A New Nothing – Czar Kristoff and Joseph Kadow

 

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

Czar Kristoff – I think just like in any other form of conversation, the most difficult part is to initiate it. You have to be cautious I think. Good thing, I have clues on Joseph’s interests since I’ve seen his works prior to our conversation. It makes it easier for me to upload the first image. So I posted something that I think would be interesting for him, something specific in my country of origin (a makeshift cover of a street vendor), knowing that Joseph is into exotic things, I think that’s the right image to start the project.

Joseph Kadow – When first looking at my partners picture, I focus on what stands out to me: what kinds of shapes or materials do I see? Is it an object or something abstract? How does the picture make me feel? I always take time to think about which one of my pictures could fit before i go through my archive. And mostly my response turns out to look very different from what I first imagined.

 

 

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

Czar Kristoff – There are some words or gestures that I usually use in normal exchange especially when I’m talking to my closest friends but this one is kinda different. A New Nothing is like a public chat room or something so my replies are kind of filtered but I made sure they were conveyed in truthful manner. Also, I think that Joseph is free to interpret whatever image he was seeing just like in a casual exchange of words.

Joseph Kadow – I think it’s difficult to try to transform an image based conversation to a spoken one. To me, an image based conversation describes an emotional visual process that can hardly be put into words. To do that, you would have to analyze and interpret the image. What I like about A New Nothing is that I don‘t need words to describe my or my partner’s work but the images can speak for themselves.

 

 

Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Czar Kristoff – I think an equal amount of politeness and brutality can lead to a good conversation.

Joseph Kadow – What I find interesting about my conversation with Czar is that we come from very different (cultural) backgrounds, we live in different cities in very different parts of the world. That is very refreshing to me. Another challenge is that I only photograph in color and most of Czar’s work is black and white. So I can’t refer to the colors in his images as a response. In more than just one way, it is interesting to have a conversation with someone you don’t share the same language with and still be able to understand each other. That way you learn to see things from a different perspective and notice things you wouldn’t have under different circumstances.

 

To see more, please visit A New Nothing.

A New Nothing – Irina Rozovsky and Mark Steinmetz

 

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

Irina Rozovsky – I see it less as a conversation and more like a cross between an endless chess match and a snappy ping pong rally. No points to win, just the objective to keep it moving and the satisfaction of ball clicking against table. It feels sporty to me because there’s suspense, surprise, and reaction – I post a pic and can’t ever know what aspect of the image Mark will attach to and what he’ll respond with. A friend who plays improvisational jazz has described the music he makes with others like a competitive game you play together, not against each other. I see that here – an improvisational collaboration that has a life of its own, where the challenges we pose for each other are for the good of the game and the thrill of not knowing exactly what’s next.

Mark Steinmetz – My A New Nothing collaboration with Irina strikes me more as a card or board game than as a conversation. One of us puts down a card (the image) then the other plays their hand trying to match it somehow. There are many different ways an image can be matched – through the composition or the color scheme, by subject matter or meaning. The card played can then set the game off in a completely new and unanticipated direction.

 

 

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

Irina Rozovsky – If this image chain we’ve woven were a spoken conversation, it would take place late at night at an empty bar over a drink – one long meandering story that’s told from end to beginning. It’s very interesting to me how we have been building it from right to left, putting the new image always to the left of the older image but how the thread is seen scrolling from left to right. So the oldest image is seen as the freshest.

Mark Steinmetz – This is a very tit for tat sort of exchange. A normal conversation tends to be more arrhythmic with the participants monopolizing the discussion for different stretches at a time. We don’t have the opportunity to put down 2 or 3 of our own images in a row, nor can we return to an earlier part of the conversation. At this point the growing exchange, regarded in its entirety, is long and twisting, always staying in the present, with a staccato rhythm.

 

 

Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Irina Rozovsky – It has been good to allow different kinds of images to rub up against each – it reminds me that a photograph goes beyond how and where it’s made – a low quality iphone picture can live next to a medium format black and white photograph, followed by a video, and they can create a kind of friction. Lastly, it’s liberating to join images together that are not a classically coherent group or project and create an open ended, organic flow that’s more about sensibility and seeing.

Mark Steinmetz – It’s always interesting to watch synchronicity at play. Sometimes I have an image on my iphone taken that day that seems to respond nicely to Irina’s image, or perhaps I’ve recently stumbled across an image from the recesses of my archive that would work. Once or twice I’ve been stumped and had to go out and make a photo that matches but for the most part the images seem to float up and offer themselves to me very easily. It’s a pleasure to think of how an old image from my archive might be triggered by an image sent from Irina and then re-purposed for our A New Nothing conversation.

 

To see more, please visit A New Nothing.

 

A New Nothing – Zach Nader and Leah Beeferman

 

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

Zach Nader – I started with the idea that the images themselves were discussing their day in a way I could overhear. The images I made for my conversation with Leah repeat elements back for clarification or reinforcement and pick up mannerisms from each other. I was especially hopeful that my images could introduce new information in a way likely to be understood by Leah’s images.

I often find myself returning to Gretchen Bender’s description of media as a cannibalistic river-flow, absorbing everything. In order to keep my images balanced in conversation, I thought it critical to incorporate a clawback mechanism to recycle material throughout this exchange.

Leah Beeferman – An image-based conversation is an idea I became familiar with through Tessellations, a project W M Harvey and I did together between 2007 and 2010. We “conversed” using found images, but it helped to create a precedent for me in terms of thinking about creative and intuitive responses to a given image; essentially, it taught me to look at an image, see its multiple dimensions and directions, its layers of visual, conceptual, or informational content, and its obvious and more oblique qualities – and then to respond in a way that feels exciting or challenging or strange, and to consider a response which takes a more minor aspect of that image in a new direction. It’s quite freeing and exciting to have these conversations, because it’s a way to think in parallel – to ask myself what I see, and then what ideas are triggered in terms of how I work, and how I make images. It’s provocative, because I look for things in that image which open new doors for me. It’s all really fun.

In the case of my conversation with Zach Nader on A New Nothing, I think I was looking for the ways our very different ways of making images could communicate. In the conversation, we both played transparency and layering, using photographic imagery and digitally-generated imagery, and stretching our own respective visual languages. I think we both took the opportunity to play, and that was really fun.

 

 

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

Zach Nader – This falls somewhere between the fluidity of having a spoken conversation and the potential embarrassment in reading a transcript of one’s own words.

The most significant difference is that images represent an infinite vocabulary and can be understood by nearly all humans and a host of machines.

Leah Beeferman – In a way, something like a game of telephone – except without the intent to explicitly transfer the spoken information…maybe akin to really interpretive game of telephone, crossed with an exquisite corpse game made out of words. Essentially: take what you hear, consider its structure and its meaning, ​and then re-communicate it somehow – except do this by playing with it, not trying to re-create it.

 

 

Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Zach Nader – Images should be given more opportunities to speak to each other. I would love to see two machines have a conversation on A New Nothing.

Leah Beeferman – I often create pretty rigid sets of rules (both visual and conceptual) for my images. So, this conversation was a chance to relax those rules a little bit and play, to find some spaces where the rules didn’t need to be so fixed – where I could open them up a bit, and try out some new possibilities. It was also really interesting for me to think about how my images were being interpreted by someone else, and where my images could lead that person! It made me step back and see my images both more loosely and more categorically – and to think a little differently about its parts and the sum of its parts.

 

To see more, please visit A New Nothing.

A New Nothing – Boru O’Brien O’Connell and Harrison Haynes

 

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

Boru O’Brien O’Connell – As an exercise, I think. A pretext to bounce ideas off of a different surface.

Harrison Haynes – Boru and I were interested in a dialog that comes out of our mutual interest in objects and still life photography. Other than that we left it pretty wide open.

 

 

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

Boru O’Brien O’Connell – Laconic and slow.

Harrison Haynes – Slower, of course. The beats between our calls and responses are pretty lengthy. It would be weird and really funny if in a spoken exchange each of us waited several days before responding.

 

 

Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Boru O’Brien O’Connell – Having sketches/images that serve a more serialized end has been a nice way to re-approach photography, and also in a highly punctuated way with another person. It feels a bit like an incubator or a cut-up for something broader.

Harrison Haynes – I’m encouraged by the generosity inherent in Ben and Nat’s efforts to put this together. It’s also been a great way to collaborate with Boru, a friend who I don’t get to see that often.

 

To see more, please visit A New Nothing.

A New Nothing – Ariel Goldberg and Katie Kline

 

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

Ariel Goldberg – Katie and I have been having image-based conversations since we were 18. We learned how to be photographers together (still learning). We also had our first teaching experience in a class called Community Collaborations where taught photography to high school students. I don’t believe in a hard divide between language and photography. So the conversation we are having on A New Nothing seems very similar to standing by the hot air of the calenta in college and looking at our pictures together. We started this A New Nothing conversation shortly after Katie moved to California and it’s a beautiful way for us to keep in touch.

Katie Kline – When Nat Ward asked me to participate in this project and invite someone to have a conversation with through images, I thought of Ariel Goldberg. Ariel is someone I’ve wanted to collaborate with for some time, we’ve known each other for for about 15 years. For a while, I imagined that to be a book of my photographs with text by Ariel. After spending time in Ariel’s studio, I was excited and inspired by the similarities in our photographs; what we look at and choose to gather from walks out with our cameras. Many of these parallels are difficult to articulate and more easily explained through side-by-side comparison.

 

 

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

Ariel Goldberg – Our images are in conversation associatively. I would also describe our web gallery as fantasy-montage of walks we take when photographing alone. Often when in the zone, taking pictures, the camera is the only companion to seeing something beautiful and compositionally striking in light, colors, lines. But in this gallery we can share that exciting moment. Katie and I have similar fascinations and subject matter. We often find something ungroomed or highly groomed that our cameras can isolate as sculptural. In our exchange on A New Nothing I think we are teasing out both our similar interests and our slightly different styles and decisions. I like the idea of someone looking at our conversation and either not knowing who took what photo or ignoring the initials of our names, or being able to spot patterns in our styles and decisions.

Katie Kline – With each call and response I gain insight as to how Ariel is looking at each of my photographs and what information is being received. The exchange plays like a game of memory mixed with playing cards. We are responding to symbols, visual clues, emotional undertones, and shared experiences. This is particularly exciting when I feel like we are on the same page just as in a verbal conversation:
“Oh, I see.”
“Precisely!”
“What about when this happens?”
“Of course.”
“No way!”
“Really?”

 

 

Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Ariel Goldberg – I don’t often show my photographs. They are like secrets. But Katie has always known of my pictures and their slow pace since I’ve gone underground as a photographer and become more of a writer. I am excited to see what Katie is working on (California light!) and this is both a public and a private way for us to be sharing both our archive of images and newer work.

Katie Kline – I wish more of my conversations could be exchanged through a series of images rather than words. This is why I love Instagram. This process and other dialogues in the series have inspired what I shoot. I’ve begun to photograph for this conversation and hope to start others like it elsewhere.

 

To see more, please visit A New Nothing.

A New Nothing – Matthew Morrocco and Rachel Stern

 

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

Matthew Morrocco – Communication is really about alleviating the feeling of loneliness.  It doesn’t matter what is being communicated as long as each communicator knows the other is paying attention.  My main concern is that my partner sees that I am paying attention to what she is putting forward.

Rachel Stern – My grandmother used to organize big groups of my siblings and cousins to play what she called Folding Papers, more commonly referred to as Exquisite Corpse. In this game the first player draws the top of something, lets say a head, and then folds the paper so that the next player only sees the implication of the preceding form. They then must use this as the jumping off point for their section of the drawing and so on. It builds. Though I respond to a fully revealed image in the conversation I am having with Matthew, it feels very similar. There is some formal element, an arm, the light, a symbol or color, that sparks a reference to some other work of my own. It’s very much like building. Placing something that fits onto the structure beside it. I’ve always love taking on assignments, trying to fit my agenda into whatever context I’m allowed, and this is exciting in that same way. I can’t know what my next post will be, but as it must be my own image the pool is predetermined. It’s great fun to look at Matthew’s photographs and find what essentially excites or grabs me within them and then turn to my own archives in search of that same thing.

 

 

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

Matthew Morrocco – The main difference is formal. In spoken language, rhetorical devices – diction, cadence, idioms – can be different but in visual language, the tropes need to be similar to be in conversation.  I look at Rachel’s work and respond with pictures that have similar tropes – a pose, a color, depth, lighting.  We are mostly using photographs that are already made, so it’s about locating common aesthetic principles.

Rachel Stern – The conversation that Matthew and I are having, very much like the ones we have in real life, takes the form of passionate banter – a war of wits. Something that is so striking about our work is the way in which our deep connections to the same art historical moments take such apparently different forms in our respective practices.  We are both dramatic, both serious, both focused on the wildly indulgent experience of being human and because of this we build off of and strike back at each other with deft and earnest retorts. When we speak about photography, art, and life together we speak as if everything is at stake because, in fact, it is.

 

 

Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Matthew Morrocco – Peers are the most important influences.

Rachel Stern – I’ve learned a lot about photography from looking at Matthew’s work. He’s a very complicated image maker and uses the format of the photograph in such striking and insightful ways. Responding to his images and looking at the conversations underway between the other photographers on A New Nothing is a reminder of the vast potential of photography. I’m always amazed by what other people see and how they see it. This particular format is such a crazy nexus of sight lines colliding and ricocheting off of one another. I leave the site always wondering what I’m not seeing in the world, or more specifically, what someone else might see were they to stand in my place.

 

To see more, please visit A New Nothing.

 

Elaine Catherine Miller

Waterfall Machine from How to Have a Natural Experience

 

Wavepool – How did How to Have a Natural Experience start for you? Were there any specific events or experiences that coaxed the idea into existence?

Elaine Catherine Miller – The project’s catalyst was a piece I built in the spring of 2014 titled Waterfall Machine. I spent nearly 3 months designing, planning, and constructing various iterations of the piece until its final installation on May 16 that year. It was the first finished large-scale installation piece I had ever made, and from the experience of working in that form, I began to create parameters for pieces to follow, unbeknownst that it would become part of a body of work. For the entire summer that year, I sat with Waterfall Machine not really knowing how to move forward or what my intention fully was with the work. It wasn’t until that fall, when I created Island (1), that I really began to make some more definitive decisions on how internet-derived imagery (photography and video) would become the main components of the sculptures and installations I wanted to create.

To back pedal for a moment, I have to say that before creating Waterfall Machine, my relationship with photography was kind of like that of having one close friend with whom you’ve spent WAAAY too much time with – you know one another intimately, but by proximity, have begun to rub each other the wrong way. Up until this point, I had been studying fine art photography almost exclusively for about 6 consecutive years, working at the Museum of Contemporary Photography for 2 years, and inevitably had become inundated by images.

It is VERY hard to make pictures when you feel the impossibility of creating anything that feels “new”, so I took to the method of appropriation. I felt liberated turning the source of my frustration with photography into a creative outlet. Google Images and Youtube became my archives for photographs and stock footage that I would later, through sculpture and installation, create a physical context or environment.

Wavepool – Were you playing with similar themes when working in the more traditionally photographic manner, or did the act of appropriation shake everything up?

Elaine Catherine Miller – The photographs I was making before How to Have a Natural Experience were definitely interested in the same themes of artificial nature and consumer culture, but I think that the act of appropriation allowed my work to take on a more critical examination of the process of photography more generally. I began to look at photographic and video-based imagery in a different way, specifically in how contemporary society consumes images; how images act as symbols and signs for “real” things; how images affect and often disrupt our experience with everyday life; how they mediate information but are still taken with very little hesitation as the “truth”. I think in a way the artificiality I am trying to address through How to Have a Natural Experience not only relates to the urban dweller’s experience of the natural world, but moreover, how millennials relate to the world outside of their computer’s or phone’s screen.

 

Island (2) from How to Have a Natural Experience

 

Wavepool – How has place and your personal environment influenced the work?

Elaine Catherine Miller – I think for most of my life as a creator my geographical location has been a huge influence in my work. It was not until I moved away from Tennessee to Chicago in 2012, that I actually could see how the change in my physical environment translated to the type of works I was making. For example, while I was an undergraduate studying in Memphis, I was extremely influenced by southern color photographers including William Christenberry and William Eggleston. My work reflected a similar aesthetic and my approach to photography was almost identical- somewhat rooted in a “street” or documentary method. Within a year of living in Chicago my process drastically changed. The overwhelming magnitude of the city intimidated me. I no longer possessed a vehicle in which to aimlessly drive around. The winters are brutal.

Inevitably, my practice became studio-centric. I experimented for almost two years with “making” pictures rather than “taking” them on the street. From working within the dining room of my apartment to sharing a large space with other artists, as the space itself changed, my works evolved too. Quickly, I went from building things in front of my camera, to just building things. This is how installation became such an interesting medium to me. Most of them (installations) do not exist in physical space upon their deconstruction. So the afterlife of the work relies heavily upon photography.

Today, I think that all art relies on photography. It seems that in order to be relevant, one must exist on the internet. In order to do so, one must have good documentation of their work. This can allow your work to have an audience- not in a museum, not in a gallery, but in a limitless space that is quite possibly the MOST accessible in the world. I think because of that, right now, the internet IS the most influential place in my practice.

Wavepool – Can viewing on the internet match a physical experience?

Elaine Catherine Miller – In regards to my sculpture and installation works, no; for the reason that scale and proximity, as well as, auditory and scent-related elements of the work cannot be fully realized without existing in the same physical space as the piece. I think that most visual art, with the exception of primarily digital or web-based works, suffer for some reason or another because of how they translate onto the internet.

As an archive, however, I do think that the internet offers an additional experience of artworks. Image-based websites like Tumblr and Instagram, for example, create a platform in which artworks can be easily curated into different contexts. Despite authorship controversies, I think these types of sites are awesome for exposing high art to a different type of audience. They allow the art to be accessed in a sort of less stigmatized environment to that of a gallery or museum.

 

 

Wavepool – Going back to your interest in installation, can you talk more about the transition from building things for the camera to just building things? Was there any hesitance when making that change?

Elaine Catherine Miller – During the Summer and Fall of 2013, I was working on a body of photographic tableaus made from craft materials, appropriated photographs, and taxidermied animals. I did a lot of the taxidermy myself and found that each image took as long as 2 weeks to a month to create. At the time, I was even on a graduate student’s schedule, so today, these types of photographs would easily take me about twice the amount time to produce. Needless to say, there was a lot of work going into each image including sculpture, set design, installation, and lighting, so by the end of each shoot, I found it really dissatisfying to dismantle the set without anyone else (aside from my roommate) having seen it. I began to ask myself what it was about this process that I found most engaging and eventually came to terms with the fact that the construction of the scene meant more to me than the finished photograph. As a result, I altogether ceased production on that body of work and began making sculpture.

I ended up making a lot of really bad sculptures. I think due to my own frustration and insecurity with the somewhat foreign medium, I began to integrate photography back into my practice. This time, however, I made these very small table-top dioramas using plexiglass in conjunction with my own photographs of plants and product branding. I remember it was mentioned to me during a critique that the dioramas I had made resembled models for much bigger installation pieces. My classmates remarked, “I want to be able to walk around in this!”, and up until that point, I had not even once considered making anything large-scale, let alone, immersive. Soon, I began experimenting with new photographic works that required “installing” as they were designed to hang in a sort of unconventional manner, but it was not until the creation of the aforementioned Waterfall Machine, that I actually set out to create a piece with an exhibition space in mind.

I struggled a lot and still struggle today with 3-dimensional design. To alleviate this problem, I use a program called SketchUp to aid in planning and mapping out sculpture and installation works. Inherently, I create with a photographer’s eye so everything I make ends up with a “good side” or better angle from which to be viewed. For example, my assemblage, Hurricane, really has only one side that looks interesting. Although I still show the piece as sculpture from time-to-time, the video adaptation, Hurricane (In Showroom), properly exemplifies the intention of the assemblage though only represents it in 2-dimensions.  Similarly, I have a tendency to position the objects in my installation works with the fronts facing forwards and back-sides against the wall. My installation Moon Gazing draws attention to this habit as the audience is made to “gaze upon” a 4×6” photograph of the moon tacked up on the facing wall in the gallery at a distance determined by an elastic control barrier. The content of the photograph can only be seen through a pair of binoculars provided on a nearby table. With binoculars in hand, a suspended tree branch in the center of the gallery causes onlookers to move around until the photograph becomes visible. Although the piece physically engages with the audience, it provides a similar viewing experience to that of a 2-dimensional object.

Wavepool – I’d love to hear about your recent publication Paradise:Lost, which looks like it continues the conversation found in the sculptural work but in a strictly two dimensional way. Where do the images come from, and what makes the book a good form for the work?

Elaine Catherine Miller – It makes sense that you can see the visual connections between Paradise:Lost and How to Have a Natural Experience as both projects were formed somewhat concurrently. I mentioned earlier that I turned to appropriation in order to alleviate my anxiety about making photographs. As a result, my day to day intake of visual information amplified. My desktop became a landing pad for thousands of screenshots I’d take from images found on Tumblr, notes created in Microsoft Word, text correspondences between myself and friends, and so forth. Inadvertently, I began to catalog my personal experience with my computer and phone. My screenshots acted as photographs; capturing ephemeral moments caught between myself and the screen.

I thought about how a screenshot makes a sudo-tangible reference to the screen-based experience; similarly to what a printed photograph does for the “lived” experience. Much like How to Have a Natural Experience, Paradise:Lost explores that idea of “the lived experience” and what it means in a time when many of our daily actions occur while looking at a screen. In both projects, nature symbolises purity or the world unprovoked. With Paradise:Lost, I make an allusion to nature with the use of continually repeating desktop backgrounds I found through a google image search of the keyword “paradise”. The backgrounds have an applied halftone filter evoking nostalgia for a, thought by some, “golden age” for design and photography. By carefully intertwining beautiful, full bleed images of tropical beaches, palm trees, clouds, sunsets, and oceans with my low resolution screenshots and personal iPhone photographs, Paradise:Lost observes the romanticism of print-based media in a screen-based world.

The final form of the project is contained in a 108-page glossy magazine. I wanted the form to relate to the content with the thought in mind of how we consume visual media on a daily basis. Today, we are likely to flick through our dashboards and feeds only to stop and read or look at something for a second before we glaze over and mindlessly watch the content scroll by. Unlike a book, a magazine seems to share the same “flip-through” ability like a phone app. Additionally, its 8.5 x 11” size still enables it to be handheld and easy to transport, while resembling the scale of a computer screen while open.

The production of Paradise:Lost has helped me to realize some overarching themes that I was not aware existed in my other projects. I took away from it some strong realizations about my own artistic practice and what kinds of objects I want to make that can include photography into the conversation.

 

spread from Paradise:Lost

 

To see more, please visit Elaine’s website.

Emily Sheffer

Living Room from The Old World

 

Wavepool – A shifting sense of time can easily be sensed in your work, and it feels like the passage of time is both continuous and nonexistent simultaneously. Can you talk about what kind of timeline your images are placed in?

Emily Sheffer – When contemplating the unconscious, time is a fickle subject. Often times in retrospect, minutes can seem like hours, and years can go by in a moment. To emphasize this specific feeling, I intentionally made the images appear suspended in an undefined timeline. For example, signs of modern times do not appear in my images. (You would never see a microwave in any of the photos). I enjoy the sense of unrestricted discovery that can come from taking a step back from the bustle of daily life, into an older, slower and more focused world. I like to think that the title, The Old World, adds to the sense of a separate timeline from the present, one that allows for ruminations of the self, nature and, finally, where the two meet.

Wavepool – Can you elaborate on nature’s presence within the project? I’m curious about the concept because in my mind, the sequence feels very interior-oriented.

Emily Sheffer – I find myself drawn to aspects of the natural world within the home, and use this interest as a way to understand human’s inherent yearning for nature. Even though we build spaces around ourselves in order to become separate from nature, it seems to creep back in through floral motifs, landscape paintings, and picture windows. The landscape holds a power over human behavior that is unavoidable. We fear and respect it’s unpredictability. Perhaps bringing it into the domestic space is a way to tame something that is ultimately uncontrollable. This has been a long-standing tradition in terms of art history. For example, villa gardens in the Italian Renaissance were highly formalized and designed using geometric shapes to prove human influence over the natural world. This is referred to as “third nature”, something not wholly part of human or natural design, but somewhere in the middle. Inversely, the unpredictable beauty of nature evokes feelings of gratitude and joy that cannot be found in many other places. Perhaps surrounding ourselves with objects is simply a way to evoke these feelings.

 

Curls from The Old World

 

Wavepool – What role does the human figure play within the project?

Emily Sheffer – All of the photographs that include a figure are self-portraits. Even though the images are of myself, I think of the woman as a fictional character that I am building a narration around, rather than using the photos as a biographical tool. I used a single subject to increase the sense of interior isolation that runs throughout the project. The subject appears calm on the surface – an idealized and romanticized view of the self. But, deeper inspection reveals a tension just below the surface. Images of a woman alone in a home tend raise questions about domesticity and domestic partnerships, which is a topic that I am interested in exploring through my imagery. I want the viewer to ask questions about who she is, what her purpose is, and why she is alone.

Wavepool – Is the narrative left to the viewer’s discretion, or do you have something in mind that you’d like them to tap into?

Emily Sheffer – The narrative is left to the viewer’s discretion. I’m very interested in fictional narratives in reference to my work, for example, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but inspiration is where my interest in a narrative stops. I never want to tell the viewer exactly what to think; subtlety is very important to me.

 

Striped Wallpaper from The Old World

 

Wavepool – What are some other inspirations that you reference?

Emily Sheffer – I draw a lot of inspiration from the writing styles of a few favorite authors, especially Haruki Murakami. The way that he builds narrative through the inner thoughts of his characters really just gets to the point of whatever they are feeling, without any inhibition. It’s a very humanistic and strikingly simple approach. I’m sure that if he was a photographer, he would strictly be a portrait photographer.

Wavepool – Does the project have a set sequence or can the images be read in varying configurations and perhaps multiple narratives?

Emily Sheffer – Typically when sequencing a project, I make small (5″x7″) prints, and play around with the order of images for a long time. I love seeing what juxtaposed photos can bring out of one another. So, I suppose my sequences are fairly set in stone. Just as I would not change around the order of events in a book, I also wouldn’t change my image sequence. The possibility of multiple narratives, I believe, comes from how the individual reads the sequence as I have presented it.

 

Moon Mirror from The Old World

 

To see more, please visit Emily’s website.

 

Rory Hamovit

Shoshone Falls, Idaho May 2015 from Fortieth Parallel

 

Wavepool – What led to the making of Fortieth Parallel? How did the idea develop?

Rory Hamovit – I’d been thinking about making a body of work based on 19th century American exploration photography since college when I first got into photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins and William Henry Jackson. To me these photographers were more innovative with the physical medium than almost anyone around this century or last, O’Sullivan just being a personal favorite. About a year and a half ago I moved to California so I had a much greater proximity to the original sites of the photographs which got me thinking and planning and sketching my new interpretations of O’Sullivan’s work. From the beginning the project was less about exact replication than just being in the location and seeing what kind of influence that place would conjure up in the present. I bought a lot of really old books full of his images, spent about six months researching exact vantage points and creating an expansive itinerary on Google Maps, reducing that itinerary to about 2 weeks worth of stops and then hitting the road this past summer.

Wavepool – It looks like some of the images were made in locations that differed from the original sites. Can you elaborate on the importances of visiting the exact vantage points, and how that experience was translated to the new photographs?

Rory Hamovit – All these images were created in the general vicinity of the original images or were taken immediately after being there. Some of the images are about being exactly there if not entirely replicant, like the one at Shoshone Falls where I was standing exactly where Timothy O’Sullivan would have been standing for one of his views of the falls,  or an intentionally inverse perspective, like the one at Pyramid Lake opposite the rock formations. For example one of the photographs I was most excited to “reenact” was the one taken at Steamboat Springs, the one with figure obscured with by the geothermal steam. It was like a photographic pilgrimage for me. I had brought the colored smoke bomb along and had an idea of the shot I wanted but after driving through through the middle of nowhere for a couple of hours and hauling my camera through this more or less wasteland swamp to the place and seeing little of any remaining fissure or steam vent it was not as disheartening since this had been an expectation of the project. It immediately got be thinking about the next bleak place I was heading (Reno) and how little of a difference it would be to stage it there. But I think that’s what it can be like with desert landscape as your primary subject matter, a lot of approximation and adjustment, which I think harkens back to the original work. What was most fascinating was comparing the places that have been chosen to be preserved as parkland or natural monuments versus the ones that are just scenery on a desert highway.

 

Drainage Canal, Reno, Nevada May 2015 from Fortieth Parallel

 

Wavepool – Is preservation a part of the dialogue that you’d like to exist between O’Sullivan’s photographs and your interpretations?

Rory Hamovit – I think the idea of preservation, or the lack of, shows the fundamental difference between the objectives of O’Sullivan’s work and my own interpretations and the times they were created in. O’Sullivan wasn’t just tasked with documenting the western United States for its beauty or grandeur, he and his contemporaries were working on an invitation. These were landscapes made before there was any type of environmental movement, before the Sierra Club or National Parks. Nature was still this something that needed to be harnessed and tamed. I started thinking about modern interpretations of preservation more when driving in these national and state parks and seeing wilderness punctuated with convenient trash bins and indoor plumbing. Is anything really able to be kept in a state of nature once it’s accessible? I think my reenactments show a lassitude in the west that is as much physical as it is mental. It’s hard to maintain the facade of frontier.

Wavepool – With those critical ideas in mind, does humor factor into the project as well?

Rory Hamovit – Yes, as in almost all my work, humor is used as vehicle to better approach or quietly quell some of the more prickly topics at hand. With this project though the humor already seemed imbedded into the whole undertaking which I know seems odd considering O’Sullivan’s source material and its relative directness. But when i reconstruct the narrative of the expedition I can’t help but see these wry gestures like placing the camera box on the rock formation to relay actual size. Especially when it came to showing scale I feel like he must have had a sense of humor keeping him going.

 

Rock Formation (with six pack of Tecate for scale), Nevada June 2015 from Fortieth Parallel

 

Wavepool – I’m curious about your image of Grand Teton. What am I looking at and how does it play with the photograph it references?

Rory Hamovit – The Grand Teton photograph is based on an image by the photographer William Henry Jackson, a contemporary of O’Sullivan’s. It’s a photograph of the Mount of the Holy Cross, this remote mountain in the Colorado Rockies, that he made on another geological expedition after hearing these rumors of an enormous snowy cross that would appear on the mountainside when the snowmelt was just right. Like a lot of the landscape work that was being made at the time it had these sublime religious overtones but I’ve always liked it because it plays on the idea that often times we see what we are looking for, especially when it comes to the natural world. We see faces on the moon, creatures in clouds, etc. It’s an odd way of making things relatable. On this trip I took a lot of close shots of the mountains we went through, including the Grand Tetons in Wyoming (did not make it to the actual Holy Cross mountain, but plan to) and then when I got back I printed them all out and spent a couple days just tracing all the faces and objects I saw on their slopes. I have a whole array but I enjoy this one with this dog-like monster the best.

Wavepool – Is the duration and route of your trip key to the project, or do you plan to continue working on it?

Rory Hamovit – At first I thought the condensing of a few years hard labor into a two week road trip was pretty integral to the whole project and this attitude of progress but like I said earlier, once I got out there I was overwhelmed with the amount of subject matter. And even in the machine age that’s a lot of surface area to cover in a station wagon. As the work is presented now I enjoy the juxtapositions of the timelines and the idea of the artist as more of a speedy tourist but I’ve also really become attached to the project and don’t want to file it case closed.  I want to revisit and create new images, show more the side of an obsessive fan rather than a casual listener, make some real Timothy O’Sullivan fan-fiction.

 

Grand Teton, Wyoming June 2015 from Fortieth Parallel

 

To see more, please visit Rory’s website.

 

Johan Rosenmunthe

Entering the Office from Tectonic

 

Wavepool – When viewing your work, I find myself constantly questioning the difference between fact and fiction. Scientific practice maintains a strong influence as a factual reference, while the suggestion of value borders on something more fictional. Do you distinguish between the two?

Johan Rosenmunthe – No, on the contrary. I’m trying to make objects (including photographs) that would provoke the same thoughts as when you find an object buried in the ground and start researching what it is. What time is it from? Was it an important item or garden variety? To make these objects I research facts and fictional sources and don’t really distinguish between them. It’s exactly the valuation of the objects I make that I find interesting, the potential, the energy – the potential energy.

Wavepool – Is energy an inherent quality of an object, or something that must be applied and determined?

Johan Rosenmunthe – Both scenarios are possible. To me, Iron has a special energy because the atoms line up in a very organised way that makes it the most stable element we know. It has the structure that all other elements strive towards. On the other hand if a normal beach-stone has been in the collection of Scientology and used for something they will not disclose, a certain energy has been applied to that specific stone.

 

Ask Staff for Current Title from Tectonic installation

 

Wavepool – How do you convey that sensation in a photograph?

Johan Rosenmunthe – That’s a difficult question. Sometimes I feel a clean and simple photo of the object and a title is enough. And sometimes the work can be a little more in the direction of illustrations. But what I like the best is when I can find a way to include a system around the object to make a somewhat more potent work. I say in a quote on my website “Energy equals meaning. Materials outside systems are not interesting.”. And by systems i mean also the social context. To me, the pregnant womb is the ultimate sculpture because it is a closed system and at the same time the most complex object imaginable – physically and socially.

Wavepool – Considering that you work so heavily with objects, in what instance might a photograph be more meaningful than the actual object? What about the opposite?

Johan Rosenmunthe – A photograph is meaningful when you want to add the layer / distance of time. The fact that something was captured at a certain point and is not still available right in front of the audience. And when the 2D representation is important – weather it being the graphical qualities or the circumstances related to distribution of the work (for example including multiple works in one small object: a book). Or when the photographic process (including post-production) is part of the work.

An object (or installation of objects) itself makes more sense to display when 1) You actually have access to it, 2) It has a certain aura or energy that is important to feel and be close to, 3) You want the audience to be able to see all sides of it or 4) The simple act of bringing it into the gallery space is important.

Then of course there’s also other methods of exhibiting an object – writing about it, recording it on video or sound, having it as part of a performance, etc.

I guess this is very simplified and basic, but actually this is the first time I thought about it like this, so thanks for asking.

 

documentation of performance Tectonic Crystal Healing

 

Wavepool – In installations of Tectonic, potential subjects for photographs are often included as objects in the exhibition space or they appear in performances. Can you talk about that image versus object relationship as it specifically relates to that work?

Johan Rosenmunthe – The objects that have been exhibited in relation to Tectonic never stood a chance of becoming photographs. They were selected because of their real-life properties such as being able to be placed on heads of performance-participants and sheets of glass. The things I have photographed for that body of work would have been a dull installation object if they weren’t utilised somehow. And I think increasingly fewer objects that I am making will make it into a photograph, rather than being utilised in the exhibition on it’s own. Photographs should be kept for those cases when the photographic process or the idea of a printed representation of something is a core point in the work.

Wavepool – Can you describe some examples of the opposite, where the subject could never survive as an object and must exist as a photograph?

Johan Rosenmunthe – I hope that is the case with most of my photographic works. They are not just a photograph of an object, but a result of a sort of small performance in front of a camera or in postproduction. An example could be one of the Tectonic images called Flooding the Cave – here I took a straight forward photo of a hidden cave I visited in Portugal. Afterwards I printed it, submerged the print into water and photographed that. At an exhibition I could have chosen to somehow install a real cave – it might actually have been a fun project, but most likely a poor and unfinished installation, compared to the photographic print. Here the print becomes the vehicle of a performative situation I couldn’t have made in real life, because the point also has to do with the water not actually being present in front of the audience, but just an interference in the layers of the work.

The print offers such a limited spectrum of information about the subject, that the possibilities of manipulating with that information is almost endless. That manipulation can either be a a result of a performative action or a wish to produce a certain graphic surface. I guess I use both of these approaches in my work, but I do find the first one more interesting.

 

Flooding the Cave from Tectonic

 

To see more, please visit Johan’s website.