Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Adam Bartos Interview

The new issue of Bomb Magazine has a wonderful interview with Adam Bartos conducted by author A.M. Homes. Below you can find an excerpt from their exchange, but I would highly recommend picking up a copy at your local bookstore so you can read it in its entirety. You can also listen to a brief audio clip from the interview here.

A.M. Homes: It's interesting how, looking at your work - the yard sales, the United Nations, the Russian space program, Los Angeles - they all have a melancholy tinge of things slightly left behind, or the thing looked back on.

Adam Bartos: It's hard for me to explain what that is. I feel some tenderness about these things - and I suppose that I photograph what I like; I think that includes people as well. John Berger said about Boulevard, my book on Los Angeles and Paris, "Althusser once defined solitude as 'nobody anywhere is waiting for you.' All the places in these pictures have turned their backs on us. For them, the photo doesn't exist."

AMH: Things and places.

AB: I want to maintain a disinterested attitude, a consistent distance, which is important because I'm not trying to make a particular or singular statement about what I'm photographing. Even when I photograph people, as in Hither Hills, I see them in relationship to a landscape, maybe in a kind of sculptural relationship to objects as well. But in spite of myself, that feeling of solitude comes through.

AMH: It's a personal vocabulary, the language of your work, the thing that is the you that's in there, that's not named or articluated or even necessarily intentional, but it is the thing that repeats itself, which I find mesmerizing. Architecture comes back again and again in your work, elements of buildings or relationships to a piece of a building.

AB: My father was an architect. So I was aware of the fact that something is made through a process. As a kid I knew that somebody designed the buildings I saw. And I have also always been interested in vernacular architecture, architecture without architects. The character of surfaces as well, and in particular, how age or newness affects how things look in the present. I like to champion objects and spaces that I think are not fully seen on some level, and that speak to me. The UN project and the Kosmos projectsare both worlds that I felt like I could possess in some way. To me, these places felt as if they had been made to be photographed in color and it had not been done. Also, while the UN building and the Russian space program are symbolic space, the references we bring to them have changed over time, as they became relics of discarded aspirations. So in that sense, I'm examining the past, or reorganizing it for myself because I find these places beautiful.

Darkroom (C.R. view)

Image © Adam Bartos