- Catherine Sebastian
Each month, filmmaker Stephen Blauweiss produces "ArtScene," a monthly video web series with short segments on artists, galleries, and museums in the Hudson Valley. Here, Stephen gives an outline of this month's film. Check out the film and others from the "ArtScene" series at Chronogram.com/TV.
Catherine Sebastian has been taking photographs for over 45 years. Her career photographing musicians in performance and candid settings has allowed her access to legends such as the Everly Brothers and Taj Mahal. "I'm always waiting for just the right moment, and when I see it, I grab it," she says. (Sebastian's photo of Levon Helm appeared on the cover of the May 2012 issue of this magazine.)
Sebastian also photographs anything that engages her. There is a category of shots she calls "It's just there." The shot presents itself as complete, with perfect light and color. "I come across something, and I just need to put myself in exactly the right spot," she says.
Sometimes the process is the opposite, and Sebastian delves into highly manipulated graphic imagery. She explains, "I might make blatantly 'false' purple-colored trees for the sense of twilight. In another image, I captured a dawn shot of New York City rooftop water tanks. When I developed the film I had soft tans and grays—I worked with that image until I got the fairy pastels that I swear I saw in the first place."
Sebastian uses photo manipulation for several distinct purposes. "Sometimes I manipulate photos to create graphic art effects. Is it a painting or a photograph? It doesn't matter to me—we're way beyond that. I'm just having fun in my digital darkroom," she says.
Sebastian also uses photo manipulation to create abstract images. Composition is especially important in her abstract work. She explains, "Sometimes the abstract flows from only using a small part of the original image, sometimes the whole thing goes that way. When I venture into the abstract, the main thing I want to convey is emotion."
In all of her photography, Sebastian seeks to not only convey her interpretation of an imagebut also elicit an emotional response from her viewers. And it's okay with her if the viewers interpretation is different from her intent. She equates it to a song one might hear on the radio: "How a song affects you, and the memories one associates with it, is uniquely yours and belongs to you. It might not have anything to do with the author's intent."
"I feel there are always two of us working on the images...me and the image itself," explains Sebastian. She continues, "Ultimately, my biggest satisfaction is knowing that one of my images touches someone and engages them. If you feel something, I'm happy. If art didn't add to our lives and make us feel, we wouldn't take the trouble to make it."