Saturday, 15 October 2011

Zebulon Zang

Zebulon Zang
Vancouver, Canada

You have a blog where you upload a picture daily. Are there any specific criteria according to which you choose what to show?

The blog is an online record of a project I had started a few years ago. My intention was to merely take photographs everyday. Therefore the only constant criterion for the blog has been that a particular photo had to be taken at some point within the 24 hour time span of that day. Other than that, when it comes to actually choosing a photo, it tends to come down to choosing either my favourite photo for each day or one the one which best sums up the day as a whole for me (which can end up to being very different things). The blog as a whole became a lot more personal than I had originally intended it to be. It turned into a kind of journal, as photographic projects tend to do. I’m not necessarily after “attractive” photos, so sometimes better technical pictures get left to the wayside in favour of something that has a bit more affect or poignancy. My whole life is on there, at least in part.

On first sight, I thought that your work had stylistics of street photography. Would you agree?

I guess it could be classified as street photography. I find that the older works of many of my favourite photographers could in a way be called that. For the most part I’ve always found studio work extremely limiting and when I create shots where the entire environment is controlled I tend to make extremely boring pictures. I much prefer working with people, places and things I don’t know and can’t control. Having said that, I don’t personally see my work holistically as “street photography”. It really depends on the day. The collection of images I’ve amassed on my blog is somewhat frenetic and so it doesn’t seem to be able to retain a certain style or much overall unity. The only unity I tend to find in it is the simple fact that it’s a collection of things I’ve seen and experienced.

Would you say that you collect or create images when taking pictures?

For the most part I feel like I’m collecting images, when I photograph I feel a bit like I’m hunting or collecting stamps or something like that. I’m gathering this large collection of images that I just happen to be lucky and prepared enough to get. For me, photography is about preservation, though it’s not really a pure preservation, of course. So I guess it’s about hunting in order to preserve, it’s somewhat of a morbid museum-esque idea of preserving the natural world. You kill a part of whatever it is that you photograph with the photograph. A photograph is like a scar from that moment that leaves a mark you can keep with you. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

Are there any current trends in art that you endorse ‘completely’?

I don’t think I could ever completely endorse anything, especially anything in art.

What is your viewpoint on such popular trends as in 'flows of interest' in photography anyways?

Popular trends are important in art because they give people something to either conform to or to go against. It’s always good for people to have something that they don’t like to see being popular, so they can try to work against it in order to make something similar to their own works or tastes become popular instead.  If, eventually what they’ve pushed for ends up being the next stylistic trend, well then they in turn give a whole new group of people inspiration to work differently and to try to knock it off its prow. Flows of interests are vital for making new things happen. As for my own work, I try and make images in a way that just feels natural, but I’m never against learning from what’s new and shifting in the rest of the world. I can usually be pretty misinformed about what I‘m doing and I just need to see something to help me realize that. I just try and remember what my father always used to say: “I could be wrong, I remember I was wrong once. It was on a Tuesday.”

Within the proverb "all work and no play makes jack a dull boy" would you consider photography to belong to the 'work' or rather to they 'play' category?

Photography never feels like work. It’s a great simulation of work; I think that’s why photography is so popular. It has all the benefits, but few of the tedious or laborious facets of conventional “work”. If it were more like work instead of just feeling like work, it would be hard for people to want to get into it. Albeit most of my work that exists outside of the “Photo a day” project does tend to be more planned out and can fall into the work category. With projects there is a more conscious sense of photographing, because instead of just shooting what presents itself to you and what you notice, there is a much more direct mandate of what you’re looking for. It becomes almost a constant strain because you have a more definite goal or image in mind. With all of my photography though there’s a big time investment in the postproduction. To cut it a little shorter, when I’m out shooting its play, when I’m developing/editing/
printing images it becomes work, very enjoyable work, but still work. Sometimes after a few days having not left the house and having simply worked on projects, I do feel like a bit of a “dull boy”. The work, however, hopefully isn’t.

Would you ever consider working as a photographer for a news agency?

That was always my dream as a kid, I don’t know if I’d have the right chutzpa for it though.

Do you sometimes feel that the Internet does spoil things?

Entirely so. I think I don’t really understand the implications of the Internet on things especially my own artwork. It seems really innocuous, but it definitely has a much heavier hand than I realize. That’s exactly why I’ve decided to remove my online presence until I can better figure it all out. For me, photography seems to be more about knowing when to say no. Unlike other art forms, with photography you naturally produce too much, because of the ease of production, and pare it down to its most essential, “highest quality” parts. That’s why I’m removing myself in part from the Internet, at least for a while. It has played a role in the display and viewing of photography since I started, so I want to see what will happen if I eliminate it. Maybe it’s the wrong thing to do, but I won’t know until I try. In my case, having produced so much and posted it all online whether good or bad, I’ve come to realize there’s such a thing as too much. So I should probably stop talking, too.

The work and play of photography. Take a look at his work!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Greg Friedler

Greg Friedler
New York, USA


You have a very diverse body of work, wherein the most distinct categorization seems to be between your commercial and artistic work: you also have two different websites for these, which are entitled "Friedler thinking" and Friedler working". What other reasons did you have for such a differentiations, other than, say, practical ones?

These are just for practical reasons. I really don’t want to focus on “commercial” work in this interview since I am taking a major break from it: this has cleared up my head a bunch and brought me clarity. Basically, I am focusing more of my time and energy on the art - which is great - but paying my bills has become an even greater challenge. This is now my blog, Friedler Thinking is my main art website and The Naked is where my raw figurative works are displayed. Again, I have a lot of sites, because I am very prolific and needed a way to compartmentalize the work, rather then have all the work on one website and have that be way too overwhelming for the viewer.

Do you find that you work differently, too, according to whether your dealing with an assigned or a creative work?

Yes, very different. One is art and one is for commerce.

Another - quite interesting - side to your photography are the 'Naked' collections. Concerning the city collections: what was your motivation at the very beginning when starting the first series?

I started to shoot Naked New York in the summer of 1995 while still in grad school in New York City. I first thought that I would find people and shoot them on white seamless in a studio naked. But after finding the first group of people and speaking with them, I realized that I was more interested in showing the public and the private individual. Clothed and unclothed, with nothing sexy about it. No eroticism. They are identity portraits and give the viewer a hint into who the whole person “might be” in society. Their professions were important, because I am very interested in social structures and class structures. So having the professions is a bit conceptual, because it hints at who the person is as seen by the rest of the society. But the naked portrait is supposed to better depict the true person without society’s or people’s expectations or judgments. The naked photo is meant to be more of the truth of who the person is as a person in humanity, not who the person is with regards to their place in society, the job they work, or the clothes they wear.

Why is 'naked las vegas' the only one shot in colour?

The first two cities, New York and LA were best kept in black and white. Then I did London and as I view London as a very classic and historical city, so the choice to stick with black and white was an easy one there. Naked Las Vegas was the last book in the series and I took a long while to find the right city to shoot as my last city. I shot Vegas in color because the whole place screams of color, from the signs to the lights to the extravagant entertainment. So I chose color and I believe that it works well.

In contrast to the city series the 'silent surrender' ad mattress collections don't feature any male portraits. Is there a specific reason for this?

Yes, I am much more interested in and drawn to the female form. And it is not just because I am a straight male. I love the female form and I love the (often complex) energy that women posess. Plus their bodies seem so much more interesting photographically than that of men. I did in fact shoot about 12 men for mattress and have shot quite a few male nudes, but there always seems to be something lacking. It is actually funny also that my work of these male nudes have now been included in 3 anthologies of “gay” work and I am not gay. I view the “silent surrender” project as a successful project because there is always a very strong gaze from the model and most people really don’t even see them as being nudes yet as being psychological portraits. I think they pose a lot of questions, yet render very few answers.

What motivated you to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts after studying Political Science and French the most?

I have taken photographs since I was first introduced to photography in high school. I pursued photography while also in college and took a few photo classes yet wanted a broader focus for my major. I think that studying political science helped me to understand people a little better. So after I graduated college I went to New York City and spent three years getting my Masters of Fine Arts in Photography. Graduate school was an eye opening experience to say the least. But I am very glad that I did it and it helped shape my art and allowed me some time to find my eye.

Would you say that your first studies, although maybe seeming to be unrelated to photography and art at a first sight, benefitted your artistic work and development?

Absolutely, it fueled my intense, almost obsessive curiosity of humanity.

On your site you state that you consider yourself "a documentarian of the human condition"; that you are "fascinated by identity, existence, and how people fit into a given society". Would you say that you're a artistic sociologist/political scientist, whose analyses manifest themselves in art pieces, rather than written case studies?

I would say that in many ways I am more of a photo anthropologist. Yes, I think that is an accurate statement. My analyses of humanity are better manifested through photography and art than written case studies, at least at this time. This could change, or perhaps more text will be presented alongside future artworks.

You not only engage in photography but also work with mixed media, and have various series of paintings, which you exhibit alongside your photography work. How connected are these paintings with the latter?

The paintings are made directly from my own photos. For now, the mixed media paintings are only made using the female nudes from silent surrender. Making these paintings are a joy, but it opens up some new issues which painters inevitably deal with. Like use of color, what media to use and when, and when to know that a painting piece is “finished”. Painting is tough! But it feels very liberating for me. Most of the paintings I have are fairly small at about 11 by 17 inches, but I am soon going to try to start making them a lot larger and focus on making a succint body of work of about 15 large paintings.

Finally, how important would you say are art and creativity for the individual's development?

Great question! You mean “an individual” generally speaking I take it? I think that art is important for someone’s development and growth for sure. And I believe that people should never stop growing, as an individual and in their art. I think too many artists get really stuck doing the same thing over and over again and never really allow themselves to evolve and move forward, to “progress”. Creativity is a whole different ballgame. Creativity, in my humble opinion, is massively important for human beings to develop and to stay healthy. It does not matter whether this creativity is manifested as designing and maintaining a garden, or making music or building a treehouse or making art or films. People need things in life which keep them out of their head and give them things to look forward to and I believe that most creative endeavors do this. Art therapy is “therapy” for good reason!

Connected diversity, and social studies through photography. Take a look at his work!