Monday, March 30, 2009

Sam Falls

I discovered Sam Falls' work via I Heart Photograph today. There is no written accompaniment to Falls' images on his website, a choice that ultimately serves the work in the end. Writing can be essential, it can also, however, overdetermine the meaning of the photographs. That being said, I did find an insightful interview that Johanna Reed conducted with Falls for her blog This Is That. The passage below is excerpted from their exchange. You can read the interview in its entirety here.

"TisT: You touch on an uneasiness in photography—the fact that it's so ubiquitous in advertising, in addition to having a kind of pomp surrounding it in the fine art gallery. You mention that you want to make "people feel at home with photography." It struck me that this kind of approach might never be applied to a medium such as painting or sculpture; I'm not entirely sure, but there might be something inherent in the medium itself (perhaps its relationship to "technology"?) that lends itself to this. Can you talk a bit more about how you see photography making people feel outcast, or even, as you say, "alienated from the present moment"?

SF: I think you're right in pointing to photography's technological element as playing a large role in its cold and impersonal relationship to the viewer—the classic pitfall of its mechanical reproduction. With painting and sculpture for instance, along with writing, their is an inherent acknowledgment of the time the author spent producing the final product, which therefore serves as a much more intimate medium of exchange between the viewer and the creator. Photography on the other hand only depicts the surface of time, namely the miniscule, cropped moment available only to the lens of the camera. The time the artist spent in the depicted space framing the scene, and later developing the film and printing, is both figuratively and literally washed away and lost in the final product. So the viewer really only has their own frame of reference relative to the image at hand, without any sign of the artist's emotion or interaction with the object—something readily apparent in painting and sculpture where texture and material manipulation reveal the artist's interaction over time. This is not always negative I think, because the viewer is left alone to their own interpretations, but I think art is really valuable when the viewer gets to know the artist and where they are coming from. This is where a photographer must relate their subjectivity to the viewer through content and composition. This is perhaps why I've really begun leaning toward photographing the people, places, and things that hold lasting personal value to me. I used to think this was something reserved for amateur photography and photo albums, but now perhaps it needs to be reinstated in a fine art context in today’s image-based world where meaningless images are omnipresent. I mean any advertisement created by a nameless photographer of a model casting a blank stare away from the camera just tells the viewer "I don't care," and I think just saying, "This is what I care about, and you have things you care about," is now a very interesting concept to me."

All Images © Sam Falls