“It all started on the planet Uranus, and then I came to Earth — and man, that was difficult …” – Meredith Ochoa
Ok. So Meredith Ochoa did not really start on the planet Uranus unless you consider that she had been a ballerina for 14 years. At age 17, she left that interplanetary life of dance behind her when she became obsessed with light and shadow.
“I love how you can only see the light because of the shadow and vice versa. These ideas showed up not only in my photography but in my life. I learned that you must embrace the shadow to experience the light, and more importantly, that there really is no duality — all really is one.”
Horrible grades then a scholarship
Her love of photography started in high school where she made pinhole cameras. She would skip class to play, experiment and learn in the darkroom. She was fascinated by the darkroom’s alchemy and by photography as well. Fortunately, the school had a darkroom.
Her grades were horrible and it looked like she would not graduate high school. It was so bad, Meredith said, “I literally drew a smiley face on my SATs. I was also very sick with an eating disorder throughout high school. I just woke up one day and I wanted to draw. And I could. Like I had been doing it for years. It just came out of me.”
Ms. Holder, her photography instructor had a profound impact on Meredith’s growth. “She taught me the foundation for everything I know today and had an incredible impact on my advancement.” Ochoa said, “With her help, I made a portfolio and as a “long-shot attempt” applied to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)-Atlanta. Even though I really only had about a year and a half’s worth of education & artwork, I was accepted with a scholarship.”
Meredith completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in four years and completed her Master’s of Fine Arts from SCAD in a single year.
Innovating around the digital takeover
When digital photography began to eclipse working on film she said, “I was pretty upset about the digital ‘takeover’ within the photo world.” Ochoa continues saying, “[While at SCAD] I developed my own photographic process with scanography. The process I invented started as a mockery of digital photography. It also served as a technical tool to help express some of the concepts my work centered around with ballet which was a huge part of my life growing up.
“When I decided to make work about my experience in the world of ballet, I thought of the contradicting ideas of degradation, restriction and freedom. Being constrained by the scanner for these projects, as well as the degrading aspects of digital manipulation, I was able to translate the ‘aesthetic experience’ of ballet into a degraded, virtual one.”
Ochoa went back to the very beginnings of photography when glass coated with emulsion and then developed was the negative.
“The process of putting people under glass and having them press different parts of their body up to it [the scanner] in order to achieve focus & depth allowed me to expand on the foundations of photography,” Ochoa said, “and experiment with their role in the digital world. Also, the speed at which I move the scanner and the different combinations of light used to achieve a certain look directly related back to my early teachings of photography as the simple scientific and artistic combination of two things: Light and time.”
Revelation: Becoming an artist
Meredith Ochoa struggled to make ends meet after graduation from SCAD. She held three jobs at once, balancing waitressing, selling AT&T door-to-door and stocking shelves at night for Michael’s. She began doing commercial work at Liberator and at an online fabric store. She worked at Atlanta’s photographic rental house PPR (Professional Photo Resources) helping pros with the gear they needed for their shoots. She realized that someone was paying the people she was explaining how photography worked to take pictures. She said, “I realized if someone is paying these people and they can make it with photography and are working for themselves — what the hell am I doing standing here behind the counter with a Masters?”
She took her combined sales skills she had learned from her many post-graduation jobs and contacted everyone she knew. She knew she wasn’t ready but she decided to begin her new business in her apartment, telling herself to “just swing the bat and continue to swing.”
It worked. She has her own studio in midtown Atlanta and continues her education psychologically and financially as an entrepreneurial artist. Ochoa puts it this way, “It’s not over until I win!”
Another F*#%ing Artist
Meredith Ochoa markets herself and her work under the title Another F*#%ing Artist. She creates and sells art that questions and inspires. She keeps it independent from the fine art gallery model.
What set Ochoa apart from other photographers is that she is beyond just taking a picture. “I’m an artist, inventor & entrepreneur and I combine these perspectives in my business.” Ochoa says, “My portfolio business website showcases my fine art, conceptual projects & photographic client work at meredithochoa.com. Anotherefingartist.com started in social media, and now I am now launching it as an e-commerce platform for making art financially accessible to everyone.”
Last words (for now)
“What I am most known for is challenging what a camera is and really how photography functions,” Ochoa says of herself and her work, “I wanted the subject to “become” the negative, which related to my early teachings of photography as the simple scientific and artistic combination of two things: light and time.”
Meridith Ochoa is more than just another f*#%ing artist. She is a creator that works at challenging the foundations of photography itself with innovative techniques, subject matter, (her 13 year-long “Every Phase” project for example) and her committed belief in herself.
Read more stories to inspire your photography in On Photography.