Mari Howells (https://www.www.marihowells.com/) is a visual artist and teacher based in New York. She is an adjunct professor at Pratt SCPS, NY where she teaches a class in visual literacy. She received a Master of Fine Art in photography from The Royal college of Art, London, with a distinction in research, and a Masters of Fine Art in Theatre, from Columbia University. She is a classically trained cellist, pianist and guitarist and worked with the renowned composer Rahayu Supanggah in Indonesia. Her photography draws on her theatrical and musical background, combining aspects of both through the filter of photography. Her work was most recently exhibited at Cromwell Place, London, UK.
LACP Interviews Mari Howells
LACP asks Mari Howells ten questions about their background, career in and beliefs about photography.
LACP: What kind of photographer are you?
Mari Howells: I’m a fine art photographer. There’s a synthesis that happens in my photography between all the moving parts of my past experiences. I think of space with the relational physicality of a theatre maker, lines, shapes and form within the context of a musical score. I’m interested in finding my own hybrid forms in photography. Alternating between abstraction and representation, my practice is characterized by a diversity of processes and genres that are combined through site-specific installations.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
MH: I started shooting in my twenties as a means of documenting experience. When I started studying photography, ‘shooting’ took on a different meaning. It became a daily practice with focus and intentionality.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
MH: The Royal College of Art, London, Columbia University, New York, International Center of Photography, New York.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
MH: My earliest memory of photography came when my mother took me to see Josef Koudelka’s Exiles when I was fifteen. I still remember looking at one of his gypsies and the impact it had on me. It was visceral and raw and possessed a quality the Welsh call ‘Hiraeth’ — a deep-rooted longing for home for which there is no equivalent word in English. I studied photography with Christopher Giglio in New York which changed my life, and I welcomed the transition of being behind the camera as an active observer.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
MH: As a theatre maker I was reliant on other people to be creatively engaged. The wonderful thing about photography is that it simply requires the decision to pick up the camera. It is a kinder and more democratic art form in that regards.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
MH: Yes, going to graduate school for the second time was a big financial sacrifice, but one that I don’t regret.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
MH: When I’m out with my camera it feels like an interior world opens up and things have a way of slowing down. I love the quietude of it all. Everything is magnified by the parameters of the frame; you get to observe details that would otherwise pass you by, it’s an engagement with looking. Photography is not exactly real life, it’s something else which has its own magic to it.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
MH: The Grammar of Photography
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
MH: I like to think of the classroom as a working laboratory, departing from result-oriented goals in favor of a process-oriented way of learning. I’m excited by what can happen in this kind of environment. My goal as a teacher is to help students develop a sense of agency in their practice and allow room for surprises.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
MH: Find a good teacher – someone who can guide you towards the material you need to understand in order to make your work. Find a sustainable means of living which allows you time to do your creative work. Do the kind of work that feels authentic to who you are and your life experiences.