Meet this week's cover artist: Photographer Shawna Cory
By Jyllian Roach
There are two basic types of people in the photography world: Those who take pictures, and those who curate them. Shawna Cory is one of the relatively rare few who do both.
Cory said she’s pursued creative activities since she was very young, painting and drawing for hours at a time. When she was in in middle school, her interest in photography began to blossom.
“When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I remember falling madly in love with a book of Julia Margaret Cameron portraits, which was part of the Wyoming library’s Special Collection, so couldn’t be checked out,” she said. “I would go every once in a while, and sit cross legged in one of the aisles, and just adore it, from cover to cover.”
It was during her time as a college student that New Mexico native discovered her love for the history of photography while earning her bachelor’s degrees in art history and professional writing at UNM. Within 10 minutes of her first class on the subject, Cory said the professor had her hooked.
“That woman rocked my fucking world, academically,” Cory said. “Honestly, it hadn’t really occurred to me that history of photography was an actual art historical discipline until I signed up for her first class.”
As Cory became more and more enthralled with the art world, the art world became enthralled with her – in 2008 she was asked to curate an exhibition for UNM’s art museum. She would be second student and first undergraduate to be offered such an honor. And as a postgraduate she was offered a position as a volunteer archivist at the museum.
“I was given a rare opportunity to curate a single show for a new, kind of experimental Museum Studies class I was taking at the time,” she said. “The experience absolutely reinforced my love for art and photography … and for organizing objects into seemingly cohesive, logical groups and writing about them.”
It was around this time that Cory discovered the Guerrilla Photo Group and began taking her own pictures in earnest and began exploring her unique style of photography: looking for the moments when people are truly themselves.
“I’m less interested in making people look ‘beautiful’ than using photography as a tool to capture the quick, otherwise unseen moments in the world,” she said. “I like playing with my camera. Artistically, my favorite images are often happy accidents.”
Cory’s experience in art curation drove her to suggest something that would change many aspects of Guerrilla Photo Group: themed quarterly art shows around town. The group, through Cory and her team on the art committee, has since hosted dozens of shows, each featuring work from its various members.
Aside from experience, there’s a lot of personal value to the art shows, she said.
“Especially for someone new and not very confident in their work, it’s incredibly valuable to be able to send friends and family and even potential clients to see their work hanging on the wall somewhere around town,” she said.
Jyllian Roach is the arts and entertainment editor at Free Press Weekly. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org