Firstly I would like to ask how do you feel about discussing your work verbally? Your website contains little text, leaving the work open to interpretation, do you feel that words would take away anything from (or add anything to) your photographs? I’ve always been a believer that it is the artist’s choice whether to include text to accompany their work. In my case, I’ve always tried to produce concise, strong, and direct photographs that do not require a supplement. However, for my latest series Disambiguation that Andrea Nguyen and I completed together, the photographs were extremely process oriented and required some context. Having said all of that, great work always has a strong concept. And it is the artist’s job to talk about the work in the necessary forums (like here right now! Or at an artist’s lecture, or gallery talk, or with their friends, or with collectors).
Of the three principal mediums in which to present photographic work today - the wall, the book, and the screen - which would you say is the most important to you in terms of your own work, and which would you say has been most important to you in terms of looking at the work of others? Great question. Two years of running a contemporary photography blog that posts daily has given me a lot of time to reflect on the power of the internet and the way it distributes art (especially photography). I generally have a huge respect for the “blogosphere” and see it as a quick, democratic way to share and promote everything we work so hard to achieve. So in terms of looking at the work of others, the screen has quickly become the best way to discover new artists. For my own work, I think that the tried and true wall is an ideal setting to present photographic work. Seeing a print that has been prepared by the artist, printed at a specific size, arranged in a particular way, in the context of other photographs that pertain to the series… It is hard to top that!
Could you talk a little about your series Fabulous Views? I’m really into the individual photographs and I’m trying to grasp the connection between one image to the next, it seems like the key could be either fairly simple or quite complex. If you don’t want to give too much away maybe just give a hint! Well thank you, it has still been one of my favourite series to work on. The photographs examine how we define nature, and how that idea of nature coexists with human interaction. Also, the series explores the exoticized, clichéd, and synthetic devices which we have created to represent nature. Fabulous Views actually gave birth to Natural Encounters which has a similar concept, but sources public spaces rather than studio constructions.
Favourite film/s set in Texas? Oh man! Office Space, Bottle Rocket, and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. So many good ones.
It’s hard not to notice a current trend in photography for the still life - Christopher Schreck has written an interesting article on the subject. One of my thoughts was that this is perhaps a reaction to the ‘diaristic’ style that was prevalent not long ago, in regards to consciously setting up and creating a scene as appose to finding it through chance or coincidence. Your work seems to shift somewhere between the formulated and the improvised, often it is incalculable - it could be either. How much control do you like to have over your subject? Christopher’s article was a great read, and it was definitely worth checking out. I think that the point of “control” that you bring up is more relevant to my way of making photographs. I normally use a 4x5 field camera which allows me to take ultimate control in what is seen and what is excluded. This process of setting up the scene, cropping, focusing, and taking meter readings all slows me down and becomes an editing process in itself. In other areas that I control, I’ve recently been favoring constructing photographs.
Your newest work Disambiguation explores the relationship between science, photography and Wikipedia. I know that there is much to be discussed on this topic but cold you talk about an aspect of the relationship between science and photography that interests you particularly? Also, have you submitted any photographs to Wikipedia besides those included in Disambiguation? Before I started studying photography, I was a Chemistry major and always loved science. I have a very analytical mind. However, after spending an entire summer performing PCR (polymerase chain reaction) on lab mice in a toxicology lab, I had a bit of a crisis moment in my life where I decided to shake things up entirely and pursue photography. However, I see a lot of my analytical mind in my photographs and studio practice. This can be seen in the subject matters I choose to explore (like my series Heart Over Time, which is about a group of graduate electrical engineering students as they build an EKG machine from scratch). But also can be seen in my indexical, deadpan, hyper-focused way of photographing scenes or objects. This connects to Disambiguation because the idea for the project came through researching the properties of Pumice. However, Andrea and I scoured the rest of Wikipedia under Chemistry, Physics, Optics, etc and found the rest of the source imagery together. We have only ever submitted photographs to Wikipedia through our most recent series. Although, there are a LOT of amazing photographs on there.
How do you judge when to draw a close to a body of work? There are a lot of great ways to judge when you’re finished with a series. I think that the answer is usually when you feel as though you’ve made 10-15 perfect pictures, and adding any more would just dilute the message.
Finally do you have any links to check out, however relevant or irrelevant to this discussion. Oh, always!! I run a daily photography blog called The Latent Image which I’m constantly searching the internet for photographers to feature…and would love more user submissions! Andrea and I run a collaborative blog called Tillsammans, Man which we usually put up fun stuff, works in progress, links to shows we like, etc. Those two links are the best way to see what’s going on in our worlds and the world that we are tangent to!