Bodies of work
In 1970, when Stephanie Hogen was around 20, she shot a photo of Main Street in Breckenridge, Colorado. Her picture won first place in a contest.
“That kickstarted me enough to want to get a camera,” she said. She saved up some money, bought a Canon AE-1—which she still sometimes uses—and enrolled in a community college photography class.
“Then, I just got into it,” she said.
Hogen has lived in Reno since the 1980s. She’s studied photography with Truckee Meadows Community College professors Dean Burton, Nolan Preece and the late Erik Lauritzen and has shown her work in galleries around Reno, in several California venues, and in a group exhibit at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
One semester, early in her Reno days, Hogen was in Peter Goin’s class at the University of Nevada, Reno. The class photographed nude models that semester. That’s where Hogen discovered her aesthetic groove. Since then, most of her work has been contemplative, black-and-white images of nudes, almost always women, a lot like the ones that were popular in American photography in the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s. The photos have a calm, moody, geometric sensibility that was perhaps most widely made known by early-20th-century artists like Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.
Photographers might take pictures of bodies for various reasons—to explore themes of identity politics, body image, sexuality or desire, to note just a few. Hogen’s reason for photographing bodies, though, is simple and straightforward.
“I’m not trying to make a statement,” she said. “I like beauty and joy and happiness and all that.” To her, what is beautiful includes the models themselves, whether they have “model-like” bodies or not, and the tonal and compositional effects that a skilled black-and-white photographer can work into a print.
“The light has so much to do with it,” she said. “I always use sun. I never use studio lights. Everything has been done either outside or in my house.” She’s deeply fascinated by the technical properties of light, the way it bounces off of skin.
“Either I like the soft light on the nude, or as you go along, you can decide whether you want detail in the black, or in the white—it becomes more abstract, almost,” she said.
Hogen has made a new body of work recently with a different subject matter altogether, images of flowers, leaves and the occasional insect part, just as calm, moody and geometric as her figurative work, with parts abstracted by lighting shifts just as in the model shots. These aren’t exactly photographs in the traditional sense—they’re photograms, made by placing the flowers, leaves and insect parts themselves directly onto light-sensitive paper, or, in some cases, into a photographic enlarger.
Just like in Hogen’s figurative work, a lot of detail is left out, which focuses the attention on the elegant, almost eerie subtleties—the intricate lace of an insect wing, the contours of a pear, the veins of an orchid petal. While her appreciation for that subject matter is evident, her passion for values, shapes and textures is just as strong.
Hogen’s photograms, rich in technical details, are straightforward in the metaphorical implications she has for them.
“Maybe it’s the light and dark of life, you know, how you have to have the dark to have the light,” she said. “It just speaks to me.”