Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your photographic background?
I began taking images when I dropped out of film school about 6 years ago. It was a time when I was totally free and completely lost. I used images as a way to structure my daily life and in many ways photography was my salvation. All nostalgia aside, I am self taught and am just now entering an institution to receive instruction (but mostly access to mad resources). On a side note, I began taking images at the same time I discovered Tumblr… so if you want a visual background on my practice it is literally all there, infinite scroll, the good the bad and the ugly.
As mentioned your tumblr is where we find most of your images, do you feel that this is the best outlet for your work?
I think it is an effective outlet for a variety of reasons. For one, as I mentioned earlier, pretty much my entire practice is on view through my site. There is something really great about being able to see every photograph someone has taken in a pretty straight chronological order. It becomes about the process and the journey as well as the individual image. It makes me think about Zoe Strauss, a Phildalphia based artist. She has a Flickr that houses almost every single picture she has taken including her subsequent edits. That transparency is really refreshing to me, where you can see the entirety of my work, all collapsed on top of each other. That idea of collapsing a practice is also interesting for my work, which is pretty multifaceted. You get my observational “street photography” next to my assemblage constructions next to Photoshop interventions and everything in between. There is also this idea of a relationship with your viewer that is interesting. I have met so many incredible people through the site, and have found that its casual nature fosters openness amongst users. I have found many opportunities through the website and many opportunities have found me. Tumblr has been good, but there is also the need to create a space that is more controlled, where these different bodies of work exist on their own terms.
There is a real varied approach to the photographs you present your viewers, where do you interests lie in photography and who has influenced those views?
Let me begin by saying that while photography has been my medium of choice for quite awhile, I am invested in having dialogue about photography and its relationship to other mediums. I think photography is a medium that is very accessible and particularly relevant to where we are now. That being said, I am much more interested in the aesthetics of painting and digital spaces, and situating work in a sculptural context. I am just now getting into a place where I have access to the resources I need to make this work that I think will reflect more precisely my concerns. However, I will say some things I have been interested in lately. For one, there is digital manipulation and what I see as its relationship to painting and ideas of performance, more on that later. I am deeply invested in the concept of flatness. I believe that an image starts and ends with its surface. I think that we exist in a very flat world right now, we live in a screen and we collapse our lives into flat social structures like Facebook. I am also interested in formalism. When I was a bit younger, Laszlo-Maholy Nagy was a big influence. I made a lot of work that rested purely on its formal properties. Even now, though I have become much less focused on that realm of Modernist purity, it is one of the more important things I consider when making an image. I believe that our first understanding of the world is through visual language, and that this should inform the direction of art production. I see a lot of work that relies on context, where the content of the image defines the form and I believe it should be the opposite, that form should be the first experience, the point of access from which the content creeps in. Matisse is a huge influence on my work and I suppose my life in general. I look to his uncanny understanding of color but even more to his immaculate strategy of composition, where if any element were to be removed the entire balance and integrity of the image would be upset.
What do you feel about the trend of deliberate post production appearing in photography at the moment?
On the one hand, I am really tired with the trend. I think my frustration has more to do with the spectacle of imitation that informs most trends in contemporary photography, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of online image dissemination. I also think that my frustration with the use of deliberate postproduction is rooted in seeing very specific iterations all the time, manipulation a la Blalock if you will. There are a few artists using this tactic that I really think are pushing the envelope but by and
large it is a lot of mindless copycats. There is alot resting on a few very specific references who have set a precedent. I think people either are uncomfortable creating their own language using post production techniques or feel that clumsy manipulation is an easily exploited formula, that is thusly validated by their peers; preaching to the choir. In most cases I see deliberate post production as a decorative affect instead of an integral function of the work. So much of the work is aesthetic swagger jacking which misses the whole point of someone like Lucas Blalock is doing. I read an interview with him recently where he talks about how his manipulations function as acts of performative intervention. It is that conceptual foundation that is lacking from a lot of the work I am seeing these days.
Outside of its existence as a trend, I think deliberate post production is extremely relevant and interesting. I look to Artie Vierkant’s work where he manipulates exhibition documentation or to the more meditative, process oriented work of Bryan Kreuger, as examples of compelling post production manipulation. My own engagement with image manipulation comes from ideas about illusion. When I think about post production, I think about blockbuster cinema and the retouching business. There is this reaching for a kindof perfection in both, the creation of a seamless illusion. Not only do I find this sly and deceptive, but I think the quest for the hyperreal is journey towards self-immolation, where the power of illusion is totally lost. I manipulate images in a direct way where I want people to know that it has been edited.
Your from Philadelphia right? Can you tell us about the photographic scene over there, can you tell us of any hidden photographic gems? (shops/galleries/studios…)
To be honest, the photography scene in Philly is a bit underwhelming. I mean there are definitely good artists working there but as far as a cohesive “scene” I’d say it is lacking. In general, the art scene in Philadelphia is pretty conservative although there are some true gems: Bodega, Fjord and the Vox Populi building. The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is also pretty cool.
You are studying at Rhode Island School of Design is it a good institution to work at, any inspirational tutors?
RISD is an interesting place. I’d say that it’s strength lies in an exceptional student body and tremendous resources. As far as photography is concerned, I have some reservations. While they don’t discourage interdisciplinary work, they are proponents of “virtuosity” and that can sometimes get in the way of fostering more progressive work. They also push the idea of “content” based work, and that can be frustrating at times where the content of my own work is more related to aesthetic theory. That being said I am a big fan of the former department head, Steve Smith. He really helped me getting into the school and I think he is making really insightful work. I’d recommend checking out his series, Irrational Exuberance, a hilarious look at architecture and landscaping in Utah, revealing a seemingly untamed affinity for creating artificial landscapes that mimic the local terrain.
Are you working on any new projects you would like to tell us about?
This summer has been quite busy. I have been making a bunch of preparatory work for the school year, paintings in Photoshop and creating a well of “stock images” from which I will be making physical works with. The bigger thing though has been putting together an issue of MATTE Magazine on my work. It is a sortof mini-retrospective of the different bodies of work I have made over the past year and Matthew Leifheit.