KENTUCKY CAPTURED: PHOTOGRAPHS INSPIRED BY THE BLUEGRASS STATE

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Ralph Eugene Meatyard American, 1925 – 1972
Untitled, 1970
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 × 11 1/2 in. (24.1 × 29.1 cm.)
Lent by University of Louisville
Photographic Archives

Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky

Dates: March 12 – July 17, 2016
Location: Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, South Building
South gallery

Curated by: Elizabeth Reilly and Marcy Werner

Kentucky Captured surveys the many ways in which the Bluegrass State has inspired photographers in the twentieth century. This exhibition, selected exclusively from the University of Louisville Photographic Archives, is a travelogue stretching from urban to rural landscapes, backyards to graveyards, and from portraits to street photography. Bringing together Kentucky photographers and those from outside the state, the exhibition illustrates how the essence of Kentucky has influenced the photographer’s eye.

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David Graham American, born 1952
Graveyard, Clermont, KY, 1983
Chromogenic print
8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm.)
Lent by University of Louisville
Photographic Archives

See more online information from the Speed Museum. The museum collection is a notable catalog of artwork from pre-history artifacts to contemporary artwork – including a number of contemporary photos in their collection in their third floor North gallery.


All images shown are copyright of the respective artist or estates.

 

Landscape Photos Capture the Past and the Imaginary

This article by David Schonauer on Vantage highlights landscape photography of the past and present that ultimately helps us understand places unlike any other medium.

Out There Landscape Photos Capture the Past and the Imaginary

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Hetch Hetchy Valley. Photo by Matt Ashby Wolfskill (courtesy of Library of Congress)

(Intro to article) Some photographs preserve what is gone. Some capture places that were never there. Both are landscapes worth visiting. Over the past few weeks, there have emerged many stories and projects that deal with landscapes and the people who dwell in them.

We’ve learnt about places from the past that have disappeared — the Hetch Hetchy Valley of California’s Sierra Nevada, the twin of Yosemite that was dammed in 1923 to create a reservoir that holds 85% of the water used by San Francisco.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen documentary work on countries that are unrecognized by other states, such as ghostly Abkhazia, once a holiday spot for the Soviet elite, and the country of Transnistria, which may or may not be part of Moldavia, depending on your viewpoint.

Then there are landscapes that were created for a future that never arrived.

There are some places that only photography can take us. Read on


David Schonauer is editor of Pro Photo Daily. Follow him on Twitter. Jeffrey Roberts is publisher of Pro Photo Daily and AI-AP. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter. Follow Pro Photo Daily on Facebook.

Photography is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Interview with William Olmsted

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William Olmsted’s work does not hit you over the head, or scream at you for attention. It is smarter than that. He shoots mainly with film and film cameras; opting for the approach of selective shooting. His approach toward taking photos involves long walks around his local area once a week or so with his camera, but it is common that he does not take a picture. Olmsted is thoughtful and patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Sometimes I see something in the backyard, or the store parking lot. Shooting isn’t really a regular thing for me, it is more like something that might happen…Something that catches my eye for a reason that is hidden from me at the time, something that can potentially fit in a body of work, something that I can’t imagine as a photograph, something I want to record for seventy year old me.”

His work includes images of birds and other animals native to his area. Some of the animals are trapped – both literally or figuratively in their environment. There are also images of discarded or broken objects – found by the roadside, or inside homes that appear to have sections that are not used, or the entire home may be abandoned. These thematic elements, his visual interplay with color or witty juxtaposed views, are well thought out. His recurring images with birds might leave the viewer with the metaphoric idea of flight or escape, in a physical or possibly spiritual way. His use of elements common to his particular area of the country could seem surreal to people who live in very different places. Olmsted’s images that include guns, knives, and the intrinsic artifacts of hunting exposes a distinct difference between people who live in rural areas versus urban environments.

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When asked to give a statement or overall description about his work, Olmsted wrote, “All my photographs are from the same small town on the coast of Maine where I have lived my entire life. They are a result of my desire for my hometown’s demystification and a consequence of my liminal place here, a looking-back, to say goodbye before I pack things up and leave for good. While not an authoritative view on what is often portrayed as a beautiful vacation place, I hope my photographs stand as an alternative one, because I find Maine’s marginal landscapes more compelling and important than it’s beautiful ones.”

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Q&A

Wobneb Magazine (WM): Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

William Olmsted (WO): I like the process, the wandering. I wouldn’t have discovered the kind of perambulatory exploration I now enjoy so much were it not for photography and carrying a camera goes well with that.

I feel photography is something I can do and I enjoy its limitations and lessons.

There is also the little excitement of looking at my pictures for the first time weeks or months after I take them. That never gets old.

WM: There are so many ways to express oneself in a 21st-century world; What makes still photography your choice of expression? Do you create work in other mediums?

WO: I drew a lot as a young kid, then in high school I found photography and have mostly had a monogamous relationship with it. For a couple years, 2011 and 2012 I think, I didn’t take pictures at all. I dedicated myself to writing for hours a day, but it drove me nuts. A fundamental thing I learned from it was that I’m not a studio artist. I like being out in the world too much, and photography is a good compliment to that desire.

WM: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

WO: It would depend on the photograph. I don’t know if any general rule is applicable. Reasons for liking something can often be more ambiguous than not. I can tell you what makes a bad photograph, or why I don’t like something, but when something clicks and jives with my sensibilities, justifications often feel like hollow rationalization.

Maybe the one thing I could say is, something (is) hinted at. There is usually a sense of a thing left unsaid that I like about quality photographs and projects.

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WM: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

WO: My inspirations are people who work seriously at something over long periods of time. That drive is compelling to me, even when it flies in the face of convenience or even good judgement.

WM: You’ve cited photographers such as Gregory Halpern, Stacy Kranitz, and Lars Tunbjork as influences. In a way, do you see your work being stylistically similar and/or making a statement in a similar fashion as some of your influences? What is your intent for the viewer?

WO: Jeez, I dunno. Those are pretty big names who create really stellar work. To some degree, sure. Between equipment and environment I am probably treading similar path, so I guess it’s only natural that we might share something in common. Their work has influenced me, but so has the work of others across disparate mediums. Maybe there is some relationship between me and them, but that is probably best for the viewer to decide.

I know that a viewer will likely derive meaning from the work, so I might use that as a starting point, but any intent I have for a viewer is mostly non-existent. I guess it’s easy because there really aren’t any that I know of! On some level, I do want people to see my work and I like interacting with other photographers, so I throw my stuff on the internet, but another’s reading of my work isn’t a primary concern right now. Don’t hold me to it though, my feelings about an audience could change from project to project. I could see myself playing with the idea of viewership at some point.

WM: Do you feel your work makes a comment on a universal level, as well as the personal level? Your work is specific to a certain place – is it more about your experience, or do you feel it translates well to other people’s experiences or lives?

WO: My work is related to, and is a product of, my experience; but I don’t know how universal that is. Through the cadence of the photographs perhaps the viewer can enter the landscape and gain or feel something, even if their experience is distant from mine. Maybe that’s using the personal to access something less specific, more universal, I don’t know.

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WM: Would you please explain the idea behind the ‘Void Fraction’ series on your website? Why did you select these image to work together/against each other in a multipart series?
WO: Within photography’s coupling of vagueness and specificity I try to explore memory, sense of place and time as well as create as kind of clouded autobiography. I think these pictures ultimately reduce useful information about the places they were taken and create a kind of fictive alternate dimension which I enjoy adding to. I wanted to create something that was inspired by a year here while playing with the sense of the seasons and day/night cycles. I also found myself photographing many of the same subjects at different times of the year and I noticed patterns emerging that I thought might coalesce into an interesting project.

WM: There are elements of nature, wildlife, landscape, man’s inclusion/interaction with nature in your work – will you comment on why you choose to depict these elements in the way you do?

WO: Maybe I feel my photos of this place are more honest in some way, even though I feel they are lying too. That desire to portray this landscape a little differently gets filtered through various limitations and comes out as whatever it is.

Mostly its just intuition.

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WM: Who are the people that appear in your photographs? Do they have significance beyond the role of a”Figure” in your scenes?

WO: The people in these photographs are all immediate family. I wanted to approach this project from everywhere. Landscapes, portraits, still life, whatever. If it’s lacking one thing at this point it’s more pictures of people, but I still have a years worth of film to develop so we’ll see how things go.

WM: Besides throwing your images out on the Internet, do you see other avenues for your work at this time? Photobook? A gallery exhibition? Have you looked for a gallery to represent you, or do you feel that is an antiquated idea?

WO: I like the idea of a book. I’ve made some PDFs that are on a hard drive somewhere around here that function as a kind of ersatz book. I’ve made some small zines and prints on request, but that is about it.

I’ve never looked for a gallery to represent me and wouldn’t know how to go about being represented. I don’t think I’ve ever even been inside a gallery, so my ignorance is great enough that I have no reason to feel the idea is antiquated either.

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WM: Your statement that you are ready to pack up and leave your hometown for good leaves the impression that you possibly are at odds with the idea of your sense of place, and somewhat the idea of Beauty. Are not ‘marginal’ landscapes ones of Beauty as well? You could make strong work wherever you end up, but why leave Maine?

WO: I guess there is beauty, and then there is Beauty, and there is everything between. Perhaps conventional beauty is a better descriptor, or maybe I need to reword something.

Why leave? I’m finding other places more interesting, and this one less so.


William Olmsted
website: www.williamolmsted.com
tumblr: http://wramo.tumblr.com/
All photographs used by permission. Photos © William Olmsted. Originally published September 2015 by Cary Benbow in Wobneb Magazine.

Interview with photographer J.M. Golding

Cary Benbow: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

J.M. Golding: For me, the answer lies in both the process of creating, and in the images that result from that process. In terms of process, making photographs invites me into what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state, which he describes as ‘‘an almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness,’’ a state of deep absorption in the moment. For me, since I most often photograph in natural settings (an intentional choice based on both where I enjoy being and what I generally most want to see in photos), the flow state carries with it an experience of connecting with nature, what Ruth Bernhard referred to as “knowing what it feels like to be a leaf.” Not only is the experience of photographing wonderful (in the full sense of the word) for me, but then I get photographs, too! As much as I know intellectually that there are solid reasons in physics and chemistry that those pictures exist, I still experience photographs as a form of magic, as alchemy. And not just because they reproduce reality – to me, they’re all the more magical because they transform reality, sometimes in ways that can be quite surprising to my conscious self. I get to use these alterations in reality to create and/or discover metaphors that explore and transform subjective experience. Not only that, but when another person finds resonance in my work, that’s a form of connection between that person and me. It’s a pretty amazing experience all around.

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CB: What is the idea behind your images submitted to F-Stop’s issue, Wonder-Full? Are they part of a project, or why did you select these images?

JG: I chose the images I submitted from among my best work that seemed to express or contain a sense of wonder – something that is integral to photography for me. Some of the photos are part of various projects; others (including “At the frontier of the known world”) aren’t – or at least, for now, no project has cohered around those particular images for me.

The untitled piece is from a project called “Before there were words,” which is about preverbal experience that we retain, perhaps in our unconscious minds, long after it’s become possible, expected, and maybe typical for us to relate to the world largely through words. The photographs speak of pure actuality, that moment before verbal labels rush in to change experience.

“The land transforming” is part of the series, “From destruction grows a garden of the soul,” I made these photographs in the year and a half after a 2013 fire ravaged over 3,000 acres of mountain wilderness in northern California. I couldn’t resist the metaphor of beauty – and, visually, joy – coming into existence after, and as a direct result of, disastrous loss.

“This moment always” is from the series, “Where you are,” which explores integration of closeness and distance using double exposure. The photographs contain elements of each of two exposures, one focused close and one focused far away, fusing them to create an image that couldn’t have been anticipated by either one alone. In joining near and far, they also join solid and ethereal, objective and subjective, sharp and blurred, literal and metaphorical, real and imagined.

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

JG: I think a good photograph is one that moves us, that feels meaningful, that has emotional resonance. Of course, that will differ to some extent from one person to another.

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CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

JG: As you can probably tell from what I said earlier, feeling a connection with nature is a basic inspiration for me. And I’m inspired by light and shadow … by openness to what lies beneath the surface of things … by the emotional resonance of a moment. In my experience, photography is where all of these inspirations meet.

Seeing other artists’ work, and conversation with other artists, are also important sources of inspiration for me. I’d like to mention just a few of those other artists. It probably sounds trite, but I can’t not mention the work of Ansel Adams. I was absolutely stunned from the first time I saw his work, which happened in my late childhood, around the time I took my first darkroom class at summer camp. His books The Camera, The Negative, and The Printwere an important foundation for me, both technically and esthetically.

I’ve also been very much influenced by Ruth Bernhard’s Gift of the Commonplace project. She said that “there is nothing unimportant in the universe” – which takes the emphasis away from the “subject” of the photograph, the thing in front of the lens, to the way it’s photographed, the light, the meaning, the artist’s subjective experience.

Jim Rohan’s photographs are a wonderful source of inspiration for me. In front of his lens, a rock becomes a mysterious symbol, magical light sifts through the trees or meanders along a coastline, a path becomes a gateway into another world, and reflections disclose meaning in their depths. I’m inspired by the ways he sees nature and light, and it’s clear to me that my sense of composition has changed as a result of looking as his photographs.

Amy Nicolazzo makes intensely subjective photographs, full of emotional resonance, inviting me to see deeply and to discover meaning, and frequently leaving me breathless. Often as I try to describe my experience of these photographs, I find the words slipping from my grasp, and I suspect that’s because the feeling is in the picture, not in words … an important aspect of what I hope to do in my own work.

Al Brydon makes otherworldly landscapes that hold a palpable sense of presence, of subjective reality. They’re truly evocative, often dreamlike and mysterious, and they engage me through their subtle qualities of darkness. Each moment in these images carries significance.

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

JG: I usually say something like they’re primarily analogue, mostly black and white, soft, blurry, not entirely literal images of landscapes and landscape elements. But I’d rather just show the photos to the person.

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To see more of J.M. Golding’s work, see her website: http://fallingthroughthelens.blogspot.com/


Also published on Medium.

The Landscapes of photographer Mandy Williams

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Mandy Williams is a visual artist working primarily in photography and video. Her work covers range of subjects, but centers around the theme of the social dynamics arising from contemporary culture – particularly how personal identity is affected by environment and how our social and affective lives interconnect. This interest in the psychology of place has been a catalyst for both autobiographical and voyeuristic projects, documentary approaches to more conceptual ones. Much of her photographic and video works highlight the domestic environment, although some refer more broadly to place and sites in transition.

Her recent series share an underlying narrative about human interaction or presence. Some of these include Unseen Landscapes (2012-15), which use Google Street View as a starting point to create somewhere otherworldly, and Riverbed Stories (2012-15), photography and video documenting polluted river beds in South East London.

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Both ‘Unseen Landscapes’ and ‘Riverbed Stories’ stem from the idea of contemporary landscape. The detachment is undeniable in how people interact with the landscape, whether it is by remote observation, or utter disregard. A roadside natural setting is disrupted by castoff personal items such as mattresses, chairs, gloves, floating shoes and discarded baby carriages. The images point to the pollution of the natural setting, and also to a sense of detachment to nature by the people who thoughtlessly threw these items away. Williams depicts these items in the water and weeds with a sensibility toward the loss of both the intimate history of the items, as well as the lost natural beauty of the English landscape she documents.

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In the same sense, the detachment from nature in ‘Unseen Landscapes’ starts right at the moment the images are made. These landscape images captured by Google Street view are made without bias, without thoughtful intent. The images are made by an unblinking eye traveling the land. Williams presents her versions of these images as soft, monochromatic toned views. She has used images from this archive to present scenes that she herself has never seen in person, nor visited. Visually, the presentation of the images in a circular format references (intentionally or not) the early photographic prints made by the Kodak No. 1 camera. This makes for an interesting visual homage to one of the earliest commercial photo products (You press the button, and we do the rest) while appropriating images from one of the largest publicly available digital image databases in the world. So much of the world we experience online is via digital captures made half a world away; one has to wonder if ‘Unseen Landscapes’ is a commentary on the subject, or a reflection of it. Either way, Williams has created beautifully crafted portraits of the land which also prompt the viewer to think about their own interaction and connection with the world around them. 

To view the projects, or see Mandy Williams’ work, click here. Images shown are © Mandy Williams.


Mandy Williams is a photographer living in London, UK. She previously lived in Vancouver, Canada, but has since returned to her home country of England in 2002 and has been contributing to different exhibitions and publications in the UK, and internationally in exhibits and in publications.

Website: www.mandywilliams.com
Twitter: @artphotofilm

Interview with photographer Will Ellis

Cary Benbow: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

Will Ellis: It starts with a feeling of being intensely fascinated by a topic to the point where I have to externalize it. There’s an urge to capture it and show everyone else why it’s so amazing. I try to stay motivated with concrete goals, like completing a body of work for a book or exhibition.  I like to have a plan, stick to a subject, and really delve into it.

CB: What is the idea behind your images submitted to F-Stop’s issue, Wonder-Full? Are they part of a project, or why did you select these images?

WE: These are from a series I’m working on called ‘Arthur Kill Road’, which examines the remote edges of Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. Staten Island is often called “the forgotten borough” and has a decidedly different character than what people often associate with the city. It’s more suburban in nature, and not much of a tourist destination. But in certain areas, it has this really unique sense of place, with wild, open spaces, pockets of historic architecture, and all of these odd relics and ruins that have just been sitting there for decades.  There’s a quiet atmosphere and a “haunted” quality to these areas that is unlike anywhere else in the city.  And that feeling of “wonder” is definitely something I’m looking to evoke with this project.

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

WE: There are so many approaches to photography; but I think the most important element of a good photograph is a clear and compelling subject. Beyond that, I like when a picture has an energy or mood that hits you immediately. And then it gives you something to chew on — details to pore over, or some element of surprise that invites you to study an image before you scroll down or move on to the next one.  There’s also basic technical things to consider. As an architectural photographer, I like very precise framing and straight lines–but I envy photographers whose images have that very subtle, effortless quality.

CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

WE: I love looking at the work of other photographers, Walker Evans is one that I always come back to, but in general, I tend to draw more inspiration from other mediums.  For this project, I used gothic literature as a reference for the atmosphere I was trying to create.  I’m playing with a lot of those tropes of the haunted house and the fog-ridden wilderness.  Visually, I looked at paintings by Andrew Wyeth and the German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich.  But the style and color palette really comes through spending the time to get to know a place, figuring out what time of year or under what weather conditions to shoot, and slowly developing a cohesive look and tone throughout the project. It’s so important to look at a lot of work and appreciate what others are creating, but I think the best inspiration comes directly from the world around you.

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

WE: Context is pretty important for my work. People want to know what they’re looking at, and that information can enrich the experience of the pictures. So I like to give a bit of historical background on the places I shoot.  With this project, I would say I’m looking for landscapes or settings that have an expressive quality, convey a mood, and tell a story.  The mood I’m drawn to again and again is eerie, dark, and mysterious. “Hauntingly beautiful” is a phrase I hear a lot.  But ultimately, I’m much more interested in hearing what the viewer has to say than explaining my own intentions.

For more of Will Ellis’ work: willellisphoto.com


Originally published for F-Stop Magazine in February, 2016 here.

 

Photographer Nick Treviss

Otherness

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Recent project submission from UK photographer Nick Treviss – he describes ‘Otherness’ as “focusing on notions of identity, and this body of work explores the relationship between photographer and subject, and the affect and influence each has on a true representation of the individual.”

 

Check out Nick Treviss’ website (http://www.nicktreviss.com/), Instagram @nick_treviss, or his Tumblr here.

Photographer Amanda Knigga

Simply Living

Photographer Amanda Knigga has embarked on a project titled ‘Simply Living‘. Knigga’s project statement covers the scope and basis for the project as such:

With minimal experience, my family made the decision to start over by living a simpler life. They moved from a new house in a subdivision to a doublewide trailer on a plot of land in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. Here, they intend to live a more sustainable lifestyle and gradually develop a farm to provide for themselves.

Separated from this process (as I am in school), I document this intimate transition as an outside observer. It is through my family’s actions that I imagine or facilitate my own ambitions to live closer to the land, and thus become closer to myself in the pursuit of discovering where it is I belong in society.

Simply Living is a combination of traditional and alternative photographic processes, as well as sculptural objects, interweaving the people, land, and resources into an enduring and evolving story. The images are taken with film to create tangible and engaged experiences. As my subject becomes isolated in the viewfinder, amidst its shifting background, I become absorbed in that profound connection unfolding, that without my camera would become another fleeting moment.

The series manifests how I perceive my family’s story as they reconstruct their lives, retreating into nature in order to become more connected. I choose to document this story that I am removed from, by sampling from the intimate experiences that I witness. Simply Living exposes the isolated happenings and how we may change over time by altering the way we live.

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Greenbriar Ridge, 2015

To view the project, see Amanda Knigga’s work here. Image shown is Greenbriar Ridge, 2015 (c) Amanada Knigga

Suicide Machine – an interview with Dan Wood

 

Suicide Machine – Living in the Town with No Hope?

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McDonald’s, 2014 (Hear Dan Wood talk about making this image here)

The work of Dan Wood is probably not what you might expect from the stereotypical assumption based on the title of his project. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The title stems from a regionally publicized statistic that Bridgend, Wales was experiencing a high rate of suicides in the early 2000s. Wood’s decision in 2013 to document his hometown of Bridgend was different from the skate culture he had been photographing earlier in his photo career. He started to see his town through a different sort of lens; that of a husband, father, and ultimately as a person coming to terms with the love-hate relationship many people have with the place where they grew up. Through his photos, Wood is asking the big question of ‘What does my community mean to me, what impact does it have on myself, my family, and my own child?’

“The simple truth is that you can understand a town. You can know and love and hate it. You can blame it, resent it, and nothing changes. In the end, you’re just another part of it.” ― Brenna Yovanoff from ‘The Replacement’

The resulting landscape of Wood’s beautiful, somewhat melancholy images depict a place where the social fabric is woven with views of a community persevering in the current economic downturn, and people working hard to make a living. One has to wonder if Bridgend’s residents are also coming to terms with the question of whether it is better to tough it out despite the odds, or seek out greener pastures elsewhere. ‘What should we do?’ is a tough question to answer unless it’s done in hindsight. But by then, it may be too late, or the confirmation so desperately desired at the onset feels hollow.
The wait is a bittersweet limbo.

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Plastic Flower, 2012

Q & A

Cary Benbow: What is the idea behind your Suicide Machine series?

Dan Wood: It all started with my audition of an old Hasselblad 500cm. From somewhere I had the epiphany that I’d make a project about my hometown; and in colour.
Originally the project was going to be skateboard culture related, with long exposure night shots of the street spots that the local skaters frequent. The title, ‘Suicide Machine’ was there from the beginning, and when thinking more about the project I realised that I’d already covered the skate scene in enough depth already. The idea was then stored at the back of my mind whilst I worked on another series. Then my wife became pregnant with our first child and something clicked in my brain which made me start to think very differently about things – mainly being, shall we bring up our daughter here or shall we move away – probably overseas. So I started forming a synopsis (which has evolved somewhat) and photographing different parts of the town and also shooting some portraits. It felt so refreshing and new to be using the Hasselblad and colour film, but I was also contemplating our own destiny at the same time – should we stay or go? – this is what the project is ultimately about.

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Windmill, 2013

 

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Caroline Street, 6:55 am, 2014

CB: How long have you been working on Suicide Machine, and are you still adding images to it? Why did you decide to shoot color for this project? What has been the reaction to it from people from that area?

DW: I’ve been working on the project for 3 years and I shot the last roll of film for the series last week. It’s time to move on to something new – which I’ve already started.
The work has been exhibited at three venues in the last year: Including Bridgend itself – thankfully the reaction was nothing but positive. I did receive some challenging remarks on Twitter about the title suggesting I was being ‘insensitive and glamourising suicide’. Their attacks and attempts to drag me into an argument were totally ignorant as it was obvious that they hadn’t ever read the synopsis, only the title, which I refused to change.
Colour was fundamental to the project, I just knew it had to be in colour. After shooting black and white exclusively for 10 years and had become incredibly bored with it the time felt right to switch and conveniently coincided with the start of a new project. I still enjoy making black and white prints in the darkroom every now and again.

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Empty Warehouse, 2014

CB: Do you feel the increasing expansion and widespread use/display of images through social media outlets like Instagram has watered down the impact that medium format photography has/used to have?

DW: Definitely. The majority of people view pictures on their phones these days, so for instance, if you’re posting medium format photos on instagram they’re basically looking at a version of the photo that’s smaller than the actual negative, so the impact is undeniably affected and can’t be fully appreciated.

Medium format photography seems very popular once again, which is fantastic, considering the fact that film/development, etc. is expensive.

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Fortified House, 2013

 

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Jade, 2014

 

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Jade, 2015

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

DW: For me personally, a good photograph should ask questions and/or tell a story – aesthetics/intelligent composition has to be in there too. I have an eclectic taste when it comes to photography, I love raw/gritty right through to fine art/minimalistic. It’s all subjective of course, and everyone is entitled to like whatever they want.

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Shipping Container, 2013

CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

DW: I find that just being outdoors is great inspiration. I like to shoot street and road trip photography, too, when taking breaks from projects. My main source of inspiration comes from photo books, and I’m completely addicted to collecting them – it’s becoming a pleasant problem. Visiting photo exhibitions is something I find enriching and really enjoyable, too.
I truly admire photographers that can make the mundane, interesting – it’s just so clever. That kind of gift can open up a whole new world, and i’ve been fascinated with unlocking it for a long time. Some of the photographers whose work I admire would be: Trent Parke, Stacy Kranitz, Alec Soth, Joel Sternfeld and Todd Hido.

CB: Do you see your work being stylistically similar and making a statement in a similar fashion as those whom you call your influences? What is your intent for the viewer?

DW: There’s no doubt that there is some influence in my work from these photographers, after all, they have a lot to do with what drives me. I don’t want to seem like I’m imitating them, as I take great pride in the fact that I have developed my own style and approach over the years.

To me, these photographers are ‘real life’ photographers (in the broadest sense) – they tell stories about real life, and they all have their own styles and methods in which they do it. That’s all I’m interested in when it comes to photography, it is real life and real people, that’s what I want the viewer to understand.

CB: What do you feel are the obligations of a documentary photographer?

DW: The obligations would definitely include Honesty, sensitivity and non-exploitative. I see some styles of street photography these days that I find really intrusive and/or crudely voyeuristic. There are unwritten rules to Documentary photography and a certain etiquette to follow. Most successful documentary photographers adhere to the etiquette, and I like to see that.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Marc, 2012
Graffiti 2015_1280
Graffiti, 2015

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Rebecca, 2014

CB: In a recent interview you did with ffoton, you had a great quip: “With a digital camera, you’re always looking at the last shot, but with film you are looking for the next shot”. What importance has film photography had for you? 

DW: Film is what drew me to serious photography in the first place. I was totally fascinated by the idea that a split second in time could be frozen onto a piece of celluloid and become a physical thing. It’s something that you can actually hold in your hand – this obviously comes from my materialistic nature. But it’s always been about film: shooting, developing, printing, scanning, the cameras, I love it all, especially the pace in which you work. For some reason, digital has never interested me, it’s incredible for certain, and I do own a Nikon D90, but there’s no allure there for me to fully switch from film. 


CB: Your work is specific to Wales, but do you feel your work makes a comment on a universal level, as well as the personal level?

DW: To me, Wales feels kind of neglected by the outside world, like we get the raw deal every time – the ‘nearly’ nation that’s living in the shadow of England and Scotland. Everyone is just plodding along with their lives. Art and Culture are something not to be taken for granted either, and we have to grab onto any hint of that as possible. In regards to the ‘Suicide Machine’ series, I’ve looked at many ‘small town’ projects over the last few years and it’s the same story everywhere. Small towns are suffering a dark depression at the moment – especially evident here in the UK, and probably even globally. Conclusively, Wales is much like so many other places in the world, and I do think it will translate. I really want people from all over to look at my Welsh projects and be able to identify with something in there.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Rugby Pitch, 2014
Terraced Houses at Night 2015_1280
Terraced Houses at Night, 2015

CB: Do you feel comfortable categorizing your work as documentary, or using that label?

DW: I met somebody a couple of weeks ago that I hadn’t seen for a long time and when he asked what I was doing I said ‘documentary photography’ which resulted in a confused, perplexed look on his face (I’m almost certain that most folk are only aware of fashion/sport/wedding photographers) So I tried to explain that I tell stories through pictures and that there is such a thing. I think he got it, unless he was just being polite. So Yeah, I’m happy being called a documentary photographer – I’m completely self-taught and still learning all the time. These days, documentary photography incorporates fine art photography. Great documentary photographers are really taking time to research and engage with their subjects, working slowly and carefully to achieve high quality photos that are technically, visually and intellectually perfect.

CB: What’s your opinion on the role of a photographer as publisher and what you think about the recent increased push for photographers to publish photo books?

DW: We’re in a golden age of the self-publishing photographer, which is wonderful, and I’m sure will be looked back on fondly if the trend ever dies out. There are so many admirable photographers creating beautiful photo books, which are pieces of art themselves. The only downside is the flooding of poor quality photo books by mediocre photographers, which can sometimes make it difficult to discover the good ones. There’s lots of fantastic little independent publishing houses popping up all over the place too, which is definitely another good thing.
I made a few dummy books over the last few years and really like the fact that the photographer has full control over how their book will look at the end result – there’s also absolutely no stigma attached to self publishing these days.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Andrew, 2014

 

Lee 2015_1280
Lee, 2015

CB: What aspects of Bridgend do you wish to show to viewers through your portraits of residents?

DW:I always knew that I wanted to include portraits, in fact it was fundamental to the project. I wanted to show what the people of Bridgend looked like. At first, I focused on folk that were kind of stuck here for life, but as the project developed I became interested with the people who had left for a better life somewhere else. Bridgend is quite a small town so everybody knows each other in some way.

I’d never plan the portraits, it was always a spur of the moment thing if I felt the time was right. My camera was always with me so it was just a matter of getting that feeling and then asking the person if it was okay.

Over the three years, I inevitably ended up re-shooting the same person, either hoping for a better picture or because I had learned more about their circumstances and needed a fresh shot that consciously included the new knowledge I had acquired of them.

CB: Was your approach making images for this project organic, or did you have a brief of what you wanted to show?

DW: The project was around 90% organic. There was a brief but that kept changing slightly as time went by and the project matured. A project like this was a first for me , so I really wanted to see what would happen and where it would take me – I guess that was why the brief kept evolving too. But the main brief remained –  what did the future hold for Bridgend, and would I want to bring up my daughter here?

Pink Stillettos 2015_1280
Pink Stilettos, 2015

Dan Wood’s project, Suicide Machine is being published as a photo book by Another Place Pressa small independent publisher interested in contemporary photography that explores landscape in the widest sense, covering themes which include land, place, journey, city and environment – from the remotest corners of the globe to the centre of the largest cities.

To order the book, visit the Another Place Press product page here.

Also, check out Another | Place website for a showcase of contemporary photography edited by Iain Sarjeant.


Dan Wood is from Bridgend, South Wales, UK. Wood’s work has been featured in many publications including CCQ and Ernest Journal. He has participated in over 40 exhibitions both nationally and internationally; including four solo shows. Wood is also a member of the artist collective: Document Britain

See more of Dan Wood’s work at his website: www.danwoodphoto.com, or on Instagram: @danwoodphoto