This is my new, official, definitive blog. For my first post here, I’ve decided to include an interview that I did recently with Lynn, a student. I’ve been asked a few times this year to answer some questions for an art or photography student’s assignment, and I’m always flattered (and hope that I am able to help them to get a good grade). Lynn had some great questions and said she didn’t mind if I included them here.
1. What were your inspirations for “Earth Magic” and your more recent work “Symbosis”? What are you trying to convey to the audience?
My inspiration for “Earth Magic” was allowing myself to linger on feelings that I had when I was very young – this idea that, since females seemed mysterious to me, they must be imbued with some sort of supernatural power. It’s a very strange thing to look back on, but apparently I wasn’t the only one with that train of thought. I read through a lot of the early literature regarding witches – the witch-hunting handbooks and other reference materials, and they all had a very similar train of thought. They portrayed these women as living apart from human society, living off of nature and having supernatural powers. This was, obviously, explored from a place of extreme misogyny. “Earth Magic” was my way of investigating this way of historically making women the “other,” but attempting to turn the tables. I asked myself “what if it these women DID exist? What if they WERE powerful, living apart from civilization? What if that isn’t a bad thing?”"Symbiosis” came about because I had fallen in love. I was experiencing some new sensations regarding opening up and sharing my life with another person. I found this to tie in with a lot of my other interests – in Alchemical thought there is a figure known as the Rebis. This is a creature with two heads and both masculine and feminine characteristics, and it symbolizes the merging of opposites: male and female, day and night, etc. Everything is related in Alchemy – when an Alchemist perfects a material, they progress themselves.So I started taking photographs of the two of us and using paint to join the bodies together. The act of physically doing that was very important to me. I went through several testing phases – around 8, I think. Finally I found a way that I thought brought my ideas across the best. The images are small, there is a feeling of intimacy when someone gets in close to look at the details.
2. Were you always interested in this subject matter for your photographs? i.e. witches, alchemy, magic…etc. Where do you think these interests stem from?
Those are subjects that have been of interest to me since I was very young. I used to spend time with the kid down the street when I was young because he had the entire collection of the “Mysteries of the Unexplained” books. We would talk about things like ghosts and auras for hours. It’s only within the last few years that I’ve found ways to integrate this into my artwork. Everything I do is personal in some way, but I’m using some of the subject matter or tools of the paranormal as a matrix for exploration.
3. I know you used the wet-plate collodion process for “Earth Magic” and it provides lovely effects, is there a conceptual reasoning for choosing to use this process?
To an extent. It’s very hands-on, which I like very much. It provides a particular look that lends itself well to the ominous wooded areas in the photographs. There also seemed to be something particularly relevant about the fact that I was handling a silver solution – silver being generally related to powerful female characters such as Diana/Artemis. But mainly that was an aesthetic choice. Had I taken these photographs with a digital camera, they would be totally different.
4. Is there a central question (philosophical, scientific, artistic) that drives your work?
I’m exploring ideas of the unknown or invisible. Photography is generally thought of as a means of documenting what is actually there – if you see it in a photograph, it’s true. However since photography was invented, it has been used to document the unseen: human auras, thoughts, ghosts, etc. I’m working with these approaches to photography in order to attempt to explore and document some of the invisible forces in my own life: love, desire, time.
5. I love your hand made books that you’ve created, (I like to use mixed media myself), where did the idea/interest to make them come from?
Thank you! I love books. I love reading books and I love owning books. I started making original artist’s books as a form of album to hold my prints. I have a bit of a problem with taking on too much. My “albums” turned into elaborate projects that took over my life, and would include paint, text, audio, etc. They progressed very organically. When I’ve attempted to plan these things too much, they collapse almost instantly. I have to let them grow at their own pace.Regarding the limited edition books that I’ve recently made, I realized that several people that I greatly respected had produced handmade books. One of my favorite photographers of all time, Hans Bellmer, made several. I think that there was a time when self-publishing was perfectly common and respectable. That changed for a while, but the tide is definitely changing. People want something more personal. I know that I do. So I decided to make the kind of books that I would want to own myself. This was also a way for me to sell something at a price that would be a bit more realistic for most people, but still be something that I would be proud to send out into the world. I always envision this fictitious book that you find somewhere – that dream find in a used bookstore that is beautiful and shows you something you didn’t know existed. I want to make a book that would give me that sensation.