Dialogues, from Africa: Juan Orrantia with Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

Post by Juan Orrantia

"Dialogues, from Africa" is a series made in response to Alejandro Cartagena's running series in fototazo, that wants to extend the dialogue across the Atlantic, but further south. Having been based in Johannesburg for some time now, I have always felt the need to create a space of dialogue where photographers working in Africa and Latin America learn about each other's work, but that is not filtered through the galleries or mainstream media of the global north. The world we live in is not one where limits are traced easily, and within these spaces photographic traditions are increasingly varied, recognized, ignored and reconceptualized. Africa is as complex and varied as Latin America, and this series wants to recognize the current engagements of photographers from the continent with their own histories and the current environments of contemporary photography. In so doing we hope to open a space that enables a dialogue with their peers in Latin America.

The first posts in the series have been with Alexia WebsterMusa NxumaloVincent Bezuidenhout and Monique Pelser.

Today we continue the series with Matt Kay.

Juan Orrantia (b. Bogota, Colombia, based in Johannesburg, South Africa) Relying on the evocative as a form of documentary his photographic works use banality and imagination as sites from where to explore experiences of the aftermath of violence; the lives and affects of postcolonial cities; memory and the cocaine trade; and the legacies of anticolonial thinker Amilcar Cabral. Awards include the Tierney Fellowship in Photography, solo exhibitions in Germany, Colombia and South Africa, as well as participation in various group shows including the New York Photo Festival, Le Cube (Paris), Cape Town Month of Photography, Bonani Africa Festival of Photography and Ethnographic Terminalia (New Orleans). His work has appeared in fototazo, Foto 8, Sensate, and other online media platforms and journals.

Matt Kay was born in 1985 and completed the Intermediate and Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop, 2011/2012 where he continues to lecture part time.

He was Winner of the 2011 CITY award for photography, and was a nominee for the GUP/Viewbook international small stories competition. He was shortlisted for the Hel –Ved new Talent Award 2014 and was selected to participate in the inaugural Joburg Photo Umbrella.

Kay was a reselected artist for the Ithuba Art Fund also in 2014. He is the current recipient of the Tierney Fellowship.

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

Juan Orrantia: Where are you based? Why?

Matt Kay: Currently I am based between Johannesburg and Durban, most of my commercial work is in Johannesburg, but my own personal projects and interests lie in kwaZulu Natal so I'm trying to find a balance between the two.

JO: How and why did you starting working in/with photography?

MK: Photography was never something I ever considered as a career, I worked on sailing yachts almost straight after high school and through a long and complicated series of events I found myself working on ranch in Texas. It was at this ranch that my interest in photography really kicked in. I bought a camera and taught myself how to shoot and during the next few months I travelled across the States shooting everything in sight. It is hard to say why I started in photography...but once I did it became an obsession. After I returned back to South Africa in 2010 I decided to study photography at the Market Photo Workshop

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

JO: What are your projects about, and what are the major themes in your work?

MK: My projects vary, but I use photography as a way of investigating ideas that I don't understand, I feel empowered through photography, in a sense it is an expression of my curiosity, my own misunderstanding and the desire to understand which drives my work. I am interested in disconnection and the subtle but present absurdity in everyday life. I enjoy the use of black and white imagery as it immediately distances my image from reality, this is important within my work as I am more interested in portraying what I felt at the moment I created the photograph than I am in what I saw. The project featured here, called "Losing Ground" is the story around the creation of a large dam in my hometown. The work deals specifically with memory and how photography replaces memory. In this series I have created photographs that represent the land as a reference or a marker in time for myself.

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

JO: What is your experience with other photographers and traditions from the (African) continent? How did you learn of them or their work?

MK: During my time at the Market photo workshop I was exposed to a great number of photographers. There is definitely a tradition of South African photography, based in documentary and news. I believe this is because previously there was a common goal, a common cause, an important and obvious role for photography in recording the state of South Africa under apartheid. However I feel there is now room for photographers to explore more open ground and push new photographic narratives.

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

JO: How do you feel your approach speaks to South African photography traditions, and/or contemporary photography?

MK: I think in some ways my work is reactionary in that I am attempting to move past the traditional South African narratives of politics and identity and into a more general space where specifics become less important. Holding onto what I instinctively find interesting or important is a key for me, rather than molding myself to shoot work that is considered desired or expected or even relevant.
"Losing Ground" started as a document of spaces that I grew up in. I began to photograph these places because a large dam had been approved and subsequently the land would be flooded. Recording a reference point for my memories was important. I began to photograph the transition of the land and creation of the dam, purely subjectively and for myself. Although I was based in Johannesburg at the time, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and so there was a strong connection between the project and my mother's illness. The work became intensely personal. It is these personal narratives which I find lacking in South African photography.

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

JO: Where do you see your work going otherwise, how is your practice evolving?

MK: I find that I adapt my style to suit the subject's I'm interested in. At the moment I am interested in doing longer, larger projects specifically with the idea of creating books. I like to look at photographs in books where I can control the pace of the experience. I am also looking into studying my masters in the near future.

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay

From the series "Losing Ground" © Matt Kay


Argentina Notebook: Interview with Guillermo Srodek-Hart

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

Jaime PermuthEleonora Ronconi and I are collaborating to explore contemporary photography in Argentina. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts. Eleonora Ronconi is an Argentinian photographer living and working in the Bay Area, California whose work explores themes of memory, identity and uprooting.

Today we continue the series with an interview with Guillermo Srodek-Hart.

Other posts in this series on Argentina include Jaime Permuth's interviews with Fabián Goncalves BorregaJorge Piccini and Sofía López Mañán as well as Q&A's with Karina AzaretzkySebastián Szyd and Gaby Messina.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

This post is presented first in the English original, then followed by a translation to Spanish.

fototazo: Tell us a little about your background and how you became involved with photography.

Guillermo Srodek-Hart: I grew up in the suburbs in Buenos Aires. My life seemed safe and predictable, and I wanted to get away from that. I was very unsure about what to study, the only truth for me was that I wanted to travel. So I thought that the best solution would be to study abroad. I chose going to art school because I thought that art was easy. I just needed an excuse to leave.

f: You mention this in an interview in Spanish, but let’s put it down in English in this interview as well. We went to grad school together and when you finished, you decided to go back to Argentina. Besides getting away from me, why did you go back?

GSH: Its funny that you mention yourself in this question because I think we might share similar reasons for leaving the US after graduating: you went to Colombia and I went to Argentina. It seemed my photographic motives, my inspiration if you will, were all down in the farmlands, in the countryside. So I had to be closer to that.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: Maybe we can talk about two of your projects in a relational sense, Umbanda and Interiores. Superficially they share their dense assemblages of parts; do they also share themes below those shared surfaces? Do they have similar aims in what they want to do as bodies of work?

GSH: Umbanda was a collaboration with other artists and investigators. I was the one who did most of the photographs for the book and the travelling show. It was a one time thing. Interiores, which recenty I retitled Stories is a 10-year-long project that I began as an undergrad. I would study in Boston and during my summer breaks, fly down to Buenos Aires and embark on road trips where I would drive alone mostly across the Pampas looking for places in small towns that caught my attention.

If we want to find a connection between both projects, I would say both reference the devotional manners in which people impregnate their places.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: For your MFA thesis at MassArt you explored both video and installation. Are you continuing to explore beyond still photography? Was it an encounter with the limitations of expression possible in still photography that lead you to explore other media? Something else?

GSH: Absolutely. Although photography is my main trade, I like exploring video as a way to extend a particular message. In the Stories series, I was struggling for a long time to add another voice to the photographs. I was taking portraits of the owners, photos of the store fronts, I was recording audio conversations and writing short stories based on my interactions, but I felt it wasn't good enough. Recently I began to conduct interviews with those store and shop owners that I then edit to a 3-minute video. I feel this has been the right path. You can find them here.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: Prestel is publishing your first monograph. Tell us about it and about how the process has been.

GSH: I had always imagined my project ending in a book. It was the most important thing for me. So I was looking around Buenos Aires, trying to find a publishing company, but it was not going well. Then I thought about self-publishing, and I was already working on the dummy when I got an email telling me I had been selected for the 2013 Venice Bienalle to show at the IILA Pavillion in the Arsenalle. I thought it was spam and deleted it. I was in the farm, and after trashing the email, I left to work with the cattle. Around 11, going back to the house for lunch, I thought maybe I should recheck that. So I undug it and asked if it was a joke. It wasn't. After that, I got an amazing gallery in Berlin called Kuckei+Kuckei, and they did the connection with Curt Holtz and Prestel. It was a dream come true, when I heard they had approved of the book and were going to move forward.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: You’ve shown internationally and participated in Art Basel, you're represented in collections in Japan. The question of distribution is an issue that comes up a lot when I talk with photographers in Colombia; there's a sense of a barrier to getting their work out there in the broader world. How have you been able to be successful in doing so and what recommendations would you have for others based outside the major photography centers of the world?

GSH: Compared to other photographers, I think I am quite lazy. I don't really enjoy writing application letters, resumes, updating my CV, working on my artist statement, I don't go to many openings and I don't know a lot of people. I think first of all, you have to believe in your work, and then, dedicate some time to researching what is out there, opportunities to compete and to exhibit, photography magazines, open calls, portfolio reviews, residencies, grants, there is a lot going on outside our countries, and it's pretty easy to get material out there. And they are all waiting for applicants like you, people that might have some different material from what they are used to seeing. The one thing I know for sure is that it never stops. There is no moment when you can say "Ok, I'm done, now I can relax." Even the most renowned photographers are constantly pushing for shows, publications, awards and they also change galleries every once in a while.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: This interview is part of a series on photography in Argentina. In what ways, if any, do you think being Argentinian, and the history of the country, influence your work or the projects you choose to work on?

GSH: I honestly think that if I were living somewhere else, I would still be pursuing the same subject matter and trying to speak about the same issues like the passage of time and death. The real difference to me is that I feel the happiest when I am in the middle of nowhere, driving into a small town and finding that one last old shop that it feels like it's been waiting for me my whole life.

f: What kind of relationship do you have with the photography communities in Buenos Aires?

GSH: I have some photographer friends that I see once in a while. The problem is that we are all on the move and carrying on with our various lives, and some have families to take care of, others don't live in Buenos Aires, so it really becomes a solitary place. But I think that is a good thing. Being in school for so long spoiled me. I was surrounded by photography every day, all day, constantly breathing and talking and thinking photo. Amazing teachers, fellow students focused on their stuff, lectures, latest news, updates and opportunities, it's all there for you. And that is not how life is outside of school. I had to learn that.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: There are frequent attempts to categorize Latin American artists together so that we end up with projects like "The Latin American Photobook." What do you make of such attempts? Are there commonalities specific to the region either in terms of aesthetics or theme or context that unite them?

GSH: I don't think so. "The Latin American Photobook" is thought up by someone who is not a Latin American, right? I think its just a book, but its not THE book.

f: Are there photographers based in or from Argentina whose work you would recommend to readers that might not yet have found an audience internationally?

GSH: You know, those I know mostly have reached an audience. I don't know who the new upcoming talent will be, if that even exists. I see this as a long path based mostly on persistence and self-belief. I think Slideluck BsAs is happening very soon, there should be some interesting names coming up there. Sorry I can't give you the next hot shot!

f: Anything else you’d like to add, Guillermo?

GSH: I am really proud of what you are doing with fototazo. Congratulations Griggs.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

fototazo: Contanos un poco sobre vos y cómo es que empezaste con la fotografía

Guillermo Srodek-Hart: Crecí en los suburbios de Buenos Aires. Mi vida parecía ser predecible y segura, y quería salir de eso. Estaba muy inseguro de qué carrera seguir, y la única verdad para mí era que quería viajar. Entonces pensé que la mejor solución sería estudiar en el exterior. Elegí arte porque pensé que era fácil. Sólo necesitaba una excusa para irme.

f: Mencionás esto en una entrevista que te hicieron en español aquí, pero pongámoslo en ingles en esta entrevista también. Fuimos a la universidad juntos y cuando terminaste, decidiste volver a Argentina. Además de escaparte de mi, por que volviste?

GSH: Es gracioso que te menciones en esta pregunta porque pienso que tal vez compartimos razones similares por las que dejamos los Estados Unidos después de graduarnos: vos te fuiste a Colombia y yo me volví a Argentina. Me parecía que mis motivos fotográficos, mi inspiración, si se quiere, estaban en el campo, en las afueras. Así que tenía que estar cerca de ellos.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: Tal vez podemos hablar de tus proyectos relacionándolos, Umbanda e Interiores. En la superficie, ellos comparten los ensamblajes cargados de piezas; ¿comparten también otros temas más profundos además de lo que se ve en la superficie? ¿Tienen metas similares con respecto a lo que quieren como proyectos?

GSHUmbanda fue una colaboración con otros artistas e investigadores. Yo fui el que sacó la mayoría de las fotografías para el libro y el show itinerante. Fue algo que no se repitió. Interiores que le acabo de cambiar el nombre a Historias es un proyecto que ha durado 10 años y que comenzó en mis años de universidad. Estudiaba en Boston y durante mis vacaciones de verano volaba a Buenos Aires y me embarcaba en viajes donde manejaba solo recorriendo las Pampas y buscando lugares en pueblos pequeños que me llamaran la atención. Si queremos encontrar una conexión entre los dos proyectos, diría que los dos se refieren a la devoción con que la gente impregna sus lugares.

f: Para tu tesis del Masters en Fotografía exploraste video e instalaciones. ¿Vas a seguir explorando otros medios más allá de la fotografía? ¿Lo que te llevó a utilizar otros medios, fue que te encontraste con una limitación en la forma de expresión de la fotografía, o hubo otra razón?

GSH: Absolutamente. Aunque la fotografía es mi fuerte, me gusta explorar video como forma de expandir un mensaje en particular. En la serie Historias, durante mucho tiempo, tuve dificultad para agregarle otra voz a las imágenes. Saqué retratos de los dueños, fotos de las fachadas de los negocios, grabé audio de las conversaciones y escribí historias cortas basadas en mis intercambios, pero sentía que no eran lo suficientemente buenas. Hace poco empecé a hacer entrevistas con los dueños de esas tiendas y edité el video a 3 minutos. Siento que es el camino correcto. Podés encontrarlos aquí.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: Prestel ha publicado tu primera monografía. Contanos un poco cómo ha sido este proceso.

GSH: Siempre me había imaginado que mi proyecto terminaría en forma de libro. Era lo más importante para mí. Estuve buscando en Buenos Aires, tratando de encontrar una editora que publicara el libro, pero no estaba teniendo suerte. Después pensé en publicar el libro yo solo y ya estaba trabajando en la muestra, cuando recibí un email que me decía que me habían seleccionado para la Bienal de Venecia 2013 y mostrar mi trabajo en el Pabellón de Arsenalle, y como pensé que era spam, lo borré. Estaba en el campo y después de borrar el email, me fui a trabajar con el ganado. Como a las 11, volví a la casa a almorzar y pensé que debería revisar eso de nuevo. Entonces lo rescaté de la basura, y pregunté si era una broma. No lo era. Después de eso, una galería fantástica en Berlin, llamada Kuckei+Kuckei hizo la conexión con Curt Holtz y Prestel. Fue un sueño hecho realidad, cuando escuché que habían aprobado el libro y estaban dispuestos a ir adelante con el proyecto.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: Has exhibido trabajo internacionalmente y has participado en Art Basel, tenés fotos en colecciones en Japón. La pregunta sobre la distribución es un tema que surge mucho cuando hablo con fotógrafos en Colombia; hay una sensación de que existe una barrera para mostrar su trabajo en otras partes del mundo. ¿Cómo has logrado este éxito y qué recomendaciones tendrías para otros que vivan fuera de los centros principales de fotografía en el mundo?

GSH: Si me comparo con otros fotógrafos, creo que soy bastante vago. En realidad, no me gusta escribir cartas de solicitud, resumes, actualizar mi CV, escribir mi fundamentación de obras, no voy a muchas inauguraciones y no conozco a mucha gente. Creo, que ante todo, uno tiene que creer en su trabajo, y luego, dedicarle tiempo a investigar qué es lo que hay por ahí, las oportunidades para competir y para exhibir, revistas sobre fotografía, llamados a concurso, revisiones de portafolios, residencias, becas, hay muchas cosas fuera de nuestros países, y es fácil mandar materiales a otros lugares. Y están esperando a solicitantes como vos, gente que pueda tener material diferente a lo que están acostumbrados a ver. Lo que sé seguro es que nunca se detiene. No hay momento en el que uno pueda decir, "ok, terminé, ahora me puedo relajar." Aún los fotógrafos más reconocidos están tratando de conseguir muestras, publicaciones, premios, y también cambian galerías de vez en cuando.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: Esta entrevista es parte de una serie sobre la fotografía en Argentina. ¿De qué forma, si es que existe alguna, pensás que el ser argentino, y la historia de tu país, influyen sobre el trabajo o los proyectos que elegís?

GSH: Sinceramente pienso que si estuviera viviendo en otro lado, todavía seguiría buscando el mismo tema y tratando de hablar de los mismos temas, como el paso del tiempo y la muerte. Para mí, la diferencia real es que me cuando más feliz estoy, es cuando me encuentro en el medio de la nada, manejando hacia un pueblo pequeño y me tropiezo con ese negocio antiguo que siento me ha estado esperando toda mi vida.

f: ¿Qué tipo de relación tenés con las comunidades fotográficas en Argentina?

GSH: Tengo amigos fotógrafos que veo de vez en cuando. El problema es que todos estamos yendo de un lado al otro y ocupados con nuestras vidas, y algunos tienen familias de las que ocuparse y otros no viven en Buenos Aires, así que en realidad se convierte en un lugar solitario. Pero creo que es algo bueno. El estar en la universidad por tanto tiempo me ha malcriado. Estaba rodeado de fotografía todos los días, todo el tiempo, respirando, hablando y pensando en fotos. Instructores magníficos, compañeros que estaban concentrados en sus cosas, las últimas noticias, oportunidades, todo está al alcance de uno. Y la vida fuera de la universidad no es así. Eso lo tuve que aprender.

f: Con frecuencia se intenta categorizar a los artistas latinoamericanos en un mismo grupo para hacer proyectos como "El libro de Fotografía Latinoamericana." ¿Qué pensás de estos intentos? ¿Hay cosas en común que sean específicas de la región que los una en términos de estética, temas o contexto?

GSH: No creo. El libro de Fotografía Latinoamericana lo hizo alguien que no es Latinoamericano, ¿verdad?  Creo que es sólo un libro, no EL libro.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

f: ¿Hay fotógrafos que se hayan establecido en Argentina o sean de allí cuyo trabajo recomendarías a los lectores que todavía no hayan encontrado un público internacional?

GSH: Sabés que los que conozco ya casi han logrado su público. No sé quiénes serán los próximos talentos a conocer, si es que existen. Veo esto como un largo camino que se basa mayormente en la perseverancia y el creer en uno mismo. Creo que Slideluck Bs As está por llevarse a cabo muy pronto, así que debería haber algunos nombres interesantes que surjan de ahí. ¡Lamento no poder decirte quién será la próxima celebridad!

f: ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría agregar Guillermo?

GSH: Estoy realmente orgulloso de lo que estás haciendo con fototazo. Felicitaciones Griggs.

© Guillermo Srodek-Hart

Guillermo Srodek's site can be found here and Vimeo page here.


Editing with Daniel Coburn

From The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

We are talking to a range of photographers, photo editors, professors of photography, book designers and others about the physical process of editing images. Selecting, sequencing and laying out photographs - be it for a magazine, book, online site or gallery presentation - seems something of a mysterious process for many photographers and a process that seems perhaps hard to give words to. I haven't found much written about the process and that's exactly why I'm excited to see what comes up in this series.

We started the conversation with Rob HaggartAshley KauschingerJeff RichMiska DraskoczyKevin WY Lee, Aya Takada, the pairing of Jessica Dean Camp and Cole Don Kelley and Amy Wolff. Today we continue the series with Daniel Coburn.

Daniel W. Coburn lives and works in Lawrence, Kansas. His work and research investigates the family photo album employed as one component of a visual infrastructure that supports the flawed ideology of the American Dream. Selections from his body of work have been featured in exhibitions at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and the Chelsea Museum of Art in New York. Coburn's prints are held in collections at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), the University of New Mexico Art Museum, the Mulvane Art Museum, the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, and the Mariana Kistler-Beach Museum of Art. He has been invited as a guest lecturer at national and international photography events including the International Festival of Photography in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in Victoria, Australia, and the Helsinki Photo-Media Conference. His first artist's monograph, The Hereditary Estate, was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2015.  Daniel's work has been published widely, most recently appearing in the International New York Times. Coburn received his MFA with distinction from the University of New Mexico in 2013. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Photo Media at the University of Kansas.

 The Hereditary Estate cover © Daniel Coburn

fototazo: Tell us a little about yourself and what area of photography you work in.

Daniel Coburn: That is a tricky question. You might classify me as an art photographer. You might say my work is personal reportage, but that wouldn't be completely correct either. I photograph my family mostly, or people and places that represent my family. At this point all of my work is made in response to the idealized family photo album. My own family history is haunted by instances of suicide, domestic violence and alcoholism.  My new book, The Hereditary Estate, functions as an amendment to the idealized family album, it's my way of setting the record straight.

f: How do you select images to work with from a larger group? What criteria do you use?

DC: I begin with a rough edit. I eliminate those photographs that are obviously not going to make the cut and then produce 4x5 prints of the remaining images. I find a big room to spread out. I am a professor at the University of Kansas and we have a large room with magnetic walls. Strong, singular, images are important for me and those become the anchors for the project. Sequencing is equally important, especially if the edit will result in a book, which encourages the viewer to consume the images in a very linear order.

Page spread from The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

f: Talk with us about how you begin to organize and sequence the images that you have selected in relationship to each other - as well as to text if there's text.

DC: I begin by looking for pairs of images that create a strong psychological dialog.  Often times, an image may be weak when viewed singularly, but that image might completely transform the meaning of another image when presented in sequence. It is important to set up a rhythm. Often times I will purposefully sequence images that obviously seem to belong together, and on following pages present a set of images that are seemingly disparate. I use this strategy to encourage the viewer to consider new associations and possibilities for deriving meaning from photographs. When I was editing for my new book The Hereditary Estate, I purposefully created a visual anxiety, offering my viewer very little respite. The edit was relatively dense. Much of my work is narrative, but I make all efforts to avoid a completely linear storyline. I want to challenge my viewer. I don't want to TELL my audience what to think. I want my book or exhibition to be something the viewer must revisit multiple times to fully negotiate or comprehend.

Page spread from The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

f: How do you consider the balancing of formal qualities in the photographs with the content/narrative of the series as a whole as you select and sequence a series?

DC: In The Hereditary Estate, there is one spread where the horizon line of a landscape image perfectly aligns with the contour of a bed in a photo on the preceding page. This is one instance where a formal consideration dramatically altered the meaning of both photographs. Overall, I would say that the consideration of formal qualities doesn't play a large role in my decision making process. I am however interested in the language, or the syntax of an image. For instance what kind of psychological dialogue occurs when you place a snapshot image in sequence with a very formal, large-format portrait? Or, what happens when you place a pixelated image next to an image that was made with film? I use this type of sequence to create a more complex narrative, encouraging my viewer to carefully consider the timeline and the chronology of the story.

From The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

f: What are common issues, problems and questions that unfold for you during the process of laying things out?

DC: There are always a few problem spots in the narrative or the sequence. There are places where the photographs aren't quite functioning the way I would like, or the language is confusing. This is when I go back to my pile of photos that I have omitted and begin to look for new relationships. One of my favorite artists is John Baldessari who was interested in the language of photographs. He would collect images and assign words to them, so that he could begin to form sentences through sequencing. I often take a similar approach.

f: How do you know when a layout is done?

DC: Sometimes you just know. I always feel a bit uneasy if the narrative/edit seems fully resolved. I know that if I am feeling comfortable, something must be wrong. My advice is to be thoughtful, but not controlling. Leave room for mistakes and accidents, because those will become additional points of access for your viewer.

Page spread from The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

Page spread from The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

f: What are common mistakes you see in editing?

DC: I think the most common mistake is an edit that is too easy. It is one that tells a very clear story and doesn't allow the viewer room for personal interpretation. I think it's best to expect the best from your viewer, and allow them to draw their own conclusions; allow them to bring their own history to your work.  Let them complete the story and they will have a much more rewarding experience with your work.

f: Finally, what is the best advice you've ever gotten about editing?

DC: Find one or two people you trust to look at your work and provide advice on your edit. It doesn't need to be another photographer. My mentors are intellectuals, art historians,and artists from other disciplines.  We are often too close to our own work to see it objectively.

From The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn

Page spread from The Hereditary Estate © Daniel Coburn