The first time I picked up a camera, my life was saved.
Stuck in a professional rut in Manhattan in my twenties, I couldn’t seem to connect with what I wanted or needed out of my life. One day, in a pawn shop, I was magnetized to this strangely heavy chunk of steel and glass on a shelf.
My first picture from that camera was film-less! I didn’t know where to get film but aiming the frame at whatever I chose instantly showed me a new way of thinking about my reality.
This is what my programming offers makers of any age–to become aware of what they see and to choose what to show realizes their power as storytellers, develops agency, and exercises voice.
The soul of all my work, industrial or artistic, is rooted in documentary form and a deep interest in human desires, hopes, dreams, and fears. Most of my work is done making advocacy films, short industrials, and branding films that solve marketing problems for clients using both technical and creative skills. I generally think of myself as a tradesman and so I am very fulfilled by teaching artist work because articulating the film or photography storytelling process connects me to my motivations and aspirations as a craftsman.
Additionally, as a teaching artist, I create and direct film or photography projects that fit a need in the classroom. Based on student and teacher interests, I am designing an open-ended experiment to invite collaboration and ideation from everyone involved. In essence, being a Producer is often a pre-determined, technician’s process and being a teaching artist is an open-ended, maker process.
Making a finished video is often more time-consuming and skills-demanding than other media because hardware and software are involved. When envisioning a finished product that is as complex as video it is important to include this consideration. I can design a huge range of projects in digital media and so I prefer to describe my residencies as experiments in sequential narrative. For instance, photographic montages, photo-books and photo-narratives are as fantastic as motion picture projects because they require less financial resources in terms of equipment, less software and hardware challenges and may satisfy desires for a more polished final project for all involved. Perhaps most important, these projects not only introduce ideation, planning, media, and making skills, they make offer time and repetition to hone them as well.
Enjoy some samples of Gretchen’s work below, including especially the series of Master Visual Artist videos she directed. Click through to view all ten amazing videos about ten amazing Pittsburgh artists.