By Kody Ford

(Ed. Note: Amanda is running a special for Idle Class readers on her Etsy store. If you’d like a print, use the code IdleClass to get 10 percent off.) 

Amanda Grupp has been snapping pictures since grade school. Throughout the years, she’s developed a solid technical expertise and a eye for capturing a subject with an eye for lighting and composition.  After spending a few years with Chicago as her muse, the Iowa-native and DePaul University graduate (anthropology/photography) recently moved to San Diego where she is doing furthering studying photography and graphic design.

The Idle Class: Tell me about your early years in photography.  I know you took photography class in high school but did someone influence you or inspire you to pick up a camera?

Amanda: I’m not sure how I got into it. My earliest memory is being in 4th grade and using a cheap plastic film (which was all there really was at that time) camera to follow my sister and boyfriend. They were five years older, so it totally annoyed her, but I thought it was fun to capture them holding hands – scandalous to a 4th grader!

The Idle Class:  Funny.

Amanda:  It was also in 4th grade that I saved up all my allowance to buy a Polaroid camera (that I still have). I used to to do fashion shoots with my friend and our Furbies.  If only I had realized at that point how expensive Polaroid film actually is. Hah.

The Idle Class:  I think it may have been cheaper then.  You didn’t have to get it all from the Impossible Project at the time.  So let’s jump forward a few years…to high school.  Still doing fashion shoots or had you moved on to a new subject(s)?

Amanda:  At that point I just had a point and shoot camera and I moved on from fashion shoots to do more landscape, artistic, and really just capturing my daily surroundings.  Also the typical, I’m a high school girl and these are me and my friends having fun-type shots.

Amanda:  I got more into photography in college when I had access to more classes, people to collaborate with, and conveniently my first roommate was a photographer.

The Idle Class: How did having a photographer roommate help you progress with your own style?

Amanda:  I don’t think it helped me out with my style as much as encouraging me to buy a nice DSLR camera and realizing that I could be a photographer. Up to that point, I had considered it just a side hobby and I began to take it more seriously. It was also fun; because we had the same brand camera so we could share lenses and such.

The Idle Class: Usually you have to worry about roommates jacking your clothes, not your lenses.  Did you two have any challenges or contests amongst yourselves?

Amanda:  Never. It was always encouraging- we hung both our photos on the wall. We also have very different styles and while I took classes in the art department focusing on conceptual art, she makes a living doing wedding photography. Although she is talented at fine art and travel photography as well.

The Idle Class That’s great.  Looking back on your freshman year versus today, how much has your style changed and it what ways?

Amanda:  I’ve definitely improved on technical aspects of photograph and being more comfortable with the camera, as well as subjects. I find myself much more concerned with detail now than before. Especially detail in the content of the photograph. For instance, if I’m shooting a place setting I think about where everything is placed and how that affects the lines of the photos and where the viewer looks.

Being in the art department at school did help a lot with my style. For instance, it made me think of the possibilities of photography as more than a 2D art form. I made a friend who does primarily studio arts and we did a show together that included her sculptures, paintings, and my photography as well as a mixed media texture wall that we created together. To this day when I do shows, I think about presentation and how it can be different. I’ve printed photographs on transparent paper and hung them from the ceiling; incorporated texture to make them 3D had pictures of fire in a heated room.

The Idle Class Do you do a lot of work with food photography?

Amanda:  I love food photography. I love pretty cookbook like photography as well as more abstract. I enjoy creating scenes, like I sent you a photograph that looks like a swamp but is really strawberries and pudding. I am also interested in health and processed foods; I recently had a photograph of a hot dog dissection scene in a juried exhibition. I want my photographs to encourage people to think about what they are really eating.  Also, food relating to culture. I guess that’s the anthropologist in me. Food is such a vital part of gatherings, whether it is family, friends, or strangers.

The Idle Class I like your passion for food.  You’re definitely doing a great job with food photography.  Much better than everyone on Instagram.  What about you’re other subjects?  You talked about your anthropology background…how has that influenced your photography?

Amanda:  I LOVE to travel and I’ve been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of it. I try to stay with local families and get a real feel for where I am. I try to capture this real place and everyday living through the camera instead of just the tourist attractions. Basically, I want my photographs to tell a story and I would love it if they made people see more differences between themselves and others than differences.

And that doesn’t just apply to travel; I hope to do that even when shooting around my town.

The Idle Class What have been some of your favorite travel shoots?

Amanda:  I studied abroad in Merida, Mexico, for 6 months so it was fun to shoot in a place that was foreign to me, but that was also becoming familiar. And while I was there I traveled to other parts of Mexico and to Belize so I enjoyed shooting in the different areas and seeing the differences in scenery and such.

The Idle Class I noticed some of your pics were from Asia.  How was that experience?

Amanda:  It was great! Honestly, Asia was not on the top of my list of places to visit, but my sister taught English in Taiwan for two years so I went to visit for three weeks with an additional one week stop in Tokyo. Let’s just say it was so exciting that I’m considering moving there in a year. I was lucky to get to meet a lot of people. I stayed with a family in Tokyo and they showed me around. In Taiwan, my sister was my tour guide but I got to go to the school she worked at and play with all the kids!

The Idle Class Let’s talk about your Colors series.  How’d this come about? And how do talk people into getting naked and painted up?

Amanda:  I love color, you might most of my photographs are in color. The colors series came about since my boyfriend is a painter so there is always paint around. One day we were talking about how it would be fun to paint him the same color as a canvas so that he would blend in. It turned out to be more than that as he made several faces to show different feelings and we threw in props. I put pics up on Facebook and asked for volunteers and at this point I have a list of people wanting to do it, which is so much fun! I love doing projects with friends (and strangers). I feel like you can get so much more out of it when ideas are flowing back and forth.

The Idle Class:  Speaking of photography in general, I’m sure you take a lot of pictures and not all of them turn out are as good as others.  What is it about a certain picture that stands out and you know that this one represents you as an artist?

Amanda When going through photos, I just go with first instinct. I’m drawn to composition, intriguing subjects, and color.  I also welcome and ask for feedback from people, but ultimately I make the call based on how I feel.

The Idle Class What are your plans for the future?

Amanda I have so many. I just completed the TESOL, so teaching abroad is a possibility. I am also looking into grad schools with strong photography programs. All I know for sure is that whatever I’ll be doing will include making photographs and traveling.

To learn more about Amanda, visit her website.

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