Creative Quarantine: Photographer Bryan Steiff

Bryan Steiff, Galicia, Spain, 2019 | © Photo by Ingo Depner

1. How are you holding up?

It’s day by day, but overall I’m doing well.  I’m asthmatic, so my wife and I have been avoiding contact with pretty much everyone since early March. I’m really missing travel, hugs, and chats with friends over drinks right now, but I feel incredibly fortunate to have a partner and to not be weathering this alone. But really, this isn’t too different from how we normally exist. We tend to be mostly homebodies when we’re not traveling.

I feel like America might finally be at the beginning of reckoning with it’s past and present-day injustices.

On the positive side, there is clearly a change in the air.  I feel like America might finally be at the beginning of reckoning with it’s past and present-day injustices. There is a lot of momentum now to address the structural racism inherent in our Criminal Justice, Medical, Housing, Economic, and Food systems – inherent in virtually every aspect of our culture, really. I hope we have the fortitude as a country to see it through in a meaningful way.

Middlegrunden Wind Farm, Øresund, Copenhagen, Denmark (MWØCD0106), 2014 | ©Bryan Steiff

2020 has been a year, though. I feel like we’re at some kind of tipping point. I just hope we tip in the direction of progress. Right now, It still kind of feels like it could go in just about any direction. Also, since you have kindly given me this platform, I want to make sure to say: Black Lives Matter! We, who are white people, can do better.

The Last Supper, Groom, Texas (CMGT0448), 2016 | ©Bryan Steiff

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Absolutely. I have been making photographs for the last nine years, documenting the transformation of the landscape from the wind energy boom in the United States and Europe; a project that inherently depends on the ability to travel. I was hoping to get one last trip in before I started editing and sequencing for a book later this year, but COVID prevented that outing. Since I’m stuck at home, I’ve started to play with sequences of the images I’ve already made. I’m hoping I can put together something that feels complete with the pictures I have, so I can wrap it up. If not, the book may have to wait another year.

Bus Stop, Fanhões, Portugal (FHPT5571), 2019 | ©Bryan Steiff

I have another project called Unterwegs (the German word for “en route” or “on the way”) which is a project that (as is probably obvious from the title) also requires movement. So those photographs have also been affected by the inability to travel.

And because my brain likes to play games with me, pretty much every new idea I have these days, requires travel. Go Figure.

Fire Danger, Lemster, New Hampshire (FDNH3464), 2018 | ©Bryan Steiff

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

Walking. Though it’s not directly part of art-making, it has a profound effect on my creative process and my mental health. When I lived in Chicago walking was an everyday part of life, but since I’ve moved out west it has become less and less a part of my daily routine. After so much time being stuck inside, my wife and I started taking long morning walks almost every day. We get some sunshine and have conversations or if I walk alone I’ll listen to music, a podcast, or simply observe my surroundings. When I get back to the house, I’m recharged and my mind is clear. It’s an ideal starting place.

After so much time being stuck inside, my wife and I started taking long morning walks almost every day.

Untitled, San Gorgonio Pass, Palm Springs, California (SGP1313), 2012 | ©Bryan Steiff

Tot RWE, (Anti Energy Company Graffiti), Frimmersdorf, Germany (TRWE1516), 2016 | ©Bryan Steiff

Deer Island, Boston, Massachusetts (DIMA4050), 2018 | ©Bryan Steiff

4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?

Well, I can’t speak to the emotional or financial state of anyone I mention, but in terms of people I see maintaining a meaningful art practice during quarantine:

(German Singer) Mine has been doing these great quarantine edition videos of her songs over Zoom with members of her band and other musicians and posting them on YouTube. I think that is a really great way to stay creative in an inherently collaborative form of art during isolation.

Clines Corners, New Mexico (CCT0005), 2015 | ©Bryan Steiff

It’s no surprise to me that painter Jared Joslin and sculptor Jessica Joslin have continued their significant productivity during COVID. They are two of the most dedicated artists I know and they both live and breathe art, in any circumstance.

Oriana Koren is a Photo-Ethnographer, Writer, Historian, and Activist that has been killing it lately. Right before the world went on lockdown, they had a 16-page photo spread published in Food & Wine magazine in February, which was an acknowledgment and documentation of the 400-year contribution black cooks have made to American cuisine. A spread of that size in a major publication is a massive achievement for any photographer. They’ve also continued other meaningful work during quarantine, including publishing essays addressing class and race on Substack.

Vacation Houses, Nazaré, Portugal (NZPT5308), 2019 | ©Bryan Steiff

Oregon Trail Route, Sawtooth Wind Farm, Glenns Ferry, Idaho (OTGF1248), 2016 | ©Bryan Steiff

Bryan Steiff is a Denver, Colorado-based artist. He holds a B.F.A. in Photography from The Ohio State University and an M.F.A. in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. He was a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography and an artist-in-residence at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. As an adjunct faculty member in the Photography Department at Columbia College Chicago (2004-2015), he earned two faculty development grants. Steiff’s work alternates between studio projects and observational photography, but typically addresses technology and how it shapes our world. His photographs have been exhibited, published, and collected in the United States.

He can be found online at his website and on Instagram.

All images are available as archival pigment prints in numbered editions, 20×25 and 40×50. Please contact Bryan Steiff directly.