Filed under: ART, FASHION, PHOTOGRAPHY | Tags: ART, FASHION, PHOTOGRAPHY
1. What motivates you?
To fashion’s credit, there is a sense that the best images, however hyperbolic or sexy, belong most to the symbolic realm. I like to think I’m motivated by deep psychic impulses and symbolic residues. I take comfort that these forces often bleed through in a picture. But mostly when I wake up in the morning, I just think, man, how great would it be to take a big pink photograph today, something really colorful? Sometimes it feels that simple, even though I don’t like to admit it, but then I look back and notice all these undercurrents.
2. Who/what are your greatest inspirations?
I’m loose with my inspiration. Sometimes I muse on Yves Klein, but you don’t have to think I’m like Yves Klein. I might muse on Chuck Close, but you don’t have to think I’m something like Chuck Close, either. I like to muse on Art with a capital A, though I do spend energy thinking about the lowly tactics of art-making, too. If someone were to gossip that Richard Avedon only ate spoons-full of peanut butter during formidable periods in his career, I might begin to muse on this, another drop in the bucket, a small thought rippling among bigger ones. But most importantly, there is a broad context to this kind of thought: it happens in the context of art historical discourse. Any history-minded Artist can be fodder for inspiration. That’s one side of the inspiration coin.
The other side of the coin is folksy and personal. It’s about finding inspiration in natural phenomena, a position that is outside history. You kinda have to think like a loner to access it. For example, sometimes I’ll leave New York City, get away from people obsessively plugged in, obsessed with historical context. I’ll meet one of those romantic characters taken with a brand of aesthetic fancy that’s particular to remote places, to loners. Take the country guy who spills his Coca-Cola onto the blacktop of the fast food restaurant’s parking lot and declares it beautiful. Sure, everything is beautiful, I get that. I find inspiration in solitude, just phenomena and me. Ultimately, though, I think this particular force performs more like the antagonist within my inspiration dialogue. I don’t favor it.
Man Ray’s often an inspiration, no getting around that. I gravitate toward image engineers, and I’m skeptical of purists. I like photo that borders on illustration; I like painting that’s more like photo. It’s a contrast thing. I think about the old-fashioned fine-art cameras which used to be the domain of graphic designers. Is that photography? Is George Lois a photographer? I don’t know. Is there a difference between art and photo? Kind of, or, at least, I like to make that difference when it’s useful. Contrast is where I find inspiration. Almost all of my time is spent thinking about contrast, both technically and figuratively.
3. How do you describe your artistic style to someone who has never seen any of your photos?
Sometimes people will tell me my pictures are unplaceably retro, and then other times I’ll hear I’m photoshop obsessed, digital to the extreme. I don’t spend much time on either distinction, both of which are probably true. I’m more inclined to let a concept’s needs dictate. I’m willing to use different contrast each time, different techniques according to the project. Despite this, I notice something idiosyncratic and consistent happening, picture to picture, shoot to shoot. For example, I’ll set out to make the brightest, happiest picture–the big pink photograph, as I described before–to make something one dimensional, a one note symphony. When I’m done I’ll look back at the image and notice a hint of antagonism that lingers, a darkness. Can I say this is my style if I’m unaware I’m doing it as I do it?
4. Who is the most important person in your life?
Since we met years ago, I don’t think think I’ve had an artistic thought that hasn’t been bounced off Michelle Lueking. She’s involved somehow in every step of my pre and post production process. This has been the case for over a decade, in every medium I’ve explored, but especially photography. She happens to be a photo retoucher/printer by trade, so, her influence is especially strong, if not dominant, in my photo work. I recognize that the computer is possibly more powerful than the lens at this point. We’re both really humble about that shift.
5. What projects do have on the horizon?
Michelle and I have Art projects running which we’re producing ourselves. They’re collaborative and based on the dialogue we’ve been having since art school. For a long time, we’ve wanted to use photography to do something other than sell clothes. We’ve aspired to operate in the tradition of grand thematic photography, so, we started asking, what themes are left to explore? What hasn’t been visually exhausted by greats such as Diane Arbus or Nan Goldin or Avedon?
One that kept coming up was the theme of Apocalypse and Metamorphosis. There is a strong idea in our culture that if something is wrong, the best solution is annihilation and rebirth. (You might notice this strategy at work in our nation’s foreign policy?) We don’t care to judge this notion, we just want to explore it.
So, we starting thinking, how do we illustrate Apocalypse and Metamorphosis, how do we tackle this theme visually? We asked the question, what if there were an apocalyptic battle of Biblical proportions, but something went wrong, something in the structure got corrupted, and the typical Western narrative arch was no longer the story’s structure? What if in the middle of the plot, some kind of New Physics or Buddhist conception of Time got substituted, so that those who’d gone into the battle got stuck in that apocalyptic moment infinitely? Michelle joked that if this were to happen, men would do pretty well at first. But women, she argued, with their high pain thresholds and abilities to hold grudges, would overcome the men as
they invariably grew tired and retreated to watch football, rest and drink beer. In this half-humorous light, we reasoned the future of our thematic photography project was illustrative. We’d simulate the modes of old, imperialistic, ethnographic photographers, and we’d document these remaining Women Warriors of the Apocalypse. We’ve since completed the photography for the project, photographed women of all shapes and sizes, and we’re on to the post production now. Who knows where this project will end up? Sometimes you gotta just do it for the Art.
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