For Duncan Snyder, CCAD alumnus and chair of Photography, a sabbatical wasn’t just a time to work on his personal craft, it was a time to force him out of his comfort zone—and his recent residency in Italy did just that.
The 1988 alumnus attended a new four-week, single-artist residency at San Giovanni Valdarno in Tuscany, Italy, in conjunction with SACI in Florence.
“Attending this residency was one of the most challenging things I have done,” Snyder said. “But with being the first person to do this residency and the location being remote—I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I spent a majority of my time taking photographs. I shot about 6,000 photographs during my time there.”
When Snyder first found about the opportunity to work in Italy he started doing language tutorials. However, upon arrival he quickly learned that there was a big difference between learning brief phrases and trying to talk to a native Italian speaker.
“The language barrier was particularly challenging at the beginning,” Snyder said. “Being in a small town, I would go for days without speaking to anyone, and that was very apparent the first couple days when I had no access to the Internet or a phone.”
Snyder would break up his days by shooting in the mornings and then grabbing a cappuccino at a local shop. After going back to his studio to upload photos he would do some more shooting in the evening hours.
Snyder’s studio, located in the same building where painter Giovanni Mannozzi was born, was a half-hour train ride from Florence. The studio building was also home to the the town’s contemporary art collection.
Snyder spent a lot of time adjusting to the living abroad experience: fixing the water heater, figuring out which is laundry soap at the market, and realizing stores close during the afternoons and are also closed on Mondays.
“It made you really plan out your day,” Snyder said. “There was one grocery store, and it was closed on Sundays and Mondays, so you had to think okay it is getting to be the weekend, so I need to get groceries before the week, and I need to plan out my meals.”
Snyder finds that when teaching, being an administrator, and trying to balance a family life it becomes very difficult to set aside time for his own artwork. Residencies for him have become a luxurious time to do that.
“One thing that is powerful about residencies is it takes an artist out of their comfort zone and routine,” Snyder said, “When you are able to walk away from everything and focus directly on the work you are producing it is extremely helpful.”
Snyder also brings his residency experiences back to the classroom, sharing with students that there is a wealth of opportunities for them if they take that step out of their comfort zone—a decision he says every student will have to and should make at one point in their career.
This is Snyder’s second residency; his first was in Ireland. He hopes to return to Italy, although he notes his daughters will most likely insist he take them along next time.
Snyder plans on traveling to Paris for his next residency with a goal to capture the culture and landscape.
“One important take-away from each and every residency or travel abroad experience is the people,” Snyder said.
He hopes to exhibit his work regionally, and he has been invited by SACI to have a show there in the future.
Duncan is from Columbus, and attended Upper Arlington High School.
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