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In Conversation About 2002-2010

Job Piston: With your self-portrait work, is it personal and specific or do you use it as something else where you become a possible stand-in?

Katrina Umber: It’s both. It’s a space where I can perform as both subject and object. It’s very much about the mutability and performance of the self. Working with ideas of internal states being reflected on the outside, photographic transformation: color vs. black and white, the way light hits a face and alters its shape, vulnerability, and a record over time.

Job: Yeah I love how I see all of these emotions from a personal narrative but the work is equally about how the camera functions.

Katrina: Exactly.

Jesse Robinson: There’s so much importance in the times you choose to photograph, its not always when you’re at your best, in fact some are when most people are least likely to take a picture. But even this doesn’t fall into a pattern such as only photographing when you’re crying, it’s more interesting.

Katrina: There’s no simple formula.

Jesse: Your changes as the subject have been more drastic and apparent than many people. But there’s something about a project sustained for a long period of time that’s a rare and interesting thing. This book offers a constant refrain, something you keep coming back to as a practice and provides a kind of structure that informs the other bodies of work.

Katrina: When I began photographing my family more intensely in 2002 it became really important to turn the camera on myself also. People talk about the distancing effect of the camera but I don’t think it’s just that simple. Photographing became a motivation strong enough to get me to go and spend time with my family when it was painful. I used it as a way to remain close and involved.
There’s also something about the way photography freezes time. Photography’s relationship to loss and death can be over emphasized. At that particularly difficult time in my personal life and the life of my family, I found a specific hope, a different way of understanding that aspect of photography. By freezing the moment, it became a reminder that it was just that, a moment that could never be just like that again.

Jesse: Yes, its only construed as loss if what’s captured is something positive you don’t want to change. But if that’s flipped it could be cathartic to capture and freeze it.

Katrina: The similarities and differences between the image, my singular experience and memory fascinate me.
When I look through the self-portrait book I can remember making every frame. Especially with the early ones, a sort of magical thinking happened where I would project into the future with the hope that one day I would be able to look back at a particular image and be a very different person in a different psychological space and situation, fortunately that happened. And I can accept it all as part of my experience or journey.


About the Author

Katrina Umber
katrinaumber Los Angeles, California, USA

Katrina Umber's practice covers many photographic genres and manifests as books as well as prints and installations. She received her MFA from UCLA in 2010 and her self-published artist books have been selected for the ‘Self Publish, Be Happy’ showcase at the Photographers Gallery in London and Arts & Sciences Projects’ NEW STAND in New York. For more work visit and

Publish Date  April 08, 2011

Dimensions  Standard Portrait  140 pgs   Premium Paper, matte finish

Category  Arts & Photography

Tags  , , , , ,

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