SPONSORED POST: Q&A with Amanda Merten, Brought to You by Art She Said

by Awl Staff

The Awl: Judging from what we’ve seen of your work so far, it seems like you think of yourself as doing a couple of different kinds of photography — studio portraiture and then sort of wilder shooting, in the world. Are those to you different projects? Or just different, like, ways?

Amanda Merten: Different ways, I suppose. I never limit myself since I feel like able to do a little of each. I even enjoy snapshots as high art when it’s appropriate.

The Awl: That’s good! I think people have gotten huffy about snapshots.

Amanda Merten: Of course they have, because they are so easy to do. Anyone can take a snapshot. But still there has to be something special about it. Something that sparks something or asks questions

The Awl: No that’s fair. We got inundated with the snapshot practice/aesthetic. I wonder where you first fell in love with photography? By which I mean: looking at what kinds of things?

Amanda Merten: Well… I went to an arts high school in Las Vegas to get the most out of my public education in an extremely corrupt city. I tested in for the French language program just to get my foot in the door.

The Awl: That’s hilarious.

Amanda Merten: My bedroom was always filled with pictures from magazines taped to the walls. I wasn’t really sure what drew me to them but it was just the matter or a moment in time being caught, real or fake, it could be any world anywhere. Something different. Somewhere else. I loved that.

The Awl: I still get that feeling sometimes, which is awesome.

Amanda Merten: Eventually I became a photo major at school — the first photo major at the Las Vegas Academy of Visual Studies, Performing and Visual Arts, that is! There wasn’t an actual major but I pushed for it and got it my junior year.

The Awl: So you’re tough, too.

Amanda Merten: Ha, yeah, you could say so. When I want something I usually do what I can to get it. And that comes with a lot of hard work, dedication and frustration.

The Awl: And how has that been going off and starting a career?
Amanda Merten: Oh it’s all so confusing. I don’t really know what I am doing. Is that what it’s like to start a career? I couldn’t really tell you. I just know I am too stubborn to be in an office all day, so I work around the clock to be here and there and everywhere.

The Awl: Good!

Amanda Merten: Freelance work as a photographer or stylist’s assistant comes in waves, so I also work at a bar at night to save myself the stress of not being able to pay bills while waiting for freelance money to come in. It takes months to get paid.

The Awl: Yes! Isn’t that the most amazing thing?

Amanda Merten: I feel like I must be setting the ground work for some kind of future though. We’ll see!

The Awl: Well I’m pretty sure that’s just how it’s done. You plug away — and you leave yourself free and open to being able to do it.

Amanda Merten: I lose my mind sometimes trying to schedule things but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m always working with different people on new things. Never a dull moment.

The Awl: The rule probably is it’s working if you don’t cry yourself to sleep more than once a week.

Amanda Merten: Once a week sounds about right. Thankfully my boyfriend is the best and knows how to calm me down.

The Awl: So when you go out and look at photography, and think about the work you make and want to make, what do you see that’s missing from the world?

Amanda Merten: I’m guilty of it myself. People need to have more fun! I’m not interested in party photos or anything really like that, but the images people make — including myself — just always end up being so serious.

The Awl: Oh. That thing. Yes.

Amanda Merten: I like simple, easy and fun. But it’s hard to portray fun when you’re also trying to make something beautiful. My least favorite thing is cheesy photos, so there is a thin line.

The Awl: So unironic fun which is also actually good-looking.

Amanda Merten: Yeah, when someone figures out how to do that right, let me know!

The Awl: I will page you on your beeper.

Amanda Merten: But there are photographers out there like Cass Bird, Yelena Yemchuk and Ellen von Unwerth who are making it happen, so maybe I’ll be more like them someday!

“The Smartest Thing She Ever Said” is a Tumblr based digital storytelling art project featuring four teams of two-one artist and one story editor-between now and the end of the year. For three weeks each, the teams were asked to interpret the phrase, “The Smartest Thing She’s Ever Said.” The current team features photographer Amanda Merton and writer Alice Gregory with support from project curator Alexis Hyde. ArtSheSaid.com and its artists are entirely supported by Ann Taylor in collaboration with Flavorpill.