Artist spotlight interviews and editing by Ebony English. Ebony is a writer of poetry and fiction. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.
Rebekah Flake is an artist who explores history- social, political and personal- through a lens. Flake is both collaborative and experimental in her approach. Learn more about one of our SBMA 2016 Micro-Grant recipients with this month’s artist spotlight!
Please introduce yourself.
My mother is a painter and she always kept a studio in our home, so I was surrounded by artmaking from a young age. I grew up in Mississippi, but I moved to Philadelphia for college. I went to Penn, where I studied art and humanities. After traveling and studying elsewhere for a few years, Philly drew me back and I attended Tyler School of Art at Temple University for my MFA in Photography. I love the city and built a great community, and I am so happy that I chose this place for my home.
What does being a creative/artist in Philadelphia mean to you?
Philadelphia has become one giant neighborhood for me. It’s a place that can make you feel grounded, but still connected to the resources and people you need to make great artwork.
Who is your favorite artist?
I get more excited about specific projects than individual artists. The best projects are both innovative artistically and situated within a specific social context. They are provocative and challenging.
What or who inspires you the most?
I just feel so much admiration from the community of artists right here in Philadelphia who work together to produce new work that is creative and authentic. It would be impossible to achieve anything without the artist collectives and entrepreneurs that make Philly great. For creative inspiration, I look to stories of transformation. I believe in change, and in keeping hope alive.
What kind of creative routines and rituals do you have?
Mornings that include an hour or two of reading, writing, and daydreaming about new ideas before I go out into the world’s distractions are more valuable than hours upon hours of studio time if I’m already preoccupied.
What advice would you give an aspiring photographer?
Location, location, location! Too many times we don’t go far enough away from what’s comfortable and safe and predictable to those places–geographic, imaginative, technical places–where the most unexpected images can be found. Situate yourself in the right place with the right gear and the right mindset, and let the magic play out in front of you. If the place doesn’t exist, you have to create it. This extra effort is what transforms the photograph into the artwork.
What are you working on currently?
These days I am working on bringing a few long-term projects to a close. I am making a book of my photo series Till Death Do Us Part (with support from Small But Mighty Arts) and also editing footage for a video project.
What resources (online or in the city) have you utilized and what resources do you believe are still needed for Philly-based creatives?
The universities, their art museums, and their libraries are foundational to my work. My artist friends and I also look to Pennsylvania Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and other professional service resources to support our business challenges. Artists need so much external advice regarding taxes and licensing . . . our city could do better at advising artists in this area.