Terry Frishman is a Film Club Member through PhotoLounge’s partnership with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), where her photo Going Under is on exhibit until July 28th in their group show "The Calm Before the Storm." Terry’s abstract body of work spotlights slivers of commonly overlooked, everyday subjects. The tight crops help you focus and appreciate their patterns and textures. This week we decided to interview Terry and share her work with the community.
Elements: Painted Metal, Water, Soap
PL: Why do you photograph?
TF: I feel compelled to photograph. It helps me rediscover childlike wonder in the everyday while becoming hyper present as the world dissolves around me. It’s like the first time one snorkels and sees fish and coral under the surface of the water up close. It is magically satisfying.
PL: What first inspired you to start taking photos of areas that are overlooked?
TF: I hadn’t realized I was taking photos of the overlooked, until I thought more deeply about my “why.” I recognized this desire to honor, even celebrate, what is hidden in front of us, missed or dismissed, as a consistent theme throughout my personal and professional life.
Elements: Cement, Stone, Dirt
PL: Please share what “pareidolia” is, and how it influences your work.
TF: Sure! Have you ever seen recognizable shapes in cloud formations? That’s “pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a),” a Greek word for finding patterns and meaning in the random. Like a muscle, we can develop this way of seeing to reveal a wider range of subjects than “I see faces everywhere.”
My art reveals stories and emotions through pareidolia, with imaginary people, birds, otherworldly landscapes, fantastical creatures, kissers, dancers and more. They appear like paintings before me on textured tree trunks, sidewalks and street curbs.
PL: What do you hope people take away after looking at your images? Do you wish to change their perceptions of their overlooked areas?
TF: I want viewers to feel something - an emotion, a memory, some type of connection that they remember afterwards. I hope viewers also choose to experience my photos on different levels that can be applied later. Perhaps they intellectually question what they thought they knew or saw? Or feel awakened to the underlying beauty and wonder in the world around them? I’m especially grateful when they excitedly share their photos of what they are now “seeing.”
PL: How do you utilize composition and light to get the results you want for your photos?
TF: Cropping, composition and light are critical elements that help me express desired stories. When photographing, I always keep what is there, so anyone else could see it if they looked. I do not lift or change what I am about to photograph, or use flash, for example.
Many times I am physically limited by how much space is around the subject. I often have to angle my body and camera, focusing on capturing what I want to say in the frame or cropping later, since the same image can express different things. You might see me holding onto a pole, leaning over a car, raising my arms above my head or almost lying on the ground as I shoot to minimize undesired clutter in the frame and reveal what I want to say.
I think about the edges, the rule of thirds, lines – traditional techniques. But I don’t always follow them! In Going Under, for example, which is a self-portrait of immersing and releasing, I intentionally kept the horizon line just slightly off kilter, for a very subtle sense of uneasiness. Lately, I’ve been thinking about “composing” a range of executions – from more minimal to bolder and colored or layered.
PL: You have mentioned you perform minimal editing to your photos. Why is it important to you to only subtly edit your images?
TF: I want my work to be as true as possible to what I see, so we can notice things we normally overlook in a new way. Gritty imperfection can be meaningful and beautiful. What’s in my frame and later possibly cropped and then printed has minimal to no edits because I want viewers to know that my images are not manipulated. They might start looking twice at and questioning what they thought they knew about something they previously missed and walked past.
PL: I haven’t seen photographers identify Source and Elements with their work. Why did you decide to do that?
TF: For each photo, I identify where (Source) it was taken and what materials (Elements) are in the image. These optional clues provide insights into my process and detail what the photo is actually showing. They also draw attention to what we typically overlook – the main theme of my work. Most of us walk past and don’t “see” the actual street, crosswalk or garbage dumpster. We often disregard asphalt, wood and tar. By highlighting them, I’m elevating them while questioning visibility, recognizability and the relationship between seeing and knowing.
PL: The titles you have for your photos are very creative. What is your process when it comes to titling your work?
TF: Thank you! For me, I love titles, but I know not everyone does. I want them to be optional, and to express what the photos say, mean or emote to me – the artist’s perspective. Sometimes, a name literally pops into my head while I’m photographing, and my gut confirms it. Like “Dorian Gray“- a literary reference to the evil protagonist in Oscar Wilde’s novel who sold his soul for immortal beauty, but whose painted portrait aged and decayed over time.
Other times I conjure up titles based on living with the image a while. “Separated Souls” of trudging, melting snow figures, for example, was photographed early in the Pandemic when people were dying and not having access to limited Covid vaccines. Some titles are literal: “Wooden Kiss” – a portrait of two people kissing on a tree. Recently, I’ve also tapped into viewer suggestions. “In the Thicket” resulted from an Instagram follower writing: “No doubt about seeing a gorgeous horse in a thicket.” Since I don’t want to tell people what to see, I’ve been shifting towards less literal, more hopefully inspiring titles.
As well as being a photographer, Terry is an art business consultant. She helps artists move forward: defining their why, setting goals, strategizing and helping identify opportunities. Terry’s work is exhibited now in Philadelphia, Stamford, CT and Brooklyn shows. Her website is TerryFrishman.com. If you have any questions for Terry, opportunities for collaboration, or would like to purchase any of her prints, you can contact her via email at Terry@TerryFrishman.com or DM her on Instagram @TerryFrishman_Photographer. She is happy to be in touch! Please don’t hesitate to follow her and engage.