What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what have been some of the most important milestones in your career up until now?
I grew up an only child. Well no, not exactly. I have two older brothers but they are much older than me, so it was as if I was an only child. I have vivid memories of hours spent going over family albums in solitude– making up stories about the pictures and pretending I was there even though most were taken before I was alive. This passion for storytelling stayed with me all through my childhood. I was the one in my family who always had the camera or camcorder in hand- documenting our family histories. And so it was natural for me to be a photographer- I was struck by the power of the image from a very early age.
Thinking back I’d have to say that the first milestone in my career was when I discovered the International Center for Photography (ICP) on 94th Street in NYC. It was like finding a secret magic hideaway in the big city. It was there where I fell in love with the darkroom. I went on to study at ICP (albeit in the midtown location) and from there I was introduced to a few key people working in the industry. It is because of the support from my teachers that I got my first big break – shooting a cover story for the New York Times Magazine. The most significant recent milestone would be producing my first monograph Tall Poppy Syndrome, published by Decode Books. It’s a huge honor to have your work made into a book and I feel privileged to have been able to do that.
How do you approach editing your work, and what advice would you give to others about evaluating their photographs?
I aim to have an impartial, and rather cutthroat, approach to editing my images. It is crucial that I remove myself from the initial emotional/gut reaction/love affair. I often have to remind myself that no one else will know or care about the details that occurred behind the scenes and that what counts is only that which is explicitly within the image. Following that, a photograph only remains and becomes part of a series if it progresses the body of work as a whole.
I try to keep in mind the old adage that less is more.
How do you decide on new projects to work on? Do you always shoot with a concept in mind or do you wait to be inspired as you go?
At the moment I’m doing a little of both. I am not someone who carries a camera with me everywhere. But I do always have a pen and paper (or the notepad and camera on my iPhone) working through ideas. If I see an “image” I write it down, take photos on my phone, and then shoot it again later in a more controlled manner. So I guess I run with daily inspiration and then once I have a more concrete concept in mind I shoot until the concept is realized.
What ways have you found successful for promoting your work and finding a receptive audience for it?
I believe the same is true in the art world as is with any practice or profession - you need to have confidence in your work. And with that confidence comes pride and excitement. If you’re not excited then why should anyone else be? I aim to only put my work out for public viewing when I feel it is complete and ready to have a life of its own.
Another aspect (and this is also true in any profession) is that personal connections are really important. Building relationships with fellow artists is priceless. I feed off camaraderie with peers. And beyond that, I make time to go to openings, events, talks, fairs, etc. because I never know who I will meet.
For me opportunities tend to arise through building personal relationships.
Lillian, Broken Hill, from the series Tall Poppy Syndrome
Stands Out Like Dog’s Balls, Milton, from the series Tall Poppy Syndrome
Two Tall Trees, Mollymook, from the series Tall Poppy Syndrome
All images © copyright Stacy Arezou Mehrfar. All images from the series Tall Poppy Syndrome © copyright Stacy Arezou Mehrfar and Amy Stein, all rights reserved