Thursday, August 5, 2010

photographic thursday :: renee mcgurk

When deciding to push forward with this journal and reach out to interview extraordinary people, the choice was for a soldier of our time. There are many wars happening right now and they are not with guns, power, or economic gain. They begin at the core of humanity. Renee McGurk decided to share her thoughts with my queries and send over images from her repertoire.

How did you happen to decide on photography as your medium?

My mother never had a camera and I felt years of my life had gone by undocumented, so in college I got myself a Polaroid to help me remember. I had wanted to take a photography course at the time but my schedule was filled up with straight academics, especially science.

After graduation and while working as a lab tech at Northwestern University, I finally signed up for photography and got myself a proper camera. The thrill of seeing how my pictures turned out in the darkroom was addictive. I took two courses at Northwestern and two at The Evanston Art Center and teamed up with friends, Joseph Witkowski, Frank Tamas and Jennifer Brown to form a group called Inpatient Artworks. This collaboration resulted in three gallery shows and a dozen short films. As I became a film buff, my focus switched to storytelling and I took up digital videography in earnest. Making movies was time consuming, expensive and required a great deal of teamwork. After a couple years including participation with local filmmakers Group 312 and a TV episode on Channel 19 CAN TV, I abandoned ship. I took a stab at creative writing, first with a screenplay, later with short stories as part of a writer’s group and even tried my hand at some song writing. Several years went by with virtually no creative output until I was given a digital camera as a gift this past January…

Your images embody moments of sophisticated intensity.
How do you choose the objects, people, moments that you photograph?

When I first started taking pictures, I had two main interests: people and abstracts.  I wanted to recreate the kind of beauty I saw in old black and white films, eternal female beauty to be more specific.  My sister Annie was my favorite model, not only because she radiated glamour but also because she was close and willing.  I was a big fan of sci-fi films and chemistry -this resulted in a series of abstracts called Microcosmos- tricks of light, oil and vinegar that became imagined spaces and places resembling outer space or the inner space of human bodies. In an effort to force my photos into groups of series, I somehow got this notion of comparing/contrasting black and white with color images. All of my original series played with this concept- an unfortunate compromise.

These days I am much less organized or conceptual. I wander around the streets and lakefront with the camera functioning as my eyes.  I'm drawn to bright colors, geometric shapes, water droplets, storm clouds and other details I would generally miss if I didn’t have my camera.  I’ve started a slowly growing series of lost or discarded objects.

How do you describe your photographic world?

I tend to think photographs reflect unique perspectives similar to the way dreams reflect personal experiences and levels of consciousness; there’s a correlation there but I lack the ability to dissect it further.

Can you give an insight into your next project?

To be honest I have no idea what my next project will be. I consider myself a student of digital photography and my only goal at the moment is to master the technique.

Where can we find you?

You can see my old photographic series and a description of my films at (archives for Inpatient Artworks); some of my films are posted at and my newest photos are on flickr (

It has been a genuine fortune to work with this woman, artistically and personally. She emanates equanimity and tears through life with vision. A periscope of our quagmire.