Josh Ungurait / Photography

What’s your ritual to get prepared, or in the zone, to create?
When I am working in the dark room or in the studio, I tend to prefer to be alone in the space. I always take a good amount of time to make sure I am set up to do everything I intend to do before I start, then I always turn on some good music.

Tell us about a time you failed.
In my Lighting II final, when I had no idea what to do, I went out and spent $100 on flowers and tried to photograph them in different lighting scenarios. Later during critique, I was told my images looked like stock photos of Kroger flowers, which was not my intention.

Favorite addiction or guilty pleasure that keeps you inspired?
Coffee. For my first three years at Watkins, I was dependent on the free coffee in the library. This year I brought an espresso maker into my studio.

What book, film, or piece of music do you return to again and again to provoke thought or keep you connected to your artwork?
I’ve always clung to Charles Bukowski’s poem “so you want to be a writer?” as a pretty good litmus test for myself. Wolfgang Tillmans is my go-to photographer, although the list of constant inspirations is way too long.

If we want to move toward a better world, we have to learn how to communicate above language barriers.

Where in the world have you gone where you feel most at home as an artist?
Last November, I traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to document the Water Protector Camp. While only part of my time there was dedicated to being an artist, and the other half to assisting the Water Protectors, I felt most at home in their community. The stories of those who were present are the most important factor. However, I quickly saw how relevant and valuable having photographers and artists on hand to document the events was. The area where the camp once stood has now been evacuated and razed by state and federal law enforcement.

Why does art matter?
Artists tend to approach the world in a way that transcends language. If we want to move toward a better world, we have to learn how to communicate above language barriers.

Biggest myth about being an artist?
The “I could do that” myth. So often, a non-artist might look at a work and pass immediate judgement on the abilities of the artist. This is an issue that plagues both the arts and sciences. An individual can devote so much time, effort, and research into something so easily dismissed by the general public.

Which one quality do you think the world most needs from artists?
The world needs more people who are trained to think creatively.