Wavepool – Many of your projects present fictional narratives that are composed of seemingly real moments. Can you talk about the balance between fact and fiction in your practice?
Dan Boardman – Early on in my art making I realized the very thing you mention here. Photographs have a tenuous relationship with reality. I’ve never been able to draw a line in the sand from authentic to staged with my image making. It seems to me that it’s impossible to do so. What i’d like my images to do is communicate. I’ve learned to do that by engaging in the associative power of images. With a body of work like The Citizen I was encountering a verity of people over many different places, and those people and places mattered to me, but that’s not all that mattered. I think fiction in that case was my escape hatch from making a book about the down and out in down and out places. I didn’t want to make that kind of book because I don’t believe my subjects needed pity or wanted it, and because the actuality of it wasn’t in the pictures. My pictures were my ideas and had very little to do with actual anything. I thought a lot about Kurt Vonnegut. How his books could be about a real situation and he’d shoe horn in science fiction, because the reality felt like fiction.
Wavepool – How much of the narrative is left up to the viewer? Are you interested in specifics or do your prefer a more fluid approach where the images can be understood and contextualized in a variety of ways?
Dan Boardman – Some things are up to the viewer, but I think it’s really up to me to bring the viewer my ideas. A book can give things context. The design, size, and text included are all part of the thing of course. This isn’t really true out side of photo-books in many ways. I have a copy of Dune from who knows when that has an incredible look. Newer and cheaper versions of Dune look terrible. Here though the cover makes no difference whatsoever. It’s the same Duncan Idaho no matter what the cover looks like.
The obvious difference is that images appear to be more open. I certainly don’t want to close ideas down, but like I said I want to communicate my ideas, so I aim for that in my editing. Honestly it really depends on the group of images. Some groups need practice to tease out the right path from cover to cover, others simply fall into place.
Wavepool – What is your editing/sequencing process like? How long does it take for you to feel confident with your decisions?
Dan Boardman – I’ve learned a few things about myself when it comes to editing over the years and I hope I’ll learn more. The number one thing I’ve learned is that I can’t edit a group of images while i’m shooting them. It closes down that side of the creative process. I start to close doors. It’s even better If I stop shooting and do something else and then a year later pick up the images and edit them. Time fractures my emotional tie to most of my pictures, and it makes me think again about things I would normally disregard.
I love editing with friends. Not mentors or professors or curators or anything like that. It’s gotta be with friends. They point out bullshit, and they encourage strange associations. Mine do at least.
I also think deadlines are good for editing. You can go forever revisiting an edit, and some projects require that. Other times having a week or a night to make some choices is a good thing. Certain goofy choices come out of the energy in the room. Revisiting over and over can sort of destroy that spirit.
Wavepool – The way that you photograph your subjects makes me think of you, the artist, as a character that is integral to the story. You’re not just narrating, but you’re also interacting with the other characters and the landscape. Do you think about yourself in that way? Can you talk about your role in all of this?
Dan Boardman – I’m glad that translates. I do feel that way. I never feel out of body making images, but I don’t always feel like what’s in front of me is real. I think a lot about the narrator. Who is this person? Why are these pictures being made by this person? I did this project in college where I tried to photograph as if I was on a trip in Russia, but I was in Central New York. I’d go photograph, go to restaurants and order something I’d never had, write in my journal, take the bus different places, etc. The images were nothing special, but I think it ended up being good training for other ideas later on.
I think of the different cameras I use as a shift in narration. Photography is great because sometimes the evidence of the tool used to make the image is visible in the final image even to those who aren’t savvy. It’s fun for me to play off of this. I think about John Divola’s work Isolated Homes. The end sheets in that book are these exceptionally grainy images of dogs running. They give all the narrative you need to a book of pretty straight forward austere images. Of course I love the book made of the dog pictures too.
Wavepool – You collaborate with a few other artists to publish books under the name Houseboat. How did the group start, and what are your interests as publishers?
Dan Boardman – Houseboat is Eric Ruby, Dylan Nelson, Ryan Arthurs and myself. We are a group of friends that at one point all lived in Boston and at different times attended Mass College of Art and Design for grad school. Basically we started publishing because it seamed like the natural thing to do. We all had made books and were involved with each others work. It was a way to get our work into the world in some sense. This must be a typical story to some degree.
As publishers we don’t specifically have a point of view, but I do know that we seem to be attracted to forgotten projects. We like to take over a little and make something out of a project that might not see the light of day. I think about the narrator a lot in the choices of books we make too. It’s fun to try and figure out someone by looking at the pictures they made. I feel that we push one another to make increasingly complicated books and we firmly do not care about making perfect objects. We have learned a ton about making books but I don’t lose sleep over mistakes.
Wavepool – Your new work looks different than what you’ve done in the past. What’s happening in the new images?
Dan Boardman – The seeds of what I’m doing now started right after grad school, but recently it has taken over.
Looking at Ed Ruscha I became interested in trying to make an image with text in the center, and I started to pick apart how i’d do that in camera. I came up with this way of making a sort of stencil in negative and positive. I went out and made some images this way and when I got the negatives back the results astonished me. Since then the stencils have gotten increasingly more complicated and intricate. I won’t attempt to explain the meaning of it all as it’s very much in progress. I will say that the new work shares the pleasure of the associative nature of images that my work has hinged on in the past. Now it’s happening in a single frame!