Photography and Film school, and minoring in Crafts/Material Studies, I was ready for a job that allowed personal exploration through some form of visual art. Several part-time jobs later and in the wake of a serious house fire I was offered an internship with Virginia Tourism Corporation as a digital asset manager cataloging photos and videos. I was still living in a hotel the day of my interview, an experience I won’t ever forget.
The job that began as data entry for several weeks became the part-time job that slowly expanded into the realm of photography assignments. And that job became a full-time staff photographer and digital asset management position where I not only get to take photos, sometimes while traveling the state of Virginia, but I’m also involved with social media and marketing. It’s an education and a job, and I love it.
CD: Born in Alaska and raised in Virginia. Do your memories of Alaska influence your current work?
Sarah Hauser: While I don’t remember much of my Alaskan childhood, the domestic adornments that followed my family to Virginia certainly continued to influence me growing up. Taxidermy and native art decorated our house and fostered my love of nature in a big way. Everything in Alaska is big- the scenery, the animals, the beauty, the stories- and its wilderness can be pretty extreme and unforgiving. It’s alluring and dangerous, a combination to which, I think, we all find ourselves drawn to some degree.
Oh, and the hunting stories! My dad has one story in particular that I share with interested house guests when they ask about the moose hide hanging on my living room wall.
CD: How important do you feel is it for young photographers to excel in photography plus video and multi-media? Did VCU guide you in this process?
Sarah Hauser: Succeeding in the expression of abstract concepts via concrete medium is, I think, what being an artist is all about. As a photographer, learning to express yourself through a moving image is growing ever more important in a fast-paced world maturing a heavy reliance on 2D visual communication.
My photography professors at VCU always encouraged me, as a fine artist, to explore various mediums through which to communicate. So, while VCU’s photography school taught me analog and digital photography, digital filmmaking and web development, I explored developing interests in glass, metal and clay in the craft school. I am so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to explore those 3D mediums when most of my conceptual education had existed only in the 2D realm. One taught me the value of craftsmanship and material while the other developed my repertoire of digital communication skills and techniques. The two continue to mesh and inspire each other.
CD: How does your experience in college differ from your position as a staff photographer and digital asset manager for Virginia Tourism? How can a university better prepare students for entry into the real world of visual communications?
Sarah Hauser: VCU’s photography school was focused on conceptual expression, creating photographs that illustrate my personal ideas and messages. My job with Virginia Tourism is both similar and different in that it asks me to portray a specific message with my images and video, “Visit Virginia.” It’s put me in touch with the business side of photography that wasn’t unavailable in school. I’ve learned how to plan, price and execute photo shoots, hire and work with other photographers and implement contractual usage agreements and restrictions.
I think the most important aspect in which universities can prepare visual communication students for entry into the real world is to teach the business aspects of those visual fields, in particular contracts and the planning and executions of projects. While communicating conceptual ideas via visual communication is important, the real world typically demands more from an artist than product. You must be the renaissance man/woman.
CD: Your personal work is quiet and introspective. Tell me more about the still life and ribbon series. How did these series form?
Sarah Hauser: My work explores culture’s corruption of human innocence and honesty and embodies my personal experiences of maturation in middle-class western culture. The Ribbon explores the threshold where nature meets industrial landscape, while Still in Life explores the threshold where the nature of animals meets human domestication. Both are visual metaphors for the suppression of our personal desires and individual needs due to the social demands of culture; the clash of our natural instincts and social expectations.