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Art & Life with Susan Onysko

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Onysko.

Susan, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I blame the darkroom, a requirement of high school photography, for postponing me from realizing my passion for photography for a decade. To avoid the smelly, intimidating room I saved up my lunch money and used it to pay a friend to develop my photos. Even today, I make a few photographer enemies by standing by my belief that one can appreciate and successfully practice the artistic side of photography independent any requirement to dive into some acetic acid and silver halide.

It took me until after the birth of my third child to get my first digital camera: a Nikon D70. The near-instant gratification that it provided immediately plunged me into the art of digital photography. Soon after the start of my new addiction, I noticed an ad in Popular Photography Magazine for Mentor Series Workshops. The draw of their trips was that a professional photographer accompanied every group. Using pre-planned photo ops at optimal times, the instructor taught you how to use your camera as well as the basics of photography.

My first trip was to Michigan, a seemingly unlikely place to capture running horses and cowboy silhouettes. However, there I was. In Michigan. Photographing horses and cowboys. I was hooked. From then on, every trip had me bringing home more amazing photos than the last. One trip became three which then became five, etc. Pregnant with my fourth child, I found myself on a photography trip to the Mediterranean. It was that trip that ignited my passion for international travel photography.

By this point I had started shooting family portraits and weddings. Travel photography provided another way to express myself by selling travel prints. While I loved all aspects of travel photography, I found myself gravitating to portraits and people photography. As the trips became more exotic and more remote, I challenged myself to create images simple in composition that touched the heart of the viewer. It was important for me to capture the emotions of the people or animals using light in a way that accentuated the mood. Travel photography became my focus, eventually taking the place of commercial shoots.

At home, some of my children got into cosplay. I found myself attending comic conventions with them. My family tends to be a bit introverted. I watched with delight as my quiet kids became more confident and social at these conventions. The cosplay community welcomed them with open arms and, coincidentally, loved to get their photos taken. Their beautiful costumes, unbelievable makeup, and incredible prop-making skills took me completely by surprise. I had traveled the world in search of interesting people and here was a group right in my backyard where my family and passion collided.

Surprisingly, it took a few years to actually convince a comic convention to rent me a large room to set up a full studio in to for the entire convention. That process was a saga unto itself. In 2016, Wizard World stepped up and has been a great partner ever since. What started as a single photo shoot at a con evolved into a personal project: “Cosplay 50: The United States of Cosplay”. My goal is to photograph cosplayers at conventions in all fifty states. I recently finished my twelfth.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
We all see great photographs from dedicated photojournalists around the world telling really hard stories: people suffering and in pain; animals on the brink of extinction; cultures dying out; wars; starvation; etc. The world needs to see those views and the education that they provide. We also need to see, however, the beauty that exists in the world and the diversity of how different cultures define that beauty.

My hope is that when people look at my travel photography they are swept away to another time and place. I want them to share in the wonderful experiences that our planet has to offer. Many of my photographs showcase people working very hard in conditions unlike anything in America. Those same people are also some of the happiest, friendliest, and most accommodating that I have ever met. They continually remind me, and I hope remind others, what many are fighting to protect.

The Cosplay 50 Project ties into this philosophy. The advent of instant communication and social media has made culture less about geographic location and more about mutual interests. It’s amazing that in each and every state my cosplayer models know cosplayers that I have photographed in every other state! The world as a whole could learn a few things from the cosplay culture that welcomes everyone regardless of race, size, age, religion, or sex.

We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
It definitely can be lonely, but for me I find that to be a good thing. I find that the quiet, and sometimes corresponding loneliness, helps me to absorb the world, analyze my work, and focus on how I can improve upon it.

In the photography world I have found great friends, connections, and support through local camera clubs both when I was an amateur and as a professional.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Thirty of my images are on display at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport International Terminal for the next five years. I have exhibits throughout Ohio and overseas including Hudson Fine Art and Framing, Group 10 Gallery, Chagrin Arts, and the 5th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography in Barcelona, Spain.

My images can be viewed on my website at www.susanonyskophoto.com and all of the typical social media outlets including Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SusanOnyskoPhoto/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/susanonysko/). I sell images through my website and at various shows.
Cosplay 50: The United States of Cosplay is a project that I am working on at no cost to the cosplayers that I photograph. If anyone knows of comic conventions that would like to be involved with the project, please refer them to me.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Bio Pic of Me in Photo Collage is Stacy Pearsall

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