CD: When did you first start shooting photographs and when did you create the first image that you felt was successful and why?
Abby Kraftowitz: I started shooting photographs about five years ago when I was living in Spain. I bought a used 35mm camera and a few rolls of film, and I walked for a month along the Camino de Santiago, an old pilgrim’s route across the north of the country. I photographed the landscapes and people I met along the way. It was incredible.
This image of Ricardo Iamuuri, a singer-songwriter from Pittsburgh, was one of the first photographs I made that really felt like a collaboration. I call this space the “dream house,” and we made up a Thoreau-like scenario, where he was living off the grid and writing his magnum opus. It was so much fun, and Ricardo fell right into it. I love photographing artists because of the creative energy they bring to the table.
CD: I first met you through my former assistant Alex Jones. Alex spoke highly of you and your personal work about a woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia in Elkins, West Virginia. The images are striking and thoughtful. Tell me about how you met Eleanor and more importantly, why you decided to pursue this personal project?
Abby Kraftowitz: I met Eleanor after a chance meeting with her daughter, Tammy, who invited me to their home when I was traveling through the area. There was something about Eleanor I was immediately drawn to, and we quickly bonded. I began to visit every few weeks and photograph the scenes that unfolded in front of me. Moments of pain were met with moments of tenderness, courage, and selflessness.
Eleanor and her family showed me what it means to truly love. I can’t imagine a more important lesson. The project is still in the works.
CD: You recently moved to New York City from Pittsburgh. Tell me about the move and your plans.
Abby Kraftowitz: I see New York as a rite of passage, a place where I can develop my craft while being surrounded by some of the best artists in the world. There’s really nothing like it; people are here from everywhere pursuing their dreams and it’s totally energizing. I’m constantly being exposed to new ways of seeing.
Currently, I am interning with Mark Seliger and working as a freelance photo assistant for some wonderful photographers, while I continue to pursue my own projects. I can easily say it’s a period of tremendous growth for me.
CD: What is your approach to pursuing personal projects and why do you feel this is important to your growth as a photographer?
Abby Kraftowitz: Well, you’ve gotta do what you love. Otherwise I would probably become a doctor or something else useful and much more practical. I can’t help but want to photograph the subjects I’m curious about, and in doing so over and over again, the point of view and photographic style seem to naturally emerge. The best pictures come when I rely on intuition, and I’m not thinking my way through them. I enjoy making intimate photographs of people, often perfect strangers who I never would have met otherwise.
CD: Any words of advice to photographers starting out?
Pay attention, be present, trust your instincts. Nurture relationships with people who inspire you. Work hard, put yourself out there and take risks.