BY Albert Smith
January 29 2010 5:40 PM ET
How do you choose your subjects?
Some come from observations, or not even that. Just thoughts rumbling around and I work through an idea through photos. The action figure headshots came out of seeing these psychotic looking wrestlers and soldiers at Toys R Us and trying to imagine what the relationship would be like between a child, (in this case specifically, a boy) and the toy itself. This is territory that has been mined quite a bit before in art and popular culture but I was mostly interested in the psychology of it, and maybe because of my background as an actor I thought the faces were what needed to be emphasized: what do we teach our boys to be in this culture? But at the same time they are pretty bad ass, so there is that tension between being nauseated with this socialization and being drawn in as well. As for the restrooms, I thought the series would be interesting to work on as a sort of aesthetic, sensorial and historical record of this public/private space that is already disappearing. These series just unfolded and accumulated, unlike the Transfoto portraits/oral histories which I thought quite a lot about before I started shooting.
How do you describe your work?
I see most of them as portraits: A little journalistic, conceptual, color enamored, high impact, character loving and spontaneous: integrated with my life. I take photos of people I know and meet, places I go and interactions I have. I think of the photos as about segments of society, communities. Maybe not documentary really, but somehow immediate impressions or expressions of documentation. I think they are pretty sensual too. And I am very influenced by the art and principles of the Burning Man festival.
What makes a good photograph to you?
Something that can mesmerize. Or makes me curious, takes me to another place, that tells a story, or emanates an energy or recreates a sense of an experience or shares an incomplete secret. There are a lot of amazing photographers out there whose work in very controlled and meticulously planned out, involved, conceptually grand scenarios who create incredible imagery, but I come down on the side of some lo-fi spontaneity. Highly theatrical, staged scenes which are technically very savvy and visually very rich can suggest the slickness of a movie or advertising a bit too closely.
Who are your favorite artists? And why?
I really love the great black and white photographers from the 50’s, 60’, 70’s: Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand. I love Martin Parr for his surreal color findings of British vacationers at dilapidated resorts. Wolfgang Tilmans for his sensuality, intimacy and zeitgeist shots of rave culture, and all his stuff really. The immersive art collective assume astro vivid focus is great, and I love collage artists Ginny Bishton and Mark Bradford probably more than any photographer! Tim Hawkinson is brilliant, and Alejandro Jodorowsky lives the creative life. Oh and Alex Dorfsman does some very beautiful and moving photographs about our unlucky animal and plant coinhabitants on this sad planet….I could go on…well…you asked!