World Affairs Council Young Leaders Conference

I had the honor of being asked to speak about my photography and experiences as an artist in Atlanta at the World Affairs Council Young Leaders Conference "Atlanta as a Global City" February 28th, 2015. It was very nerve racking for me to get up in front over one hundred people to speak. But I did it! I also had the pleasure of meeting other local artists and attendees of the conference. Here is my speech from the event:

Hello. I am Athea Eberhardt, the owner of Athea Eberhardt Photography. I started doing local art festivals in 2013 to sell my fine art photography work.

History: I was born and raised in rural southeastern Iowa. My father is a wildlife oil painter and my parents always encouraged me to pursue any artistic interests I had. My parents are also huge fans of nature and wildlife. I remember when I was about 10 years old riding in the back of my grandparents station wagon with my cousin visiting from California. I pointed out the beautiful sunset in the sky and my cousin laughed and said, “That is what I love about you, Athea. You always notice stuff other people don’t.”

My father always had a manual 35 mm camera he carried around with him to photograph any nature scenes that would help inspire him for his paintings. I remember how heavy the camera was and also the magic for focusing the lens and sound of the “click” of the shutter when he would let me take a picture with it.

Later when I was a teenager, my father bought me a little point and shoot film camera that I carried with me everywhere. I was the official “documenter” of all the events and fun my friends had in high school. 

My senior year I decided I wanted to be a photographer and started looking for art schools to hone my craft. After researching on the web, I narrowed down my search to two schools, The Art Institute of Atlanta and The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I couldn’t find any art schools in Iowa and figured that if I had to leave home I would prefer to go somewhere warm. My mother and I took a long road trip down from Iowa to visit The Art Institute of Atlanta and I fell in love with the city and the school.  After graduating high school, I moved to Atlanta to start college. I graduated four years later with my bachelor of fine arts in photographic imaging and a wonderful photographer boyfriend who later became my husband.

Kickstarter: After graduating from college with a great portfolio I had trouble figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with it. My father kept encouraging me to show my images at art festivals like he had been doing with his paintings for thirty years. Finally I decided to give it a try. I started a campaign with kickstarter, a popular crowd funding website, to raise the money to begin doing art festivals. People donated money to my cause and received prints in return. It was a lot of work researching for my start up, pulling together the campaign, raising awareness through social media and eventually sending prints to all my donors. To my amazement my project was funded. It really helped to boost my confidence in my work and my endeavor. I had people as far away as Germany back my project. In the fall of 2013 I did my first art festival.

Art Festivals/Atlanta as a Global City: From Sept 2013 to Sept 2014 I did as many Atlanta art festivals as I could to see what feedback I could get from the public as well as talk to fellow artists about their experiences. I had known going into the festivals that Atlanta is not known as an “art” city. The art scene also doesn’t seem to represent the diversity of culture that we have in our city. I had known from years of working in retail that Atlanta is a tourism and conference city. We have repeat guests from around that world that frequent our city while conducting and growing their businesses.  I also learned Atlanta is saturated with festivals every year. Most artists at the shows would tell me how much more revenue they made at in other cities and especially other states.  It has inspired me to expand and travel further this year to see what other markets yield.

I call my photography allegorical portraiture. I like to tell a story or a piece of a story with each of my photographs.  As if you had opened a book, read one page and this was the image your mind formed from that tidbit. The location is just as important as the model in establishing the tone of the image. I spend hours combing through thrift stores for costuming and props, as well as researching and travelling to locations to find just the right spot for each image. I feel that my work has a universal appeal because it evokes the emotions and the imagination of the viewer.  I give you the start of a story and your personal views and experiences finish the story.

My last show of 2014 ended on a high note. The Atlanta Arts Festival is in Piedmont Park every September. It is a large show with over 200 artists and 25 digital art/photographers. I was very excited to be accepted and even more excited when I was awarded the best in photography ribbon for the show.

Conclusion: Through the ages art has been a constant. It is how we learn from and remember cultures past. Maybe the art we create today will be how the future generations remember us. I hope to see you at art festivals, supporting your local artists and creating your own memories.