Photographer Shawn Ray Harris’ choice for a collegiate art program was shaped by the quality of his school’s swim team, where he swam for the University of Utah and studied art between workouts. A knee injury facilitated his shift to art as his primary focus. During seven years of undergraduate work, Harris studied painting, printmaking, film, and finished with a BFA (with a photography emphasis) in 1995.
The next several years were spent learning custom metal fabrication for a high-end lighting manufacturer. The combination of materials and mediums influenced his photography, where his shift in thinking took on a three-dimensional understanding and his work became something other than flat, traditionally printed objects. Over the next twenty years, his work in photography took on three dimensional objects, sculpting and manipulating photos in novel and unforeseen ways.
Harris’ work was of two paths: the first path, exploring the medium itself by making three-dimensional photography; and, the second path, using photography traditionally, exploring his personal interests, often with a sense of humor. He recalls an art teacher saying, “Have a job and make art on the side. Eventually, depending on your commitment, one will win out and you will find yourself doing what you were meant to do.” This holds true. Six years ago, Harris began making art full time. His art also had two separate paths that became one: he focuses on making work that is deeply personal and that also pushes the boundaries of photography.
Shawn Ray Harris thinks of the camera/photography as a tool, as an in-depth sketch book that captures ideas. He uses a camera, sometimes in a traditional sense, most of the time in tandem with a computer and editing software. Cameras, film, software and technologies will change. He enjoys working through how to best use available tools to capture, record, and translate his imagination. That’s what’s important to him. “Along the way, if I enable myself and a few others to laugh…then I feel I am doing what I was meant to do,” says 2014 Fall Tempe Festival of the Arts Featured Artist Shawn Ray Harris.
Harris’ photograph, “Nemaeus the Vicious,” has been chosen as the featured art image for the 2014 Fall Festival’s promotion and publications.