Interview: Jeff Whetstone

© Jeff Whetstone, Joseph (audio 15:18)

Interviewed by phone June 28th, 2013

Jeff Whetstone was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and has been photographing and writing about the relationship between humans and their environment since he received a Zoology degree from Duke University in 1990. Whetstone received his MFA in photography from Yale University in 2001, and since then his work has been exhibited internationally. In 2007, Whetstone was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a body of photographs entitled New Wilderness. The following year he received the Factor Prize for Southern Art. Since 2008, his work has been reviewed in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker Magazine, Time Out New York, Village Voice, and Art News, just to name a few. Whetstone first exhibited his video work in 2011 when his experimental narrative short, On the Use of Syrinx, premiered at the Moving Image Festival in New York. A second exhibition in 2011 at Julie Saul Gallery entitled Seducing Birds, Snakes and Men introduced Whetstone’s work in animation, 16mm film, and video to a wide audience. Whetstone is a professor at the Art Department of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

© Jeff Whetstone, from "Pattern of Man" (audio 19:28)

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[[AUDIO REMOVED August 7, 2022]

0:18 Background in zoology and his move into photography.

5:20 What types of questions photography allows him to ask and what types of investigations it allows him to do in comparison with the hard sciences.

8:08 Is the idea of the human as an animal - part of Whetstone's conception of wilderness - spatially, regionally, culturally, or personally defined in any way?

© Jeff Whetstone, from the series "Pattern of Man" (audio 13:41)

12:48 Photographic strategies for the theme of animal instincts.

16:18 The question of a political and environmental agenda within the work.

20:49 The concept of "new wilderness."

25:53 Has the photographic investigation created his perceptions of wilderness or have these ideas served as a starting premise for his work?

© Jeff Whetstone, Tom and Angela, from the series"The New Wilderness" (audio 29:25)

29:13 How he works in relationship to the people he photographs.

33:05 Talking through creating an image.

37:03 Making decisions between black and white and color, film and digital.

42:04 Relationship of themes between his videos (see Drawing E. obsoleta embedded below) and still photography.

45:58 Presentation of his work.

49:06 How the roles of photographer and educator overlap.

53:10 The importance of writing to his artistic practice.

56:00 How his work became part of the Sir Elton John collection.

57:43 What's next for him.

© Jeff Whetstone, Mingo Boys, from the series "New Wilderness" (audio 57:02)

© Jeff Whetstone, Johnny, from the series "Post Pleistocene" (audio 39:29)

© Jeff Whetstone, Joseph Redux (audio 15:18)

© Jeff Whetstone, from "New Wilderness" (audio 38:10)

© Jeff Whetstone, LSD, from the series "Post Pleistocene" (audio 14:52)