An Interview With Faculty Advisor Betsy Schneider

Superstition Review would like to welcome faculty advisor Betsy Schneider. She will be advising the art editors starting this fall. As an introduction to the staff and readers, we interviewed Betsy and we are very glad to share the interview with you.



Betsy Schneider is a photo-based artist and educator. Her artistic concerns range from trying to understand time, decay and the body, to exploring childhood, culture, and relationships and looking very closely at strange visceral things such as candy, placentas and the mouth. She uses a variety of photographic tools including APS, digital, medium format and view cameras and digital and computer generated video. Her work manifests itself through exhibitions of rectangles on the wall, video installations and books.

Her work is in several private and public collections including that of actor Jamie Lee Curtis, Museet for Fotokunst in Denmark, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. She has taught and lectured across the US, Scandinavia and the UK. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and an Associate Professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University.

Superstition Review: What is it about the medium of photography that first drew you to it?

Betsy Schneider: My mother always encouraged me and my sisters to express ourselves through art. My birth interrupted her PhD program in psychology focusing on children’s art. So I had a crayon or a pencil in my hand from as early as I could hold it. But I was a very active child and didn’t have the focus to be good at drawing. I was a cartooner—a doodler. My notes from school are covered with intense little doodles—even now at faculty meetings I can’t stop making these little drawings. But they don’t go anywhere.

So when I was about 11 I was picked to be a yearbook photographer—and I loved it. At the time I didn’t really see it connected to art—but it seemed like something I did well and enjoyed. But even photography took patience and I didn’t have enough through high school. So throughout high school I kind of forgot about photography and art—thinking I would be a lawyer and later a writer (yeah—that doesn’t take any patience at all).

While I was trying to write I realized that my ideas flowed so much more well, so much more fluidly through photography. This was at the end of college—and I thought –this is it. That was when I was about 21—and to waaay oversimplify it—I’ve been here making photos ever since.

SR: What are some of your influences and favorite artists?

BS: Why is this always the most difficult question? But it’s a good and important question. I tend to be influenced in waves and by a huge variety of things. First the people in my life (and I’ll get to that in the later question). But also wider cultural influences like politics and history and cultural history. I don’t watch that much TV but when I do I can’t stop talking about it. I tend to be totally overwhelmed by my life experiences and I flow with them.

But specifically—literature—I majored in English at Michigan. William Blake, William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, Maurice Sendak,–but also TV shows from my childhood, like MASH and MAD magazine.

Photographers and artists—Emmet Gowin, of course Sally Mann, Nicholas Nixon, Michael Apted’s 7 Up Series. I could go on and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a new list.

SR: How long have you been with ASU, and what are some of the classes you teach?

BS: I have been teaching at ASU since 2002—and I teach the range of photo classes from basic photo black and white to the graduate seminar in photography. A few of my specialized classes are Portraiture—which focuses on the meaning and purpose of making pictures of people and a class in Digital Culture which addresses the ways in which digital technology does and doesn’t change the meaning and function of photographs. Some of my areas of concentration are time and the relationship between the still and the moving image, childhood and family, relationships, but also the visceral. I’m interested in why we make pictures and what the result of making pictures is.

SR: What do you enjoy most about teaching in your field?

BS: The energy and ideas from the students and the feedback between what I do, my life, their ideas, their work and my own. I love that I teach something that connects so closely to life and I love that I form strong bonds with the students and that I think I make a difference in their lives; they certainly make a difference in my life.

SR: It seems that much of your subject matter is very personal and very simple, like for example, your children playing. Would you say that your art is a part of your lifestyle?

BS: Yes—its essential. The fluidity between my everyday life and my work is essential to who I am as both a person, a parent, an educator, and an artist. They are all intricately connected. I thrive on connections.

SR: Your Guggenheim project is now drawing to a close.  What can you tell us about the experience?

BS: That’s a subject for a long interview. Intense and moving. I’m exhausted right now. Will be finished with taking the photos and interviewing 250 13-year-olds by the end of October. I am exhausted and thrilled and ready to give birth to this work.

Meet the Interns: Madeline Beach, Solicitations Coordinator

Madeline Beach earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from ASU in 2003. She has since returned to ASU, and is now a senior studying English Literature.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Madeline Beach: I am currently serving as the Solicitations Coordinator. My major responsibilities include reaching out to writers and artists who have been selected to be solicited to submit previously unpublished work and then I make the received solicited submissions available to the respective editor for review. I also contact bookstores and writing organizations to request that they notify their customers and members of our open submission period.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

MB: I first learned about Superstition Review when I took a course led by the journal’s Managing Editor Trish Murphy. She informed the class that there would be an opportunity to participate in the creation of the spring issue and I felt it would be a great chance for me to gain invaluable experience in the publishing field.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

MB: I am hoping to gain some of the skills necessary to working as a professional editor. I am in school because I have decided to change careers and I hope that this internship will provide some of the experience I need to be a successful editor.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

MB: An author who I recently discovered whose story I felt was very well written is Tammy Delatorre. Her story titled Gifts from my Mother is a cynical coming of age tale that describes the “gifts” a young girl receives from her mother. At night the narrator’s mother leaves her young daughter in the car while she frequents the local bar. The mother brings her daughter the parasols and olives from her drinks at the bar, which the daughter sarcastically remarks as being so thoughtful. I like the feel of the story because it is dark and poignant, telling the short story of a young girl’s experience of her mother.

SR: What are you currently reading?

MB: Unfortunately between working full-time and going to school full-time I don’t have time for any leisure reading.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

MB: I would like to try to be a Fiction or Nonfiction Editor. My goal after graduation is to obtain a career as an editor of written work, so I feel that I would gain experience that closely matched my aspirations.

SR: Do you prefer reading literary magazines online or in print?

MB: I prefer reading literary magazines online because of the availability and accessibility. I have found it is easier to read the work of several different authors when I browse journals that publish online.

SR: Do you write or create art? What are you currently working on?

MB: I am currently writing a series of essays based on the lives of women who have overcome tumultuous family situations in childhood to lead successful lives. The stories are based in reality on people I have known who have life stories that are so extreme they almost seem fictional, which is why I feel they should be told.

SR: What is your favorite mode of relaxation?

MB: My favorite mode of relaxation is somewhat juvenile; I enjoy watching cartoons. In fact, I have never stopped watching cartoons on Saturday mornings because I like the break from conscious thought. I try to keep my love of cartoons a secret because when people find out I generally get teased.

SR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

MB: I see myself on the East Coast working as an editor. I feel that it is a big dream, but it is what I have in my sights and would like to achieve. I believe if I put in the needed effort I will be able to obtain the career I want.