Anne Kelly (00:11):
Welcome to Art in the Raw conversations with creative people tonight, I’m excited to introduce you to Eric Cousineau. We’re gonna talk about his project essential workers, and just hear generally about his life as a creative person. I am your host Anne Kelly. If this is our first time meeting, you might be wondering who I am. In a nutshell, I’m someone that’s been in love with art and music, my entire life. I’ve now been working in the professional gallery world for about 14 years now. And I started art in the raw about halfway through 2020 to keep people connected and inspired. I’m I’m excited to introduce you to Eric. Last year was when essential workers. Project was conceived of center called.
Eric Cousineau (01:09):
He emailed me saying they had this idea for a project about photographing essential workers asked if I was interested. I said, yes. Well, and it was
Anne Kelly (01:20):
Kind of a great for you in that you’ve done a lot of black and white portraits in the past and you were, and still are an essential worker. Yes. So you’re approaching it from the inside. Being
Eric Cousineau (01:35):
An essential worker, photographing essential workers has helped me approaching to businesses mentioning that I am an essential worker, myself connects us together and it loosens them up. They’re not so apprehensive, I guess like, why are you photographing like, oh yeah, you totally understand what it’s like. I’m like, yeah.
Anne Kelly (01:56):
Yeah. Right. You’re not just some random photographer from the outside.
Eric Cousineau (02:03):
I’m not from the New York times getting paid.
Anne Kelly (02:05):
You were basically doing it for the love of making photographs and, and a project that resonated with you. Yes. When you started the project, it was completely Santa Fe based.
Eric Cousineau (02:20):
The original idea behind the project is it was gonna be a collaboration between center. And I, the original concept was I would go photograph say at the co-op or whole foods center with wheat paste, the portraits like on the windows and the sidewalks. So people could look at ’em while they were standing in line. One of the big things was since it was so new, trying to contact these businesses, who trying to figure out what to do the response was, and I wouldn’t say bad, but we just kept on hitting break walls. You gotta talk to this person, that person, they were just shoving it off onto someone else. And after a couple weeks sitting there waiting and seeing what was gonna happen, I was like, how about I just go start photographing and see what happens. I think the first person I photographed was the mailman outside my house.
Eric Cousineau (03:17):
I went up to take trash and I saw him like sitting on the side of the road, across the street. So I ran over to him, explained it to him the best I could. So I run back, grab my camera, run up, take a few portraits of him. And then he goes on his way, especially in the beginning doing this project, I had to be in and out of businesses very quickly. They were limited to the number of customers they could have within the building. So me occupying that space, took up a, a paying customers. The portraits that I had been doing mm-hmm <affirmative> when I was just photographing friends in their living environment. And I was bringing a strobes like just a single strobe, setting that up on a stand. And I really like the, the look of flash with portraits, my own personal aesthetic, but I knew that doing a complete setup, even if it was one strobe on a stand would take too long, right. You needed
Anne Kelly (04:18):
To be in and
Eric Cousineau (04:19):
Out. So I, I have this really obnoxiously strong ring flash now got it from BNH mm-hmm <affirmative> it had one review. It was a five star review. And I tried to Google search this ring flash. There was barely anything on it. The instructional videos I had on it, where in a D language. And finally I was like, you know what? Screw it I’m buying it. And it pretty much does not leave my camera ever buying that flash made my mobility a lot quicker. Each person like two, three minutes, I would get like 10 portraits and be done. I was doing speed portraiture. It
Anne Kelly (04:59):
Was 2020. It was the middle of the pandemic. You are specifically trying to photograph in a time when we’re all told to, to stay home and only essential workers are out, your, your subject is out, but you, you have a lot of restrictions just getting access to people was problematic, right?
Eric Cousineau (05:21):
Yeah. That was problematic. And also the am I gonna get in trouble for being out photographing when there was all these mandates and restrictions,
Anne Kelly (05:29):
Right. Is, is what you’re doing essential. Even though you’re an essential worker photographing the essential worker,
Eric Cousineau (05:35):
But someone did point out, so you’re not getting paid for this. So I could just be like, yeah, I’m just sorry. Taking pictures. I’ll leave.
Anne Kelly (05:42):
Because as an essential worker, did you get one of those cards that you had to put in your car that stated you were allowed to, to be out driving around, going to work? Like that was a thing at that
Eric Cousineau (05:52):
Time. Yeah. That, yeah, that was definitely a thing. I never had to use it.
Anne Kelly (05:57):
Those were the times that were in and you’re out looking to photograph people. And as I understand it, there was a lot of larger businesses and you were kind of turned away because there was also other larger things going on in the world. So you kind of turned your camera on the mail carrier and other, or mom and pop businesses that yeah. Maybe didn’t have as much red tape.
Eric Cousineau (06:21):
I found it easier to go to the mom and pop shops cuz you could just walk in. And usually the owner was there and they’re like, yeah, sure. Yeah. Photograph the handful of employees be out in like less than 10 minutes. Usually I would like to go and try maybe some of the bigger businesses now that I have like a portfolio and they can see what the project looks like. There’s still a lot of small businesses out there that I would rather give them the credit. One thing I found out is like a lot of these small businesses, the people fell underminded throughout this pandemic. The doctors and nurses are getting the media’s attention, which is important. It is very like I’m not discrediting it at all. That was one of the biggest places I got into, uh, was St. Vincent’s hospital here in Santa Fe. That was definitely a lot of red tape before I got the go to photograph in there. And
Anne Kelly (07:24):
That was kind of a breaking point for you. Would you say within the project?
Eric Cousineau (07:29):
Yeah, I contacted one of my friends who she worked at the hospital and my intention was not to yet into the hospital. I knew she worked in the admin department. I emailed her. I’m like, Hey, do you want, I’m doing this project? Could I like photograph you maybe like outside the hospital, like at your house and just say, this is what you do. And she responded with, how would you like to photograph the doctors and nurses of the COVID unit? And I was like, uh, yeah, very much so please. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and she got the ball rolling on that. You know, like you said, a lot of red tape, you know, every so often I would get an update saying, Hey, we’re still working on it. We think we’ll get you in on, on this date. So be prepared. And then that date would come.
Eric Cousineau (08:18):
They’re like, okay, we have to extend it. And it finally did happen one day, photographed 19 people in like an hour and a half, like running all over the, not the entire hospital, but I have a liaison Dominic. So he’s my main contact. And I have to, I can’t leave his side. He, he was taking me to all these different people to photograph. I think they had scheduled me for three hours. He’s like, uh, there you photographed everybody I scheduled for today. Cuz I thought it was gonna take you longer. Cause that by the time I got to the hospital, my efficiency had gotten better. I guess, with all the small businesses I had been photographing,
Anne Kelly (09:02):
You’d been photographing small businesses, but then you’d also done a portrait series. And then you also had a wedding photography business. You, you weren’t new to photographing people do
Eric Cousineau (09:14):
Attribute being quick to the wedding photography I did for years, the pan pandemic did kill that business for me. I could bring it back if I wanted to, but I kind of don’t want to, I’m fine with doing my job my day job and doing artwork. Like I feel more fulfilled than doing the wedding photography at this moment. My life
Anne Kelly (09:38):
That’s the weird thing about life sometimes is maybe the wedding photography business was great for a while and got you by and you made some amazing portraits and you learned from it. Yeah. But maybe you, that wasn’t exactly what you wanted to do. Central workers project is more in that realm, but you took from that and yeah, you were able to photograph the entire COVID unit in mm-hmm <affirmative> in high quality, but in a record amount of time,
Eric Cousineau (10:09):
I think it was like late August, early September of 2020 that I got to go photograph and, and we had actually scheduled another shoot cuz it’s like, oh, there’s more people that wanna be in your project. And we scheduled some, I think it was like two, three weeks later, probably a week before the date. That’s when it started to spike again, they were like, sorry, we don’t have time. And I was like, Hey, completely understand. And I’m still in contact with those people.
Anne Kelly (10:40):
I kind of the origin of your project all occurred within Santa Fe. And during that time was featured in Buzzfeed and in our local paper in Santa Fe and made it to your hometown newspaper. Then you went home to Michigan where you’re from originally and you continued the project there. So it has hadn’t Santa Fe roots
Eric Cousineau (11:05):
In Michigan. The idea of going back to flints to photograph this project pretty much happened almost instantly. Like when I started the project in 2220, but because of all the travel restrictions, it just wasn’t feasible. And then my kids were in school at the house. I would stay with them during the day, make sure they got their school work done. And then I would go to work. I think it was like with six weeks left of the school year, kids were allowed of back into the school. So that shifted everything in my life as well. I think we finalized the trip, solidified the dates probably like two, three months before I left. My boss was really nice on and the fact that like I got a extended leave of absence fairly easy.
Anne Kelly (11:59):
Well, your job was already familiar with project. What you were
Eric Cousineau (12:02):
Working on. It’s everybody at my store is all for the project. The, the head manager of the store. They’re all for they’ve helped me as much as possible. They knew how, how important it was to me to do the project. But
Anne Kelly (12:16):
You had a little more access than in Michigan. You actually emailed me or messaged me saying you, you had extended what your idea of what the essential worker
Eric Cousineau (12:27):
Was. And I didn’t know how much access I was gonna get to certain places until I, I actually got there this all thanks to my dad who probably like six, eight years ago, decided to get into local politics because he wanted to, he started off in Cleo and then he became Genesee county commissioner. That’s where he met a lot of the people that I met, why I was there. <affirmative> he’s like, yeah, I’ll introduce you to a, a few people. And then you kind of gotta take it on your own. I’m like, all right, cool. It’s a door. And right soon as I arrived, he’s like, okay, I got you, this person, this person we’re doing this, that it was like having a personal assistant, like telling me what my schedule was of shooting. It was pretty awesome. Anything he asked me, I was like that the answer is gonna be yes, please.
Eric Cousineau (13:19):
There were a few places that he, he did contact that they did say no, but majority of the people were all for it. In 30 days I did 250 portraits, 250 different people. You know, some days I only did two portraits. One day I did 40 portraits in like somewhere around an hour. And that was at this place called GC carts, the local food bank and also meals on wheels in Flint mm-hmm <affirmative> they had two sides of the building. One was like where they pack it, like all the canned goods and handed out boxes like the, they had this drive up system where people would just drive up. They would handle a box of food and they would take off. And then the other side of the building is where they prepared all the meals for meals on wheels. So in one hour I got led through both buildings. They had everybody fill out the model release for before I got the, like I emailed it and they filled it out.
Anne Kelly (14:18):
You expanded the project there, it went from just trying to get in the door anywhere to just having full on access,
Eric Cousineau (14:27):
The kids and I, and the two dogs took three days to drive from Santa Fe to Michigan. We arrived, I think on a, a wanna say a Tuesday night at around midnight, I hit the ground running the Genesee county Sheriff’s office is on the first floor of the county jail. I was in the cell blocks, photographing corrections officers, everything that happened. Like I didn’t know what I was actually getting myself into. I was just told, this is where I had to be. Whoever wants to be photographed can be photographed. It was total volunteer bosses. Didn’t pressure, their employees to be photographed. They would explain the project. Or I had to explain the project within the first week or two that I was there. The mask mandate got lifted at first. It kind of bothered me cuz I what’s the word I’m looking for a cohesive, like everybody wearing a mask in the portrait. And I was like, okay, maybe this is better. This is showing the project evolving at the beginning, all these pictures, they had to have the mascot. Now we’re at a point where it’s optional
Anne Kelly (15:35):
This whole, thing’s still kind of changing and evolving and we’ll know more tomorrow
Eric Cousineau (15:40):
We’re back to having to wear masks.
Anne Kelly (15:42):
So when you first started this project, you had this vision of wheat pace and that got set to the side. Cause you were just really, really trying to find people to photograph is the vision of wheat paste still on the
Eric Cousineau (15:56):
Table. I haven’t really contacted or talked to anybody from center about bringing that back around. It’s definitely not off the table is just, it had its original idea. The original was not working as well as we had thought it would. There were other artists that were actually doing something similar because you know, art galleries were, were not allowed to be opened. So people were doing outdoor installations just to do art.
Anne Kelly (16:28):
What is center’s role or has it just become air run with it type of thing.
Eric Cousineau (16:34):
It just became Eric run with it. Uh,
Anne Kelly (16:36):
So you’re now represented by a foreman concept gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If anybody wants prints, that’s where they should go
Eric Cousineau (16:44):
At foreman concept. Yes mm-hmm <affirmative>. And every year I volunteer at review Santa Fe for center, I have a handful free reviews for my work as a volunteer. Not every year something happens, but the American motel, one year I got into wired magazine, the online publication, 2018, I was working as a volunteer in the actual review room and Melanie was running the show <affirmative> she she’s like, Hey Jordan from foreman concept, he doesn’t have anybody to review. You should go show him your work. I knew of foreman concept. All I had was the hotel series. He was more excited about my work than I have ever been in my entire life. That experience with him and what he saw in my work put life back into like me wanting to do photography outside of weddings, getting paid for it. He’s like I have this concept for a show and I want the he’s like, your work is perfect.
Eric Cousineau (17:47):
And I want this group show to be centered around your work. I was like, what did you just say? And I could tell he was like really sincere, but at the same time, I’m like, okay, this guy’s probably never, I’m never gonna hear from him again. And we have definitely formed, you know, professional relationship show that I was gonna to be in was slated to be October 20, 21st. It didn’t happen. But like new projects have come about and he’s done. I think two studio VI like come over and sat and looked at my work, talked about it. And I really have a lot of respect for Jordan. I think he, he lives in breathe art like, and then when the essential worker project came about the focus switch from my motel series to the essential worker project, I’ve sold artwork here and there in the past to date, foreman concept has done my biggest sale. They sold eight pieces to St. Vincent’s hospital of the work photograph there, and the pieces are hanging in the main lobby of the hospital. They’re supposed to be permanently there. Uh,
Anne Kelly (19:02):
Kind of dig in the captain. You’d mentioned to me earlier, you’ve acquired this piece number of years ago and you’ve held onto it.
Eric Cousineau (19:09):
Yeah, it, it, it is followed me many different locations that I’ve lived throughout Santa Fe. I won it at a white elephant Christmas party. I can’t remember the exact year, but I wanna say it was probably 2009, 2010.
Anne Kelly (19:26):
Do you have other artwork that you’ve acquired?
Eric Cousineau (19:29):
I’ve done trading with people throughout the years. Mostly photographers. I have a lot of anti earlier pieces when him and his wife got married. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, they just had a small ceremony. I photographed it for him. He’s like, how much do I owe you us? Like, uh, can I have some prints? I think he gave me like 10 from the series he did in the Oklahoma panhandle mm-hmm <affirmative> so I had yeah, 10 prints from that.
Anne Kelly (19:57):
We have a new book that I think came out this year. I dunno if you’ve seen it.
Eric Cousineau (20:01):
Oh, I have to buy one. And then I have one piece that’s hanging up over there. Jesse, photograph this neighborhood, I think in Arizona where they go all out for or Christmas. I met him at photo Fest in Houston and we traded prince. The one that I got from him is like probably the most simple one. It just says happy birthday Jesus on top of the roof. And part of it has fallen over. So it just says happy be Jesus. What
Anne Kelly (20:29):
About other things you collect?
Eric Cousineau (20:31):
I have a record, but I haven’t bought records in probably 10 years or more. I guess I collected my children’s happiness. I own a lot of Pokemon cards. That’s my money that bought them. Oh, I do collect photo books. Not as much as I used to. I got a lot of free sign books when I worked at the Andrew Smith gallery. I think the last one I bought was Steve fit’s finishing vernacular. My prize is a assigned edition of Eggleston’s five by seven. Nice. I think I have number 23 of a, 150. It was back in the day when Maggie and Jonathan mm-hmm <affirmative> used to work there. I used to go like just hang out and bug them all the time. Most of the time I would just go there to buy the damaged books. I’m like mm-hmm <affirmative> photo book for five bucks.
Eric Cousineau (21:22):
Yeah. That’s what I’m doing today. <laugh> I don’t, I, I don’t care about the condition, but I walked in one day and five by seven had just come out mm-hmm <affirmative> and majority of it had already been sold and they had like two or three copies that I don’t know why they didn’t sell. Like, can I buy it? They’re like, yeah, 150 bucks. I’m like here out of all the signed books, like getting egg sent to sign up a book is like trying to pull teeth. Right. If he doesn’t really do it. But last I checked two, three years ago, I think on eBay, the five by seven sign goes for like eight or $900. There’s certain things I know because of working at the gallery. I’m like, oh, I have to buy that.
Anne Kelly (22:04):
So yeah, when it comes to collecting, maybe you’re not like collecting everything, but yeah, you, you have
Eric Cousineau (22:10):
That know-how of when I worked at the Andrew Smith gallery, there was at one point in one room, we had four different prints of moon rise over Hernandez. Mm-hmm <affirmative> we had, I think it was the second or third ever printed version of it. So it was like 19 41, 19 42, when it was printed. Like you can see so much of the clouds. It’s not, the sky is not black. And you just see this progression from forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies, and they’re all drastically different as his vision of that photograph changed. I like the idea of open edition, way better than closed edition. You know, I’ve had discussions with other photographers and people in the gallery system about edition prints and how, depending on what level you’re at as an artist, does it really matter making a edition print? Okay. Say me, for example, I print two different sizes.
Eric Cousineau (23:14):
Now the smaller size addition of 10 larger size addition of five. So say I make two prints of this one, cuz I only print to order. I’m not gonna make 10 prints of one thing. I, I don’t have the money for that. So say I make two prints and I audition it one of 10 or one of five or you know, whatever. And then I die not alive to sign, make more of the addition prints. So it seems kind of pointless making something a limited edition. There’s supposed to be 10 of ’em but 10 never got made. And
Anne Kelly (23:51):
That’s almost more common when limited editions were a new thing and photographers were claiming, oh we’ll only do 50. Yeah. Right. Cause at the time 50 seemed like a smaller and most of those photographers didn’t print 50. It helps ease. People’s fear of what if I buy this thing for X number of dollars and the photographer prints 90,000 prints of it. Like they don’t want that. So it makes ’em feel a little bit better that there’s only 10 or five or 20 or 50 or, or
Eric Cousineau (24:27):
Whatever. There ends up only being one.
Anne Kelly (24:29):
Eric Cousineau (24:30):
Exactly. Thinking of the open editions and also people that are the masters of photography. They only have a handful of prints that most people know working at the Andrew Smith gallery. Like I learned a lot about that and the fact that I didn’t even know that Ansel Adams had shot in color at one point in his life. Right. I saw, I saw a color print of his, I was like, what the hell is this? Like, is this Elliot Porter trying to be Ansel Adams? Cuz I could see the style. And he’s like, no, Ansel is that Ansel Adams sprint. He did some color and he didn’t like it. So he stopped. And then he got Lee Freelander pretty much anything he prints sells. So I guess that doesn’t really matter. But his most famous photo is his shadow with the woman in the fur coat. That’s his bread butter right there. Everybody wants to buy that print. When I was working for Andy I Lee had stopped printing from a certain decade. Like he’s like I will only print something from 1990 and on or whatever it was mm-hmm <affirmative> so now you officially cannot get those old prints, like a new print of it. I grew up in a house too, where collecting was not a huge thing. It was more about experiences than anything else from
Anne Kelly (25:52):
This past year. Is there a particular experience in making photographs that really just stand out to you,
Eric Cousineau (26:01):
Going to Michigan and be able to do this project in my home state? You know, the county that I grew up in that was really important experience to me, backtracking of, to why I wanted to do it in Flint, in the news, you hear nothing but bad things about Flint water crisis. Anytime I tell people that I’m from that area, they’re like, oh how’s the water thing going? I’m like I, dont know that I guess. So one of the things I wanted to focus on the central workers there is to show the positive things that are actually happening in Flint. It’s not like this lost city that everybody thinks it is the whole Roger me thing. That’s another reference people have is Michael Moore’s movie from the late eighties about GM leaving. That was three, four decades ago. So things have changed. I was photographing a nonprofit place called let’s Phoenix.
Eric Cousineau (27:03):
They actually had one of those water systems that will Smith’s son makes or gave it to, to them. And you know, I was standing outside with them and people were pulling up to get fresh water cuz the water still not great in Flint. But I was talking to him and this gentleman came up and he was just telling me about the people of Flint. Like there’s this like resilience, like it’s a town where people like they constantly are like getting beaten down, but they don’t give up. There’s so much positive outlook to rebuild their community. Even though it’s just been bad for decades of just meeting people that were like, yeah, we’re doing this and this and this is happening. That’s amazing. Which is gonna segue. I think into another project that I’m gonna do just on Flint itself in the future. One of the people that I met through the connections my dad had is representative Neely and her husband, mayor Neely, mayor Flint.
Eric Cousineau (28:11):
I’m hopefully gonna work with her photographing what’s going on in Flint. The projects that they’re doing to make change for a better community, a representative Neely in mayor, like I asked and they’re like, where do you wanna photograph them? I’m like their office, maybe like a project that they had worked on to improve Flint, like outside, like a building or like in a, whatever they did. Yeah. How about it at their house? Well do their house. I was like, what? Like they’re inviting me to their personal home in my head, you know, I’m photographing the mayor of Flint. I’m expecting to go to a house like a gated house. Like there’s a guard at the door or at the gate, like he’s gonna have to like check me in or whatever. You know, they give me the address to go to and I’m driving, I’m driving through Flint and they live in a normal neighborhood, a house that they raised their kids in.
Eric Cousineau (29:10):
It was definitely not what I was expecting. I was expect since he’s like the mayor of Flint, like a major, a big city, if you will. Oh my gosh. He’s like the most like kind of humble. He didn’t become mayor and then like move out of the city to the big mansion. Yeah. I arrived a little bit early when I knocked on the door, this guy in a truck was like, is the mayor home? And I’m like, I, I I’m first time here. I don’t even know if I have the right house, but <laugh> according to you stopping and yelling at me, I’m probably at the right place. But when I went in, you know, I was talking to representative Neely and I, as I saw him pull up, he knew the shoot was happening before he came in. He, that guy had waited out there.
Eric Cousineau (29:56):
He went and talked to that guy for like 10 minutes. Some guy that lived in his neighborhood. I was like, that is, that is really cool. Like you are a person of the people like that you represent, it’s not beneath you to come home and have someone into your neighborhood wanting to talk to you and you go talk to them. That’s cool. He came in. He who wa that I was there to photograph. He didn’t know why he didn’t know what the projects, anything other than the fact. So he’s, you know, grilling me and I can tell he’s like really like on the defense, like trying to figure out what I’m doing, what it’s for. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> how it’s gonna be used. And I understand that because when you’re a politician, you got image to maintain and am I a paparazzi photographer? He’s like, how did you get connected with us? And I started, I was like, well my dad, Martin Cousineau, he’s like, you’re Marty’s boy. He’s like, well I’m gonna go change. And we’ll get like, just like saying my dad’s name, all guard pretty much down. I didn’t know how much work my dad had done, but it was just a cool moment
Anne Kelly (31:07):
Where that went from the beginning of the project. That is huge.
Eric Cousineau (31:10):
Yeah. I photographed them two days before I left. So it was like the very end. So it was like a really nice high note. I think the next day I photographed the MTA and that, that was when I was done. The last picture that I actually took this woman, she had this mask on that. I think it said not today. Mm-hmm <affirmative> when I photographed her harmony, who is a liaison, like taking me everywhere. She’s like, is there anything, anybody else, anything else you wanna photograph? Like in my head, like that picture of like at mask out, I was like, now I think I’m done. I, I think this is like a good spot to like end this part of the project on for now, for now, for now. Yeah. I mean, yeah, that stint. Yeah. You had
Anne Kelly (31:56):
Mentioned that you just felt like it was kind of endless the project
Eric Cousineau (31:59):
There. Like when I love it had been a month <affirmative> and I just felt like I was at that point, just getting traction, like getting, going into the project and I have my responsibilities. This is how projects work. You do what you can with the time you have, but
Anne Kelly (32:18):
You have roots there and connections
Eric Cousineau (32:20):
There. And now I have more connections. And you know, as I’m editing these photos, I’m doing my best to at least email people, a digital copy of it. That’s the main reason I have the model releases is so I have the person’s name, the place they work at and their contact information. Mm-hmm <affirmative> especially photographing that many people. I’m not gonna remember everybody’s name. I photographed the MTA, the mass transit in Flint, all these people that had to work, they felt so appreciated that I was coming in to actually really photograph ’em and make part of this larger project and show appreciation for what they’re doing. And it was, and it’s not just all about doctors, nurses. There’s like this huge collection of people that are essential to make society work. This is just one and I’m sure there’s more that I’ll find when I was photographing at a vaccination site, you know, I was photographing all like these nurses and that were volunteering there.
Eric Cousineau (33:29):
And I saw this man and woman just sitting there, like it, it was a slow day cuz a lot of people had already been vaccinated and it was like slowing down at first. I thought they were there her to get vaccinated and they were sitting and waiting. But after a while I was like, those people are still there, but I don’t know what they’re doing. So I finally, I went up to the woman. I was like, hi, uh, are you working here? She’s like, yeah, I’m a translator. I’m like translator. She’s like, yeah. Uh, for the Spanish speaking people, 30 of the doctors and nurses here don’t know how to speak Spanish. Being here in New Mexico where a already of people are bilingual. You don’t think of needing a Spanish translator at a vaccination site. She she’s like, yeah, I’ve been working the entire pandemic did not think of that one.
Eric Cousineau (34:17):
And I’m sure there’s more that I haven’t thought of that will arise. At some point when I was photographing the bus drivers, there was like three different departments. We went downtown to get the big buses. We get to the downtown center in Flint. We meet up with the guy that runs that he’s like, all right. I think we have some people, but the buses, like we have to catch ’em at these times. Cuz they all come in. They all leave at pretty much the exact same time. Mm-hmm <affirmative> it was like really busy. And then it’s quiet. And I just remember one guy they’re like, Hey, can we take your picture? And this guy just like very an he’s like, no, no, no. I was like in my head I was like, all right, dude could have just said no, but I should have wait, this is public property.
Eric Cousineau (35:00):
I should have just like shot him. Cuz it would’ve been an amazing photo of him like trying to block. Right. But also like with this, I’m trying to be as respectful as I can be of the people that I’m photographing. Cause this is, it is also portrait photography. It’s not, I’m not doing street photography, I guess is a portrait project. I’m not gonna shove a camera in someone’s face without their permission. You’re not a paparazzi. Even though I get called that all the time, even though Santa Fe is a place for celebrities coming to hang out. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I’ve actually had, run-ins where I I’ve had my camera on me. What? I’m like, eh, you’re not paying me. I’m not photographing you. Yeah.
Anne Kelly (35:44):
So Santa Fe, New Mexico, you’ve lived here for a minute. Red or green chili. What is your favorite?
Eric Cousineau (35:51):
Usually green, but at POSAS one of my favorite breakfast burritos and I always get red. I like their red better than their green. I think that’s the only place I get Redshift
Anne Kelly (36:02):
And green is just everywhere else.
Eric Cousineau (36:04):
Pretty much. Yeah. It’s a New Mexico thing. Occasionally I do get Christmas when I’m feeling a little wild. Let’s do both. If,
Anne Kelly (36:12):
Um, you were advising Eric as in you, but back and say maybe 2001, you’re an artist walking out of the college of Santa Fe. Do you have advice for yourself or other artists?
Eric Cousineau (36:27):
The one thing I wish they would teach in art schools is more like the business mm-hmm <affirmative> aspect. I learned a lot at the college of Santa faith. I don’t regret my education, but when I started doing wedding, figuring out how to run a business as a photographer, that’s hard. I would advise people want to do it as a career. I would take business classes. I don’t know necessarily at the, maybe get your degree and then go to the community to college and take few business courses. So you can figure out how to run a functioning art business, whether it’s painting sculpture, photography. That’s great advice. Maybe double, major art and business. I, I don’t think you physically could do that unless you just didn’t sleep. But you know that the thing about it too, you gotta have some sort of level of resilience. If you want to do any art form, like you gotta be able to handle rejection.
Eric Cousineau (37:31):
I know a lot of people that I’m not gonna name names, but like people that I graduated with that I were amazing at what they did, whether it’s photography, sculpture, painting, they’re not involved in the arts whatsoever on any level. They’re like, oh yeah, I work in wall street or whatever. Like mm-hmm <affirmative> huh? They’re like, what are you doing? I’m like, I put groceries on a shelf and I still take pictures. And I hope one day that my work gets recognized. They’re like, you still take I’m like, do you do anything else? No, not really. Like you just gotta keep doing it because you have to, for me, I feel better. I have really bad depression. Like if I’m not doing something artistic, which is primarily just photography for me, mm-hmm <affirmative> my mood is. I have to be creating something because I have to for the
Anne Kelly (38:30):
Love of the thing, right?
Eric Cousineau (38:32):
Yeah. Yeah. I’m 44 years old. And I think my career as like an art photographer is now finally starting to take off and I do attribute it to center volunteering there and like just getting to network meeting Jordan and like someone actually having faith in what I’m doing or seeing something in it. I spent thousands of dollars going to photo Fest. Four days of showing my work. Nothing ever came out of that. What’s the one in new Orleans called PhotoNOLA. That one was a good one. Nothing like huge came out of it. But I did make some connections there that other things came out of. If a photographer is gonna do these reviews, I think the smaller, more intimate ones are better. Photo Fest was just a show for me. Not saying that it’s bad. It’s
Anne Kelly (39:28):
Huge. And there’s a lot of people involved and it goes on for weeks.
Eric Cousineau (39:32):
I would like to do photo Lucida some day I do. Haven’t had the finances being able to be connected with center. And even though I’m not getting a fully reviewed, like I’m at least making connections with people in longstanding relationships.
Anne Kelly (39:50):
Well, that’s what it’s about forming those relationships.
Eric Cousineau (39:54):
So yeah, that would be another think like if you live in a general vicinity of a review, whether it’s in New York or Portland LA offered to volunteer the first few years that I know that I did volunteer at center, it wasn’t like huge things happen, but the snowball effect, I guess, started it happening. I would have to like fill out this form and say, I want to volunteer. But after a while they would contact me saying, Hey, we need your help again. Are you available? And I take work off to do it. Not only are positive things happening from doing it. I actually really enjoy going, not just meeting these people that are gallery owners, museum directors. And, but I, every year I get to see all these photographers and see their work, like walk through the room and just kinda like peek and be like, oh, that person’s work. Cool. I should look ’em up. So do
Anne Kelly (40:52):
You have any shoutouts, anything you wanna mention about the project? People that are have contributed
Eric Cousineau (40:58):
Laura met people running center. That’s the main reason this project happened? My friend Hannah at St. Vincent’s for getting me in the door at all. Dominic, Kathy, who are the two liaisons. If they headed, getting me into the hot also Jordan at form concept.
Anne Kelly (41:23):
And for now, thank you, Eric, for being on art in the raw. Thank you, Anne. I’ll talk to you soon. Maybe there’ll be an update or something for watching art in the raw conversations with creative people. If you enjoyed meeting Eric, please consider subscribing and letting like-minded friends know have a good night and I’ll see you next week. Take three. Welcome Eric. <laugh> you know, I’m nervous because of all the thunder en lightning. Hmm, me too.
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