Making the work and letting it mature
Joey Prince thinks Santa Fe is very much a young-artists town. It’s just that much of that art may not be visible yet.
The Santa Fe-born photographer is working on his bachelor’s degree at the College of Santa Fe. Like many Santa Fe high-school graduates, he cut out of here right after graduation; in 2003 he headed to Boston to join a band (he played guitar at the time). But after a few years on the East Coast, he returned.
“I came back not intending to stay here,” the 23-year-old said. “I started taking classes at the Santa Fe Community College and later at the College of Santa Fe. [CSF photography department chair] David Scheinbaum and others have been great mentors to me. I feel like Santa Fe is a great place to make work.
“I think a lot of teens do want to get out of here as soon as possible, but once you leave, you realize how special Santa Fe is. But young artists are so anxious to get to the next step, to be recognized for their work. I feel there’s something to be said for not worrying about that stuff at our age. We should take more time to make the work and let it mature, and Santa Fe is a great place to do that.”
Prince has been working mostly in black-and-white, using a Mamiya camera. He has never tried working with a digital camera. (“It’s all darkroom; I don’t even know how to use Photoshop.”) Heavily influenced by such surrealistic photographers as Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Arthur Tress, his work focuses on urban and rural landscapes in which his human subjects— even if surrounded by other people — appear very alone. That makes sense, given Prince’s creative impulses: “Photography, to me, is almost self-therapy. It helps me visually see the emotions I’m feeling. It’s a way for me to open up and explore how vulnerable I am.”
This past summer he took part in Zac Scheinbaum’s shortlived Pennbrick Gallery, which showcased the work of young artists. “It was the most exciting gallery I’ve ever been to — all about young artists, all doing great work,” Prince said.
He accepts that the more established galleries in town rely on the work of more established artists. “I understand that; that makes sense. I’m still an undergrad; I’ve only been making photos for a few years now.” But he can list a number of young artists here working in various mediums and creating their own venues, like MeowWolf and The Humble art collective. Warehouse 21 was a major influence for him as a teen, though he doesn’t hang there much anymore. The Internet, he said, can give most artists a worldwide profile regardless of where they live.
“There [are] opportunities here,” he stressed. “If you are interested in photography and want to stay here, both the community college and the College of Santa Fe have great facilities and inspiring teachers. And people are excited about young artists— as long as you’re excited.” He’s excited. And for now, he’s staying put in Santa Fe.
— Robert Nott
by Joey Prince