VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Ausherman, Stephen

Stephen Ausherman
US videomaker


Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

I grew up in Chapel Hill, a university town in the piedmont region of North Carolina, where I earned degrees in both Political Science and Journalism. I arrived in New Mexico unexpectedly in 1996 and have since written two novels and a hiking guidebook. I occasionally mentor at-risk high school students in creating video backdrops for live theater productions. When I’m not working with video, I experiment with geospatial data and cartographic design.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

In 2005 I was a writer-in-residence at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky. The artist-in-residence at the same time was Hideki Kanno from Chiba, Japan. He was interested in creating videos from my stories, narration, and photos. I immediately liked the results, and began experimenting with video myself. It quickly became a habit that I couldn’t quit.

3. How did you come to the topic of Shoah and what does Shoah or dealing with “collective trauma caused by totalitarianism” mean to you?

My grandparents and my mother lived in Holland during the occupation. They told me stories about it when I was very young, and I often had nightmares about it. After my unexpected encounter with the ruins of the camp, I had similar nightmares almost every night. Creating a video was the only way I knew how to deal with that. In that sense, I think it means there’s an inherent danger in repressing what you know about totalitarianism. This is especially true in the story behind the video, the attempts to cover up the camp, literally bury it in the hopes of erasing a chapter of history.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

I’m most interested in natural parks and wilderness areas. I look for unconventional ways to connect people to the places we are trying to preserve. I want them to discover a personal connection to the land and its history. In leading people to that sense of discovery, art can be most effective. It encourages revelation, whereas traditional interpretation tends to offer academic explanation.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

I often hike for miles before finding a location that feels right, so I try to keep my equipment light. I usually carry a couple of basic HD cameras, and two identical toy cameras. The toy cameras have no viewfinder, no controls other than on/off, and a very low resolution. Something about the color and motion in images they create is haunting. These were my primary cameras for a forest. My editing software is also very basic. It helps in my efforts to keep non-essential elements to a minimum.

6. What are the chances of the digital video technologies for creating art using “moving images” generally, and for you personally?

Artistic innovations with digital video technologies can only grow increasingly diverse and complex. Video is firmly established as an art medium, and yet the works are still somehow difficult to classify. As an individual artist, I face growing amounts of choices in the equipment and software I have available for shooting, editing and exhibiting a video. It’s overwhelming at times. But after seven years of working with this medium, it remains my preferred mode of expression.

7. How do you finance your films?

Primary funding for most of my work so far came from arts residencies and a film grant. Unfortunately, I still spend as much time looking for project support as actually working on projects.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

I tend to work alone, especially on the visual elements, but I very much hope to find more opportunities for collaboration in the near future.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

Without benefit of a lengthy explanation, my answers would probably lead to misunderstandings in what I’m working to achieve. For now, I think the safest short answer is Ko Nakajima.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

I recently started a project that combines my talents as a guidebook author and a video artist into a single project. It may take years to fully develop, so for now all I can say it’s taking shape as a practical field guide to artistic inspiration.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the CologneOFF platform? Where?

For a quick overview:

For my online portfolio:

a forest, my contribution to SFC: