Adopting the persona of a "housewife" in her work, Bastienne Schmidt stages carefully domestic scenes that are set in her own living room or in public spaces such as laundromats. Schmidt's work is influenced by the films of Wim Wenders, and the paintings and prints of Katsushika Hokusai, Sigmar Polke, Jan Vermeer, Cindy Sherman, and Edward Hopper. Photographed mostly in the Hamptons or on Long Island, Schmidt's work portrays the irony of a social contract in a world of suburban wonders.
Born in Germany, raised in Greece and Italy, and living in New York for the past 20 years, Schmidt has been shown nationally and internationally at over 50 exhibitions, including solo shows at the International Center of Photography in New York and The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbein in Hamburg, Germany. She has also published 4 monographs, among them Vivir la Muerte, American Dreams, Shadow Home—which was awarded the "Best Photo Book Prize" in Germany in 2005—and Home Stills, her latest monograph of drawings and photographs, published by Berlin-based Jovis in 2010. Home Stills, which accompanied one-person exhibitions at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, FL and Harper's Gallery in Easthampton, NY, depicts an ironic view on female gender roles.
Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York showed her Silhouette Vessels in May 2012.
How do you approach your work with photography?
For me, photography was always an extension to document what was around me and to see the larger context in it. Usually my photographic projects take a long time—four to five years—and they culminate in a book. There is an emotionality and mystery in my photographs, where there is a layering of meanings. In my last series, Home Stills, I placed myself in the pictures, but it's not about me specifically—I become the stand-in for an everywomen, moving in and out of these different people's lives.
Saying you stand for an "everywomen" sounds like a feminist statement. Do you consider yourself a women's voice?
I do consider myself to have a feminist voice. I think we need more women in our society to speak up again. I don't think it's very fashionable anymore, because we are supposed to have resolved women's disadvantages in society. But if you look at the political dialogue right now there is always a women's theme popping up, and I am still shocked sometimes by the conservative interpretation of what a woman's life is supposed to be.
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Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
The International Center of Photography, New York, NY
The Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France