Justin Nalley with Eileen Rae Walsh

Eileen Rae Walsh – Can you describe your photographic practice leading up to your book TAKE CARE?  Did you know those photographs or memorabilia would end up producing that project, or was the project conceived after the images were made?

Justin Nalley – Ok, so this is a great question and the short answer is yes, no and maybe to all of the above.

The years leading up to the release of TAKE CARE (2016) were profoundly introspective and transitional.  The book is comprised of images made between 2011 and 2015, the two years before and after I got sober.  My photographs were responding to the timeline of my addiction and recovery.  Picture making was a constant but my intentions were in flux and returning to a state of consciousness.  I was using photography as a means of journaling, a safe way to share my secrets, ease shame and make things feel real.  I wanted to come out as an addict, to my friends, my family and myself.  Taking a picture forces you into a moment of silent awareness, it’s a thoughtful and comforting act, proof of our relevance and existence.

Photography helped me feel grounded, like I was still an artist and I was still myself.  I have always used the medium to enhance my experience with life; whether that meant exploring, partying, documentation or reflection.  In retrospect I can see that the memorabilia being saved and pictures being made during these years were largely fueled by fear and shame, nightmare emotions for an addict.  Living perpetually in these states altered my perception of reality and influenced the work being made.  In 2013, after getting sober I decided to start working on a reflective book about my current life situation.  I selected therapeutically driven, topical imagery from the year’s prior while continuing to document my experience and illustrate my ideas.  As I began to heal, it became very important to me that TAKE CARE be a work of poetic non-fiction, an honest portrayal that could be used as a means of generating constructive conversation around these difficult topics.

Eileen Rae Walsh – Would you consider TAKE CARE a process that provided closure, the physical object acting as a container for your experience before and after sobriety, or is it a kind segue into a continuing, broader dialog that tells the story of personal healing?  Another way to put it, maybe – Do you still feel that photography and being an artist is the thing that grounds you?  Will future work follow this same format or be different as your personal experiences in life change and grow?

Justin Nalley – Haha yes, these are THE questions I am currently grappling with.  It is a fact that the process of creating TAKE CARE from start to finish was and still is beneficial to my overall emotional state, physical health and growth as a person.  I think its safe to say TAKE CARE did help provide a sense of closure and the book metaphor is strong, but it’s just not quite that simple.  One reason I say this is because addiction is a disease of the mind, it must be consistently nurtured and I am planning on giving my mind a life’s supply of TLC.  I think TAKE CARE acts more as an example of a chapter in life.  Every chapter in a book is informed and inspired by the chapters before it and there will always be a struggle.  Personal healing seems to be more about acceptance.  It is a series of adjustments, listening to your body, mind and altering your actions in the ways that will keep you personally satisfied.

Being an artist helps me to think, it helps me to detach, meditate, see and feel, yes I believe it is grounding.  I believe without it I could easily stay plugged into my subjective reality, current distractions, technological advancements, brain fogged consumer bliss and swirling egotistical mind.  I mean to place no judgments here; I am speaking solely my own truth.

As far as the future goes, I am trying to keep my options open and let the universe assist me with my current goals and missions.  I see my work continuing to address similar concepts as in TAKE CARE, but mostly just because that’s all I care about right now.  It’s November 10, 2016, we have a new president of the United States, there is A LOT happening in the world and when it comes down to it we need to help each other out.  I love people, I am grateful for my life and I want to make work that will inspire physical, emotional and spiritual beauty.

Eileen Rae Walsh – The images in TAKE CARE vary from having a real tactile feel (the scans of ephemera, images of stains and so forth), to idiosyncratic still life, to a unique genre of street photography or images of a particular environment.  There are also several moments of physical mark making on the pages of the book.  Can you talk about how the material nature of the object engages the viewer in your personal story?

Justin Nalley – It’s interesting because 70 percent of the imagery in the book was made for personal documentation purposes before the conception of TAKE CARE.  I spoke about this some in the first question.

I was often making pictures of things or feelings.  It was a back up, incase I lost this thing/feeling, couldn’t take this thing/feeling or needed to remember this thing/feeling.  At this point in my life, making “art photography” was not my top priority, I still did it but often times I was just carrying a point and shoot, documenting life and things that made me feel.

As I went back and addressed the imagery, the themes were very apparent.  It felt important to emphasize the emotive nature of the work, of course, in this case, within the limitations of photography and bookmaking.  These decisions started happening more during the design and layout of TAKE CARE.  Inspiring the soft white book cloth, introduction of my hand, personalization of each book, red pen scribble page, graphite doodles and even the handwritten copyright page.  My hopes are that these subtle aesthetic choices aid in how the viewer understands and experiences the book.

Eileen Rae Walsh – Since we began our dialog, we have entered a post-election landscape, where sincere urgency for change and healing, outreach and collective action are the basis for most conversations I am having with artists and peers.  What are some ways that art, or your practice, is currently helping you to take care? Are there parts of your practice that you think could benefit others during this time that you’d be willing to share?

Justin Nalley – It is my opinion that creativity and its resulting action (art) is instinctually ingrained in us, a tool that awaits times and life situations like these.  I like to think of art in the purist state, as an alternative form of communication and expression, something that can transcend words, inspire activity and evoke emotion.  Like most people I know, I am personally grappling with what is happening in the world, what should be done and how.  I wish I had something extraordinarily enlightening to share but the only thing that helps me is staying current, keeping open communication, an open mind and taking action when I have the opportunity to make a difference.  I do not think we can remain docile, every person’s opinion matters and we all deserve to be heard.  Right now, as a country, we are feeling how hard it is to take care of both others and ourselves.  It seems to me that this task, taking care, will last as long as we do.  It isn’t easy but it will ebb and flow, as things do.  I have always enjoyed using art therapeutically; drawing, writing, etc…  This helped me and I would suggest it to anyone; take an oil pastel and scribble fiercely while visualizing everything that makes you mad, continue until the pastel is depleted, then draw a smiley face next to it.  Below are my scribbles.

To see more, please visit Justin’s website.

TAKE CARE can be purchased here.

Jackie Furtado



Wavepool – First thing’s first, I’m really curious about the organization of your website. I’m mostly wondering how you typically work. Do you concentrate on singular images or a sequenced body of work as a whole?

Jackie Furtado – The way in which my website is organized is not project based. I concentrate on making singular images in my practice, and once more images surface they dictate a sequence. However, these sequences are not permanent, and change depending on the output… website, portfolios, exhibition…

Wavepool – Broadly speaking, what things do you look for in a single image?

Jackie Furtado – Fluidity, curiosity (in object and/or use of the tool), and anonymity come to mind. My aesthetic has been greatly influenced by my experience working closely with commercial photography, the medium of photography itself, and my own emotional maturity as it ebbs and flows. Before moving to Brooklyn in 2015, I use to be a production manager at an architectural photography firm in Chicago. There I worked strictly with images that were structurally sound and followed the guise of depicting the architect’s/designer’s original intent for built spaces. Photography has a remarkable way of expressing architecture, as the physical form of a building guides a photographer’s frame into composition. While I have been strongly inspired to consider balance in my images, the way I work is intended to not be the best – true – representation of what I photograph. In 2012, I met artist Aspen Mays, who has had a lasting influence on the way in which I consider image making. Much of her own practice pushes photography into a space that uses the camera and its traditional properties as the tool to create works physically. This introduction of thinking supported my lack of project based making, and encourages creating singular images that all explored photography in their own venture/sensibilities.


Evenfall I
Evenfall I


Wavepool – What forces bring individual images together when you’re editing?

Jackie Furtado – ~ forces ~ I’m happy you used that word. For my individual images, sequences are formed when moods resonate likeness. Rather than each image fostering a narrative, descriptive of a cast of people, environments, or agendas – these images all point to a darkness and lightness. Sequence comes out of necessity for balance. I’m interested in photography being spoken about as ethereal and visceral – not used to promote factual findings. Photography is a medium not for the truths, the device and user is always biased. The singular image challenges the expected approach and purpose of photography. Especially when taking an image is no longer understood or seen as a sacrifice – both in medium and in moment. We can now upgrade our devices and memory cards to further an allowance. I do not work in this way. Each image is methodic, meditative, demanding… pairing the making of an image with large format photography, I’ve found rhythm. I like that the camera demands manual labor and consideration. I also like that the camera is as big as my head.

In recent accounts, I’ve started dissecting and reconsidering the idea of the single image. In the piece Devoted Seas, Sands, the true dimension is 4×40 feet. However, the image is only made available through the single exhibition of eight panels. Together the photograph forms a portrait of a brother, but as their own panels exists separated, the form becomes redefined through textural scapes. We start to see and feel the water and land.

Wavepool – Seeing that it’s a bit of a departure from your other work, how did that installation idea come about?

Jackie Furtado – Considering my influences, this installation echoes a similar gesture as You Are the Weather by Roni Horn. It also seems to be a direct evolution of a publication I put out last year, titled stand still so i can look at your closely. The book is a small edition, large format publication that was supported by The Chicago Perch and the Puffin Foundation. The book contains a collection of works that meditate on personal history and the weight of photographs understood over my time living in Chicago from 2010-2015. I began to understand the images as stand-ins for one another. Although the images varied through their controlled framework, they all lead me to a singular place of mind; a common feeling. Taking this way of understanding photographs,- all is one -, I began to work in this idea in a literal approach. I began reworking images with content that was more prized and closest to me. The figure that is formed through the eight panels is of my half brother, Andrew. He continues to exist as a character throughout my work. It is not my intent to characterize him through my images, but to allow his presence to be anonymous and limitless. By physically stretching (digitally speaking) his face created a pulse/current that ran through the forms that were extended and yet necessary to construct his face. It became a recognition on the experience of photography, and how it is we place ourselves within photographs. We resonate with our personal yet adaptable truths through visual nuances in photographs. When the figure dismantles and is reconstructed through the stretch, it begins to resemblance nature, both land and water.


installation view of Devoted Sands, Sea
installation view of Devoted Sands, Sea


Wavepool – Do you think that all is one mentality exists in other mediums as strongly as you see it in photography?

Jackie Furtado – Of course. All is one. We all can experience and understand the value of one – however we choose to define and shape it. It seems in other mediums, evolution of ideas or technique is sometimes what allows separation. In my case, this phrase has stood and announce itself through my photographic experience. This returns me to your first prompt – I don’t typically work in separate projects. I’ve allowed myself the freedom to create images as they come. I do find this particular way of making difficult to define in language. And now, four years out of art school – I see the value of projects. I even see myself working towards projects based out of the concept of all is one. To not only further understand my beliefs in the tradition and processes of photography, but as a way to also consider my interests outside of art that undoubtedly influence my being, spiritually, and nonetheless my practice.

Wavepool – Why do you think that way of working, creating images as they come, seems difficult to define? Do you feel it needs to be defined?

Jackie Furtado – I’m responsible for making it difficult, and I take full accountability for that. The process has maintained consistency. I on the other hand, have not. My ideas, passions, lovers, kinships, home-base changes with the weather. It’s a powerful sentiment knowing that each image is also a representation of who I was in the exact moment in which I sought to photograph. Each image is aged the minute it is created. The distance from the initial impulse requires much reflection in the production of the work. The pleasures I find in the images are undoubtedly surface. Those surfaces encourages a type of way, and translate to statements of individual truths. Although this work has been an ongoing mode of making, it is revealing to be a translation of meditative footwork and investigations of rituals.




To see more, please visit Jackie’s website.

Jaclyn Wright


Wavepool – One thing that jumps out at me in your statement for Afterglow on your website is the mention of terms that inform the work, specifically heat, density, mass, and time. Time is always part of the photographic conversation, but the others don’t feel as traditional to that vocabulary. How have those concepts entered your practice?

Jaclyn Wright – All of the images in Afterglow came out of an installation that I made with images appropriated from NASA and other sources that I then scanned, cut up, rearranged, and photographed. The images that I chose to appropriate all have to do with really massive and/or energetic but not very well understood phenomena such as super massive black holes and gamma ray bursts and how scientists detect and measure these phenomena. It’s interesting because while these phenomena are either really massive or bright we can only infer their existence from things like gravitational lensing, in the case of super massive black holes, and in the case of gamma ray bursts we’re unable to observe the initial burst, we can only infer its occurrence from its afterglow. I was interested in trying to create an installation that paralleled these phenomena in terms of the extremeness of their properties (heat, density, mass) and create something that generated its own afterglow – a trace of the installation whose sum was greater than its individual parts. The specific ways in which these properties manifest themselves in the work are metaphorical but I was interested in using a high density of images and thinking of some images as having greater mass than others, i.e. they would attract other images to themselves. In the editing process we (myself and Everything is Collective) used this metaphorical system of measurement to inform the way we sequenced and designed the book.

Wavepool – To clarify, was the installation a separate iteration of the work or did it only exist as a subject for the imagery? Was a book always the goal?

Jaclyn Wright – I was commissioned by Everything is Collective to create work specifically for the book format. Our collaboration was an experiment of sorts, we gave ourselves a timeline of 3 months – from my research to creating the installation to making images and finally to editing, sequencing, and publishing. So, the installation was created to exist as the subject for the imagery but not only to exist as the subject. I view the installation as a separate iteration, the first of three – followed by the book and then a video. The video piece (a non-traditional take on a flip-through) was created not only to showcase the work but to be viewed as a separate version of the book, a further fragmentation of the subject. Moving forward with the work I plan to bring it back into an installation but as a fourth iteration which would only vaguely resemble its progenitor.


spread from Afterglow


Wavepool – As you continue to fragment the subject, do you see the work changing in any big ways?

Jaclyn Wright – Yeah, I think the deconstruction of the subject changes the ways the visual information can be read. As the images become increasingly less recognizable (from their original) and are fragmented to the point of obliteration I think a significant transformation is likely. I don’t know that I would be interested in continuing the process if that wasn’t a possibility.

Wavepool – As the work continues evolving, I’m curious to see what kind of visual relationship it maintains with traditional interpretations of space. I’m especially thinking about the idea of obliteration and am wondering if that will eventually result in the formation of a new aesthetic that departs from images we might typically associate with space, if that makes sense. Do you think there is ever a point of too much abstraction?

Jaclyn Wright – The very notion that Afterglow could reach a point of obliteration is especially of interest to me. Currently, the work is full of representational imagery – both sourced and created – that is not meant to remain a pure iteration of the subject but rather a version of itself. As the imagery continues to be transformed it will inevitably become less representational or less “pure.” I agree that the images will visibly disassociate from traditional images of space. Perhaps this point of departure is when the work will become so abstract that it will visually disconnect itself from the content. But I don’t think that this equates to too much abstraction – in fact, this hypothetical moment is quite alluring. Creating multiple iterations of the work and pushing the images to a point where they collapse and/or shatter our visual understanding of space is when, I feel, the metaphor comes full circle.  My conceptual interest lies in the idea that a body of work could exhaust all possibilities by way of reexamination and thus remove our visual connection and, in some ways,  return the work to its initial purpose which was to vaguely reveal a trace of its originator.


spread from Afterglow


Wavepool – Have you had any good conversations about the work with people who come from scientific backgrounds rather than art backgrounds?

Jaclyn Wright – Yes! When the book was released at LA Art Book Fair we (both myself and the members of Everything is Collective) had  many conversations with individuals who approached the work from a scientific background. It was very insightful to discuss the project from a non-art perspective. I’ve also been talking with my brother, who has one of his degrees in physics, and it’s been fun to have a more candid dialogue about the project. I am hoping to expand the conversation though – ideally, I’d like to put together a panel discussion regarding the intersects of art and science specifically as it relates to the book and invite a physicist who specializes in the visualization of cosmological phenomena to participate.

Wavepool – Outside of producing the book with EIC, it seems like there could be a lot of other opportunities for collaboration within the work. Do you envision any kind of reciprocal play taking place between you and a physicist while making images, for example?

Jaclyn Wright – I am definitely interested in pursuing other collaborative approaches within the work. I’m currently taking steps to move the work out of the book and bring it back into physical space – the first step being a complete dismantling of the book itself. During this process I plan to begin a collaboration with individuals who have a background in science and philosophy, asking that they do the same. Upon their deconstruction, they will be asked to re-orient themselves to the work and provide visuals – I plan to do the same.  My hope is that this will inform the process in creating a new installation series with sculptural components. This new iteration or transformation of the work will create a space that could not have existed without the creation of the book and the inference drawn from it.


spread from Afterglow


To see more, please visit Jaclyn’s website.


Matthew Jessie

Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys
Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys


Wavepool – In your statement for Its Hills and Valleys, you briefly touch on potentially inaccurate representations of Eastern Tennessee. What kind of stereotypes are you combating with your images?

Matthew Jessie – The series came about from my desire to depict East Tennessee in a way that challenges the stereotypical perception of it by providing a glimpse into its contemporary realities. Many representations of the Central and South Central Appalachian portion of Tennessee are limited in scope and gravitate towards certain subject matter. This has partially helped to create the sort of stigma that in many ways defines it. It’s not that these representations aren’t accurate and I am not denying the issues that have faced and continue to face East Tennessee and Appalachia as a whole, but rather I am working to broaden the scope and  provide an alternative portrayal of the region from the perspective of a native. Simply put I am not concentrating my efforts towards depicting more classical issues associated with the stereotypical perception of the region, but instead am working to create a more contemporary portrayal that challenges, not combats this perception.

Wavepool – Are there any specific images that you consider to be crucial in maintaining that idea for the project?

Matthew Jessie – I really consider each image as being crucial in maintaining the idea for the project as a whole by referencing different aspects and realities of the region individually. Some of the images do this less subtly than others, but I don’t consider any one image to entirely embody the idea set for the whole project, as of yet. The nature of how I make work for this series, coupled with its broad scope, makes me hesitant to expect to make a picture that can do that. If it is even possible. Rather, if an image makes it through the editing process and into the series I feel that it adds to maintaining the idea for the project’s entirety in some individual way.


Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys
Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys


Wavepool – What does your working process look like?

Matthew Jessie – I usually begin by deciding which part of the region I want to work in for the day and then determine a final destination that I feel may yield a picture. I scout the area I am planning to work quite thoroughly online and with Google Maps to create a sort of loose plan, but from the time I leave my apartment until I get back everything is raw material to be interpreted and potentially photographed. This allows for a level of spontaneity not usually associated with using a large format camera. Where the spontaneous nature of smaller cameras is a result of their speed of use and mobility, for me working with a large format camera allows more of the spontaneity to come from the unfolding of events that I have no control over, but rather interact with to make a photograph.

Wavepool – So do you think the work would be much different if you weren’t using a large format camera?

Matthew Jessie – I do think the work would be different. To what extent I’m not certain because I haven’t used a smaller camera in a serious way in quite some time, but I imagine there would certainly be differences. Not necessarily because of the large format camera itself, but rather the innate process involved with using one. Over the past few years the way I approach picture making has evolved in many ways and I attribute much of this to using a larger camera. For me, using such a camera has helped push myself to take more risks that are many times necessary to make a picture.


Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys
Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys


Wavepool – What kind of risks do you think will be important to take as you move forward with the project?

Matthew Jessie – It’s funny you ask. Just yesterday evening I made a picture from the top of an interstate overpass with the surprise help of two state troopers. I had been scouting this spot for several months and yesterday I felt like all the conditions were right to finally make the picture. Being that it was from the top of a bridge over the Holston River on Interstate 26 near Kingsport, Tennessee I knew I had to be quick. Before I got there I put my camera, light meter, film holder, cable release, and tripod in the passenger seat of my car so I would have everything ready to go. I also knew that there were no turnarounds in the median for a few miles so I felt as if that would help me avoid the police, but I was wrong. I pulled over and parked in the best spot, just over the middle of the river, then quickly got out of my car and went to the passenger side to make the picture. I knew I should be out of there within 3-5 minutes. I set up my camera and had just composed the shot when I looked to the rear of my car and noticed blue lights. My heart dropped to my stomach as all I could think about was making this picture even if I was going to have some undesired consequences from doing so. I approached the officer’s cruiser in a mildly frantic way notifying them that I was making a picture and would be done in only a few minutes. Before the officer could respond I successfully enlisted their help by remaining behind my car with their flashing lights because it’s kind of scary when there is traffic traveling 70 miles an hour only feet behind you and a 50 plus foot drop only inches in front of you. Before I could proceed the officer first asked for my identification and as I quickly returned with it they said,”make your picture.” I hurriedly recomposed the frame and made the picture. After I packed everything up I returned to the cruiser to get my identification as well as to thank the officers for their assistance. I thanked them several times and one of the officers asked what I was thanking them for. I replied,”for helping me make this picture,” and the officer said,”no, you are thanking me for not writing you a ticket for parking on the side of the interstate.” I agreed with the officer,shook their hand, and quickly got in my car and drove away. Making this picture has been the most adrenaline stimulating one to date and is also a perfect example of the risks I consider, at times, to be necessary to take to convey the ideas of this body of work. Some people will feel as if actions like this are irresponsible, and while I can see that as a valid claim I don’t believe they understand the importance of making such actions and taking such risks to make work that to me is progressive. The way I see it, and what has worked for me so far, is that if I see a vantage point I feel will yield a picture I am willing to do what needs to be done to make it there. Whether that be trespassing, hiking up the side of a mountain, approaching complete strangers, or whatever else that doesn’t harm anyone, I am driven to do that.

Wavepool – Do you have an idea of when the project will be complete? What comes after that?

Matthew Jessie – This body of work can go on as long as I am alive and able really. I may eventually come to a point where I feel as if the work has said enough, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. There will definitely be breaks from making work for Its Hills and Valleys as I plan to attend a graduate program in another part of the country within the next couple of years, but I intend to continue the series when I return to the area. East Tennessee is continually evolving and I feel as if this time in it’s history is so transitional. I just feel really grateful to be able to make this work. I don’t think there will be an after with this series as I intend to work on it as long as I can, but I will definitely be working on simultaneous projects. I have too many ideas and too much of a drive to express them to only work on one project.


Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys
Untitled from Its Hills and Valleys


To see more, please visit Matthew’s website.

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan

Untitled from _cloud_
Untitled from _cloud_


Wavepool – Can you summarize for me where your interest in photography lies?

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan – That’s a tough one. And I feel like I have to say that because I probably spend a lot of time compartmentalizing photography. For example, one way that I like to encounter photography is through reading it’s written histories, especially how individuals and publics in the first twenty or thirty years after it’s official announcement tried to conceptualize or talk about it. But then that sometimes leads me into thinking about photography as a series of changing, improving, and competing technologies; a kind of ongoing post-industrial experiment in the west involving light, and optics – all seemingly in the service of recording linear perspective. But then what about all the serious social, economic, and environmental implications of photography? And then there’s the thing we call digital, and everything we can or want to associate with massive amounts of information and processing power.

In fact, I think I went a little off the rails for a time when I decided I would go through my regular day calling other activities photography. I’d be with friends and kick a small rock from the sidewalk towards some grass and say “photography,” just to see if it could feel right. I’ve since stopped.

So maybe I can say my interest lies nowhere in particular, but rather that I like spending my time thinking through the many ways that we’ve tried to claim that something is, looks like, or acts like photography. Sometimes these exercises serve as prompts to eventual projects.

Wavepool – Were there any instances like the rock kicking that actually held onto the “photography” declaration?

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan – You know, a part of me wishes that something did, like kicking that rock or maybe returning overdue library books. If something did fit, however, like really felt like photography, I don’t think I’d want to go about sharing that information with anyone! But what ended up happening, what the activity ended up being, was this silly way for me to momentarily displace my thinking of photography’s reliance to an image, and just consider it’s performative dimensions.

There’s a lot of human action in the act of photography. And it’s changed over time. I was briefly an adjunct, teaching photo courses, and the second thing I asked my students to do was to mime how they took photographs. The overwhelming response usually involved two hands arranged in front of a face, with maybe some twisting at the hips. But then I would ask them to act out the drama of using a large format camera, complete with an imaginary dark cloth, or a Hasselblad, with their heads peering down at a waist-level viewfinder, or more contemporaneously a selfie, with a single hand extended awkwardly in the air, heads and hair arranged to fit the framing of a phone camera pointed at themselves, instead of anything else in the world. If I were still teaching, maybe now I’d include a remote control action for drone photography.

Even the two hands in front of the face was an important thing for them to think about. I wondered how much it indicated my students’ and my own place or preference in the world of photography: as outwardly serious camera operators who still used eye piece viewfinders when many casual camera owners push their devices forward in order to compose with their screens. In any case I wanted us to think about context, intention, change and action before beginning the busy work of making pictures.


#3 (Left: Fraenkel Gallery, Bernd & Hilla Becher, 2009; Center: 303 Gallery, Hans-Peter Feldman, 2009; Right: Various Installations, Ryan McGinley) from Installation Views I
#3 (Left: Fraenkel Gallery, Bernd & Hilla Becher, 2009; Center: 303 Gallery, Hans-Peter Feldman, 2009; Right: Various Installations, Ryan McGinley) from Installation Views I


Wavepool – Does your practice usually work that way, with a camera (or other tool/medium) carrying out an idea that’s been carefully considered beforehand?

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan – The camera definitely shows up in the last act for many of the works. I tend to be an unstructured person but when I’m able to exercise some will power, I prefer measuring twice, cutting once. In a lot of those focused situations, however, the considerations show up because I’ve been surprised or confused by something I’ve seen in the world, often through repetition, and then just have to sit and think about it for a while.

For example, one of my first projects involved documenting blank billboards. I used to have a longish commute to Oklahoma City, along Interstate 35, and during a 6-month period in 2008, I noticed all these billboards showing up, all white and emptied of their images, which seemed weird and almost unnerving. It was just after the financial crisis began, so I was associating it with that. They ultimately ended up serving as markers for this mental space that I found myself in while I was driving. Eventually, all the associations I built around those material forms – Sugimoto’s movie screens, monumental sculpture, the then emerging rhetoric of austerity, road trips and the problematic visions of a contemporary American West, etc. – compelled me enough to drive around the country and begin making pictures.

It was the same with the Installation Views series. I remember watching several years ago someone install an exhibition of my photos for a small show. I was kind of mesmerized seeing her carefully place strips of blue painter’s tape, over and over again, on the walls to mark spots for hanging works. I had never seen an install before, so it was all new to me, and I really liked the look of the blue tape on white paint. Around the same time, I had this moment of confusion looking at Ryan Mcginley’s web site, because he had a column with a titled list of his projects on the left, including something called “Installation Views.” I don’t know currently, but the web site’s hierarchy at the time made no differentiation among the list of titles, so I clicked on “Installation Views” thinking it was a project of his, rather than photographic evidence of his physical works fully installed at various galleries around the world. So the first iteration of the series became the synthesis of these two moments, hidden or immaterial bookends for art’s normally prescribed physical encounter – the former an appreciation for the proto-life of an exhibition, and the later for its documentary aftermath.

Wavepool – With a lot of your work being referential, how do viewers that don’t come from a photographic background react to your work?

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan – Since I position a lot of my work online, I don’t really have opportunities to gauge reactions outside of short-lived metrics like shares, likes, or reposts. But when I’ve been lucky to have a conversation with groups or individuals, we usually end up talking around the work. That might sound unfortunate, but I’m usually energized when that happens. It feels like those conversations sync up with the fact that I make pictures about the stuff that surrounds and supports photography. In this way, we usually find common ground in the material, technological, or cultural and performative dimensions of photography.

That said, I showed a few projects to an artist I admire a few years back, and after he critiqued my work and encouraged me to continue, he asked, very seriously, if I was willing to have a small audience. So it’s something I do think about, viewers or potential viewers. And I do wonder to what extent the references might prevent or deter a person from spending time with a project. But I also think that the medium is familiar enough of a procedure and experience that someone without a specialized photographic background would not feel immediately outside the work. It’s the same with Index. That project is all about a dense network of references and relationships both familiar and obscure. The supporting structure of a book index and our familiarity with how one looks and functions is something that I hope provides the common ground for staying with the work.

I’d never argue that it’s necessary to quickly recognize the references in order to deal with the works. But it’s hard for me to even think of them as just references when they’re oftentimes the primary subjects of my projects; I don’t get to make the works without them. So if and when I think about a potential viewer’s reaction, it’s often in the spirit of trying to show myself as a viewer, too, as someone reacting to works I’ve admired, been confused by, or had difficulty accepting.


installation view of Index (v8) at The Reading Room, Dallas, TX
installation view of Index (v8) at The Reading Room, Dallas, TX


Wavepool – Who or what are some of your major influences?

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan – Here’s a list, including notes, probably in order of importance, and with some links for sharing.

Erased de Kooning – I’m drawn to the ambition and gall of the whole thing, but also need to temper its achievement in proportion to issues of masculinity and privilege, among others. Still, I can’t help and think of it when I consider a lot of the really interesting contemporary strategies that I see (and try to use) which involve digital technologies and extant images.

Bruce Lee – I loved him when I was very young, but in high school and college, I avoided him at all costs, mostly because its frustrating to be labeled or associated with him by others simply because of the dearth of Asian “role models.” But as an adult, my appreciation for him as a model has renewed, especially in learning more about what the physicality he expressed so fluidly was was trying to demonstrate: an inquisitive approach to mind and body problems that was rooted in deep reading and constant practice, expressed through media like books and cinema, and all with an awareness of his minority status.

Hiroshi Sugimoto – I can stand in front of his works for hours. He’s a scientist running experiments as much as an artist asking us to think about time.

Hito Steyerl – When I was in college in the early 2000s, there was this moment when I was transitioning from pop and top 40 radio to all this new music that was being uploaded and shared. I wanted in but couldn’t wrap my head around it all. I soon discovered the filtering power of friends with good taste, who burdened themselves with thinking about the state of music, had more energy for the demands of the task, and who then didn’t mind reporting back their discoveries. She feels like that friend, offering a picture of the picture of the world.

Erin Shirreff – Since discovering her work several years ago, she’s just been someone whose projects I’ve been amazed by and try to stay attentive to.

In Praise of Shadows – I have a paperback copy of this essay that I like to return to every few years. It’s beautiful to read and helps recalibrate my sensibilities.

Bouldering videos – I’ve been bouldering for almost 15 years now, which is a form of rope-less climbing. There are a hundred ways that I think bouldering and my art practice influence and support each other. When I can’t climb, I watch bouldering videos to stay motivated. This is a recent find.

In my G4 Over the Sea – I always listen to this when I’m working, including writing this response! It uses my favorite album as a base, so this mash up was a nice surprise when I came across it a few years ago.  It’s fun and dense, and kind of feels endless.

Wavepool – I’d love to hear more about the back and forth relationship between bouldering and your art practice. What are at least a few of the direct connections between the two?

Sherwin Rivera Tibayan – I think in both cases what initially interested me was a chance to just use my body. I didn’t think too much about either activity. I just liked moving around. But eventually that motivation developed and sort of expanded into a more inquisitive space.

The one critical awareness my art practice has given me in terms of climbing is an attention to it as a social activity that’s oftentimes dependent on an individual’s economic/sexual/racial/class background. It’s asked me to think a lot more about who gets a chance to climb, is encouraged to climb, and has the surplus capital and time to climb. I’ve been very lucky and privileged to participate in both activities and try not to lose sight of this fact, hope that I can get more people involved, and remain thankful to everyone who has shared their experiences and supported me along the way.

Regarding how bouldering informs my studio practice, maybe a feeling for strategies is a useful way to describe it. I’m about a decade further along in my bouldering, so in a practical way, my climbing experience helps me recognize when and if I’ve put myself in a physical and mental state to give what I can to a project:

A feeling for style. Analogous to some of the stuff covered in that Bruce Lee interview, I think that pursuing and finding a personal style in climbing is a meaningful ambition, and when diligently and honestly applied, can be expressive of an individual’s surfaces and depths, especially as a desire to move in the world with grace, flexibility, and resolve.

A feeling for choice. There are so many types of climbing. Part of expressing or refining a style seems to come down to recognizing which types of climbs benefit from your style and which don’t.

A feeling for planning. A lot of times in the actual performance of bouldering, there’s not a lot of time for thinking. But in projecting or working out how to do a boulder problem, there is an opportunity go over all the details of body position, opposing forces, and potential sequences and difficulties that the climb presents. You also get to think about past climbs that required similar moves and try to recall how you did them. You try to juggle all this stuff in order to construct a little theory about how this climb might go down.

A feeling for trying. There is so much falling in climbing. It’s mostly falling, really. Getting used to falling, or at least expecting it to be a significant component of the effort, is useful in a sugary, self-help/stay-positive way.

A feeling for solitude. These days, I like to boulder alone. More often than not, it’s only after working towards solitude when the useful stuff finally begins to show up.

A feeling for rest. When I first started climbing, I had a lot more energy, climbed as much as I could, never once thought I’d get injured, and didn’t like the idea of resting. Now that I’m older, I rest quite a bit. It helps to prevent injury and, more importantly, gives the fewer attempts I do make a higher quality of effort. I think I left my MFA a little injured, and for a while didn’t recognize it as such. So now I think a lot about resting. I’ll be honest, it’s kind of scary to say that, because a lot of this can feel rushed and that time is running out or something, but after a group show in Chicago in May, my plan is to rest for a bit, to resist making new work.


Untitled from Black Mirror
Untitled from Black Mirror


To see more, please visit Sherwin’s website.

Jeanne Donegan

Pink from Swell


Wavepool – In a project like Swell, how often are you making images? When does it feel necessary?

Jeanne Donegan – It’s interesting you begin with that question actually; Swell is a very slow project. I think it’s something I’ll be working on for years. At the moment, my video work demands the most attention, but on the periphery, I continue to slowly add to Swell. For the past two years I had been taking these very quiet, still, sensual photographs that fell between the cracks of other projects. I had started to notice that much of what I was drawn to photograph shared this same kind of sensation of the “after” – residues, stains, marks – things that alluded to a prior action of intimacy. Once that thread came together for me, when to make the image became clearer. A lot of the photographs are taken in moments that feel very post coital, while others are actually results of an attempted video performance – either way there’s this sense of aftermath, so they start to blend together. It is definitely a slower making process, but is a calming project to return to when I’m getting caught up in a video piece. It’s nice to have both going at once.

Wavepool – Do you think video is just a more natural fit for your conceptual interests?

Jeanne Donegan – To some extent, yes. I still feel that some ideas end up making better photographs versus videos, however some pieces started to fall together when I began working in video. The dynamics of the video form allowed me to experiment with duration, movement, and gesture in a way that my photographs couldn’t – not to mention sound, which is something I’ve begun to pay closer and closer attention to. With video, I’m able to build a sense of anticipation and tension over a length of time, which felt really natural for exploring these varying degrees of climax.


Back from Swell


Wavepool – Certainly. Can you sum up your interest in the climax for those who aren’t familiar with your practice?

Jeanne Donegan – Sure, I find that the climax – the orgasm – is such a motivating force that we will often do anything to achieve it. I became particularly interested in women’s sexual desire and pleasure. I think as a society we’ve gotten to the point where we can admit that women do enjoy sex just as much as men, but we’re still confronted with so many unrealistic interpretations of women’s sexual pleasure in media today. Sex scenes in films are constantly showing women coming at the same time as their male partners, when in reality most women don’t orgasm just from penetration. The female anatomy is so much more complicated and pleasure sensors can vary so much from woman to woman. However, women’s bodies have the potential to experience more intense and longer lasting orgasms than men. I think the power of female desire is complex and fascinating. With my video work, I was thinking about orgasm as a structure – the rise, the climax, the fall – but I also wanted to show varying degrees of that idea to try to convey its complexity. My video Sink, for example, is only about 2 minutes and has a very abrupt, unsatisfying ending. Whereas Milk, just under an hour long, is a tremendously sensual and slow process…even painful to endure at times, but that insatiability of desire to achieve climax propels it forward.

Wavepool – I’m always curious about the duration of video pieces and the attention span of viewers, especially with longer pieces like that. Is that on your mind when making a video piece? How do you cater to the wide variety of viewing durations that might take place for a single video?

Jeanne Donegan – This is definitely something I’m still traversing, especially coming from a strong photographic background where viewers often absorb a single piece in a matter of seconds. To ask someone to stay with you for an extended period of time can be a big request. At first this was somewhat disconcerting to me, the idea of someone walking away prematurely not because they didn’t like the piece, but because they were bored. But I think I’ve learned to embrace duration as an integral part of the work by recognizing that some things are worth waiting for. I could show the final moment of Sink, where the water overflows into my mouth, looped over and over but it means nothing without having waited painfully for this sink to fill with water and to watch that tiny ripple of a highlight bubble up on the edge before it spills. That anxiety of waiting and drawing out of tension is vital.

However, for much longer videos like Milk, it’s a little bit different. I applaud and appreciate anyone who would watch all 48 minutes of it haha but I think there’s something about approaching a piece like this, reading that it’s 48 minutes long, and allowing that knowledge to inform the way you see it. To spend even just a short time with the video and contemplate that this repetitive action continues for such a long length of time has some weight to it.

There’s this great performance piece by Marina Abramović & Ulay called Relation in Time, where they sit back to back with their hair tied together for 16 straight hours, and on the 17th hour an audience was permitted in to watch. And you question, why only that last hour? The author Thomas McEvilley refers to them as “…unmoving monuments, yet seething with inner life and sentience, will and activity.” – This is something that’s always stuck out to me, that the power of this performance exists not just in viewing that final hour, but in knowing what you’re seeing has been building for 16 hours before. That knowledge changes our interpretation of it without needing to see all 17 hours.



Wavepool – Have you done live performances yourself? If not, do you have any interest in giving it a shot?

Jeanne Donegan – I haven’t done any yet, but I’m definitely not opposed to it if the right idea came along. I do think there’s a level of control the camera gives me that I wouldn’t get with a live performance. I can shape the lighting, composition, and focus to isolate a particular action and make these videos that are sexual in content, as well as visually seductive. I recognize that I might feel differently if I was to try live performance but my background is so lens based, it’s hard for me to envision it otherwise. Though, my work has evolved and changed so much in the last few years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if live performance became part of my practice in the future.

Wavepool – What’s the ideal reaction you want a viewer to have when experiencing your work?

Jeanne Donegan – It’s important to me that the work leaves room to be read on multiple levels, and not close off varying interpretations. This is part of why I often use a very simple, blunt, one-word title – I’m always trying to find the absolute edge of just enough information to give, I find this can inspire more interesting discussion. I suppose the most ideal reaction I could hope for would be both physical as well as contemplative. I’d hope those feelings of tension, anticipation, and nervous excitement manifest themselves in the viewer as they watch the videos and ultimately, I want people to see women as sexually autonomous beings, and consider that their pleasure is powerful and complex.



To see more, please visit Jeanne’s website.


Ilaria Ortensi

Untitled from Night Stills


Wavepool – Can you talk about the prevalence of architectural elements in your work and how they relate to your interests?

Ilaria OrtensiI started to be interested in architecture very early. I did my first undergraduate year of university in architecture before changing faculty. Even if I moved in the direction of artistic and humanistic studies I continued to be concerned with issues related to how space is constructed and the way it influences us. When I started photographing with a large format camera years later it just came natural to me to go outside and take pictures of urban sites around Rome, where I’m from. Slowly I became aware that I wanted to elaborate the conversation between photography and architecture outside the path of traditional architectural and landscape photography. That is when I began to have a studio based practice.

Wavepool – What do you think makes photography a good outlet for talking about architecture?

Ilaria Ortensi – It seems impossible not to think of contemporary architecture in terms of photographic images. Photography is so necessary to document what architects have built that it has generated an extensive circulation of images of buildings which are complementary to our direct experience of the real places. But photography also plays with our perception of scale. Vast spaces can be contained while something very small can be represented as monumental. Size can be completely modified through photography, opening it up for different interpretations of the same construction or site. In a similar way photography has had a significant role in our experience of modern cities. It has been used from the very beginning to document the growth of urban space, becoming a way for people to elaborate the rapid and continuous change of their environment.


Untitled from Night Stills


Wavepool – With your practice being heavily based in a studio environment, I’m curious about how you bring physical experiences from the outside world into an isolated environment. What is your process like?

Ilaria Ortensi – My process changes a lot depending on the work, but some elements and strategies keep repeating. When I’m in the outside world photographing a site I want to spend enough time there to develop an original point of view on that space that could be translated into a studio project.

For example, visiting the Hudson River Park in correspondence to the Trump Towers I had contradictory feelings about that place. I had the impression of being overwhelmed by the proximity of the gigantic constructions but at the same time I was easily able to reduce the size of those towers just staring at them from the docks. This experience of a simple change of point of view originated the idea of playing with their size. Therefore I created a system to be able to play with both the size and shape of those towers. I photographed the facades of the buildings and used the windows as a modular element to create homogeneous small woodblocks that could be piled up together. My intent was to subvert the flat and conventional logic that monumental towers usually have in a way that could be accessible to everyone, even a child. So I started playing with the woodblocks arranging them in different ways. In some cases I wanted to refer to constructions that I know well while other times I let myself be surprised by what I created. The images of the series Windows (2014) show the result of this process.

It definitely took a long time. Something that is consistent in my process is the speed of my production which is quite slow.

Wavepool – Is it always your intention to bring your findings back to the studio, or can a direct photographic response to a space be possible?

Ilaria Ortensi – It is certainly possible and I would say that both practices coexist in my work. I have never stopped photographing existing spaces but it’s definitely very different than being in studio. When I’m outside I keep a more intuitive and curious approach. The photos that I take get stored and they usually don’t circulate, with some exception. For example, recently I’ve been asked to provide the photographic component for a poetry book and I found in my archive the perfect fit. Even more recently I have been commissioned to produce a photographic work in response to a study examining the relationship between real estate, housing, and inequality within Harlem, New York. In this case I worked like any other traditional photographer, developing a coherent photographic work which was a direct response to both the space and to the report in the book.


Untitled from Windows


Wavepool – Can you tell me a bit about Variations and what’s happening within the images?

Ilaria Ortensi – In Variations I wanted to create a virtual space using just the analog camera and the lights. I chose a Piranesi drawing from the series Prison because it’s generally considered the first example of an impossible architecture and used styrofoam and vinyl gels to build it. Then I ran many tests until I found out how to photograph it. I proceeded exposing each negative three times and at each time I changed the colors of the lights. I had a set of four lights but usually only three of them where on at the same time. While changing the colors I also removed some elements from the installations. The effect created is that of a luminous architecture where colors mix with each other like in a painting. The title Variations implies also the idea of developing form through a repetition that is always different. The series wants to be the expansion of one image through the multiplication of its photographs that are potentially inexhaustible.

Wavepool – An interest in virtual space seems relatively new to your practice. Is that right? Is that topic still influencing whatever you’re making now?

Ilaria Ortensi – Yes, the interest in virtual space is recent. It actually started when I was working with technologies that are related to space. The lights that I used for Variations are multicolor LED bulbs that belong to the category of the Internet Of Things. They have the advantage of being able to quickly produce different colors of the spectrum without using filters but at the same time they are incredibly flat and not suited for  photography. I felt challenged by using them, especially in combination with negative films. While I was experimenting with those lights I found that they were introducing an element of virtuality into the domestic space, for which they have been designed for. So with Variations I managed to translate that intuition into photographs creating a space that doesn’t exist in reality.

But more than strictly in virtual space I’m interested in general in the relationship between technology and architecture and how it influences our perception of space. Recently, during a residency called Laboratory Spokane, I’ve created an installation called Synchronic Stream where I’ve turned a gallery space into a photographic studio and at the same time having the lights being controlled from internet data. It’s a complex idea that I’m still working on and hoping to expand it even further probably with other installation work.


Untitled from Variations


To see more, please visit Ilaria’s website.


Serrah Russell

Always Present But Never Fully


Wavepool – With a lot of your work being based in collage, how does photography inform your practice? What qualities of the photographic image are you interested in tapping into?

Serrah Russell – My work is certainly influenced by photography. I studied photography as an undergraduate and still think very photographically in the way I create collages. What I crop out and what I leave in feels very similar to shooting and selecting what to keep within the frame. The act of photography is so much about choice, about what to include and what to crop out when looking, to determine precisely what we want to show to others. I continue this process within collage. It’s just that typically instead of looking outward into the world, I am looking at the world of photographs that already exist and further highlighting, pointing at, drawing together.

There is a quote that I love by Stephen Shore: “The artist starts with a blank page and must fill it. The photographer starts with the clutter of the world and must simplify it.”

I find myself within the middle of that.

Wavepool – Where do you pull material from to work with?

Serrah Russell – I pull material mainly from advertisements found in fashion and lifestyle magazines. I find it most interesting to work, even struggle, to find a moment within the material that speaks to intimacy and evokes a personal association, especially within imagery that is intended for another purpose, like sales and commerce. I try to steer clear of using material where the intention of the imagery comes from an artistic perspective.

More recently I have begun to create my own material, by shooting instant film and digital photos. The final collage works that come from that material has a different feel. They are often much larger, as they are created in a digital realm and can be scaled up more honestly, where as physical collage stays grounded within the scale of the original printed material, typically magazine spread size.

I’ve also begun to incorporate objects a bit within the collages, like a thin gold necklace, an oyster shell, resin, stones. Those objects come from my own personal life and experiences, usually found, salvaged or gifted. I have been investigating how images can stand in for objects and I am curious if objects can do the same. What happens when they are married together?


Soft Statues


Wavepool – When using your own imagery or objects, do the collage works have a different feel aside from the physical characteristics?

Serrah Russell – Hmmm… physically the works definitely look different. The images that I have photographed myself contain less imagery of the body, and more nature and environmental juxtaposition. The images themselves appear less fragmented, because I’m doing the majority of the cropping of the image in camera, so the overall look is more contained, formed traditionally as a diptych or as an overlaying of two images.

In using objects, whether they are my own or found, I think they evoke the quality of containing personal significance, whether to me or to another. They feel like objects that have been collected or salvaged, even treasured. I believe that both objects and images carry with them their past history, and even if we don’t know exactly what that history is, it’s something we feel.

There is a quote by Stephen Shore that I just read, it says “I imagine that it’s quite possible that the quality of mind can imprint itself on a picture through the choices a photographer makes” and I see that within my work, where my state of mind comes through in the act of creating, in some form, whether the viewer can pinpoint it or not.  So to answer your question, thematically, I don’t see too much difference within the collage works, whether my imagery or another’s. I treat the image pretty similarly, at least I try to, and this is helped by using photos that I either shot years ago, so I have forgotten some of the context and can see them with fresh eyes, or shooting imagery specifically to be manipulated within collage. The images are less precious that way.

Wavepool – Stephen Shore seems to be a prominent influence, at least at the moment. What other artists are on your mind?

Serrah Russell – I wouldn’t say that his work specifically is an influence, but his thoughts on photography have definitely been resonating with me​ lately​. I began teaching a​n I​ntro to ​D​igital ​P​hotography ​course this quarter and the research I have done to prepare ​for that ​has caused me to return to some of the classic​ ​photographers and to do more reading on theory​.

Recently I’d say that artists on my mind are those who are using photography in a non-traditional way, both embracing it and rebelling against it. Uta Barth’s way of using banal images to focus the act of seeing is always intriguing to me. Wolfgang Tillman’s attention to objects, and their ability to be evocative of human feelings is stunning. I love his series from the book If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters. I’ve also been looking at Edward Steichen, Edward Weston and Harry Callahan lots lately and just becoming completely enthralled. I love the way they each, in their unique way, give such meaning to often overlooked objects, bringing poetry and meaning through abstraction, drawing attention to the overlap of landscape and the body.

​I’m sure I’m forgetting lots, but at this moment, those are the ones that come to mind immediately. Interestingly enough, although much of my work is collage and appropriation, I’m often less influenced by artists who work in those mediums, but am more influenced by photographers in general who have a strong sense of editing within their images, cropping very purposefully, constructing their images in a way that feels collage-like. Gabriel Orozco and Laura Letinsky come to mind.


Will we ever get there?


Wavepool – Based on some images I’ve seen recently, it looks you’re sometimes working in other modes, such as sculpture or video. Is it exciting for you to be working that way?

Serrah Russell – It is.

I always like, wait, like isn’t the right word, rather I need to challenge myself. It feels good, or rather necessary, to put myself in a position of the unknown, where I can’t fully anticipate the future. It’s terrifying and anxiety inducing at times. And nearly every time, I end up telling my husband that I’m going to stop making art. That this is the end of it all. But usually after that it gets better. Somehow I keep doing it anyways.

The new mediums, whether video, resin, installation, are new mediums that are necessary for a specific work. Often, I don’t end up returning to that specific medium, but through the experience, I have learned a new way of seeing, a new way of working, that I bring back to my photography based work. I think it’s healthy to start at the beginning again, once in awhile.

Wavepool – Do you ever find that feeling of uncertainty when working with photographic processes?

Serrah Russell – Hmmm. Interesting question. Do I find uncertainty? Probably more like it finds me. But yes, I think there is always uncertainty in art making. For me there is uncertainty in the moments where not everything has been revealed and where I am unsure of what the work will become or how it will be perceived. I love/hate those moments just because I want to continue to push myself, to know that I am trying something new and taking risks, but it also can bring uncomfortable feelings and anxiety.

Thinking about uncertainty in photography is a compelling thought, mainly because photography can be so much of a collaboration. Where as mediums like painting or printmaking involve a build up of material, acting with addition rather than subtraction, for me so much about photography is the editing out, the choosing what to point at from within what exists. So there is uncertainty there, because what exists in front of you or with you in that moment is not easily controlled.


They were tied together but could never fully collide


To see more, please visit Serrah’s website.

Thomas Albdorf

spread from I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before


Wavepool – Your new project, I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before, is very much in line with your previous work but seems a bit more specific in the references it makes. Was the working process different in any way?

Thomas Albdorf – Do you think it’s that much in line? There are indeed specific image clichés I’m addressing that I used before, but I had the feeling that, in earlier series, I talked more about sculpture-through-image possibilities of the photographic process, whereas within I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before I’m using named clichés and structures as base material. Before that series, people sometimes asked me if my works are sculptures or photographs of sculptures, and I had to tell them that neither are correct, that my works are solely images rooted in photography. I Know I Will See was also a try to depart from that – to use common picture conventions as, so to say, sculptural base material rather than objects.

Anyway, the working process was different insofar as, for the first time, I created a series with a specific goal in mind – contextualizing everything within a photobook. Before that, I mainly worked without a precise idea regarding the final form, and just decided at a certain point that the material I collected would now suffice to be published on the web, be printed for an exhibition, etc.

Wavepool – I agree that this work has new ideas in play, but I see a lot of ties to previous imagery. Why did the change in approach happen and was it a positive change of pace for you?

Thomas Albdorf – It was positive insofar as I am very happy with the final result, but to get to this point took me some time and pain. I had the feeling that I had to depart from my very single-image-based practice that was mainly informed by my tumblr-ing and, back then, flickr-ing towards an approach that weighed various types of images against each other without the necessary aim to communicate all aspects important to me within a few single works. I also underwent a few huge shifts in my personal life that made me reconsider if I should continue to work on my art, mostly due to financial reasons. Gladly I’m past that now.


Pebbles [Zoom] from I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before

Wavepool – What types of images are new additions to your practice?

Thomas Albdorf – I started to appropriate found images, partially reconstructed via digital or analogue means, partially cropped or simply as I found them. I used more conventional, unaltered photographic works to test how they would function with staged and heavily photoshopped imagery. In general, I think during the process of creating all the images contained within the publication, I started to embrace the pixelated JPEG, the blurred scan, the rasterized blow-up, the poor photographic image – I started to perceive those aspects as almost similar, and worth discussing, to the visible digital interventions I used within earlier series such as Former Writer.

Wavepool – We’ve yet to discuss the significance of the mountains as a motif in the work. Can you elaborate on its value?

Thomas Albdorf – I wanted to take a closer look at how my homeland Austria is constructed and constituted within a common image space. The concept of mountains, of an alpine landscape that functions as surface for multiple projections is prevalent; be it within the classic 1960s Heimatfilm, advertising, or political propaganda.

I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before aims towards reconstructing and abstracting this mountainous visual space via the methods of image production I named before. The works depart from their indexical referents, creating possibilities to become different images. One mountain can signify a different mountain, clouds can be petrified, water can become dust.

Before I started the series, I was stumbling upon a vintage book about the Austrian alpine landscape with tremendous imagery. I wanted to interrogate my fascination with this partially very kitschy photographic prints, so I thought “Mountains – why not?”. It just seemed very logical – everybody knows images of mountains, everybody has a pre-rendered idea, so I wanted to play with these expectations, bend them, test them.


Midday at the Klinser Waterfall [3] from I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before

Wavepool – Can you tell me about the title and how it came to be?

Thomas Albdorf – Really into that part of how everything came together … when I sent the first images towards Lodret Vandret and explained what I wanted to do, we talked about the series’ origins and sources, and Flemming Ove Bech immediately brought up The Sound of Music. Albeit I did a video-installation with fragments of the movie years ago, it wasn’t consciously on my radar for the series back then – maybe because it is a rather unique perspective towards a kitsch-rendering of Austria, a very specific “Heimatfilm” created out of Hollywood rather than from within Austria or Germany.

We than went back and forth with potential titles … one day Flemming sent a mail with a few, also bringing up that part of the opening song The Hills Are Alive where Julie Andrews sings “I know I will hear what I’ve heard before“, and Flemming altered it into “I know I will see what I’ve seen before“ and I was like “DAMN” … it just really summed up many important aspects of the series – image repetition, known conventions (and their deconstruction). So we just went with it.

I also have to talk about the Blackletter I used for the cover … the versions I looked into called “Fraktur“ were often present on movie-posters of the Austrian-german movie genre called Heimatfilm I mentioned before – although these fonts are often associated with the Nazis, whereas they abandoned the fonts in the early forties due to simple practicality – no one outside Austria and Germany could read it immediately. I definitely wanted to go for Fraktur for the cover, but didn’t feel too comfortable with it … so I tried to apply similar techniques abundant within my images towards the fonts – I build it up from scratch based on given aesthetics and typefaces, but left it raw and vectorized to reveal its artificial nature, its falsehood and constructedness.

Wavepool – You recently had a solo show of the project. How did the exhibition compare to the book experience?

Thomas Albdorf – Max Marshall, the man behind The Latent Image and DELI Gallery, approached me with the idea of installing a solo show during the NY Art Book Fair, so we took the book as a guideline, trying to translate its main aspects into the given gallery space. Max started with a PDF and from then on, very similar to how Lodret Vandret and me arranged the book, we moved image files in an Indesign file that resembled the gallery wall’s aspect ratios. As for the factual experience, I only saw the exhibition mediated via RAWs / JPEGs and video. Unseen Amsterdam was happening the very same weekend as the NY Art Book Fair, so I had to make a decision (as I was also present at Unseen with my gallery) and I travelled to the Netherlands.

It was a very weird and partially sad experience to ship all my prints to the US, knowing that I’ll never see the installation, but it also brought to me the maybe most emotional social media moment of 2015: when I was heading home from Unseen Friday night (slightly drunk), I briefly facebook-messaged Max Marshall to check if everything was alright (as, at this time, the show just opened in NY). I immediately received a video call, and Max took me around, showing me the crowded room with so many artists whose work I admire who made the effort to stop by and have a look. I was beyond stoked. Hooray for the Internet.


Untitled (Focus) [1] from I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before

To see more, please visit Thomas’ website.

A New Nothing – Ben Alper and Nat Ward


Wavepool – How have you approached the idea of having an image-based conversation?

Ben Alper – As much as possible, I’ve tried not to have a specific approach. This process is far more fun, dynamic and surprising when you allow for instinctiveness (and even impulsiveness) to be driving forces. It often feels like an incredibly liberating form of image-improv or pantomime. In that way, my conversation with Nat has become an important outlet for me, one that promotes a wilder and more associative side of my practice. In psychological terms, it’s more id than it is ego.

Ultimately though, it’s as much an expression of friendship for me as anything else. It’s like a grown-up version of passing notes in class, or a secret handshake that changes every time.

Nat Ward – Both casually and sincerely. As much as it’s simply about staying in touch with someone I deeply care about, overcoming distance, time, and the hum of frenetic schedules, the making and posting of the images is a special space to focus and have great fun; to really play. Given that it’s a conversation without words, it’s nearly impossible to plan or strategize beyond your own posting. I like the fact that spontaneity is embedded in the idea that lies at the heart of the project. Directions change at the whim of you or your partner. This ever movable quality seems to be the key to eliciting cleverly naked reactions.



Wavepool – If you were to compare your exchange to one that is spoken, how would you describe it?

Ben Alper – It’s multifaceted. For me, sometimes I try to be a good “listener”, while other times I just want to interject and change the subject. There are moments that feel akin to a joke being taken to the brink of absurdity. And other moments that feel strangely poignant. Sometimes there’s a “wait, what did you say?” kind of miscommunication feeling, but just as often there’s a “you read my mind” kind of compatibility. It’s like generous banter, marked by flurries of spirited debate and typically followed by pregnant pauses.

Nat Ward – An absurdist ramble with all the pent-up energy of a 7-hour ride in the back seat of a station wagon. It’s super free-associative and, in process at least, pleasurably frantic.



Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Ben Alper – That serious play is fundamentally important to my development as an artist, a friend and a human.

Nat Ward – I definitely have a revived interest in what can happen within the confines of a linear edit. I’ve spent so much time thinking about editing a web of connections in a sprawling physical space that it’s been really exciting to distill the process down to a back and forth again.


To see more, please visit A New Nothing.