Artist's Creative Philosophy

My photography is about the human condition in all of its glory and pathos, heroism and hubris, dignity and degradation. I am enduringly interested in the struggle of humankind to find and create meaning. To paraphrase communications scholar James Carey, one of my mentors, human beings create a symbolic universe in order to take up residence in it.

Many of my photographs include people and speak directly to human life and experience. Others document the human condition as reflected or expressed environmentally: in the built environment, as human impact on the natural environment, and in the sense of seeing human emotions and conditions in nature. One influence in this regard is Georgia O'Keefe, who could draw a banana plant or paint a landscape pregnant with the human condition.

To me framing is a foundational aesthetic and communicative tool of the photographer, just as important as light. The act of imposing the camera frame on reality profoundly disrupts that reality, isolating and freezing a fragment of both time and space, which humans by and large experience as continuous.

In WATERLINE, I challenge the power of the frame by creating continuity across the camera's frame and the social, political and geographic "frames" of the city of New Orleans.

- Dr. Bette J. Kauffman

Associate Professor - Mass Communications
University of Louisiana at Monroe

Bette J. Kauffman currently teaches in the areas of public relations, journalism and visual communication at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She received her B.A. in Journalism (1980) from the University of Iowa and her M.A. (1982) and Ph.D. (1992) in Communications from the University of Pennsylvania. She has received awards for her documentary photography, and has professional experience in videography, journalism, and public relations.

Her publications include "Feminist Facts: Interview Strategies and Political Subjects in Ethnography" (Communication Theory; Vol.2 No. 3), biographical pieces on artist Angelica Kauffmann and photographer Berenice Abbott for the reference work, Women in World History (Yorkin Publications); a book chapter on women artists and social identity, and a book chapter on working class women in the movies.

Her current work, Waterline: an interactive photo installation, has been awarded the McKneeley Professorship in the Humanities to advance the work. The installation has been exhibited multiple times, including the 5th International Art in Society Conference in Sydney, Australia, and at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference in Denver, where waterline received 3rd Top Creative Project award from the Visual Communication Division.