An avid photographer since her youth, Juror’s Choice winner Regula Franz never dreamed she could make photography her career. Born and raised in Switzerland, Franz’s family did not consider the fine arts a suitable career path and she instead received a BA in English, Linguistics, Anthropology, and Art History. During an exchange year to University of Virginia, Franz received strong encouragement from a photography professor. “She loved my work and encouraged me to apply for grad school at VCU. I had fallen in love with Virginia during my exchange year, so this was a welcome chance to stay in the country with a student visa.”
Juror's Choice Ferry, Strait of Molacca, Indonesia
Franz has embraced her identity as an artist, fully living up to her own definition of success: “You are successful when you keep doing it, no matter what. You apply for grants, shows, teach to make a living, keep doing what inspires you, accept non-creative lulls, get up and do it all over again.” She has also come to embrace her life in the United States, returning to Switzerland in the summers to visit her mother and make work. “America gave me the freedom to live a creative life, and I am grateful for that. I gather my images exclusively in other countries now.”
Saddhu, Katmandu, Nepal
Her current project explores the concept of home, country and belonging. “It has been difficult to ‘switch’ back and forth between Europe and the U.S. every year.” As much of her art documents and is inspired by other cultures, Franz indulges her passion for travel to add to her body of work:
I have always loved adventure and scoping out the unknown. Not sure where that comes from, I grew up in a tiny, landlocked country in the center of Europe, and my Swiss parents never ventured further than neighboring countries like Italy and France. As a student, I did not have money but a lot of free time during breaks. Either you traveled like a nomad, or not at all. In the 70’s, young people in Europe just took to the roads hitchhiking, riding on night trains six to a compartment, sleeping on the beaches in Greece, Italy for free, going east overland to Afghanistan and India. In 1978, I traversed the USA in a $500 Ford LTD for three months, sleeping in it at highway rest stops, eating cheap supermarket food, later selling the car for the same amount of money in Detroit. I spent about $1000, including the flight over.
Funeral Carriage, Laos
Now Franz’s main draw is discovering how other people live and how their daily lives are different from her own. “When I travel, I immerse myself in daily routines of the culture I visit, which you cannot do on a cruise, organized tour, or in luxury hotels. I take local transport only, rarely fly, take boats, rickshaws, often rent a bicycle, or walk.” She does not pre-plan her shoots or artistic concepts, preferring inspiration to strike on its own accord. “My process is to linger, hang out, observe, shoot. I never travel less than a month to any given country.” Franz edits her photographs upon returning home, printing her images so that she can review her work on paper. “I print a lot of images to get the visual impact. Digital printing is my passion. I love watercolor papers and the photographic object in my hand.”
Yakhide, Muktinath, Nepal
Franz sees herself as a visual ambassador, seeking out and sharing the interesting, the wondrous, and the illuminating. She strongly believes that there is still a lot left to explore. “Even with globalization and Facebook, the world is still enormous, and it takes some real effort to traverse it.”
Burial Cave, Indonesia
Voyages is on view through December 28, 2013.