As photographers, what do we do between big projects? In between thinking about something else? To keep our mind’s eye active and a state to receive what the world is showing us? According to Minor White’s “The Camera Mind and Eye”, the ability to stay sensitive and vigilant with camera in hand produces something interesting, eventually, something subconsciously turbulent.
If [the photographer] were to walk a block in a state of sensitized sympathy to everything to be seen, he would be exhausted before the block was up and out of film long before that. Perhaps the blank state of mind can be likened to a pot of water almost at the boiling point. A little more heat—an image seen—and the surface breaks into turbulence. Possibly the creative work of the photographer consists in part of putting himself into this state of mind. Reaching it, at any rate, is not automatic. It can be aided by always using one’s camera for serious work so that the association of the camera in one’s hands always leads to taking pictures.
Carrying a small digital or 35mm camera is conducive to achieving this state of mind. Whenever I came back to Hickory I tried hard to keep one on me at all times to spark something whenever I wasn’t out on more serious photographing or onto a place where I knew what I wanted. It kept me open and sensitive.
Over the years this practice became more serious to me. I waited a while when I got the film or files back, scanned a few frames, edited them, and kept them hanging around on hard drives. But what does this work mean? Each picture seemed like a sentence out of longer narrative, a separate thought that somehow accompanied some larger feeling about whatever was going on in my life. Whenever I reached White’s boiling point, the pictures became curtailed stories and occasional bits of prose.
I put these bits into a new zine called “Occasional Prose” and it features small moments I’ve found over a couple years. Staying vigilant, approaching boiling temperatures.
Missy Prince has been making a name for herself through her photography over the past several years. Her Flickr stream is an instruction manual on wandering and learning how to see subtle and and sometimes haunting beauty in the every day. She’s been wandering a lot—through Mississippi, the American Southwest, through Washington and Oregon and back down South again. What she’s seeing feels familiar yet simultaneously fresh way that only comes with an esteemed sense of a personal voice. It’s straight photography done exceedingly and consistently well. There’s something to that consistency in the way she floats between landscapes, people she knows and doesn’t know, still lives, and of course vernacular architecture. I’ve been interested in getting between Missy Prince’s mind’s eye and camera for a while now—her photographs beckon more from me and I was excited to get an opportunity to read her words.
Empty Stretch: Age/Location/Three favorite things in life:
Missy Prince: I’m 42 and I live in Portland, Oregon. I don’t really think in terms of favorites, but I like driving around, records, my dog.
ES: Can you pinpoint a specific photograph or moment in time that got you to start taking pictures for yourself?
MP: It was a slow evolution. I went through a few photography phases, but I was never happy with any photos I took until a few years ago when I started carrying an Olympus XA everywhere. I shot compulsively until it started making sense. I remember getting a roll of film back that had about five better than average photos with a sensibility I could see as my own. It was a small but noticeable turning point.
ES: How important is making C-prints to your approach?
MP: At this point it’s pretty integral. About a year ago I decided to incorporate the darkroom into my workflow because I like to have prints rather than negative scans, and the average lab print leaves a lot to be desired. The satisfaction of having a physical copy that I printed myself is so great that it is hard to imagine cutting the darkroom out of the equation. I like having control over the final product.
ES: Some of my favorite images of yours evoke religion. Churches, Christ-figures, crosses, and other singage; it spans across your pictures from the South to the Northwest. Can you speak on these? Is it something you’re conscious of in your everyday life or is it something your camera just finds?
MP: I’ve often wondered why a random cross or church can stop me in my tracks. I’m not religious, but I was dragged to church the first twelve or so years of my life. Being there always felt strange to me, I never could relate to the experience. I stared at a lot of crosses as a child, so perhaps photographing them is a way of revisiting my past. But I think it fits within a more general interest in where people find meaning in their lives. Religion is one of the more obvious places, but it is an attractive subject because it’s so loaded. I’m usually drawn to scenes that lean toward the peculiar or askew: a truck stop chapel, a broken steeple lying on a church lawn, a prayer box in a parking lot, a proclamation of faith on a satellite dish. I don’t think about religion in my everyday life and I don’t look for it as a subject but I eventually find it, especially in the South.
ES: Conversely, how do you deal with the tougher subject matters like adult book stores, bail bonds agencies, liquor stores?
MP: They are just places I’m attracted to. I don’t feel like they are challenging or tough. They are interesting places in interesting parts of towns. I think they fit very well next to the religious imagery. My interest in them is like my interest in, say, Tom Waits’ album Small Change or some old blues lyrics. Hard times are doorways to the unknown. People go to weird places through them, and you wonder how they got there. It’s more interesting than joy or contentment.
ES: What is your relationship to some of the people you photograph? They’re seldom seen in your work but when you make a portrait there’s some intimacy there I’m eager to know about.
MP: I used to photograph only friends, but lately I’ve become more interested in photographing strangers because it is a different kind of experience. I’ve always been a people watcher but the habit has taken a long time to find its way into my photography, partly because it’s harder to interact with people than with objects. Taking that next step and actually engaging with the people I notice is suddenly exciting. The camera gives me an excuse to enter their lives. I like to spend time with them and hear them talk. Maybe that’s where the sense of intimacy comes through. I get to find things out about them that I might not learn if I just passively observed them. I don’t know the kid with the basketball, but the place is very close to me. It’s the street I grew up on. Last time I went home he and his friends were outside my folks’ house playing basketball every day. The day before I left I went out and got his picture. Right before I snapped it he said he wanted to be a porn star.
ES: There’s obviously a musical facet to your work, as well, as traveling and walking. I had the opportunity not too long ago to go through a Flickr slideshow of your greatest hits and it felt like reading a short novel to me. No chapters, but a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing that reverts back to previous thoughts and wildly new ones. How much do you feel literature is a part of your process and work (if at all?)
MP: It’s a big part. I think photography and literature are both driven by the impulse to show something about life, to give our observations some kind of form. There was a time when I wanted to write. The desire isn’t so strong now, but I can see a connection between it and the role that photography plays in my life. Both involve imposing a narrative onto experience, noticing details, making connections, figuring out what is important or interesting about a situation and trying to put it into a form that makes you feel something. So much of the literature that moves me has a wandering theme. Stories from the road, people on the move, on the run, or looking for something, the recurrence of the familiar amid uncertainty and change. Such work is reflective of the spirit that made it. It carries the charge of life, always moving, always searching. My process is very much about wandering, being out in the world and coming back with pieces of a story that is hopefully held together by the thread of my own sensibility. I don’t know exactly what I will find when I set out, and that is the point. Photography, like writing, is a means of discovery, a filling in of (or working around) blanks, a fleshing out of ideas or feelings. I imagine that if the urge to write returns it will somehow be informed by what I’ve learned from taking and editing photos.
ES: What are you currently reading?
MP: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell and Bitter Music by Harry Partch.
ES: Where is your photography headed in 2013?
MP: I hope to get back to Mississippi and continue some work there.
Johnathon Kelso‘s photographs have been a source of inspiration for me in more ways than one over the years. I was drawn to his work about two years ago when I found his Flickr page in my own search for Southern identity in contemporary photography. Kelso’s pictures exude a lot of my own ideas regarding a sense of place down here. Vibrancy, intimacy, (Kelso makes friends with the landscape, he knows where to go, and the people around it, he knows how to talk to his subjects), sitting, listening, and, for me, a genuine understanding of the importance of Christian ideals. His photographs all come down to witnessing. And he does it so well. Kelso’s at his best when he photographs the Sacred Harp singers, of which is he is not only a participant but an observer of the beauty that fills the rooms when voices blare. You can almost hear it. You can certainly feel it. I was hesitant to contact Kelso at first, as he’s done a plethora of interviews about all this over the years, but I’m glad I did.
Empty Stretch: Age/Location/Three favorite things in life:
Johnathon Kelso: I’m 29, I live in Atlanta, Georgia. My three favorite things are my mother, my dog, and the Trinity (cheated a bit on that last one.)
ES: What are the Sacred Harp Singers? How did you first get started with photographing I Want to Die A-Shouting?
JK: Sacred Harp singers are people just like you and me – anyone can sing this music. Both young and old alike for many generations have came together and sang these praises to God. Sacred Harp or “shape-note” singers refers to those who commonly sing from a popular hymnal like the Sacred Harp, or something similar that uses shape note notation to aid along in the sight reading process. It’s full throated singing, bringing people from all different walks of life together. You don’t have to be classically trained or have a pretty voice, you just need to be willing to have some fun and do some singing. I had been singing for a good while before I started this body of work. It took a lot for me to put down my song book long enough to do anything else but sing. It’s funny too, because once I started photographing at singings, it was never the actual singing that I was interested in. I wanted folks to see the love Sacred Harp singers have for one another and the joy that comes from these times we spend singing. In doing so, the visual work was taken away from the hollow and square and to more intimate settings like the back pew of the church where a mother would be teaching her son to sing, or drawing near with friends to sing at the bedside of those passing away. I wanted to soar above the music and tradition a bit and get to the hearts of the people who join together in song.
ES: I acquaint singing in a group like that to the act of photography itself. You really do bear a lot of yourself out to the public, more or less, and in a way that’s somewhat immediate. How do people respond to you when you ask to make their picture?
JK: I reckon people always surprise you and you can get a handful of different reactions throughout a day. Oftentimes at singings people are familiar with me wielding my camera around and it gives me a chance to talk to people a little better and get to know them. Outside that arena though, reactions are always of mixed degree. People in the south are always wanting to understand what I see in them or their surroundings that is worth while. I’ve gotten into the habit of giving my camera to strangers and have them look through the viewfinder to see for themselves what might be beautiful.
ES: What are your favorite songs to sing?
JK: If we are talking Sacred Harp jams, I tend to lean towards the minor tunes or songs with poetry that draws my mind back to where it needs to be. One of my favorite’s in the Denson book, 397 The Fountain, goes – “There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.” Those just aren’t words you hear sung in most churches these days.
ES: What does it mean to be a Christian working in the art world?
JK: As I mature in what it means to know Jesus, I struggle with how being a Christian not only affects this arena of my life, but all aspects of living in general. In the past couple of years I’ve wrestled a lot with trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian man holding a camera. God has given me a gift that allows me to approach strangers and interact with them on a personal level within minutes. Getting to know the people whose lives I’m documenting and hearing their stories is important to me. My hope is that whatever it is I’m doing, whether it be working with a camera or simply befriending people I meet, that they would come to know and see Jesus through our interaction together.
ES: What first attracted me to your work was that I didn’t see any of the normal aspects of the South that first come to viewers minds when they hear “Southern” — how do you contend with the rich history that precedes this part of America?
JK: Well, I guess people first have to realize is that the South, just like anything else is rapidly changing. Those iconic images that Eggleston and Christenberry shot are still out there, but there’s also so much more still on the table yet to be captured. Because the South is trying on different forms and the landscape is encountering small changes, even the oldest relics take on a new face. My eye will always go first to the images I’ve come to know and love about the south just like everyone else, but to stop looking there is to rob yourself of a great treasury that this part of America has on offer.
ES: When did you first start taking photographs?
I first starting making photographs in 2006 while living in Memphis, Tennessee.
JK: Can you describe your most recent body of work “Mountain View”? How did you approach photographing this town and its people?
Essentially, it’s the documentation of a town that was. Mountain View is the the only town in Georgia history to be abolished by the Georgia State legislature. Folk stories and rumors of why the town eventually disbanded differ from person to person but the arching theme that is prevalent in all stories pins the Atlanta airport’s destructive and expansive need for and more land as the cause to why thousands of residents were “bought out” and moved. Churches, schools, and businesses alike slowly but surely boarded up, shut down, and were bulldozed over to make room for the megaplex of the future which now stands proudly as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The work focuses on what remains, who remained, and who moved in.
After work everyday I’d drive just outside Atlanta and explore this place. It was fascinating to me that know one talked about it or knew it existed. Some of the new business owners I interviewed had no idea that the land they worked on (thought to be a bypass between Hapeville and Forest Park) used to be a town in itself. Beyond the kudzu, just feet beyond store fronts, were whole maps and grids of road and remnants of where people scratched out their livelihood. It seemed like a living tomb holding onto dying parts of itself and all the while harboring drifters and woebegone’s. Most people I photographed were quiet and wanted their privacy. A lot of folk never answered their doors no matter how many times I stopped by or left notes explaining my presence. It was very difficult tracking down the original community members to photograph, so a lot of what you see in the work are people living on the fringes of the place – people living in the woods in secret huts covered by brush or pastors holding onto small congregations and waiting for just the right time to sell their properties to the Airport buyers.
ES: What are you up to now? What does this year hold for you and your photography?
JK: I am still figuring that all out. I put down the camera for a bit after the Mountain View work and have only recently started shooting again. I’ve been thinking a lot about Grey Villet’s work in the late 60’s when he documented interracial marriage in the south and how that might look different today. If I shoot anything of value this year, I’d want it to be something like that.
Can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon, thanks, Johnathon!
The Beatles feeling Buddy Holly-esque in “I’ll Be On My Way”
Picking up the bass guitar again has brought back a lot of not-so-distant memories of playing music with a band in high school. It was an escape of sorts to sit around with friends, play our parts to make it sound whole, and take on roles from the band whose songs we were playing. Getting to be loud was always fun, as well. I often go back and listen to those songs my friends and I recorded crudely over cassettes. I listen for nuances within the songs that mark our personalities, cohesiveness, and endless hours of practicing to get to the final product.
During my last two years of college, I was struggling with my own influences as a photographer. Instead of creating work that looked like my own, it was looking like some of my forebears’ like Bill Eggleston or Bill Christenberry. I was playing my part too well, with no style and very little individual voice or nuances that were a part of me. It’s a happy struggle that visual and performing artists contend with quite a bit. When there’s large and looming figures from the past, it’s nearly impossible to escape them. I don’t know if those influences ever go away. Do they need to?
Mark Steinmetz‘s books (“South Central”, “Greater Atlanta”, and “South East”) struck a chord with me within the library at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. The three books are big and beautifully printed and I could hardly crane my eyes away from their pages. I was struck with how contemporary his photographs felt. I heard a little bit of my own voice within them as some of the portraits of teenagers felt closer in age to me, whereas other Southern places and people felt so distant to me and a bit caked on with nostalgia. Bill Eggleston’s pictures come to mind as a not-so-stark contrast. If there was a so-called New South, it might exist in Mark Steinmetz’s portraits. Flipping through “South Central” I saw vivid characters from Flannery O’Connor like a Mr. Tom T. Shiflet from Tarwater, Tennessee (or was it Singleberry, Georgia?) or a Hazel Motes, or a crooked bible salesman not even from a place but near a place.
The people in Steinmetz’s pictures feel the same way to me. Not really from a place, but near a place I recognize. As in a bit suburban, rural, and urban all at once. A place and person that feels immediately identifiable and altogether estranged. Steinmetz remarks in an interview with Ahorn Magazine about all this:
I’m not so sure my work has any single specific emotional effect – so much depends on the eyes of the beholder and where he or she might be at in their life or in their cultivation. The work is open to interpretation. I think my psyche is just wired a certain way and that I’m pretty much helpless to photograph things the way I do. It’s my nature. I should note a correction – I don’t just photograph the suburban world but rather a range that moves from the rural to the inner city.
In my eyes, a lot of South is like this. It’s not as much rural as it is suburban and not as much urban as it is rural in places. Especially in the late 20th and 21st century, it feels a lot easier to float in and out of all three realms. This sort of grey area becomes apparent in the sort of lost faces of Steinmetz’s portraits, especially some of the teenagers and young people. This is not a particularly Southern trait, but a kind of sweeping feeling of ennui among a generation. That lasting feeling of unrest, that gaze, stuck with me for a while.
I’m often intimidated when taking portraits but I think anything that scares you as a photographer somehow draws you to make its picture and find out what that thing is. For me it’s talking to people. It’s a rush and quite exciting sometimes getting to know another person and share in the picture-making process. Sometimes it’s fruitful, other times not so much. Mark Steinmetz’s own approach, in an interview with Joerg Colberg, to portraiture milled about in my head whenever I had my camera in hand.
I want to show something of people’s inner lives. I think for portraiture you have to be completely certain that you are interested in photographing this or that person. You can’t be wishy-washy in your motivation. You just have to know that you want to photograph this person and it’s a kind of knowing that eradicates any asking of “why?” My approach is fairly low-key. I don’t want to make waves. I’ll just ask something like “Can I photograph you as you are?” Sometimes I’ll give a little direction like “look over that way” but it’s never elaborate. Having an ability to focus and concentrate is necessary for making good portraits.
Sometimes my heart got to beating too much as I approached a person to make their picture, with fear of rejection also milling around in my head. Concentration was almost secondary to my cause. I just received a lot of film back from the lab and I wanted to share some of the portraits I made. I found myself this time around feeling a little more brazen and talkative with people as I built my confidence up. I certainly had more people included on the rolls of film than any other set so far.
After examining the scans, I acknowledge a decidedly Steinmetz influence. What felt strongest to me out of the photographer’s pictures was the inclusion of teenagers, kids, and young adults. Those pictures interested me the most and I subconsciously took it to heart. I started photographing couples, teenagers at homecoming football games, street preachers, and kids giving away puppies outside department stores. I’ve been carrying around a camera more and more with me, as well as my manners and thick skin for a “no.” I didn’t really receive any of the latter, possibly due to the former.
Since graduating, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to grow even more as a photographer from month to month or season to season. For me, that was making pictures of people. And while thinking about growth, I thought about a quote attributed to photographer Jerry Spagnoli on a bulletin board at the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina. “If it scares you, I want you out there doing it.” It stuck with me for a long time, as well as a lot of faces in Mark Steinmetz’s portraits. While scanning the negatives, I noticed some of the striking similarities between some of my favorite pictures of his and my own images.
I came back to the overarching and overpowering influences again. I think it comes down to what you know and what you envision of as an artist. Figuring that out takes a little time, but maybe in three years or so I’ve learned a little more about what that means and how to contend with my influences like Mark Steinmetz. I used to avoid it because it seemed nearly impossible to make any sort of photographic voice my own. Is everything a copy of a copy? I begrudgingly refuse to take up that notion despite some of the obvious artistic influences and influencees out there. Something has to beget something else and that’s what makes for progress in a medium. In a small way I feel I’ve started to do that because what my work looks like now will be a bit different in another few years and that’s how you cultivate a voice and signature. Maybe influences aren’t so bad to emulate now and again, even subconsciously. If anything, change comes from it, it’s got to, and it helps to know where your ideas began in the first place. It makes you a better artist in the end, I think. Like going from making two minute songs to whole album and portfolios of profound work on its own level. That’s what we strive for, anyway.
Biblical narratives drive a lot of my photographic work as well as its long and rich history in the arts. I took a Bible history class during my sophomore year of high school and got an in-depth look into stories from the Old Testament and more than a few of them were new to me. One in particular was a story from Genesis, where Jacob, while traveling on the road to Canaan, encounters an angel and wrestles with the angel until daybreak. Through this struggle, Jacob becomes a much more spiritual person and finds peace with God.
This seemed like such an odd occurrence to me. The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel has been depicted through art history for centuries and years later when I saw Paul Gauguin’s “Vision After the Sermon” in college, my interest in the biblical story was renewed.
Meanwhile in my hometown of Hickory, I kept seeing these advertisements crop up on the side of the road for wrestling matches at the local National Guard Armory buildings. I was sort of interested what went on at these matches as they always seemed to hype up some of the personalities and weaponry being used. Now that my long-term undergraduate thesis project was completed, I decided to start a short project involving photographing these wrestling matches while thinking about them in a Biblical framework.
I went to a few matches over the summer, incessantly taking pictures ringside in the giant concrete Armory building. The lack of air conditioning made me feel like I was one of the wrestlers because I was sweating more than usual. It being summer and all made it that much worse. There was nothing short of fun to be had at the matches and at $8 a ticket, it was more entertaining and less expensive than a movie ticket. Girls running the merchandise table defending themselves with pizza cutters, wrestlers breaking open Diet Pepsi cans with their teeth, throwing it on the ground, and dog collar matches where two opponents duke it out while being held together by a long, chain link.
The spectacle of it all fascinated me and made it exciting for me to make pictures. Maneuvering wasn’t that easy and predicting where the match would go kept me on my toes. What resulted in this project is a new zine called “Saturday Fight Night” — Gauguin’s painting seemed a lot more important to me, and the dots of harsh stage lights in the background of the pictures felt Divine in a small way. Through the elaborate drama of the wrestlers, the same lessons Jacob learned in the wilderness about humility, masculinity, stubbornness, and ultimately, inner peace and victory were exacerbated in the wrestler’s actions and faces.
“Saturday Fight Night” is a new 26-page, color laser printed zine, signed and in an edition of 25. The cover is 67 lb. grey card stock with Gustave Doré’s 1855 depiction of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel on the cover in inkjet. The book is pamphlet-stitched with waxed linen thread and measures 7.5″ x 8.5″. Pick one up at the Empty Stretch store for $10!
Celebrating its 10th year, the SlowExposures juried exhibition promotes fine photography about the rural, southern United States. I was fortunate enough to be included in this year’s show and even more fortunate to travel down to Concord, Georgia where I got to see the work and meet some of the artists. It’s one thing to see images online and a whole other experience to see prints in person and get engaged with the work. I was in good company last weekend for the opening reception and juror’s talk and it didn’t hurt either to be in a part of Georgia that felt so far away from home, yet felt like I never left piedmont North Carolina. What SlowExposures is doing is really important for the community in Georgia and the work I saw is equally important in the larger discussion of photography. Here are some of SlowExposures 2012’s greatest hits. Congrats to all that were in the show!
Summer may be winding down, but these hot and humid days I’ve grown accustomed to will surely last till at least early October. Summer’s never long enough, it seems, to get everything you want to do. The longer daylight hours for making pictures is truncated a little more each day. I think it’s important to bottle up those hours and save them for a grey winter day. While working on my larger projects this summer, a small 35mm camera has never been far out of my reach. It’s a practice I’ve never really tried until last year, but even then I was frustrated at its size for my large frame, tiny viewfinder, and cutting those minute negatives after processing. I’d always end up cutting into a frame. Maybe I’ve gotten better at it this summer. With my camera almost always accompanying me, these images were taken through the course of late May through just last week, the first week of September. It’s a mode of working I haven’t worked with extensively since my freshman year of college and I have a feeling it might make a comeback.
The use of photography as a means to say where we are and what we’re seeing is important. How one choses to picture a scene somehow evokes the feeling of where they’re at in the final image. What the happy problem then becomes, for artists, is how to navigate through our own archives, to see through what everyone else sees on trips to find our own vision to say what we want to say.
Artists Andrew Marino and Andrew Weathers have been talking back and forth with photography for sometime now. They have a wonderful new photo book out called We Don’t Have Sun Like This. The volume showcases photographs from Marino and Weathers presented side by side, Marino’s, taken in North Carolina, and Weathers’, taken in California. The smart diptychs from both photographers play off each other’s strengths — Weathers’ eye for experimental color and Marino’s head for composition and the uncanny. Already duly aware of the North Carolina landscape and Marino’s photography, his photos felt like a bit of home to me and when placed beside Weathers’ California views, what he was seeing felt familial, too.
The third thing that happens when two images are placed beside each other is exploited by both photographers. Where each photographer is stationed becomes slightly and delightfully disoriented to the viewer when each pairing is made. This sequence in particular caught my eye — here, light, or the underpinning concept thereof, is validated through Weathers’ craned-up camera in a flash in a chandelier. Marino seeks it out it the tall, tall cattails, each flower like a lightbulb for the sun’s electricity. Each photograph compliments and simultaneously contradicts the other. Interiors verus exteriors, night versus day, real verus fake, otherwise not making sense separately, but making all the sense in the world after every turn of the page.
Yet each photographer maintains their own voice throughout the conversation. At the end, it reads, on opposing pages, “Photographs on the left were made by Andrew Weathers in California” and “Photographs on the right were made by Andrew Marino in North Carolina.” What’s successful about We Don’t Have Sun Like This is the use of the book form as a conceptual basis for the images and where from which they’re taken. Weathers’ images felt like California to me before even reaching the end of the book and the fact that they were on the left side of the page might’ve been a subliminal clue. And all the way on the right side of the page, were Marino’s North Carolina images, balancing out the other coast.
I’m starting to feel like a spoiler for this photo book. There’s just so much to discover and figuring out how and why pairings were made. We Don’t Have Sun Like This is a great opportunity to get to know two artists and friends through their conversations with photography. The photographs and sequences are challenging that make it a joy to thumb through and come back to multiple times. Andrew Weathers and Andrew Marino’s clever eyes give their viewers something deeper to discover in photography and more importantly, how it can be used. A lot of the time, pictures say more than the photographer can know.
It sat in my top drawer in my bedroom for a few years. A roll of 800 ISO Fuji Superia 24-exposure 35mm film. It sat in a box with a few coins in it, it sat in a box to through half of high school and all of college and sat in a moving box and later a drawer in a closet used for storage. And there it sat. Searching for some 35mm negative sleeves, I found this roll of film with the leader sticking out, thinking it unused. So I shot it. I took my film to a locally-owned film processors’/dry cleaners’ in town and when I got the film back, “Double Exposed” was written on the outside sleeve, containing the 4″ x 6″ glossy prints.
And double exposed it was. Every 24 frames were exposed nearly directly on top of each other. The two pictures in one frame are separated by six years. I took these pictures back in 2006, I believe. Or maybe 2005. I don’t recall what’s happening in them, why I was taking them and the fact that pictures I took a week ago sit on top of them, make the reasons harder to uncover. I was astounded for a number of reasons. Not just in how some of the pictures directly correlate like the two cameras or the ever-present self portrait in a reflected object, but in the separation of themselves by time. Time is of course a major factor in photography, but, more importantly (especially in film photography) there’s luck. It’s true I wanted some of the recent pictures on this roll to turn out, but the gift I was given in forgetting outweighed the expected; the luck of happenstance made me appreciate the act of photographing even more. It got me to notice how my vision was and still is evolving, yet my mind’s eye hasn’t changed much in six or seven years and may not ever. That, I think, is innate.
I don’t know how I got away with it. Carrying that little Canon AE-1 camera around during high school — which I got at the flea market. Much like today when I go photographing, I think most of my peers and teachers wrote it off as just me doing my thing and let me about my way. There’s some pictures I could see me taking now, beneath the expected and posed ones. There’s some pictures where I don’t know what is happening, or who I was photographing at the time, where I’m at, or what season it is. I’m even fuzzy on the exact year. Why was I photographing at the time? Why was I doing it last week? Because we have to.
This unexpected lesson in the traits of photography as a medium, what it represents, got me thinking about its importance in regards to memory. Since some aspects of photography are memories, what happens when we don’t remember them? I’m slightly nostalgic, but it’s in a dense fog of layers, transposed with current images, their reasons, and reasons I took pictures six or seven years ago. I like to remember, but I can’t with these. What does this nostalgia mean? This grey area is very enticing.
We’re no strangers to Kickstarter-funded projects at Empty Stretch. Earlier this year, readers like you helped us fund our first ever photo book TWENTY/12 and subsequent Petty Thieves #1.
Friend of Empty Stretch and faculty member at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, Dennis O’Neil is combining photography and printmaking to produce a project called 1,000 Faces. Hear what Mr. O’Neil has to say about the project and how you, an integral part of his process, can help make it all happen.
By altering photographic imagery through innovative and experimental printmaking methods, I am creating unique multidimensional prints that are challenging not only the traditional view of what a screen-print is but how they are made and their evolving relationship to digital media and others of art that rely on photographic material.
I am currently working on a project called “1,000 FACES” that involves a variety of people, including artists, William Christenberry, Renée Stout, Tom Green and David Chung as well as international artists such as Russian, Leonid Tishkov. All of these prints will reflect my collaborative approach.
See some of the examples above. Look on Dennis’ Kickstarter page to view more of his art, find out more about 1,000 Faces, and how, as a backer, you become a participant as well.