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.
I’ve been fortunate enough to keep tabs on Andrew Marino through his Flickr site for quite sometime. His pictures not only bring back some fond memories and scenes of my home state of North Carolina, but show me a side of the state I don’t get to see too much. But he doesn’t stop there. There’s something beautifully hidden about what Andrew is showing us, moments caught in time that’s not specifically reliant on a place like NC, but in his own aesthetic wherever he travels, back to his native New York or anywhere in between. Andrew and I have struck up a dialogue regarding his work.
Empty Stretch: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Andrew Marino: My name is Andrew, 23 years old, born and raised on Long Island, New York. Currently residing and working between Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina. A few things I enjoy are good beer, web design, beekeeping, and entrepreneurship in the arts. You could call me more of a collaborator than anything. Nothing is better than making something awesome with your friends
ES: How did you get in to photography?
AM: I feel like it was significantly rooted in moving to North Carolina from New York in the summer of 2004. I got my first 35mm shortly after I arrived here, and I found it to be a positive way to cope and adjust with my new surroundings. Since then I had dabbled between shooting with both film and digital cameras, photographing the house shows my friends hardcore and noise bands played, and messing around with some abstract shooting. This was on and off though. I hit a lot of dry spells.
I purchased my friend’s Hasselblad a year ago, and I started taking things more seriously. Medium format was a refreshing change of pace at the time and having to learn everything manually, how to meter, how to scan negatives – all those challenges became really engaging. I don’t have a formal background in photography, but Flickr has been a really great community to share your work and get feedback. The past year or so I’ve been making an effort to connect with others and forming friendships from it.
ES: Why do we keep using film?
AM: Good question. For many of us, it’s a preference of aesthetics. It’s a process that requires patience, something that’s quickly fading away in today’s high-speed digital world. I’m glad to see people still taking the time to shoot film. Perhaps it’s similar to the renaissance happening with vinyl records, where you appreciate a tangible object instead of the same thing in digital form. There’s no right or wrong really.
ES: I noticed on your Flickr stream, your photos float in and out of North Carolina and New York. What are the biggest challenges and successes about shooting in each setting?
AM: North Carolina is a lot more spread out than New York, and that was kind of hard to get used to after the denser areas I grew up with. Despite this, there is so much in between the cracks to explore. Lately I’ve been checking out the rural landscapes of Chatham and Alamance counties, getting lost on the old state highways and stumbling upon the remnants of the older traditional life. It’s just damn beautiful out there and it took me long enough to finally appreciate it.
Funny story… when I was taking that shot of the foggy home in Chatham County, I misjudged the shoulder I had parked my car on and ended up getting stuck in the mud all alone in the middle of no where. There must have been at least 10 people passing through in the span of a couple of hours that stopped and asked if I needed any help. A gentleman in his pickup was generous enough to haul me out and wouldn’t accept a donation as a thank you. I didn’t think to snap a portrait of him at the time because I was absolutely stunned at the hospitality Southern folks have for complete strangers. If this had happened on the side of the Long Island Expressway, no one would even think twice to stop.
Each visit to New York puts a small dent in the amount of things and areas I want to photograph. It’s important to really keep tabs on your equipment at all times. Things can get lost or stolen if you aren’t careful. On the upside, there’s so many great people to meet and work with. There’s really a great variety of places to shoot at. Outside of the city, I really enjoy going back to the coastal life of eastern LI, and upstate holds a lot of natural beauty.
ES: In what ways have you noticed the changing social landscape of the South, specifically in North Carolina?
AM: I haven’t spent hardly enough time with the rest of the American South, so it would be difficult to answer for it as a whole. Something I have noticed are great strides in the arts community around North Carolina. My friend Tristin Miller has curated a wonderful annual gathering called the Hand-to-Hand Market out in Greensboro, NC. Beyond local artists showcasing their work, it has a nice variety of workshops and educational talks. The philosophy behind the whole thing really reaches out by connecting on a deeper level with one another and I’d love to see this sort of thing spread to more places. This year it’s on May 20th at The Blind Tiger in Greensboro, NC – go check it out!
ES: Does it take a special eye to see the square format image?
AM: The square format image not take a special eye necessarily, but it sure does require a different approach than other formats in order to be used effectively. The confines of 6×6 medium format photography makes you slow down and compose your shot more carefully. It also makes you pick and choose your shots differently. The thing I appreciate most is the symmetry and balance that the square image can offer.
ES: Do you feel as though music fuels your photography or vice versa?
AM: Absolutely, photography and music (sound in general), go hand in hand in both ways with my experiences. While each can stand its own ground just fine, they can compliment each other by filling in the gaps with other senses. My collaborative work with Andrew Weathers, and the record label Full Spectrum that we run together, are my main outlets that merge sound and image. We generate a lot of creative energy and there’s a great deal of inspiration through the artists we work with and feature.
The minimalist and ambient nature of some of the music I enjoy listening to influences my work to a significant degree. Albums such as ‘October Language’ by Belong, or ‘And Their Refinement Of The Decline’ by Stars of the Lid are two good examples. While they are beatless, have no lyrics, and are sparse at times, they can create vivid imagery and rich atmospheres. It’s kind of hard to describe it in words. I never really provide much more than a title, if at all, or a caption with a location. These songs, like the images, are really meant to speak for themselves and for the audience to interpret their messages.
ES: Where is your photography going this year?
AM: This year I have a few trips and projects in the works. I’m heading out to San Francisco & Oakland in May. I’ll also be spending some time in New York, and of course more Carolina explorations. Wherever I end up this year, I’ll be sure to bring my cameras along for the ride. Andrew Weathers and I are currently working on a book titled We Don’t Get Sun Like This. It consists of Andrew’s music, and some photograph pairs of ours. It should be ready sometime this summer.
Thank you for spending a few minutes with me.
The Jamestown Flea Market is in neighboring Burke County, North Carolina. I hadn’t been there in a few years and I’m always astounded by the place. It’s not just the sheer size of this indoor/outdoor market, but the covalence of cultures that live in this one place, if just for the weekend. There is an intriguing, beautiful balance of Mexican and Hmong cultures, selling their merchandise and food to shoppers, as well as an overarching Southern culture that isn’t easy to miss. I met a man who made his own stringed instruments, one of which was a beautiful ivory inlay of a depiction of Jesus Christ coming out of the woods after His 40 Days of Temptation, on a guitar. I went there not knowing what to expect, as my memories of this place became lost over the past years, but here are some pictures from my first day back in North Carolina over my spring break.
Springtime in North Carolina feels more like summer. Not just because of the weather, though, although I think today topped out at about 80-degrees. When I’m home, like I am now for only a week, I find myself photographing like a fiend, albeit an inspired one. I’ve had this idea for a while, an idea for a photo book about the legend of Tom Dooley whose story is the epitome of Southern mythology. The short version of the legend of Tom Dula says that the man killed a woman named Laura Foster shortly after returning back to the foothills of North Carolina after the Civil War and buried her in a shallow grave. He was hanged a couple years later, but the story lives on in song, thanks to everyone from such music acts as The Kingston Trio in the 1950′s to, more recently, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Dula’s innocence is still disputed today in North Carolina. In 2009, several members of the city where Dula was raised and later convicted of murder, pleaded to then-governor Mike Easely to Dula’s pardon.
Much like family history, tales from the past revolving around a pair of jilted lovers, become taller with age. And this particular piece of folklore is quite old. I have a book project currently in the works that I hope will tell all the sides of Tom Dula’s story: his jealous lover who supposedly killed his girlfriend, Dula allegedly taking the raft, and how it keeps getting told over and over in a variety of ways. In Appalachian culture, songs and stories of jealous lovers are commonplace, i.e. “Banks of the Ohio” — they’re murder ballads. And such is the working title for the book called: “Sweet Heart Murder Ballad”
Here’s some images I made the other day in Wilkesboro, NC where the Tom Dula story first unfolded.
“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” — William Faulkner, “Light in August”
It’s been a while since I’ve written about my pictures regarding my senior thesis. So here’s an update. Since my crusade of shooting 100 sheets of 4×5 film during the summer, I’ve dabbled here and there in Northern Virginia, much closer to DC than North Carolina, shooting only a little bit. Thanksgiving break saw a 90-sheet increase in my shooting and later at Christmas, 140 sheets down. I took my first picture within the bounds of thesis during the first week of July 2011. It’s a portrait of my father on the beach. The last image I took for this project (for now) was of a red out building out in the community of Vale, North Carolina. The sun had just set and the landscape had sort of a blue sameness to it, except for this pale red barn out near my great aunt’s house. I’m not one to take pictures of barns, but with one last sheet left, I couldn’t resist the visual symmetry on this clear, winter’s evening. Sometimes you have to take those kind of pictures to get to the next ones. Both of these images I described were taken in extreme circumstances, 100+ degree temperatures on a windy beach, the other, nearly below freezing temperatures out in the foothills. As of now, neither one of these pictures made it into the final edit.
A lot of things have come up when talking and photographing this project regarding growing up in the South, that is say, Southern memory, personal and historic. I’m not so sure “what’s Southern” can even be described in words without mentioning some of the stereotypes of the culture. The South I grew up is nothing like the South Bill Christenberry or Bill Eggelston photographed. It remains a part of American mythology. To me, what’s Southern is something much more simple than old storefronts, sweet tea, or NASCAR, although I have photographed those things to get to the next things. Coming closer, but never quite being able to define Southern heritage. It’s almost like living in a photographic paradox, separating what’s Southern from what’s actually American, or more importantly, what’s personal from what’s global. Of course I think it begins with the Civil War, but, writer Walker Percy puts it more eloquently. It’s a statement of his I still stand by.
“There is a Southern heritage, and it has nothing to do with the colonel in the whiskey ad. It has to do with the conservative tradition of a predominately agrarian society, a tradition which at its best enshrined the humane aspects of living for rich and poor, black and white. It gave first place to a stable family life, sensitivity and good manners between men, chivalry toward women, an honor code, and individual integrity. If one wishes to sneer at such values, let him; but I can’t help wondering if the sneer does not conceal a contempt for all traditions.”
I think that’s what my thesis is all about. Here are some new images from that body of work.
2012 is already looking great for all of us at Empty Stretch. I’m excited to say I, along with friend of Empty Stretch, Mark Harley, will have work at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, North Carolina this January.
Mark and I are a part of an exhibition called Contemporary South at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, North Carolina, its purpose is to highlight artists across the American South and was juried by Xandra Eden, Curator of Exhibitions at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The exhibition runs from January 6th — 26th, 2012. The opening reception will be on January 6th from 6pm — 9pm. If you’re in the area at all, please come and show your support for myself, Mark, and the Empty Stretch cause.
Visual Art Exchange
309 W. Martin Street
Raleigh, NC 27601