Name: Sam W.
Majors: Fine Arts and Art History
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Sam loves thrift shops, and her skirt and jacket were both thrifted.
Why did you decide to study fine arts? It just felt like what I wanted to spend my energy towards. I want to work in the conservation of art, so that’s where the art history comes in.
Is there an area of art or a time period that you are focused in? Photographs are a medium that I’m really interested in. As far as time periods, I don’t have a particular focus yet.
Sam only dyed her hair silvery blue a few days ago. “It was blonde before, like dirty blonde,” she said. “I really like pastels, so I kind of wanted something bluish, but subdued. So I tried to go for a silver blue.”
Who are some of your favorite photographers? Diane Arbus is someone who inspired me when I was a lot younger. Today, there are so many. I don’t know if I could pick a few off the top of my head. Diane Arbus is someone who inspired me when I was in eighth grade. She was the first.
Do you think your interest in art affects how you dress? That’s hard to say. I’ve never thought about it. Probably. Color and form are interesting to me, so probably. But that’s not something I actively think about.
How would you describe your personal style? Comfortable. Colorful. I like florals a lot, so patterns are important.
Why do you like florals? They make me happy.
How has your style changed over time? It has gotten a lot more laid back. I used to be – I’m still young so I’m still figuring it out – but when I was in high school, it was very trendy, and it was constantly shifting a lot. And I think I’ve become more assured and confident in choosing what I like, even if it’s not cool in the moment.
Do you think there was a shift in your personality that led to that? Yeah. More confidence.
Do you think your style is still evolving? I think I’m constantly evolving, so I’m sure style shifts with that.
Her denim jacket is from Zara, and her shirt is from Gap.
Can you tell me about your art? So, I’m most interested in documentary photography. So I like following people around and telling their stories. I do interviews as part of it. I work with film mostly, medium to large format when I can. I do a lot of portraiture and a lot of street photography, things like that.
What projects have you done? My boyfriend and I just traveled living out of a car for the past three months before I moved here. It was pretty wild. We were basically interviewing people about what makes them who they are. What forms their identity? Is that environmental? Is it how their life trajectory is taking place? So we had hour to two hour long interviews set up and took photos.
Her earrings were a gift from her boyfriend, who found them at a street market in Florida.
What inspired you to do that? It was my boyfriend mostly who had the idea, and then I kind of made it into my own thing as well. So we kind of worked on different projects. He’s Buddhist, and he had some spiritual questions he wanted to deal with. He wanted to interview some teachers in that realm and kind of help me with some questions he had. So that was interesting.
Were you nervous going into the trip? I don’t get nervous about things until it’s like five seconds before. I thought, “No big deal. Living out of a car. Whatever.” It was like mid-drive, I started getting anxious, but it was remarkably easy, traveling like that. I thought it was going to be really stressful, and I was going to get in fights with my boyfriend and everything. But it was good. And the interviews were always really interesting, and people were really genuine and helped us out along the way.
Where did you travel? We came from New York. So we went across the country three times. So we went across every region: north, middle, south.
How would you yourself answer the question you were asking? What forms your identity? I’m figuring that out. I have no clue. That’s something I haven’t dealt with yet.
Do you know what you are going to do with all the material you have from the trip? The idea is a book, but I literally haven’t looked through them yet. I literally just moved here a week ago. So I haven’t developed the film. I haven’t sifted through it. But the idea is a book, and we have a blog.
Was there a memorable interview or moment? This is kind of a general answer, but I think I was expecting people to be a lot different in different regions of the country. That’s kind of something I was looking forward to almost. But I found that that really wasn’t the case. People kind of had the same primal needs in every area.
Words by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, @HSteinkopfFrank
Photos by Elinor Manoogian-O’Dell, @