Arthur Fields is a photographer from Texas, currently living in Vincennes, Indiana where he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Vincennes University. He currently teaches courses in traditional analog photography as well as digital imaging. He also serves as the director of VU’s Shircliff Gallery of Art.
Fields’ latest artistic research is based on his love of landscape and self-representation. By compiling imagery from online web searches and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, both virtual and tangible, his work consists of imagery collected through the process of data compiling using hashtags (identity markers). Acting as both curator as well as image-maker he is concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes.
Much of Fields’ recent work involving images and hashtags used on social media platforms (especially Instagram) explore themes of place, sense of self, and inclusion/exclusion; especially in the context of class, race, and culture. His exhibition From Academic to Instagram complied collections of images based around a core group of hashtags. The resulting grid of multiple images from his collection is a manner of both curation and image-making. In his statement for the exhibition, Fields says, “I am concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes. By considering the photograph as data to be sorted, I engage in systems for which modern culture stores and presents images that reflect the pictorial and social relationships connecting the camera, the photographer, and the spectator.” Fields includes more context for the work by addressing the collective social experience people have by being both producers and consumers of visual media. Fields continues in his statement, “As John Berger writes in his seminal book, Ways of Seeing, ‘Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.’ These sets of images, placed in the IG grid format, represent my view of the genre or a hashtag as it relates to my personal online experience. The amount of feedback or likes I get from IG followers. Why are these images created? Are they actually memories of daily life or is this just the modern way of displaying wealth, class or culture?”
In a collection of related images and posts on Fields’ Instagram feed (@artfields), he uses the hashtag ‘overheard’ to explore themes of inclusion and exclusion, as well as identity and a sense of place and self. The images are part of a larger project, Seen and Heard. When I asked Fields about these images and the themes within, he said the feeling of being an outsider was especially noticeable soon after relocating from his home in Texas. That feeling has subsided with time, but the series of ‘overheard’ tagged images definitely builds off the feeling of being ‘on the outside’ of a conversation, culture or class.
In his project statement for Seen and Heard, Fields states that the project is ultimately “an exploration of a way that memory is influenced in the digital age. Using the senses of sight and sound, I share my daily walk through the world. These routine and sometimes mundane activities such as driving to work, celebrating birthdays and watching nature are activities that represent my life. Through the use of the social network Instagram, these mundane scenes are revisited and carefully edited to portray my public-self. Upon seeing an image, the brain informs us that we have seen or had that experience. By choosing to print specific imagery, I transform it from experience to object which in turn enhances the ability to recall the experience. This work promotes the intuitive recognition of shared experiences. Like the careful construction of the vanishing ‘scrapbook’, I am selecting and constructing the memories for myself and the viewer. Created to trigger both visual and auditory memories, this selection of images and text are randomly chosen to represent my life.”
“Each image is labeled with its associated information, such as location and hashtag,” Fields explains. “The images are also given the bonus of a quote. The added quote represents an overheard comment or audio blurb, heard by the artist within 48 hours of taking the image. By choosing a particular quote with an unrelated image, a connection between the two leads to the generation of a personal narrative. While this work does mirror that deluge of images and audio prevalent in a digital society, it is curated; filtered to make a particular story that serves as evidence of a unique personal experience.” Fields’ work explores his own personal interactions; yet there is a strong supporting level of universal experience through social contexts, identity and memory.
The collection of images from the Seen and Heard project can be views at Fields’ Instagram feed: @artfields. In connection with this published feature, beginning April 23rd, Fields will be posting work from his project on the Instagram feed for Wobneb Magazine. To see images from this project, please click on the link, and follow @WobnebMag on Instagram to view his work.
Arthur Fields completed a MFA in Photography at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, and earned a BFA in Digital Imaging and Photography at Washington University in St. Louis. His prior studies included printmaking and photography at Brookhaven College. He also is a board member of several photographic arts organizations: Ticka-Arts, The Texas Photographic Society, and the editorial board of YIELD Magazine. He also is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education, where he serves as Student Volunteer Coordinator of the SPE National Conference.
For more information about Arthur Fields, and to see more of his work, please visit his website at http://www.arthurfields.net.