Nancy Floyd is a photographer based in Bend and the author of the recent photobook Weathering Time, which collects her daily self portraits taken over more than three decades. In April she was awarded a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography.
When and why did you settle in Bend?
We moved to Bend in January 2018. My husband, Robin, and I wanted to move back out west once we quit our day jobs in Atlanta. We both wanted a place where hiking opportunities and dirt roads were numerous. I wanted to live in a large city; Robin wanted to be in the middle of nowhere; Bend was the compromise.
You write “back out west”. Did you and/or Robin grow up originally on the West Coast?
We moved to California in 1985 so I could attend grad school at Cal Arts. We stayed in SoCal until 1996, when I got a job teaching at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
What are your general impressions of Bend and/or Oregon so far?
Bend is perfect for me right now. It’s where my new work will generate. With a 20-minute drive from Bend I can be in an amazing place with rocks, trees, wildlife, and sometimes water. We have two outstanding museums close by: the High Desert Museum and the Museum of Warm Springs. Both have excellent exhibitions.
I love Oregon. It was a good move. The varied landscapes are amazing and it’s a great place to slow down and smell the sagebrush.
I do miss cities with lots of art museums and contemporary galleries, but I have friends in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, and Portland, so I can visit.
Since moving to Bend, have you engaged or met much of the local photo scene there? If so, what are your general impressions?
I’ve met quite a few artists in Bend, but very few photographers. Because it’s a tourist town, there are some highly skilled artists who produce work about the high desert. There’s also a strong DIY scene and a small contemporary art community.
Have you been making photographic work recently in or near Bend?
I just had a solo exhibition open last fall in Atlanta. While it was mostly work from Death Valley, it did include a few works from Oregon. My work will most likely always be photo based, but since moving here I’ve been exploring mono printing, collage, painting and mold making.
Is your Weathering Time series continuing in Bend? Does the new location present a radical break in the series?
Weathering Time is a life-long visual diary so changing locations wasn’t an issue. There are a lot more images of me out hiking, however, and my home looks different.
Weathering Time involves daily self portraiture. As you view yourself each day, what do you tend to notice more in yourself, the continuity or the changes? Or perhaps both, or something else?
I no longer take self-portraits every day. More like 5-10 times a month or so. Sometimes less. I don’t ponder much about the pictures on a day-to-day basis. I quickly take the picture and move on. Until 2019 I was shooting film so I would finish a roll of film and put it in the freezer. A year or two later I would process the film. Now I download the file and put it in a folder on a backup drive and leave it until I need to organize the files. I spend little time looking at current photos.
When I do get around to processing images, what I notice is that my posture is similar and as I’ve aged I look meaner when I don’t smile.
What was your initial reaction to the Guggenheim?
I read the email from the Foundation three times before I was convinced it was true. That was back in late February. I was in shock for a few days and couldn’t focus on anything. Because I couldn’t tell anyone about the nomination, I avoided meeting up with friends face to face for a couple of weeks.
What about your reaction now, after you’ve have a few weeks to think about it?
I’m still pinching myself and feeling grateful to all the people and organizations that have supported me over the course of my career as an artist. Once things settle down, I have a lot of emails and letters of thanks to write. I wish my parents were still alive so I could thank them, too.
How will the Guggenheim impact or effect your photo projects in the foreseeable future?
The Guggenheim fellowship comes with funding. As a Guggenheim Fellow I will embark on a new project where I explore our bonds with trees in Oregon.
Can you expound on the new project? What bonds? What trees? What type of photos?
I’d like to use my new work as a springboard to address the importance of trees in our lives. To do this I am making work in various locations in the state, including the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area (primarily juniper trees) and the 15,800-acre H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (cedar, hemlock, Douglas fir), a long-term ecological research area. There will be other sites as my research expands. I’m not sure what form this work will take, but it will be a mixture of photo, video and mixed media. I’m currently learning mold making and would like to work with glass at some point. A second part of the project is meeting with key stakeholders to learn about and photograph their relationship to trees, including those who want to protect trees, those who make a living off of trees, and those who see trees as part of their daily life.
Broadly speaking, I want to take a deep dive into the marks we humans make, those which 1) are temporary (footsteps in the sand), 2) are designed to be useful (conservation efforts, wood for construction) or 3) destroy (vandalism, excessive logging).
We are all bonded to trees for survival, of course, but for many of us there is also an emotional bond, whether it be our wish to visit a forest and interact with nature, our admiration of a tree we live with, or a desire to save trees from clear cutting. Even those who work in orchards, as well as those who log trees to provide for our lumber demands, have a connection to trees.
Your recent move and major award represent significant life mileposts. And your series Weathering Time is basically a lifelong study of yourself. With all that in mind, I’m wondering if you see this period as a point to reflect back on the path so far. What’s your assessment? Has your life turned out roughly as you’d expected?
I wanted to be an artist from a very young age, but did not transition to the fine arts until I was 23. I never thought I would go to college much less become a college professor, so this would surprise my younger self. The artist part would not surprise her. She always knew the self-portraits would be important to her, she just didn’t factor in all the ways the work would be important.
I have always worked slowly, projects taking years, sometimes decades to complete. Most work never sees the light of day. Along the way I had hoped that the art world gatekeepers would support my work, but since there are so many of us trying to get our foot in the door, I know the odds are against me. So I apply for opportunities as they come available, hoping for the best. I guess I average about 25 submissions a year. Lucky for me, I love making stuff and can’t imagine stopping. I’m curious and motivated and have always been this way. My younger self was the same.
My path was pretty straightforward. I’ve left close friends and family twice to move to new places to advance my career (Austin to Chicago and SoCal to Atlanta). The moves brought about great rewards professionally, although personally it was hard. This move to Bend was the first move to fulfill personal needs. I still don’t like moving as it disrupts my connection to friends, family and place. On the other hand, each move has opened new doors and this move is no different. While I’ve been making work in the desert for the past 12 years, life in Central Oregon has led me to appreciate the outdoors even more and consequently, my new work will reflect this.
What life advice would you give to a young Nancy Floyd?
Advice to my younger self would be to seek help for her timidness and panic attacks so that it doesn’t take her 50 years to feel comfortable hiking in the outdoors.