Students enroll in the MFA in Photography at Columbia College Chicago to hone their craft. During her almost two years at Columbia, Sarah Hiatt’s (’16) body of work has gotten progressively more sophisticated. Now, her work is attracting national attention. Read on for my interview with Sarah.
Who are you, how do you identify, and where did you grow up?
Sarah Hiatt, born and raised in Southwest Missouri.
What is your work about?
My work stems from an intense interest in physical and psychological development, particularly in childhood. I’ve turned my focus primarily to my niece and nephews and the relationship they have to one another, their environment, their bodies, and to me. I’m constantly grappling with purpose, identity, self-awareness, and transcending the typical notion of childhood.
Did you focus on that before grad school?
Kind of. I have always been photographing my family as a thing to do and it is something I have found enjoyable. I am always questioning my own past, and I think a lot of my previous work deals with that. I’ve worked with children a lot.
I gain a lot of my insight and motivation from reading. The book that has been the most helpful to me for my current work is Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood. Even though my work may not essentially be about an existential dilemma, the philosophical ideas of existence and meaning are a driving force in my daily life. I love all of Rebecca Solnit’s work, but if someone were to only read one book of hers, A Field Guide to Getting Lost is beautiful and important.
Combined with reading, I look at many old family photos (mine and others) as a way of putting together what people considered important to photograph—it’s so interesting to me. There are always so many surprises in family snapshots. I also look at what other artist’s are doing or have done—Melissa Ann Pinney, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Frances Denny… and I also am a huge film nerd, so I watch a ton of movies. It’s fun to find ones that have the same concerns that I do in my work.
Tell me about the show you are in right now. How did you get it, and what’s it about?
I have a few pieces at the Mpls Photo Center in Minneapolis. The exhibition is titled “Ties that Bind” and it’s about family and the idea of sharing the same space with other people. It was a juried exhibition that I was encouraged to enter work into. As I have gained momentum with my work, I’ve felt that always keeping an eye out for opportunities and applying to many shows is highly important and can lead to many other things, too. It’s been surprising to me, but Instagram is an important tool in getting work out there, meeting other artists, and being in communication with curators that you may not have had the chance to meet in person.
I know what I’m doing now will never be something that is “finished.” Photographing my niece and nephews is a lifelong project that I’ve decided to develop during my time in graduate school. However, that’s not to say I won’t be working on other things simultaneously after I graduate. I’d like to do some more writing, make a short film, and develop other interests I have through photography.
Do you plan on staying in Chicago?
I’ll go wherever I get a job!
What food do you like to eat the most while in school?
I eat so much Thai food and peanut butter & honey sandwiches.
What are your three favorite albums?
Joni Mitchell: Ladies of the Canyon
Stevie Nicks: The Wild Heart
Any advice for prospective students?
Get a planner and write things down! Prioritizing time is the biggest thing to balancing everything. It’s also so important to make sure you have time to recharge and relax.