As you know, APhotoAssistant is about photo assisting. In this respect, I usually discuss things here in a commercial sense. But, I’ve also been trying to exercise a more artistic muscle, with a non-competitive flair, these days. I recently ran across a friend of mine on Kickstarter who has assembled a group of photographers who have produced an interesting body of work that they will be exhibiting soon. They have drawn on a unique perspective as inspiration for their project, so I thought I would talk with my friend.
Tim White is relatively new to the medium of photography, having spent many years as a painter. He is an occasional contributor to B&W Magazine, and lives and works in Minneapolis, MN. His current images can be seen here.
APhotoAssistant (APA): Tim, please tell us about the exhibit you are helping to put together… “You Are Not A Dinosaur.” I was immediately curious when I saw the name.
Tim White (TW): It’s a quote from a short story entitled Dinosaur by Bruce Holland Rogers. In two paragraphs a man lives out his entire life. He starts as a kid rattling the house with dinosaur antics, then his imagination fades away as he makes practical, adult choices until senility lets him become a dinosaur again. So our show has these core themes of responsibility and loss, but the ambiguity works too–that maybe it compels people to look further into “what is this show, and why is it rebuking me?”
APA: When I read the story I was immediately transported back to my childhood days and tearing around the neighborhood on my bicycle, causing grief for my parents and other grown-ups. I remember the adventures and imagination and the immortal attitude I had as a kid. But I also remember being bored, so impatient to grow up and be something. Daydreaming of all the possibilities, only to have them smashed by the “sensibilities” of elders and society. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I hadn’t given in to the restraints I fought as I “grew up.” Or, if I had been more sensible, myself, and not been so rebellious and defiant at particular times in my life. I don’t think I’m senile yet but, today I envision myself as a coyote chasing roadrunners in the desert!
TW: There’s a balance you try to maintain I think, somewhere after your twenties when you recognize that your stay here is temporary. It’s a tipping point a friend described as “when you realize how much you have to lose.” I’ve been around a lot of artists, hell I was one of them, who believe that suspending that recognition for as long as possible is the key to creativity, that fighting convention is a prerequisite for authenticity. Photography in particular demands a certain adherence to conventions, at least some technical proficiency to produce an image. That may be why you see so few savants in this medium- though I think we’re in a period that privileges not knowing what you’re doing; letting light leaks, motion blur, or expired emulsion do their thing. And I get that, for a generation that’s had so much emptiness sold to them with images. But even that aesthetic then gets co-opted to sell them more. With “dinosaur” I wanted to find photographers who worked less re-actively, more deliberately–people who know that Weston spent seven hours exposing a pepper–even if their aim, and results are entirely different.
APA: And what did you discover as you sought out these “less reactive” photographers? Was there a culture gap between generations… I mean, did this idea of “responsibility and loss” ring true, or at least similar for everyone, throughout one’s perceptions of life… or do you think, as an artist and as far as creativity is concerned, it’s more exclusive to a particular demographic?
TW: There are people, certain ideologies, who would love to make responsibility and loss the exclusive experience of people they fear. But “dinosaur” was not a generational, political, or an artistic thing. It was the interest in this narrative, more so than finding people who shot in a certain style; more a matter of having had certain experiences- or having examined your experiences thoughtfully. For some reason we kept circling around one aspect of Bruce’s story- that was the idea of concessions you make or don’t make to becoming a “responsible” adult. We didn’t want to produce a verdict on whether that’s confining, or noble, we simply wanted to explore the theme. I see it as a kind of emotional forfeiture when people elevate artist’s experiences or perceptions as more credible, more poignant than their own, and that passivity makes possible a lot of cons. We’re not peddling answers, tonics, or distractions. It’s more important, as Rilke wrote, to “live the questions now.”
APA: Okay, so maybe it was alright to trust my instincts and be a dinosaur? But, still, to not be distracted by other outside influences, then, or now? Are we still pointing our fingers… outside of ourselves?
TW: “You are not a dinosaur” isn’t going to fall on either side of living in your imagination vs. living in the real world. After all, the character in Bruce’s story provided for, and raised a family, and seemed pretty comfortable with his dementia at the end. When he was worried that his job, and decisions made him feel small, I think of the rapacious monsters that are spawned when a person believes they have to be “big;” we’d have a world of people posturing like Donald Trump. We started a flickr group to gather artist’s takes on this story from all over the world, and the responses have been incredibly nuanced, broad, and open. Very few of the contributors are being strident, or adding more than merely how they see the world.
APA: This is a very compelling project. Bruce’s story, your thoughts, culture norms, society’s grasp, artistic expression, even my own experience… It leaves me asking more questions than I thought I had in the first place. I will be very interested to see the work you and your colleagues will show. So tell us about the group of artist’s you’ve assembled and the exhibit.
TW: I wanted from the start to work with photographers from varied areas of the medium. We have documentary shooters, commercial, editorial, and “fine art” photographers. The commitment to starting an endeavor that could grow to include numerous other pursuits was critical from the beginning. We also wanted to shift the focus from conventional epicenters, and to work without the benediction, whim, or visions of a curator or figurehead. I think what’s unique about this project is that it grew from numerous, numerous get-togethers, and intense discussions about the state of the arts in general- whether an aesthetic of rusted trailers and eccentricity was satisfying enough, and whether certain avenues of inquiry were depleted. I feel like we’re offering a point of view that’s seldom seen, but we’re entirely welcome to a reception that it’s crap. We’d simply like to invite everyone to explore this story, “Dinosaur.”
We’re hosting several events as well as the usual opening and closing reception. On Feb. 19 we’re screening a film that addresses many of the issues we’ve talked about–it’s Grave of the Fireflies. Feb. 25 The Dreamland Faces will perform, and on March 5th Osama Esid will host a workshop on alternative photo processes.
Below is a list of links of participating artists and other pertinent links. I am excited to see this exhibit and encourage everyone to head on over to kickstarter and make a contribution to help ensure that this exhibit gets the attention it deserves.