Colton Rothwell Interview - The Hopper Prize

Colton Rothwell

Colton Rothwell on falling in love with photography, work as a process of self discovery, & creating imagery as it relates to identity.

How did you get into making art?

I’m the child of two wildland smokejumpers and raised in rural Idaho, so art making and self expression was rarely encouraged in our home growing up. I recieved an old JVC cam corder when I was 10 years old and began making movies of anything and everything around me. It was then in highschool that I fell in love with photography and then art my senior year in my 2D design class.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently split between two bodies of work. One is a photo series titled ‘Elegy.’ The work spans the last five years and has imagery from my hometown in rural Idaho to newer works made in Montana. By using a narrative structure I am using the work as a process of self discovery, to evaluate my relationship with where I am from, the mythological American Mountain West.

The other body of work is a more tightly controlled studio practice. I print images onto textiles using the cyanotype process and then stitch, manipulate, and reconnect pieces to make tapestry-like transitional objects. I’ve been enjoying this in contrast to my strictly photographic process, as it has allowed me to sit and work repetitivly. Mostly portraiture, I am considering the labor of creating imagery as it relates to indentity.

Being able to work with my hands was incredibly healing and it has given me a new interpretation and way of working with imagery.

Colton Rothwell

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

The first body of work ‘Elegy,’ started very organically, with me exploring my surroundings. I’ve been making these images since highschool and as I have grown I have been able to see a narrative emerge. It’s been a slow burner and I’m excited to see the final edit.

I began making cyanotypes during my senior year of college after feeling disconnected from digital imagery I was oversaturating myself in during the pandemic. Being able to work with my hands was incredibly healing and it has given me a new interpretation and way of working with imagery.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

My approach is quite broad. I am constantly making new images as I navigate life, usually two rolls per week. Then I decide if the new images are worth pursuing — and if they are, I will either place them into a photo series or consider making a cyanotype. It’s really kind of all over the place, but it keeps thinks fun for myself.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

The typical day in my studio is either me working on my body of photographic imagery, or me experimenting with alternative processes and textiles. On one day it could be me scanning, editing, and printing imagery, or on another day I might be exploring the countryside and making new pictures. On another day I might be mixing chemistry, printing onto fabric, and sewing. It really just depends on the mood I’m in.

Who are your favorite artists?

There are so many! I would say the ones that consistently pop into my head while I am working are Todd Hido, Alec Soth, Robert Adams, Nan Goldin, Joselito Verschaeve, and Amy Stein — who I all admire for different reasons. However, it can be completely random some days and recently I have been thinking about Ursula von Rydingsvard and Nick Hlobo and the way they work. The artists working in my community also have a great influence on me.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

It feels overwhelming sometimes seeing such amazing work from all over the globe at any given time. I don’t have access to many physical institutions and galleries because I’m rurally located, so I look at publications like Aperture frequently and online blogs like Art21 and Nowhere Diary. I also love getting lost in the arts section at my local library, as well as seeing what my friends send me on Instagram.

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network