Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scratching Beneath the Surface: Q&A with Andrew Querner out in today's National Post

Many art careers begin in the sheltered confines of college classrooms.

Not so for Andrew Querner, who started by photographing his own vertigo-testing rock-climbing expeditions.

Eventually, Querner forsook carabiners for cameras, taking assignments for Time, Monocle and the Wall Street Journal. Recently, with his first museum exhibition on at the Whyte Museum in Banff, Querner talked to me about his work.

The resulting condensed Q&A came out in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q You founded your art and photo career in an unusual way: by shooting your own rock-climbing expeditions. What, if anything, do photography and rock climbing have in common?

A They offer different things, in some ways. With climbing, you’re really in the moment. In photography, there’s a lot more pre-planning you have to do before you can get to that place of being in the moment. And climbing is a very selfish kind of pursuit, whereas I hope the photography I do in the future can contribute in some small way [to other people’s lives].

Q Your current exhibition focuses on Kosovo’s Stan Terg mine. What drew you to this place?

A It started with my longtime interest in international current affairs. My dad is from Austria and my mother is from Japan; I think, growing up in Canada, I had an awareness of what was going on beyond my own borders. More recently, a friend pointed me to Kosovo, the first place I’ve ever worked abroad. Originally, I’d hoped to look at the resurgence of blood feuds there, but that didn’t work out. However, visiting Trepca, the home of Stan Terg, aroused curiosity; there was so much more to it than what lay on the surface. The history of the mine also seemed to reflect power struggles of the region; whoever controlled the region controlled the mine. I thought this might be an interesting point of access to explore larger issues flowing through the nation’s veins.

And here's one more quote:

Q In general, what do you think makes a photograph worth taking or displaying?

A In my photography, vulnerability is the main quality that I’m looking for—whether that be in a portrait, a person, an inanimate object, a still life, or a landscape. To me, vulnerability offers a point of access, a human quality, something other people can relate to.

To read the rest, look to today's National Post Arts & Life section.

Also, if you want to find out more about Querner, I really enjoyed reading the posts he wrote for the News Photographers' Association of Canada blog. It's got some great excerpts of work from his climbing days and reflections upon the transition to other kinds of photographic work.

His website also has links to other interview he has done.

(Image from Andrew Querner's series The Bread with Honey via Photo Life)

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