Interview: Trevor Powers

Feature, Interview
Days Inn, Pensacola, Florida fts See America Right

Empty Stretch: Age/ location/ favorite things in life?

Trevor Powers: I am 26 years old and I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts.  I don’t know if I can name my favorite things in life without over thinking it or making obvious choices like pizza, sleep, coffee, and pictures – but I guess its as simple as exploring a new place and warm weather.

fts Sleep The Clock Around

ES: How did you get into photography?

TP: Photo albums were always as big thing in my family growing up.  Most of the pictures were not technically good, but it wasn’t about their quality as much as it was about remembering and owning a document of someone’s birthday, or our new kitten, regardless if my dad was in background drinking a Budweiser and smoking a cigarette while holding a baby.  I started taking it seriously in high school when I realized I wasn’t very good at drawing or painting, but still had an overwhelming desire to create.  Photography was easy, almost immediately rewarding, and a provided a tangible memory.  This was a format that I was familiar with, and started to see it in a new light when I learned how to make my own prints in the darkroom.

ES: You are a curator as well as photographer, how do you keep a distance between the two? Do you find yourself most drawn to work you would make?

TP: The shows I have curated, events I have organized, and zines I have made are all things that I would want to see and participate in.  Naturally, I am most drawn to work that I wish I made, or work that makes me feel something I wish I could make people feel with my art.  I believe that it’s important to make things happen for yourself because very rarely are opportunities just handed to you.  When I first started proposing shows, it was because I wanted to show my work somewhere and I knew other, very talented people who were not getting the recognition they deserved, and thought: hey, why don’t we just show together, wherever we can?  The act of installing and working together with other artists and likeminded people on a show was sort of the art itself.  As things progressed, and I started to meet more and more artists, I began to want to give a venue for these people to show and share their work.  It is hard to keep a distance, because I want to show my work just as badly as everyone else, but I am trying.  I am not entirely sure I am even a “curator” as much as I am a patron of the arts who organizes shows and events.

Fence fts Fort Hill

ES: What for you is your favorite way for work to be viewed; ie zine, wall, public, etc?

TP: I think it truly depends on the kind of work being viewed.  I am in love with the zine and book formats and I think they are an imperative way of looking at and preserving art, and are very much their own art form.  For the most part, though, I think my favorite art experiences and viewing interactions have been in apartment or alternative gallery spaces where the work isn’t so precious, and the feeling or urgency for the act of creating, showing and sharing are earnest and present.

ES: What is your working method?

TP: I mostly shoot large format, but am drawn to image making whatever way possible be it 35mm or cell phone camera, I really enjoy the act of taking pictures.  What I like about 4×5 is what most people who shoot large format will say: it slows you down and forces you to look more carefully and edit more carefully before taking a picture.  That being said, I have worked a few different ways.  In the project SLEEP THE CLOCK AROUNDI was looking to create a document of a time and make images that resonated with the experiences I has having and life I was living at the time.  This mode of working was atypical for me, so I would say that all of those images are definitely scripted.

SEE AMERICA RIGHT is wholeheartedly about movement and exploration for the sake of understanding the country in which I live.  When I travel to make these photographs, I have very loose ideas of the kinds of images I want to make.  I give myself limitations, like location and distance, but that’s usually it.  Given those basic limitations, it’s a lot about finding out what interests me once I get there and letting the images come fluidly.

These two projects are good examples of movement versus monotony in my work, but at the same time I feel as if they balance each other nicely.  While I am in Boston, I tend to make autobiographical work that includes portraits and more personal glimpse into my daily life.  While on the road I don’t ever make portraits – I am more interested in documenting the land, the light and the visual vernacular of a place.

Crank and Elbo fts Fort Hill

ES: What is your favorite city to photograph?

TP: Though I have only been there once and that was for three days, there was something about Los Angeles that really intrigued me.  It was the light and the weather, I think.  There is a lot of visual history there, in addition to this feeling of layers and layers of dirt, grime and smog.  At the same time, there is also this sense of intense beauty and the unknown, the romanticism of the West.  Then again, my time there was so extremely limited that I could very well be making up this feeling. And if that were the case, I would change my answer to New York City because that place is so dense and chaotic that you can get away with photographing anything and anyone without having to worry about a thing.

Psychic, Los Angeles, California fts See America Right

ES: What would be your death row last meal?

TP: I have to say I would want something that reminds me of a better time and place.  Probably some meal we used to have as a family when I was kid that I don’t remember now and it would take me being on death row to remember again.

Please find more of Trevor Power’s work on his website, tumblr, & flickr.

Thieves A Plenty

Feature, Petty Thieves, Spotlight
Matt Borowick

We hope everyone has been having a wonderful weekend. Washington, DC may be full of tourist at the moment but somehow it hasn’t ruined the perfect weather that we’ve had these past two days. It has put us in such a great mood we thought we’d share with you some totally kickass photos from our Flickr group, Petty Thieves.

Winslow Laroche
十三
Veronica Melendez
Theo Gosselin
Bryce Yates

You can see more of these photographer’s work by following the links below:
Matt Borowick
Winslow Laroche
十三
Veronica Melendez
Theo Gosselin
Bryce Yates

Keep an eye out for some wonderful interviews and BIG news over the coming week. Remember TWENTY/12 and the original Petty Thieves project? If not, you should get yourself in the know because some awesome things are coming this way.

A Bit About Bill

Feature, News, Pictures, Spotlight, Text
"Untitled, 1973" by William Eggleston

I feel as if many photographers working today owe a lot to Bill Eggleston. Or perhaps not. Either way, his influence among the art world has been sort of delayed about 40 years. Like many art students, I learned about him in an introductory photography course during my freshmen year in college. I was ignorant to any photographer shooting seriously in this “snapshot aesthetic” — the only photographers I knew about were Man Ray and Ansel Adams. And I no idea one could make art about one’s home — his hometown in Memphis, Tennessee. The South. Ah, I thought, something I identify with readily that many of my classmates didn’t. I understood it. His pictures felt like home, my home. I ended up going home over Thanksgiving break and making pictures around the countryside with which I was duly familiar. The landscape I spent most of my grade school years attempting to escape. Now, here I was, stopping my car on the side of the road with my camera out, taking in appraising stares from strangers bypassing in their cars. I’ve done this every time I’ve gone home.

I owe a bit to ol’ Bill Eggleston. What he did for art and color photography and more importantly, what he made me realize about southern imagery. Even though he claims his pictures aren’t necessarily southern (and I don’t think they are either), but that art could be made about whatever is around you.

Naturally, I wasn’t at all surprised that the above image is expected to gross a quarter of a million dollars at Christie’s this March. But I am a little surprised it took this long. (And, by the way, doesn’t it look a bit like the St. Andrew’s Cross?)

It’s over now and I’m a little tired

Feature, Petty Thieves, Spotlight

For those that may be new to Empty Stretch, we just wanted to let you know about our Flickr group – Petty Thieves. It’s really our first curating attempt and a lot of the work that gets submitted to us blows us away. I think the best part about it though is the narratives that a person can form from the wide range of photos we’ve collected. I picked just five for today, but we hope to make these little sequences a more common occurrence on our blog. I call this one, It’s over now and I’m a little tired.

David Ciarli Wilson
Iago Barreiro
Alison Scarpulla
Helen Korpak
Lisa Smit

You can see more of these photographer’s work by following the links below:
David Ciarli Wilson
Iago Barreiro
Alison Scarpulla
Helen Korpak
Lisa Smit

We’d love to have you take part in the fun as well. Feel free to join the group, and send us some of your best pictures. We’re really not looking for a certain style or anything, just whatever you think is your best and we’ll most likely agree. Also, besides getting in a possible feature like this one, we use this group for the curating of our book series, Petty Thieves (an awesome book that will be coming to you once we get TWENTY/12 printed!).

A Thorny Thorny Hill

Feature, Pictures, Spotlight

Isabelle Evertse is an interesting photographer whose work touches a lot of notes. At one moment you feel a nostalgic longing for something that never was and the next wanting to dive head first into an African village that may or may not exist. These constructive narratives are something that l found interesting with her work and something I stride to be a quality of my own.

fts Thorny Hill

Evertse’s series, Thorny Hill, takes the initiative of informing the viewer that what they are seeing may or may not be real. This knowledge conflicts with what we are seeing though, a series of aesthetically traditional documentary imagery, and starts prompting the notion of what is real and what is not. But even this is a bit absurd; these images are real in the sense that these events happened, these people exist and while they may not all dwell within this created atmosphere, that atmosphere does in fact exist. So what may not be real about these images?

fts Thorny Hill

The validity of the narrative, the story of what we the viewer create through viewing the images verse what the photographer intended. While this may seem like a moot point of interest, I find this really interesting because our perception of images and how we read images is constantly changing. This change is in part because of the general distrust of what we find within our digital culture. When photo manipulation becomes so easy to do, this aesthetic type of imagery begins to hold a certain sense of validity and certainty to it. In blunt terms, this photo looks real so it must be. But why do we feel that way and what can photographers do with this?

fts Thorny Hill
fts Thorny Hill

I feel the product of all of this is the constructive narrative. While people like John Gossage set the foundation for the contemporary understanding of the constructive narrative back in 1985 with the publishing of, The Pound, the application to a documentary aesthetic is fairly new. Evertise’s work is an interesting blend between the old and the new understanding or application of this idea. While Evertise continues the path of a visual narrative, it alternatively becomes a personal reflection of a former life. The distance within the images from the subject matter help to keep the narrative loose and unbinding to a predestined path while the aesthetic helps to retain the series within the validity of ‘truth.’

fts Thorny Hill

The product is a constructed narrative that follows the line of a loose narrative that harps on a sense of remembrance and forgetting. An openness to interpretation though allows for the viewer to convey their own intentions and interpretation upon the work, truly forming a completed structure. The lasting effect is a series that can be revisited upon multiple times and a different story gained through each viewing. This to me is an essential element within storytelling and what really makes this series work, an application of function to aesthetically pleasing and interesting images.

fts Thorny Hill

You can see more of Isabelle Evertse’s work here. (The series, Burnish, and Come Night, are definitely worth your time)

The Quiet Eye of Palmer Davis

Feature, Pictures, Spotlight

Unless you will is an online monthly publication of photography curated by Heidi Romano. I have yet to see an issue that doesn’t captivate me in some way. Each issue is focused on contemporary photography from around world but all with a certain mood that keeps me coming back. I can describe almost every photographer I encounter as maintaining a certain quiet brillance. Each issue reads as a sublime encounter with documentation and experimentation.

Previously unknown to me until Issue 18 of Unless you will was Palmer Davis. I felt it very important to share Davis’ work because he has, not only informed my own photography, but also achieved a method of storytelling that relies heavily on mythical and heartfelt elements. I like it.

Images from Davis’ American Stories series:

"Gilded Age"
"American Gothic"
"Daydream"

Domestic Creature, an “essay on childhood” about the photographer’s son Noah:

"Candy Land"
"Milk and Crackers"
"Photographs"

In the Mystical Realm of Color — Davis explores the people and color scheme of India.

"Red Sari"
"Men with Blue Wall"
"Secret Garden"

Explore more of Palmer Davis.

CCers

Feature, Travel

If you are a reader of Empty Stretch then my love for travel is any big revelation. Sometimes I wonder if I solely like certain photographs because they are of some I am not, but with the following photographers, that question never enters my mind. The following three photographers are what some people call CCers, or cross countriers. They all have taken different means but all have had proven results.

I have known Aaron Huey’s work for a while now, but only recently found his work from when he walked across the country, yea you read that correctly. With his dog Cosmo, he walked 1323 miles from Encinitas, California to Coney Island, NY. He explains the work as a meditation more so than a photographic project, but the work doesn’t seem that way. The portraits are ones that some photographers strive their entire careers to make he somehow managed to capture a specific time in America in a way that hasn’t been done in a long time.

Aaron Huey fts American Portraits
Aaron Huey fts American Portraits
Aaron Huey fts American Portraits
Aaron Huey fts American Portraits
Aaron Huey fts American Portraits
Aaron Huey fts American Portraits

Huey has also given an amazing lecture about his series American Portraits that can be seen here & is well worth the time.

A lot of the travel I do within the United States is thru bus systems & when I first read Ben Pobjoy’s statement for his series Land of America, I was instantly struck by how something so obvious can not be realized. As he states “Bus terminals are therefore peculiar places. They’re mass transit hubs, often open 24/7, that nearly 25 million people pass through each year. However, these terminals primarily service low income passengers, are rarely gentrified and are full of dubious loiterers.” The above statistics are bound to lead to good photographs & Pobjoy comes up far from short. He crossed The United States as well as parts of Canada & Mexico & photographed along the way & the results are as much captivating as they are eery.

Ben Pobjoy fts Land of America
Ben Pobjoy fts Land of America
Ben Pobjoy fts Land of America
Ben Pobjoy fts Land of America
Ben Pobjoy fts Land of America
Ben Pobjoy fts Land of America

I came across the work of Andrew Kenney just yesterday & essentially that was the rest of my day. Immediately his work struck me as different, overall there is a sense of movement or transition but it isn’t felt in single photographs, as you move thru his website & the photos built in your mind, only then are you really tuned into effect his work has. So when I saw that Kenney & a friend decided to cross the country on motorcycles, I could hardly contain my excitement. The work is still & calm, but paired with his journal entries, they take on a new life.

Andrew Kenney fts August of 2011
Andrew Kenney fts August of 2011
Andrew Kenney fts August of 2011
Andrew Kenney fts August of 2011
Andrew Kenney fts August of 2011
Andrew Kenney fts August of 2011