February 19, 2021

By Kuni Shim

SAGE SZKABARNICKI-STUART, Influencer. 24x30” ed. 1/10

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

It meanders a bit from making series to doing individual images that describe moments or experiences in my life. I usually have to reshoot at least three times, it always takes me about a month to get the right shot alongside other things I have to do. 

Have you had a decisive moment to become an artist?

I printed my work for the first time in 2018. Once I realized that there was a market for it was when I started to see my work as more than just something to share with friends on social media.  

SAGE SZKABARNICKI-STUART, Big Sky. 24x24” ed. 6/10, 16x16” ed. 5/25

What is the biggest advantage of creating artworks as a photographer based in Canada?

I don’t know what it’s like being a photographer in other countries. I appreciate the fact that in Canada, it’s safe and the infrastructure, like roads, are in reliably good shape. Once COVID-19 hit had supply chain issues which can make acquiring set building materials and photography equipment difficult, but hopefully this is temporary. Overall I think that Canada is a dependable country which makes it easy to plan shoots and such.

SAGE SZKABARNICKI-STUART, PTRCRS24x24” ed. 6/10, 16x16” ed. 5/25

You said that the struggle with making human relationships made you focus on communing with yourself and animals. How the communication with yourself and animals gives you help?

Animals are good companions because they are very upfront with how they’re feeling and what their needs are. Animals have taught me to ask questions instead of trying to guess how other people feel.


It seems you studied animation in university. When and why did you decide to be a photographer? 

I just fell in to it. My friend worked with an Instagram model who would occasionally ask me to travel with her to take pictures for her social media. I didn’t have any real photography experience beyond knowing camera basics and she would bring me along based on my artistic ability (understanding composition and lighting, through my work as an animator) and because I had an easy going personality. I just got used to using the camera and kept using it for self-expression. I only became a professional photographer because enough people wanted to buy my prints to justify dedicating all my time to the profession.

Your works convey brand new harmonies and interesting perspectives through the unexpected combination of the materials that we can find easily in our daily life. How did you come up with the intriguing idea of creating a new combination?

I like to look around my immediate surroundings and find a unique perspective or way to look at otherwise mundane items. I am constantly trying to combine everyday household items and animals in such a way that exemplifies harmony.  It comes from my personal experience of being poor after finishing university, and having to find self-worth in ways other than through financial success.

SAGE SZKABARNICKI-STUART, Eggrise.24x36” ed. 3/10, 16x20” ed. 2/25

The intense colors and contrast seem to play a great role in your works. Is there a special meaning of color in your work?

I use contrast and colour to direct the eye or sometimes to convey mood. Personally I’m’ not very interested in colour in day to day life, I am more interested in action and how things are composed in a scene rather than the colours.

The central question of your work is “What defines a place as home?” What does ‘home’ mean to you?

I have moved too many times to count, across multiple cities, and have had to define a home as something other than a specific location, group of friends/family, or house/apartment. To me home is an abstract idea and a mindset you ascribe to a place or a set of objects. When you have to move around a lot, personal belongings become very important in defining who you are. That’s why I focus on objects so much in my work.


Camera is usually used for capturing the moment and conveying reality. However, your works convey surrealistic parts through the camera. In that sense, what does the camera mean to you?

I think that all photography is fabricated.  Photojournalism can give a false sense of accuracy, but if you ask any news editor what they think, they’ll tell you that what the photographer chooses to shoot and how the selection of images is narrowed down will dictate the tone and overall message of a photojournalism story. On the other extreme you have painting and find art photography which are explicitly labelled as staged or fabricated, which is very obvious to the viewer. So to answer your question, a camera is a storytelling device that is prone to the same flaws as any other medium. The difference is that the general public perceives photography to be somehow more accurate or ‘truthful’ than, say, drawing, when it really isn’t. 


You said you enjoy working alone, so have you ever had a hard time working alone? What are the advantages of working alone?

You have unlimited freedom to do whatever you want when you’re working alone. On the other hand, you also don’t get the inspiration and feedback that you’d get by working in a group. I can go out at any time and on any day of the week to do a photoshoot if I’m working alone. A lot of the time, shoots would run smoother if I had an assistant, but I can’t afford one and my friends are understandably unlikely to get up at 4 am every day for two weeks in the dead of winter to help me do a shoot for free. I am OK sacrificing the benefits of working with others on a shoot in order to have the freedom of working alone.

How do you think social media affects the art field?

Personally I find Instagram accounts to be a great source of inspiration. I love the immediate and continuous flow of content that social media provides. I’ve even made real-world friends with other artists and photographers through Instagram. Social media is of course designed to be addictive, and there’s lots of content on there that is toxic, but if you’re aware of this then you can prevent yourself from falling prey to it. I personally don’t take social media very seriously and post work because I like the feedback and because it occasionally generates print sales. I don’t spend energy on trying to grow my follower count because I have done just fine without a big following, so why bother when I can use that time to work on my photography?

SAGE SZKABARNICKI-STUART, How Was Your Week?. 24x30” ed. 7/10

SAGE SZKABARNICKI-STUART, How Was Your Week?. 16x20” ed. 4/25

Is there one particular image you’ve taken that you’re most proud of or close to? Why’s that?

‘How was your week’ was the first image where I really felt like I articulated exactly what I was feeling at the time. I had come back from a trip with the Instagram model I worked for and had come to the realization that I wasn’t cut out to be involved with the ‘social media influencer’ world. I was burnt out and feeling depressed, but also knew that in the end my life was still fine and I shouldn’t take myself so seriously. I’m proud of the photo because it summed those feelings up into one image perfectly and because the execution was unique and reasonably well done.  

What kind of artist do you want to be remembered as?

I haven’t achieved this yet, but I want to be remembered as someone who made ideas related to pollution and environmental stewardship accessible and relatable. 


Is there a new genre or expression technique you want to try?

In university I studied 3D model-making and I would love to get back into that, creating 3D scenes and combining photography with 3D design.

What is your dream project?

Making a rap song beat using just sounds from the amazon rainforest.

Is there an artistic goal that you would ultimately reach through your work?

Taking crazy photos of people I admire instead of just using myself as the subject. 


What can we expect from your next works?

More collaborative stuff. I’m really trying to connect with others and use the skillset and style I’ve built over the years to promote ideas and people who are positive, productive, and who I generally just think are great people that I want to do something nice for. Less self-portraiture, it’s still going to be a thing I do, but I have the confidence now to finally ask other people if they would like to be in the pictures


Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview. Would you like to say something to the readers of Art Terms Magazine?

Whenever you see litter, pick it up and put it in the trash!










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