AJ Schnettler

AJ Schnettler is a nonbinary, multi-racial photographer and printmaker born and raised on the South Shore of Long Island.

Their work is based on what one does to provide self-acceptance. Working through identity or the space surrounding them; how to feel at peace overcoming negative, social, and cultural pressure.

Most recently working to discuss mental health including anxiety, body dysmorphia, and social standards. 

Photo of AJ Schnettler
Photo of AJ Schnettler

“The world isn’t as happy and cheery of a place as we’d all like to admit. I always sort of knew that.”

Artwork titled "Safe Space, Volumes 1 & 2"
Artwork titled “Safe Space, Volumes 1 & 2”

“Like most people, confiding in comforting spaces is what helped me. They have become so important to me because I have a better understanding of their significance. I am doing what I can to show its importance.”

Most of AJ’s work begins as a collection of ideas that are slowly edited for years and later turned into a physical project.

“This series began as a final project for a book-making class, and I became a lot happier with it than I expected, which is why I continued the series and hope to make more volumes.”

“With these books, I am sharing my safe spaces.”

“I show the spaces in order of places I have the most say in who has access to the places where I have the least say. In the book, I have a self-portrait that is overlaying a soft ground etching of the space.

Because comfort and safety go hand in hand, I use the textures of the spaces to define themselves in ways the photograph cannot. With each volume, I add more and more textures and layers.

“For example, Volume 2 has embossed writing while Volume 1 does not. Because these books are so personal, the box each book lays in acts as a safe space for the book. You can see how many people have had the chance to enter its safe space, and know-how often it’s been exposed, by the color of the light-sensitive fiber paper lining the box.

Now, I’m not saying you need to show your safe spaces…

Artwork titled "Safe Space, Volumes 1 & 2"
Artwork titled “Safe Space, Volumes 1 & 2”

“I’m just saying you have control over the accessibility of your room, your apartment, and your safe space.”

Artwork titled "Safe Space, Volumes 1 & 2"
Artwork titled “Safe Space, Volumes 1 & 2”

AJ has a studio they share with their partner. There, they created a bookmaking space, a photo digital and darkroom printing space, and a black and white film developing space. They also have a miniature pinscher named Bo who hangs out with them and their four rabbits. 

Recently, AJ has work shown in New Visionary Art Magazine Issue 2, and they hope to make a Safe Space Volume 3, featuring their new apartment and studio. They are working on adding more people to their series called the They/Them Project.

More than anything, AJ hopes they’ll be able to go to their home state of New York to do a series of work about their relationship with their grandmother and being mixed race.

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