Okay folks, there's a photo symposium coming up in Kapital City.
Titled: "The Shrinking World of Photography", it's taking place Saturday, January 24th. There are a few peripheral events taking place around this as well.
Here's the poster, you can get the gist of it from that:
And, if you want more info, here's a link: XXXX
One of the feature exhibitions of the symposium is a group show by the members of the Boreal Collective, which I had the honour to curate.
This is a schematic of that exhibition and I'll attach my statement here as well.
Nothing in this world is ever the result of just one other thing. Everything is an amalgam; every instant is a coincidence. But the stress of our lives since birth creates filters we use to process, and react to, the world we move through. Our thinking is not evenly weighted; we always give preference to this over that. And so we make some so-called sense.
Photographers who go out into the world, make contact and bring back evidence are stuck on the horns of this dilemma. How to sort things out while they’re there on the ground, what to record and how to record it and, then, how to process, pick and choose, after the fact, from that pile of data. Why this? Why not that?
The camera always transforms the subject of the photograph into something else: a frozen shard of time and space. In the hands of a practiced practitioner, though, it can close the gap between the external (the normative subject) and the internal (the photographer’s subjectivity) in miraculous ways. It can turn reality into resonance.
When I was asked to curate a show for Boreal, I asked each member to send me ten or fifteen images that, to them, went well past any objective look at what they had actually photographed. I wanted to see images they considered more than mere document, images that were, in fact, representations of how they feel.
What you see here is a further mutation of reality. I chose and arranged these particular images not because they are photographs of a hearth or fireworks or a baby, but in spite of that. This, to me, is life.
Tony Fouhse January, 2015
Timothy Archibald photographed by Jen Siska.
Q: So, you have a new book out?
A: Yes! HOME, published by Straylight Press up in Ottawa, Canada. $24 bucks for a book and a print!
Q: What’s this book about? Pictures of your home?
A: Well yes and no. There was a chunk of time a few years back where I was living in this home, sleeping in the garage, seeing a psychologist and witnessing the dissolution of my marriage. I was in that relationship for most of my adult life, we had two children and all of this created this tidal shift. I would look at my life, my kids, my home through this new filter- not positive or negative, but clearly changed.
Q: How does that relate to the images?
A: I think it fueled them. There was a feeling of time passing, of children being pulled by gravity and then coming back up again. Seasons changing, holes being dug, things breaking and the world just keeps on turning. None of these things are literally in the photographs, but these are the themes that were on my mind at the time and seem to inform the work.
Q: Straylight is in Ottawa, you are in San Francisco. How did that go?
A: Every book for me is this kind of emotional gut wrenching experience. Usually I don’t really know what these projects are about until I put them all together in book form…and even then they still allude me. Tony Fouhse works at a pace I could rarely keep up with: he cranked out book dummies and edited the book into multiple permutations, he edits with a jackhammer, no waste, no fat, every image needed to have a reason to be there to build and contribute to the feeling and tone of this little story. Half the images got cut from the project right from the start. It’s tight. And much better for it.
Q: Did you guys harmonize?
A: Honestly, I just couldn’t keep up. The thinking that I needed to do to address the book could easily derail a day. Tony would be up early, sending me comments and edits and issues to address and I would save them for the evening to try to slow down the process…I just couldn’t think that fast.
Q: Lots of energy there huh?
A: Yah. He seemed to have a vision for HOME, seemed to know how to make a story of sorts out of it. He created this inner fabric that would hold together….fall apart….and then hold together again. Reminded me of jazz, or like of The Stooges 1970 album “Fun House” : some tight pairs suck you in, then it becomes a bit more abstract, then you have these pairs again, the catchy hooks, sucking you in. In the end I loved what the book became, and the title HOME has all the mixed emotions that the work has.
Q: Why Straylight for this project?
A: Well Straylight has had these kind of harsh books- very anchored in the real : Live Through This, Christina Riley’s book Back To Me, and they have a big Scot Sothern book coming out. I mean badass artists and topics. I’m like this suburban soccer-dad type of guy, so I thought it would be ironic to have them put out this book: it’s called HOME, it’s got two kids hugging in it, it even came out during the holidays.
Q: So what is the payoff for you with these books?
A: Well really at some point you let these things go out into the world and you try to see what comes from it. My first book “Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews” was clearly an attempt by me to get attention: a rich subject matter that had the shock of the new to it, and then the words to try to humanize it all. But it was this kind of anthropological project, and in the end the world seemed to simply find it either repulsive or humorous. “ECHOLILIA” came after that, and that had the hot topic of autism behind it, so it almost ended up being like…some big U2 anthem song or something for a while. Then this book, HOME, in the way it began and then in the look and feel of the final book, is like an underground indy music album ---some people will understand it, some will be confused by it, some will get the secrets that may be in there, and others may project their own story into it. And now, after a month of it being out, that seems to be exactly what is happening. And really I couldn’t be happier.
Here in the depths of our Canadian winter I'm scheming a new project. My projects involve wandering about outside and I've never been one to do that too much when it's freezing out. (Except for walking the dogs.)
To that end (remember here I'm talking about a scheme for a new project) I shot a few tests over Christmas. I have a subject in mind and wanted to see what some close approximation of that subject would look like with the lighting I thought I'd use.
I have this idea, or maybe "notion" is a better word, that I want the photos and the project to look "photographic". And by that I mean I want them to look fairly unrefined and happenstance. Of course, being a control freak, I will work to make the happenstance fit my notion. If you know what I mean.
These test shots were done using a hand-held flash and a Mamiya 7. I love the idea that the flash just lights everything up, is so democratic in what it illuminates. I also really like the idea of surprise, the surprise that that kind of light, combined with using film (so you don't know until later how the subject is actually going to to be rendered) provides. Combine this with only shooting a frame or two of each person and you approach a kind of lack of control and happenstance that I'm interested in exploring.
After shooting Mom and Frank, I took some nephews outside for further testing. I used a slightly different light position for these and don't like 'em as much because of that.
So there you go. More testing in the near future, gotta shoot some people standing in the middle of the road or, at least not right up against a wall, to see how that looks.
Then all I have to do is wait for it to get warmer so I can get out there and see what happens/make something happen.
Tony Fouhse, January 7, 2015
The other day, out walking the dogs, I snapped this pic with my iPhone . . .
Then I posted it on Instagram and Facebook. It got a lot of likes. Yikes.
Now, the fact that I posted it must mean something. It might mean "I like this shot". Or maybe it means "Here's a landscape I was recently walking through". Perhaps I believe that the desolate mood of this image, posted so close to Christmas, somehow reflects my thinking about this time of year.
Anyway, whatever it might mean to me, it surely means something else to whoever looked at it. And maybe aspects of it's "meaning", what it might mean to me and what it might mean to the viewer, overlap. There's no way to tell.
But all that's a given, beside the point, really.
What I find interesting about the likes the image garnered is that, in many ways, it is antithetical to the look and feel of my "serious" images and projects. It's soft and easy to like. And, as Cindy said when we were discussing it, "It's easy to like romantic images."
Now it could be successfully argued, I'm sure, that a current of romanticism runs through all my work. Perhaps there is a romanticism to the very act of rendering the world through the filter of the stress of your years since birth and saying, right out loud, "Consider this!". Maybe any attempt by anyone to show their relationship to this world is, by definition, romantic. I don't know, but have my suspicions.
But there's romanticism and Romanticism, isn't there? And making images that are too easy to like, especially in my most recent work, is something I'm trying (or maybe am compelled) to eschew.
Hanging banners on Confederation Blvd. from: OFFICIAL OTTAWA
Tony Fouhse, Boxing Day, 2014
I have recently run across a few Kickstarter appeals, folks want financial help to publish their photobooks. That is, they want the production costs to be fully committed so they can print their book. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether, if their Kickstarter fails, they will print their book anyway. Probably some will and some won't.
Now, I have nothing against Kickstarter, or those who choose to use it. But what ever happened to good-old commitment, to doing something without having it fully funded? What ever happened to saying to yourself, "This is important to me and, money or not, I'm going to make it happen?".
Here at STRAYLIGHT we do things a bit differently. We commit to publishing a book and then hope that it will sell enough for our commitment to pay off. And, once it does, the profits are split between STRAYLIGHT and the photographer. Let me tell you, it sure feels good to send a photographer a cheque.
Come the new year, though, we're going to try something new. Kind of like a Kickstarter, in that there will be a concerted campaign to raise money for a fairly substantial project. Yes, it's my project: OFFICIAL OTTAWA. And, yes, if you contribute you will receive a prize.
But here's the rub . . . we're not going to ask you for money so that we can publish this project and send you the finished product (although, if you do contribute you will get the finished product), because we're going to publish this work, no matter what. No, we're going to be asking for money so that folks who didn't contribute will get the finished product. Kind of like paying it forward.
The idea is to cover the costs of the publication, then print a whole bunch of said publication and either give them away or sell 'em for, like, next to nothing.
We're still in the thinking-this-out phase of this craaazy idea, there are bound to be unforeseen wrinkles. But what else is new? If you're interested in this idea, stay tuned, more after the holidays.
And here's hoping there is some happy in your holidays.
The STRAYLIGHT catalogue so far . . .