Hi everybody, thank you for coming. We're gonna have our first group session. Olivia's work is right here, we're gonna look at her's first, but everybody will have a chance. I just want to say that your all free to comment on the work, just not go on and on because we only have a certain amount of time. But, really this should be a conversation between us. My intention is to look at the work and to see if I can find in the photographs, qualities that describe to me as a stranger, essential values that the artist brings to the work. If I could find the identity of the human being who made the photographs, in the photographs. To me, that's always been an important quality of looking at photographs. It's hard with one picture, or two pictures because you just look at the picture and you think it's interesting, or not interesting, or engaging, or something. But, when you're looking at a number of photographs, there's a possibility of learning something about the mind behin...
d the camera, and if that can be conveyed through mute, still photographs. That's an incredible power. And certainly we see it with the best photographers. You look at Robert Frank, or Cartier Bresson, or Diane Arbus, or Mary Ellen Mark. You look at the pics and you know that that person made this sweep of pictures. So, how do we get that out of your pictures? And so I have the divining rod I hope that's going to point to the true source in the pictures. That said, Olivia, I'm gonna just take a look, and any commentary you want to make, your, we're equals in this right now. (piano music) Tell me, while I'm looking, what is it about photography that makes you want to make photographs?
So, often I'm in my own head when I'm wondering around, but when I have a camera, I'm very curious about people. And because I'm holding the camera, I'm really observing and wondering about people, and things going on around me that normally I wouldn't be. So, in that sense ...
So, you're saying that photography, carrying a camera makes you more conscious of life around you.
Yeah, I think more conscious of the finer detail.
Aha. Do you have, is there something on the street that seems to be the theme that you are attracted to more than other things on the street? Like you know, I'm getting a sense from these pictures, but I'm wondering if you could describe that yourself?
I think, I don't know if it's obvious from these pictures, but I think recently I've noticed that I'm very drawn to taking pictures of people who seem very solitary. And that seems to recur quite a lot with my pictures I think, but it's only more recently that looking back, I've seen the pattern. So, if that's, if that's the ... a force that you're drawn to now, doesn't mean you will be forever, but at the moment, if solitary or solitude is part of it. So, when you look at your pictures, do you cut them, do you edit, do you build your group of pictures towards the definition you just gave? Right, right now I'm interested in a kinda solitude or solitary characters. Do you try to group your pictures together for a while and look at what solitude looks like to you?
I think, yeah I think it's more that when I then look at the pictures, the ones that stay with me as pictures are ones that show that kind of feeling. And there the ones I ...
Okay, so taking that for, before I talk about individual pictures, now that that's something you understand, do you go out looking for that?
Yeah, I think , I think it, yeah I think instinctively, well instinctively or consciously, I'm not sure, but ...
Because that's the way work builds. You get on a kick, you say, "Hmmm, these pictures of solitary people speak to me, I'll do more of that." It's a way of nurturing your own instincts. Because we make lots of pictures about lots of things, and we're like fishing, your throwing the bait in and your waiting to see what bites. And then suddenly, three or four pictures bite, and you say, "Oh, I got a little tug on the line here, it feel" ... I'm not a fisherman, so I'm just inventing that, but you get a little tug on the line and you think, well that's the connection right there. And so, it's, I think it's important when that bite happens that you start to pull yourself closer to that and do a lot of it because the more you do of it, the more concentrated you are, the deeper it's possible for the work to become. And then to be, it's like diving in and expanding it more and more, and then seeing if that connection you felt holds up, or if it holds up and then leads you to the next thing. Because it's all about steps along the way. I think photography is one of the greatest directional beacons in any life. If you carry a camera and you start to make pictures, you'll be able to see your own patterns and path, and walk on it, and strengthen it. Deepen and strengthen it, but you have to have that conviction. So, I was looking and I did notice in, what are there eight pictures here? So, I did notice this guy ... who's giving you the eye because he's wondering why your taking his picture. And I notice this guy, who's, he's a little down and out. The signal is there even if it's only soda bottle, not a liquor bottle, but it's there and he's on the ground. So, he's a solitary. And this one, which, this is a picture that caught my attention because you made a play, a visual play by having a man seated there alone, but doubled. And this guy is, well he's really talking to somebody else, but you kinda made him central in the figure, but he's marginal. Frankly, the picture is one of the most interesting pictures to me, but not for those reasons. What interested me was just the visual, the form of the guy, his back, however he's got his hands behind the back, and he's listening, but somehow this was beautiful to me. The way, the way his, the mass of his back and the centrality of the image. It sort of pulled my eye in and made me stay with the picture even though there's nothing going on. There's none of the duplicity, the doubling of this picture. But when I see these two pictures together, these two pictures together begin to make a kind of, a ligature. They start to wanna be seen together. It's like the beginning of something, not a story, but the beginning of a body of work that might offer some new observation. Whereas a picture like this, I'm stopped by it. I get to it, I look at them, I don't, I don't connect to them in some way. I feel like, okay, so it's a rendering of them but I'm not that interested, I don't know where to go. So, it's the kind of picture I would wanna remove from my scan in a way because I think by pulling the pictures that are most interesting out of any group, you begin to immediately reduce the generalization that the lesser pictures produce. You start to drive towards your strength. Or the strength of any group of pictures. This picture, although different from them, this offers me a moment of lightness in everything. Public intimacy, isn't that something to think about because intimacy is often a very private thing. That's what intimacy means, but when it's done in public, we're all allowed to see it. So, it's a public act, and a public act belongs to all of us. Which means you could go as close as you want to them. The street is yours as well as its theirs, and I think that's an important thing to keep in mind when you're out on the street. They don't own it, whoever is out there doing what they do, you have every right to make a photograph of them because they're in a public place.
Yeah that, so this photo that I brought was his reaction was obviously angry, you can see. And that, that immediately makes that photograph not very meaningful to me. So, I'm interested that you say that.
Well, he has a store and he's there, and he may be doing illegal things. So, he's suspicious. So, there's two choices; you can flee because the guy is resistant, or you could enter. And it's an interesting challenge because if you saw that he was disagreeable and you walked over to him and you said to him, "I'm really interested in you, you're fascinating to me, I'm gonna take a picture of you right here. Yeah, you want to play with me? You wanna open up here?" I mean, if you found a way to address his negativity and turn it to your advantage, he might be so shocked and charmed, or he could be angry and scream at you. But, but it's an offering to you. You should consider what I'm saying because I've been on the street a long time, and I've faced off lots of angry people, and I've won the game. Because if I feel like it, I go right in. And I say something, whatever seems right at the time. I'm a glib guy at certain times, I know how to use that. But I've trained for 50 years, this is new to you. This is one of those challenges that tests your metal, and if it comes up again at some point, if you get that little bit of curiosity resistance, see if you could use your charms. You're attractive, you're innocent, you're not threatening. Walk in and say ... Diane Arbus would have done that.
We did actually chat after.
Oh, you did!
But that photo then became negative to me, but ... So, and what did he say to you?
He said, "You should really ask people before take photos of them."
So, then yeah. So that it ended on a nice note, but ...
Did you make another photograph?
So, I'm glad you brought this in because as it is, it only shows a kind of diffidence and negativity. And yet, you got something more out of it. You changed the terms of the, he educated you. He said, "Don't do." I don't believe him by the way. I don't really give a shit what he says. I would do what I wanted to do. It doesn't matter to me what he wants. Because I'm making the photographs and he's in a public space. Think about that because you have, your impulses I think are warm impulses whether it's solitary or together. But there are questions you need to ask yourself about what you really want the pictures to say about you.