Heather Arsement Photography
By Jason Machulski
Conceptual photography illustrates an idea. There have been illustrative photographs made since the medium’s invention, such as in the earliest staged photographs like Hippolyte Bayard’s “Self Portrait as a Drowned Man” (1840). However, the term “Conceptual Photography” derives from “Conceptual Art,” a movement of the late 1960s. Today, the term is used to describe either a methodology or a genre. The “concept” is both preconceived and, if successful, understandable in the completed image.
Photographer Heather Arsement’s work is all self-portraits done solely by herself. She sets the camera and focus on a board. After the focusing is completed, she sometimes sets the camera to take burst photos. She then goes through the set of photos to narrow down the best shot. Her photographic work and the digital editing sets her style apart from others. The long strenuous process of this photographic art form is an amazing story.
I think that there is no specific formula for success in photography, as the definition of success is different for everyone, regardless of his or her career. The only thing that an artist can do is to keep creating work, whether they choose to show it or not.
Heather has been married to local musician Ganey Arsement for the past 16 years. She found photography about six years ago when she picked up her husband’s camera, an old Canon 10D with a film lens attached to it. The lens had focusing issues, but she didn’t care. She learned everything she could about the camera and learned how to use it by shooting flowers and tree. But, she felt that she wanted to tell stories with her photography. She stepped in front of the camera and started her journey into self-portrait photography.
JAM: Where did you discover your first interest in art?
HA: I have always been a creative person. I have been searching all my life for a creative outlet that I truly loved. I tried everything from painting to pottery, but photography was the only thing that I have been truly passionate about.
JAM: Did you ever expect to turn that into a career?
HA: Not at all. It wasn’t until people actually said “Hey, I would love to own that piece.”
JAM: What inspired you to create that style, and do you have a name for it?
HA: I hope that you can look at one of my pieces and know that it’s one of mine. My very first art photographs were inspired by my favorite songs. Then I realized I had something I wanted to say about my life and what I see around me. I call it fine art conceptual photography.
JAM: What do you feel has set you apart from other photographers? In other words, what have others told you that they enjoy most about your work?
HA: My photography has a painterly quality to it. I hear people often ask if they are paintings or photographs. They aren’t really sure especially when they see them in person. They are also amazed that I am a self-portrait photographer.
JAM: What keeps your drive alive? What makes you want to get up and art each day?
HA: Well I don’t create every day. I do everything myself, I find props, wardrobe, shoot, model and edit all myself. All this is quite time consuming. Usually the whole process from start to finish is about six hours, more or less. I get obsessed about a concept and that is all I think about until I can create it. Thankfully, I have an understanding husband who supports my work. I mostly create on the weekends.
JAM: What’s your favorite piece of work that you have created?
HA: That’s a hard question, that’s like asking me which one of my children is my favorite. But I would say the one I am most proud of is “Narcolepsy.” It is a self-portrait that took about 12 hours to shoot and edit.
JAM: What are you working on at the moment?
HA: I am working on getting my pieces ready for the “Work of Women” exhibit in May at the Henning House in Sulphur. I have a new mounting technique that I am working on for this exhibit using cold wax and wooden canvases to display my work. Also, I am in the process of continuing my series of photographs depicting young ladies as warrior women.
JAM: What else should we know about your work?
HA: My life is reflected in my work. But my hope is that you see yourself in my work, you see your own story in it, and it speaks to you in some way. That it makes you feel something.
JAM: Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?
HA: Create what you are passionate about. Don’t worry about what is popular or trending. And if you find yourself with creator’s block, try daydreaming.
JAM: Do you admire any artists/photographers?
HA: Yes, tons of them. Almost too many to list. Brooke Shaden, who is a conceptual photographer as well as an awesome person, Emily Soto, who is a fashion photographer that shoots with vintage film. And Jenna Martin who specializes in underwater photography.
JAM: Do you have any favorite blogs?
HA: “Promoting Passion” by Brooke Shaden is perfect for anyone who needs to spark passion into their lives.
JAM: What are you doing when you’re not creating?
HA: I work at local hospital boutique and coffee café’.
JAM: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
HA: That I am a super shy person.
JAM: Where can we find you? (Blog, website, twitter, Facebook etc.)
HA: I have a Facebook Page www.facebook.com/heatherarsementphotography
JAM: Where do you sell your work?
HA: I have an Etsy shop or you can contact me through my Facebook page https://www.etsy.com/shop/HeatherArsementphoto
JAM: What are your goals for the future?
HA: My goal in the future is to try to attend more art shows to get my work out locally. And my dream is to have my own solo art exhibit.