About Kathy Fridstein
As a young child, I spent hours watching my father develop and print our family photographs. I stood mesmerized as I watched images of birthday parties and family trips slowly emerge on the white paper floating in a tray filled with an odd-smelling chemical. This was my initiation into the magic of photography.
Raised just outside of Chicago, I studied art and sociology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. In this all-American city, I began noticing and photographing wall surfaces, extracting the written marks and decaying surfaces on weathering walls, and presenting them as poetic abstractions. This body of work began my interest in graffiti and calligraphic forms on walls. It may have also subconsciously begun my interest in graphic design.
Upon graduation, I moved to Seattle and took a staff-photographer job at the Seattle Sun, a weekly alternative newspaper. There, I photographed all kinds of fascinating people — from mayoral candidates to a circus fat lady — thus sparking my interest in editorial photography.
When I wasn’t working, I continued to grow as an artist by photographing walls — focusing on graffiti, old advertising and decaying surfaces. The Seattle Arts Commission helped by awarding me a grant to photograph the graffiti and old advertising on the walls in the Denny Regrade, an area undergoing major demolition and renovation. With the images, I created large exterior collaged wall murals and installed them back in the environment from where the images originated.
A few years later, I received my MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with an emphasis in photography. I returned to the Northwest, where I began a 20-year career of teaching photography — at Eastern Washington University, Pacific Lutheran University and the Bush School — and showing my art. My work has been widely exhibited at regional and national venues, including the Seattle Art Museum, where it was prominently featured in a 3-person show “Altered Images.” It is also included in numerous public art collections.
All my life experiences have influenced what and how I photograph, with each new development building on the last.
On a trip to New Mexico I discovered petroglyphs. In certain areas, rocks were totally covered with petroglyphs, which for me, presented the same visual impact as walls totally covered with graffiti. This led to my continued interest in petroglyphs, as well as other pictorial languages — such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, hobo signs, ancient Roman signs — and to my use of these signs and symbols in my work.
On a trip to England, I discovered stone circles, sparking my ongoing work of finding and exploring stones and relics around the world. I have photographed Chaco Canyon, as well as many Mayan and Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, Mitla, and Tulum. I am interested in the relationship of ruins to their current surroundings compared to the knowledge of their ancient state.
No matter where I travel, I see the world through the viewfinder of my camera. Whether I am working on a body of work or just photographing in my travels, I seek out compelling images.
Still, photography is not my only interest. In 2006, I launched aftertheimage, a full-service design firm offering brand development, marketing collateral, web design and development, and photography.
Today, I’ve found a nice balance between my professions as an artist, designer and commercial/editorial/stock photographer. My fine-art background influences my design and commercial photography while my design background affects the way I see, think about, and create my photographs. Each set of skills strengthens the other.