Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Conversation With Larry Sultan

I was digging through the archives of Big, Red & Shiny this evening and was pleasantly surprised to find an interesting interview with Larry Sultan. I have posted an excerpt of it below, however, you can find the whole thing here.

BRS: There seems to be a model, in the art world and especially in academia, of relating photography in terms of language. Though photography can be a non-verbal experience to a certain degree, it seems that language is often imposed on top of it. Then I wonder about the tension between the analytical mind that can critically look at a photograph versus the creative mind that can produce it. Can a photo be made from a point of view of a deconstruction?

LS: You can, and some people have done beautifully at inventing a practice around deconstruction and analytical investigation. It's not really the way I work, but I think the question is a larger one, about how we teach photography and learn photography.

If you're a painting student, the instructor can come in and push your hand, say, "do this" or "try this kind of strategy". It's an immediate intervention. We usually don't go out and physically make pictures together, so we can only help the student once the picture is made through discussion, through language.

It doesn't have to be an analytic process. Literature especially has an interesting relationship photography--to observation, to description, to fiction: taking something that you see and elaborating, jamming, and I think, staging. That weird practice between staging and finding is very much like a Ray Carver (story). You think, "he's seen this," but he's taking that moment of observation and letting it go, giving it some wings, following it, rather than nailing it. You're riffing off of reality.

I've always wanted to be a writer. The text to The Valley and the text to Pictures From Home were really important. I've actually thought about stopping photographing for a while and just writing, maybe that would get closer to the bone.

Photograph from the series Pictures From Home

Image © Larry Sultan