Fire Ants Studio Features Local Photographer’s Work

Fire Ants Studio featured a local photographer’s work last Friday.

The exhibit, entitled “From Here to There… and Back Again, showcased several pictures from Christian Harkness at Railroad Square’s monthly first Friday event, a gathering of local artists, musicians and unique food vendors for residents. It was the studio’s third-anniversary celebration.

“This is the very first time that I have had an all photography show,” said Jonathan Markham, owner of the Fire Ants Studio.”I try and have a different artist or group of artists every month, especially giving opportunities to local artist and students. It gives an artist a jumping off point.”

In the past three years, local artist, Harkness self-published two books, 19/98 and WaterWoman, which were the main works on display in the studio Friday night.

“I have been driving from Cedar Key to Tallahassee along routes 19, 98 and 27 for decades now, always thinking that photographing the funky sights along the way with a view camera a la Walker Evans or more up to date, Alec Soth, would be a great thing to do,” Harkness told The FAMUAN Online.

He continued: “I started taking a whole bunch of pictures while on my way, and at first I was really unhappy with them because they were not sharp and out of focus. I said that they were not good, but I started looking at them and thinking about them. And I realized that’s what you see when you are driving  down the road. I started taking a whole bunch of pictures.”

Harkness does not make a living off of photography. He also received his MFA in Photography and Printmaking from FSU in 1993.

“I just do it because I real enjoy it,” he said. “I was interested in photography since I was a teenager.”

After earning an MFA in photography from Florida State, Harkness said. “Then I really started doing photography, I have been in Tallahassee for a few years and I was also able to teach for a few years.”

Harkness manages the dark room at Florida State, and he also taught a photo class last semester.

Harkness’ work does have its difficulties, but that is what he loves about creating the artwork that has and will continue to do.

“I find it very hard doing people photography and portraits because first of all I have expectations of what I want to see,” Harkness said. “I don’t want them to look bad. And, yet at the same time I want them to look they way they normally look.”

WaterWoman, a tribute to female clam farmers in Cedar Key, Fla., is the second artwork that Harkness has published and had on display in the gallery.

“In 1994, in Florida, they banned fishing with a net, and most people in Cedar Key made their living net fishing,” he said. “They resulted in raising clams and that’s what they did here, and I started photographing them.”

“I had the privilege of watching these women race their boats in and out of obscure channel markers to make a new kind of living from the water,” Harkness said.

This ultimately ending up being the work of Harkness 19/98 published book, which was on display for viewers to understand. Ultimately, as an artist and artmaker, Harkness has gained a better understanding of


“What ever you are photographing, I think you become more closer and more connected with it,” he said.

“I think if it is photography, painting or sculpting, whatever it is that you are working out you own vision,” Harkness said. “You are working on your own quest to understand the world. That’s what happened to me when I photography people.”

Harkness will be heading back to Cedar Key, Fla., in August, in hopes of following up on his WaterWoman project.

“I am really drawn to a lot of the photos and artwork that is displayed,” said Schrader. “I think they are really beautifully done.”

More than 200 persons attended June’s First Friday.

“I just come because I enjoy it,” said Kyrstan Schrader, a Tallahassee resident, who has been coming out to Railroad Square and First Friday since she was in high school. “I love the community and it is always a good experience.”