Posts Tagged ‘Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds’

TWO QUESTIONS: On Confusion and Elegy; On Color and Street Photography

August 27, 2012

©Rebecca Norris Webb, “Hot Springs,” from “My Dakota”

PDN’S CONOR RISCH: In many of the images [in My Dakota] we are looking through something, or there is a reflection, or there is a unique or confounding or even disorienting perspective. What roles do perspective and layering play in your images? Do you intend to briefly disorient the viewer with your compositions?

REBECCA NORRIS WEBB: I photograph very intuitively. Looking at some of these disorienting photographs now  ––where it’s difficult to distinguish the background from the foreground, for instance –– I realize that kind of confusion was very much a part of my grief, especially when I was most grief struck.

Those first months after my brother died, my dreams of him seemed more real than when I awoke to a world without him. Added to that, I wasn’t sleeping well and I was traveling alone in parts of South Dakota that I’d never visited.  So that difficult time in my life was a blur of motel rooms, back roads, and dreams of my brother.

During that time, I not only felt confused while photographing in South Dakota, but I also felt confused when I returned to Brooklyn to edit the film and to try to make sense of what I’d been doing. I remember showing the work to my friend, Gene Richards, who at that time was traveling back and forth from Brooklyn to the Great Plains to work on his book, The Blue Room.  When he asked me how things were coming along with My Dakota, I told him I wasn’t sure what I was doing.  He said to me in his soft, gentle voice, “Becky, sometimes confusion is good.”

©Rebecca Norris Webb, “Storm Light,” from “My Dakota”

PDN’S CR: It’s interesting to me that you say in the book that South Dakota’s landscape was one of the few things that eased your unsettled heart, because for me, so many of the photographs in the book are unsettling, and I can’t help but imagine how seeing and photographing some of these things might magnify feelings of heartbreak, sadness and distress. I am not sure there is a question in there… Can seeing and photographing unsettling things help put you at ease?

RNW: I know it seems like a contradiction, but the elegy –– and I consider My Dakota a kind of elegy –– is a traditional, poetic form expansive enough to hold both life and death within it, because ultimately it’s about expressing very alive feelings for someone who is no more. “To grieve is to lament, to mourn, to let sorrow inhabit one’s very being,” notes the poet Ed Hirsch. “ Implicit in poetry is the notion that we are deepened by heartbreaks, that we are not so much diminished as enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish –– to let others vanish ––without leaving a poetic record,” he adds.

TO READ THE ENTIRE PDN ONLINE Q&A WITH REBECCA AND CONOR RISCH ABOUT “MY DAKOTA,” PLEASE CLICK HERE.

©Alex Webb, “Grenada, 1979,” from “Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds”

WOONG-JAE SHIN: You said, “Color is another language.” What does this mean? What does color mean to you in terms of an element of your photography?

ALEX WEBB: Color adds another dimension to my photographic experience of the world.  It transforms the image entirely, adding other emotional notes.  For example, sometimes a red is a soothing red, sometimes it is a disturbing red. Just imagine the cover of my first book –– an image of a man in a glowing red bar in Grenada –– in black and white, without those vibrant colors.  It would be an entirely different visual experience…

WJS: What is street photography? You’ve often said that it’s like gambling and is 90% about failure.

AW: For me street photography isn’t simply about photographing on the street.  It’s also about an attitude, a way of approaching the world photographically.  It has to do with photographing a place without preconceptions –– or as few preconceptions as possible.  It’s about exploration and discovery, not about conscious thought.  It’s about finding things in the world, and relationships in the world, that are unexpected. It’s about wandering without extensive rational purpose, allowing the camera and one’s experiences to guide one’s way.

It’s a way of working that relies heavily on serendipity, hence the fact that most of the time the photographs are not successful.  The world is the street photographer’s partner and it only gives him or her so many photographs.

THIS INTERVIEW IS AN EXCERPT FROM A Q&A WITH ALEX & REBECCA FOR THE ANNIVERSARY ISSUE OF SOUTH KOREA’S NOTED PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE, “THE MONTHLY PHOTO.” 

©Alex Webb, “Ciudad Madero, Mexico, 1983,” from “The Suffering of Light”

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS WITH ALEX AND REBECCA

––Friday Oct. 12 thru Sunday Oct. 14: Boston: Weekend Workshop, produced by the Robert Klein Gallery  Do you know where you’re going next with your photography –– or where it’s taking you?  This intensive weekend workshop will help photographers begin to understand their own distinct way of seeing the world.  It will also help photographers figure out their next step photographically  –– from deepening their own unique vision to the process of discovering and making a long-term project that they’re passionate about, as well as the process of how long-term projects evolve into books and exhibitions. A workshop for serious amateurs and professionals alike, it will taught by Alex and Rebecca, a creative team who often edit projects and books together –– including their joint book and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition, “Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba,” Alex’s recent Aperture book, “The Suffering of Light,” and Rebecca’s new Radius book, “My Dakota.” Included in the workshop will be an editing exercise as well as an optional photography assignment and long-term project review.  For more information –– including how to enroll and daily schedule –– please contact Maja at the Robert Klein Gallery: maja@robertkleingallery.com

––FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5TH, 7PM, THRU SUNDAY, OCT. 7TH, 6PM: “Finding Your Vision@ The Dahl Weekend Workshop with Alex and Rebecca Webb,” Rapid City, South Dakota.  Do you know where you are going with your photography — or where it is taking you? This workshop will include a gallery talk/walk through of the current “My Dakota” exhibit at The Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, and a digital assistant who can answer any your digital photography issues. Graduate and undergraduate college credit available for teachers and others who are interested. For all Colorado photographers interested in this workshop — or photographers who would like to fly into Denver — please note that Rapid City is only a six-hour drive from Denver, Colorado.  For more information click here.  If you have questions about the workshop, feel free to contact Rebecca directly at rebeccanorriswebb@yahoo.com.

TWO NEW WORKSHOPS — JUST ADDED!

—SUNDAY, OCT. 28TH, 10 -5pm, STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP @ MCNY. Please join Alex and Rebecca at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave., for this one-day street photography workshop, which will include an assignment related to the current street photography exhibit at the museum and gallery talk by curator, Sean Corcoran.  To find out more information including how to register click here.

 —SUNDAY, DEC. 9TH, 10-5PM, MASTER CLASS: MIAMI: A ONE-DAY STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP WITH ALEX WEBB AND REBECCA NORRIS WEBB.  A one-day street photography workshop in conjunction with the first Miami Street Photography Festival, which also coincides with Miami Basel Art Fair. (If you wish, you can join a street photography group the day before (Sat., Dec. 8th) and photograph Little Havana, an assignment which the Webb will edit with you on Sunday.)  To register and learn more, click here.

UPCOMING EVENTS FOR ALEX AND REBECCA:  SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER 2012

SIOUX FALLS,  SOUTH DAKOTA

––SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 11-11:45: “Here and There: The Photographs of Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb,” South Dakota Festival of Books, Orpheum Anne Zabel Theater, with “My Dakota” and “The Suffering of Light” book signing to follow at 1pm with other festival authors.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA

–FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 7-8:30pm: “Together and Apart: The Photographs of Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb,” Dahl Arts Center, will include the “Our Dakota” slide show, Q&A with the Webbs, and book signing.

––JUNE-SEPTEMBER 2012: Launch of OUR DAKOTA Flickr site, an online photographic community  This Flickr group is open to all photographers 15 and older with a present or past connection to South Dakota.  Here is the link to the first assignment. There will be three assignments posted during the course of the “My Dakota” exhibition at the Dahl, and the group will culminate in an “Our Dakota” slide show to be show both at the SD Festival of Books in Sioux Falls the last week in September 2012 and at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City on Friday, Oct. 5th, at 7pm.

BOSTON

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 7-8:30 PM: Slide Talk with Alex and Rebecca in the Fort Point arts neighborhood of Boston, a talk which is free and open to the public

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 4-5PM: Gallery Talk/Walk Through with Rebecca of her “My Dakota” show with the Robert Klein Gallery at Ars Libri, followed by a Q&A with Rebecca and Alex, who edited “My Dakota” with Rebecca.

OTHER RECENT LINKS FOR ALEX AND REBECCA:

LINK TO THE NEW YORK TIMES LENS BLOG Q&A WITH REBECCA ABOUT “MY DAKOTA”

LINK TO ALEX’S EAST LONDON PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE AUGUST 2012 ISSUE OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

TO READ THE  FRACTION MAGAZINE REVIEW of MY DAKOTA CLICK HERE.

 

ON PRESS: Cover Stories 1; Jet Lag

January 14, 2011

Deciding on a cover image for a book of photographs from thirty years can be a little daunting.  Rebecca and I considered many possibilities, but we always came back to this particular image, the back cover of my first book, “Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds,” and  the only photograph in the survey book from India.

It looks like we won’t see the actual cover of “The Suffering of Light,” until the last day on press; however, since like many cover images, a version of this photograph also appears in the interior of the book, we have already done a press check on this version, a video clip of which you’ll find below.–Alex Webb

Alex and I often encourage photographers to try to “work from the unconscious,” to respond spontaneously to the world, to photograph “on one’s nerves” in order to remain open enough to find and make one’s most unique and dynamic images.

The good thing – and probably the most challenging thing — about being on press in Hong Kong is that working half unconsciously happens rather effortlessly – whether one wants to or not.  Checking test sheets at 4pm in Hong Kong, you can’t help but feel the strong, tidal-like pull of sleep, since 4PM is 3AM in New York City.  It’s nearly impossible to get over such severe jet lag in a week.

Maybe being half awake/half asleep on press in the topsy turvy world of Hong Kong isn’t such a bad thing.  Perhaps it’s just a short cut to collaborating with one’s own unconscious.—Rebecca Norris Webb

Rebecca Norris Webb, photograph of "Monterrey, Mexico, 1985," by Alex Webb

TWO QUESTIONS: On Beginnings and Endings

June 1, 2010

We’re bidding farewell until next fall with TWO QUESTIONS about the beginnings and endings of photography books.  SERGE MAES, a Belgian photographer and psychologist who attended our Barcelona workshop this spring and is working on the long-term project, “Any Given Day,” asks us how photography books begin and how they evolve along the way. West Coast photographer, ALIA MALLEY, who’s attended two of our workshops–– one in the U.S. and one in Cuba –– asks us about endings, a question very much on her mind as she finishes her MFA and is exhibiting work from her series, “Southland,” at an L.A. gallery this summer.  (See below for more information about both Serge and Alia). –– Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb

MAKING BOOKS:  ON BEGINNINGS AND MEANDERINGS

Alex Webb from "Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names"

SERGE MAES:  “Alex/Rebecca, could you elaborate on how your book projects have started out (did they start out with a vague idea, with a particular interest in a topic or place, with a preconceived aesthetic notion,…) and on any influences or decisions that may have changed the direction the projects were heading in?”

ALEX WEBB: I often am  unaware of the genesis of a project, sometimes remaining skeptical of its possibilities until I am well into the project.   The process of looking at the photographs, of playing with them, of making juxtapositions and sequences, usually leads me to begin to understand what it is that I am working on.  The process of photographing and editing  becomes a process of self-revelation, a simultaneous exploration of the world and the self.

To give you two examples:  my first book, Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds, began as an obsession, a passion for photographing in certain kinds of places — loosely speaking, the tropics — places where intense vibrant color seemed somehow embedded in the culture, unlike the gray-brown world of my New England background.  I had no intention of making a book when I began photographing  Haiti,  other parts of the Caribbean, northern Mexico, and sub-Saharan Africa.  But, as I started to look at the photographs that I had been producing in these places and began to put them side by side I began to realize that despite the vast cultural and historical differences between these various worlds there were links, links of emotion, links of sensation, links of atmosphere, that somehow allowed me to leap over cultural and historical differences and make a book that existed on another plane — a more poetic and atmospheric plane — in which though there were socio-political rumblings, they were only just that — rumblings.  The heart of the book lay somewhere else, in a more metaphysical realm.

Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names began somewhat differently.   I had a photographic assignment in 1998 to go to Turkey to photograph in several locations, including Istanbul.  When I arrived in Istanbul in 1998 I had a kind of revelation: I had returned to the city that I had visited 30 years earlier for a day with my family as a teenage photographer.  But whereas in 1968 I had been overwhelmed with the exoticism of a culture so unlike my own, in 1998 I found something strangely familiar, a kind of border.  In those intervening years I had been drawn to borders, places where cultures come together, sometimes easily, sometimes roughly.  Istanbul, both Asian and European, Eastern and Western, Islamic and secular was another kind of border.  I rapidly realized that I had to return to Istanbul and continue photographing, which I managed to do over the subsequent seven years.  So one could in fact say that the roots of the Istanbul book, unbeknownst to me at the time, lie in the trip that I made as a teenager in 1968.

Ultimately for the me, the process of creating a project remains somewhat mysterious.  Projects move forward on inexplicable happenings and impulses.  How they begin, how they end remains couched in enigma.  This is part of what I find exciting about the process.

REBECCA NORRIS WEBBMy current work-in-progress, My Dakota, started out as a photographic exploration of South Dakota, the sparsely populated Great Plains state where I grew up, and a place, to quote the Nebraskan photographer Wright Morris, where the Great Plains “…grew up in you.”  A year later, my brother died unexpectedly, and the project also evolved into an elegy for him.

How can My Dakota be about the American West and also be an elegy for my brother?  This is one of those questions that prod me and humble me.  I don’t know the answer.  I don’t know if I ever will.

I do know that the question itself has provoked me to reread some of my favorite elegies, not necessarily to find an answer, but hopefully to stumble upon a different way of looking at the question, perhaps viewing it from a “slant,” to quote Emily Dickinson.

So, between my photographic trips to South Dakota this past winter and spring, I’ve been rereading Emily Dickinson’s and Walt Whitman’s elegies.  In some of these elegies, Death seems to venture West along with the explorers and the prairie schooners.  In Whitman, Abraham Lincoln’s corpse heads West on the funeral train, and, in Dickinson’s famous elegy, “Because I could not stop for Death,” Death and the poet also journey West –– sharing the carriage with a third passenger, Immortality.

If nothing else, rereading these elegies reminds me of just how long the Western landscape has inhabited the American psyche – those wide open spaces, those fruited plains, those seemingly endless skies ––as a place of both death and hope, transience and immortality, whether we’re talking about Manifest Destiny in the 19th Century or the environmental movement today.

This meandering process –– being prodded by a question, rereading poetry, continuing to travel from New York to South Dakota to photograph–– has lead, if not to an answer to my question exactly, then at least to something unexpected: Lately I’ve managed to write a few spare lines, which may or may not accompany the My Dakota photographs.  Perhaps that’s as much of an answer as I can expect…

MAKING BOOKS:  ON ENDINGS

Rebecca Norris Webb from "My Dakota"

ALIA MALLEY:  Alex and Rebecca, I’ve been wondering, “How do you know when a project is “finished”…?”  It’s something I’ve been asking myself a lot recently, as I’m starting to work on a new project while still continuing to work on another project still.

RNW:  As with any relationship in your life, each photography project or book ends in its own way.  Some end more organically or naturally; others end rather abruptly or completely unexpectedly.  Each project has its own rhythm.

That said, I have found that there are a few signs that a book or project may be ending.  I often slow down at the end of a project, and don’t find myself taking as many photographs as at the beginning.  The curiosity and visual excitement ebb, too.  .If I happen to be working on another project simultaneously, that second project tends to pull at me more strongly than one I’ve nearly finished.

Right now, I’m in the midst of finishing the My Dakota project.  It’s been the most challenging project to date to complete for me, probably because it’s also my most personal project, since it’s an elegy for my brother.  I still feel something is missing in the sequence, but I’m not entirely sure what that is.  I suspect it may be the final sequence of the book itself, which, is quite different from my past two books whose middle sequences were the last I photographed.

I’ve gotten somewhat used to the notion that making books is ultimately a very intuitive process, and I am learning to trust this more and more.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago this line came to me, seemingly out of the middle of nowhere:  “In a deep loss, something inside you is broken, and slowly – through the cracks and the gaps and the jagged openings – you begin to see the light again.”

After I read this line during a slide talk in Toronto recently, one of the photographers in Alex’s and my workshop thoughtfully said to me:  “Maybe that’s the key to the ending of the book.  The light.  You end in the light.”  Her words made me smile.  She may very well be right.  If you’re open enough, books, I’m learning, try to let you know – often in rather roundabout ways — how and when they are finished with you.

AW: Knowing when a personal project is completed is one of the more difficult and challenging decisions I face as a photographer.  More than anything else, I rely on a kind of gut feeling — a sense of emotional completion.  But what that really means is inevitably elusive.  Different projects seem to have utterly different arcs of completion, arcs whose duration remains unpredictable.  I will give a couple of examples.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1987, a bit more than a year after I had been photographing post-Duvalier Haiti, that I began to sense that a Haiti book was in the making.  I started to put together a rough dummy of the work to try to understand what I had been doing, and how it might become a book.  That fall, as the November elections approached, I returned to Haiti.  As political tensions began to simmer, the country descended into a spiral of violence.  A reign of terror spread over the streets of Port au Prince, as dead bodies appeared in doorways each morning, burning barricades dotted the streets, and markets were torched.  Ultimately, the elections were destroyed, as paramilitary gunmen in Port au Prince shot down voters.  In Gonaives, where I was photographing, the gunmen blew up the town the night before.  No one dared go to the polls.

When I returned to the US a book on Haiti seemed utterly irrelevant.  What was the point of a book in the face of this violent destruction of Haiti’s aspirations toward democracy?  What was a book going to do?  But as time passed, as I looked at the pictures more, and especially after returning to Haiti for the next round of elections in January 1988 —  elections that were fundamentally fraudulent in installing the army’s candidate —  I began to sense that perhaps there was something in a book after all, some kind of document that tried to make sense of this troubled time.  A period of Haiti’s history — the cycle of electoral violence, from the fall of Duvalier to the installation of his short-lived successor Leslie Manigat  — had closed.  And I finally felt ready — emotionally as well as intellectually — to close this chapter of my relationship with Haiti as well.

With my project on the US-Mexico Border, however, I never entertained a sense of urgency of completion.  I photographed along the US-Mexico border for the first time in 1975, photographing in black and white.  For the next 26 years I continued to return to the border, shifting in 1979 from black and white to color.  Somehow, it was a project that I couldn’t complete — didn’t want to complete.  Other projects, other books — From the Sunshine State, Amazon, Dislocations — came and went.  It was only in 2001, after a trip to the Arizona border, that I was finally able to let go.

Completing a book cuts something off.  I  return to the same place without the same sense of obsession, without the same sense of passion.  For those 26 years I simply wasn’t willing to let go of the border.  I still occasionally wonder if I let go of the project at the right time.

SERGE MAES

Serge Maes from "Any Given Day"

I was born in 1976 in Sint-Niklaas, a small city in Belgium. About 8 years ago, I moved to Antwerp where I’ve been living ever since. I work as a clinical psychologist in a therapeutic community for people with personality disorders and in my own private practice.

Photography never held much interest for me until a few years ago, when my girlfriend who is a hobbyist photographer couldn’t come with me on a trip to Stockholm and asked me to take some pictures for her with a disposable camera she bought at the airport. Having only 24 pictures at my disposal I was very focused to get every picture right. Engaging the world in a visual way turned out to be such an involving experience that when I got back from Stockholm I decided to take up photography myself.

Among other things I’m working on a book project on city life with the working title “Any Given Day.” Photography to me is not so much about conveying a message as it is about the excitement of capturing that one fleeting moment in which everything seems to interconnect.

My website: www.statikon.com

ALIA MALLEY

Alia Malley from "Southland"

ALIA MALLEY (b.1973) was born in California, and raised in Portland, OR.  She received her BA in Critical Studies from USC School of Cinema Arts, and her MFA from UC Riverside in 2010.  She lives and works in Los Angeles.

Her series Southland won the 2010 Merck Award at the Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie, and will be shown at a solo exhibition at Sam Lee Galley, May 22-July 3, 2010.  She was a 2009 Runner Up at the Forward Thinking Museum/JGS, and a Finalist/Honorable Mention at the Newspace Center for Photography’s 2008 Juried Exhibition, curated by TJ Norris.  She has participated in group exhibitions including the 2009 CAA Los Angeles MFA Exhibition, curated by Alex Klein, and Sculpting Time at the Martin Art Gallery, Muhlenberg College, curated by Ara Osterweil. Her MFA thesis exhibition was on view at the California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA until May 15, 2010.

www.aliamalley.com

BURN MAGAZINE: Alex’s response

October 17, 2009

Here’s an excerpt from Alex’s response today on Burn Magazine to a question raised by photographer Eric Espinosa.  To read all the comments, visit:

http://www.burnmagazine.org/

ERIC ESPINOSA: In a way, Alex has been true to his vision all these years and I am a huge fan but maybe he would have preferred to take his vision into more different directions?

ALEX WEBB: The questions you raise about repetition and reinvention are complicated and difficult for any photographer or artist who has been working for some time.  When does an obsession become stale?  When is one repeating oneself without expanding one’s vision?  In the early stages of one’s work, the changes are often more striking, more evident.  As one works deeper into an obsession, as one hones one’s vision and one’s craft,  the variations are often subtler. For me, some of the questions I’m grappling with are:  Are my variations on my obsessions deepening and expanding my work? Or have I exhausted the tension, the vitality, and the power of these obsessions, so that the work no longer sings?

I sometimes look at other photographers and artists to see how they have grappled with this question.   I think of photographers like Bruce Davidson, or Josef Koudelka, who have changed cameras and sometimes formats for different projects, clearly demarcating divisions between their bodies of work.  Lee Friedlander, on the other hand,  for years (until recently) never changed formats, but his projects seemed fairly unique, though clearly it was the same remarkable eye that created all the images.  And  Cartier-Bresson never changed his approach significantly for all those many years of working (though I do think there is a  difference between the early, more formal and surrealist work  — Italy, Spain, Mexico — and some of the the later work — India, China — which often seems to strike a more worldly, more socio-political note.)  As I was originally a literature major, I also often think of writers and how they have dealt with obsessions.  I sometimes feel with some of my favorite novelists that they have simply written the same book many times over.  It’s only the superstructure that changes: the essential themes, the essential elements remain fairly consistent throughout.  I also often wonder if we as photographers or artists have more than one or two serious obsessions in our life.   Maybe it’s okay to have just one — if indeed it’s rich enough, complex enough, and expansive enough.  In my case, I discovered a certain way of working in color in certain kinds of places and have expanded on that obsession for 30 some years.  Is that enough???  Or does it simply reflect my limitations?  Or are my limitations perhaps ultimately also my strength?I don’t know.  So, these questions that you bring up are ones that bedevil me — especially now, after nearly 40 years of photography.

Though I think you are right that there are certain themes, motifs, tendencies that run throughout my color work, and that some of the notes — especially visual notes — struck in, say, Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds or Under A Grudging Sun, are also struck in my Cuba work, I think that there are emotional notes that I  more consistently strike in Violet Isle that are distinct.  It’s the same photographer, the same eye, but it’s a different place and it’s a different time in life.  In my early work, I think I had a much greater need to directly confront the otherness of the world, to explore that tension, and, as in Under A Grudging Sun, to experience and photograph the violence of the world, specifically Haiti.  The Cuba work is subtler, at times perhaps more lyrical, though often tinged with melancholy (a little bit like my Istanbul work).    Yes, there are photographs in Violet Isle that could have been taken by the Alex Webb of 1986, but the Alex Webb of 1986 could not have produced the totality of this particular body of Cuba work.

Along the same lines, one of the things that appealed to me about the notion of doing a book with Rebecca was that it would be something new, a different kind of book.   I have produced books on Haiti, the Amazon, Florida, the US-Mexico Border — did I just want to do another on Cuba?   I found it very exciting to collaborate with Rebecca, to experiment, to try something different and new.   Furthermore, there have been quite a few very good photography books about Cuba.  Both of us liked the idea of producing this “duet” — a form that inevitably makes Violet Isle a unique kind of book on Cuba.

Ultimately, I don’t have any answers right now about the issues of artistic repetition and reinvention.  After all, a certain level of repetition is not problematic; in fact, the very nature of obsession implies a certain level of repetition.  Certain art forms — most notedly poetry and music — rely heavily on repetition (an obsession is “…a refrain, after all, playing itself again and again in the mind.” –– the poet, Katie Ford.)  I’m not sure what’s next for my work.  Usually I am working on several projects simultaneously, but not so right now (though I have some ideas.)  So we’ll see. I don’t think you’ll see me on the corner with an 8×10 camera anytime soon. But you never know…

INTERVIEW: David Alan Harvey’s 7 Questions

October 16, 2009

This is an excerpt from today’s interview with us conducted by David Alan Harvey of Burn Magazine: http://www.burnmagazine.org/

DAH: Both of you have heretofore been solo artists. What sacrifices did you make and/or what benefits are there to a collaboration?

AW: From my perspective, the sacrifices were not great. Early on working in Cuba, I envisioned doing my own book, but I also wanted to do something different  –– something unlike any of my past books, as well as something different from any of the many past photographic books on Cuba. When Rebecca and I hit upon the notion of combining our work, this resolved these concerns of mine. I also found it very exciting to weave our two different bodies of work together to create a different kind of portrait of the island. In fact, I am more excited about this book than any other book of mine since Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds, my first book, which came out in 1986.

RNW:  I was initially concerned that my fascination with Cuba was taking valuable time away from a project that I had always thought would be my second book, My Dakota, a project that had started out as an exploration of my relationship with the West––and specifically my home state of South Dakota––and ended up also becoming an elegy for my brother, Dave.  Now, I realize that bringing out the Cuba book before My Dakota was the right decision.  I needed more time and distance from my brother’s death to absorb and distill and let go of My Dakota.

And, David, you also asked about the benefits of doing Violet Isle with Alex….  Well, for one thing, it’s awfully nice having only half as many interview questions to answer.

Next Monday, our blog posting will be: “TWO LOOKS: Charles Harbutt and Joan Liftin”


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