chantal stone photography: the blog

July 21, 2007

Meet David Hilliard

Filed under: Articles,Inspiration,Photographers/Artists — chantal @ 9:32 am

originally posted on The Landscapist…

As I mentioned earlier this week, my journey, fascination and obsession with photography began when I was about 15. I found myself strongly attracted to the beauty and fantasy of Anton Corbijn’s b&w images. I was mesmerized of the power of shock and awe created by Robert Mapplethorpe, and later became captivated by the sheer honesty and beauty of his work. Over the years I studied and was influenced by many great photographers, notably Diane Arbus and Gordon Parks. The power of a photograph, the ability to tell a story, to evoke reaction, and to simple expose us to a world unknown, this is why I chose to become a photographer. I had to be part of it.

I was always aware of the emotional power that a photograph can hold. But it wasn’t until browsing through the photography section of Barnes and Noble, that I was instantly struck, and nearly moved to tears. It was the day I discovered a monograph by David Hilliard.

David Hilliard’s photographs are like a window into his life. Beautifully constructed multi-panel images create more than just a glimpse, they show the complexity of relationships, the joys of childhood, the struggles of manhood, and they hold the power to connect the viewer to David’s own experience.

David holds a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, and MFA from Yale. He is currently Assistant Professor of Photography at Mass College of Art, Boston; has also taught at Yale and continues to teach workshops throughout the country. He has exhibited his work in numerous group and solo shows in galleries all over the US and abroad and is represented by the Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston, the Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York, as well as galleries in Atlanta and Los Angeles. All of this, and he still took the time to answer a few of my questions:

CHANTAL STONE: Please tell me something about you…where you’re from, what first attracted you to photography, how you got started.

DAVID HILLIARD: I’m from Lowell, MA. Photography has always been a part of my history. As a boy I remember my dad taking lots of pictures and often joining them together to create sweeping landscapes…not in a fine art sense though. It seemed more about the need to fully describe a place. But it made an impression. After that I was always the kid with the camera. I would document everything; friends, family, toys and places that I liked. Looking back it seemed a form of control. I’ve always felt a lack of control in my life and making photographs, from the very beginning seems to give me back some aspect of control…I was here, look at this, this looks better this way, this is wrong etc…

RISING, David Hilliard

CS: What format do you prefer to work in?
DH: 4×5. Color. I love the potential for large scale viewer and detail that holds up.

CS: Where do you like to shoot, any favorite places? Do you do much traveling?
DH:
I shoot everywhere. My back yard, the homes of family or friends. I tend to respond to rural/suburban landscapes…really beautiful spaces but not too over the top. I do travel quite a bit and usually try to bring the camera. Presently I’m in Colorado teaching a two week summer course. So far I’ve photographed suburban belly dancers and, I think, made a pretty interesting image of some teenagers making out in a golf course sand trap. I’m trying. It’s often difficult to find some sort of edge…a slippage that warrants a photograph. Sometimes I just find it and sometimes I completely create it.

CS: Describe your method; do you plan your shoots or are they more spontaneous?
DH:
I think I just kind of answered this one. But yes, sometime I’ll just happen upon a subject and think “wow this really lends itself to a photograph”. Other times I’ll be day dreaming or in the midst of a conversation and I’ll have that eureka moment where an idea will come to me and I start spinning the wheels as to how to create it.

CS: What single element do you try to emphasize in your work?
DH:
Big question. I’m not exactly sure I have one single element. I have a few that are consistently running through the work though.

The sense of being a spectator…that all this stuff is going on around me, sometime wonderful sometimes not, and I’m just watching. Taking it all in.

I’m very much interested in where the viewer is situated when they take in the work. I like the idea that this viewer has to work a bit to make associations between images (shifting focal planes and depth of field) and often physically move to take it all in. I love that in some of the large vertical images the viewer, along with the subject of the photo, are often sharing the same experience. Meaning that there could be an image of a person reclining, looking up into the sky and that the viewer also works to take in the same view.

I also like a tension between a real event and something staged/static. A tension between reality and fiction. I think this goes back to my boyhood desire to control things that I couldn’t.

CS: Are you currently working on any projects? If so, please describe.
DH:
I’m making a series of images where there might be this latent desire for some of transformation or escapism. Lots of images of people changing clothes, deciding who to be that day. Images of people performing…for example the Colorado belly dancers. That for a few hours these women can become something else, transport themselves elsewhere. I’m also making a series of photos of people reading, deeply absorbed in the page while perhaps sitting in a landscape that further echoes this feeling. This work is very new and still unfolding. I’m excited about where it’s going though.

CS: I often write about my influences, you being one. Who are you influenced by?
DH:
Early on it was my father for sure…and really wonderful 70’s television and early Technicolor movies.

As an undergrad student it was a strong faculty at Mass College of Art in Boston. Abe Morell, Barbara Bosworth and most especially Laura McPhee. She really pushed me to strive for accountability in what I was creating. There was never any hiding with her around.

Then there was the Yale grad school experience. I actually had a pretty good run. I worked with some amazing artists and my work grew significantly. It wasn’t the warm and fuzzy Mass Art journey…but it was formative.

I love and respond to so much photography that I can’t really tell you of one particular artist. I do know that the very photo that I fell in love with was August Sander’s Pastry Chef. A perfect photo.

CS: What are you currently…?
DH:
Reading…
Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name and stack of New Yorker’s that I can never get ahead on.
Listening to… Smog’s A River Ain’t Too Much and Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars
Watching… A Jack Nicholson movie marathon…One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Easy Rider etc.. Good stuff.

CS: I find your photographs to be deeply personal and often very emotional. On your website you state:

“The casual glances people share can take on a deeper significance, and what initially appears subjective and intimate is quite often a commentary on the larger contours of life.”

I feel that your photographs are not only about the relationships between the individuals pictured or between yourself and your subject(s), but also about relationships we all share: between lovers, friends, parent & child. What, if any, is the larger statement that you are trying to make?
DH:
I think that is a large statement. Larger than that I’m not sure; I guess that we’re all fragile and searching…and that ultimately there’s no correct path or lifestyle. They’re all viable, challenging and occasionally painful.

CS: Your photographs give a feeling of familiarity, like a glimpse into the very personal aspects of your life. Are you purposely being so revealing or is it part of an illusion? Do you know all of your subjects personally (vs. hiring models)?
DH:
Revealing.
I almost always know my subjects on some personal level. When I hire I feel like something is lost. I think it’s that collaboration between fact and fiction that I mentioned earlier.

CS: As a teacher, I’m sure you’re always asked for advice. Is there a particular bit of wisdom you’d like to share?
DH:
Maybe not wisdom but one of the first things I’ll tell a class is that none of us have it all figured out. I never want to be that teacher. We’re all searching for a kind of resonance in our work, a personal truth. Perhaps I’ve just been doing it longer…but I’m still searching for answers.

AND, stop doing it when you no longer love it. There are just too many photographers out there who seem to be forcing it…

David Hilliard’s next exhibition will be at Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta from September 14 to October 27.

July 19, 2007

from The Landscapist…

Filed under: Articles,internet,Photography — chantal @ 10:28 pm

Here are my posts so far over at The Landscapist:

Be sure to read Friday’s addition too… I’m going to posting an interview with one of my favorite photographers and influence David Hilliard!

March 29, 2007

Interpretations

Filed under: Articles,Photographers/Artists,Photography — chantal @ 1:41 pm

I recently interviewed photographer Jonathan Greenwald. We discussed his street photography, particularly his images of the homeless in NYC and Toronto. You can read the article here……the comments following are of particular interest. Evidently most people disagreed with Jonathan’s method of photographing the homeless anonymously. They seem to feel that his choice to not interact with his subject is in a way objectifying. Read the comments…you’ll see what I mean. There were a few who actually liked his images, there was even a compliment to my interviewing/writing skills (thanks!!)…but for the most part there was criticism or my titling the article “…Conscientious Street Photographer”.

I avoided making any comments myself, people are entitled to their opinions, not everyone is going to like or agree with what you say, or write, or photograph. And I tend to think that any discussion at all is a good thing. But since the article first appeared on T.O.P. over the weekend…it seems the issue is still not dead. And I feel like my own blog is the perfect venue to voice my own thoughts, opinions, and observations.

First of all, the article initially appeared on Blogcritics Magazine back in February. What I find most interesting is how differently the article was received. There are a few things to consider here: BC readership is much different from T.O.P. readership….BC has a more diverse readership, not just photographers and photo-enthusiasts, etc. Also, the title is different. On BC, the title is “…NYC Street Photographer” (editor choice, not mine). However I don’t really think the change in title would have made any difference in the BC-reader reaction. I think photographers tend to be more critical of each other, than non-photographers are of art and photography.

But why the harsh critique in the first place? There are those who believe that photographing the homeless is a cliche, or is over-done. But tell me, what isn’t? Browse through any photo portfolio or photoblog an you’re bound to see one of the following: flower macros, sunsets/sunrises, dewdrops on leaves, children laughing/playing, a solemn-faced woman next to window under natural light, a crowd of people preoccupied with something with a singular face looking directly at the camera…and I even read somewhere (and tell me this isn’t true) that at one point every photographer will shoot a lone tree in a field.

Doesn’t it stand a reason that photographers will often photograph the same subjects over and over again. We do it because these things are interesting, they are visually stimulating. So what’s up with calling a certain subject a cliche? What subject matter, at one point or other, isn’t??

Now to the issue of Jonathan’s choice not to interact with his subject matter. There are a couple of comments in the T.O.P. thread that defend it very nicely, so I won’t bother here. The fact remains that it is his choice. And really, isn’t the beauty of street photography the spontaneity of it? You can’t really achieve that by talking to every person you shoot. Maybe Jonathan’s critics are looking at his method from the wrong standpoint. If you look at Jonathan’s body of work in the context of photojournalism, then his objective viewpoint is perfectly acceptable—even necessary. Perhaps Jonathan’s critics were coming from a more ‘street photography as art’ point of view, which is fine, but one is no more right or wrong than the other.

I read a lot of books, magazines and blogs about photography, all the time. And there are so many opinions out there, it can get kind of crazy at times. Everyone is a critic, everyone has an opinion…but guess what…no one has the correct opinion. Any opinion is correct.

February 9, 2007

Andrew Smith: On Photography and Quiet Reflection

Filed under: Articles — chantal @ 9:52 am

Photographer Andrew Smith has a style that is quiet, reflective, even philosophical. He’s a musician by trade, a middle school music teacher, from a family of musicians. His photographs echo the quiet contemplation and focus required of his profession. His photoblog, Visual Realia, is a journey through the mind and world of a thoughtful artist. Recently I had the pleasure to talk with Andy, about his life and his art:

Chantal Stone: What are some of the things you like to photograph?
Andrew Smith: I probably have too wide of a range of topic choices for the good of my site. I tend to like color, black and white, duotones and infrared. I think that the variety of ways of expressing the image is part of what interests me…Part of it for me is not only the photo itself, but also the process. I like thinking about the shot, shooting it, and working with it afterward.

CS: Why and when did you start your photoblog?
AS: Started in spring 2006, entirely for my needs… Having a full time job, kids, etc., there is every excuse in the world NOT to go out and shoot. Having a blog where one hopes to post most days forces me to go out and photograph. No excuses…Self motivation

CS: What styles of photography are you attracted to?
AS: This probably explains why my own photography is so scattered. I find each style brings interest in its own way. I guess photos that “express” something beyond the literal are my favorite.

CS: Is that what you try to do…express something beyond the literal?
AS: Sometimes, but certainly not always. I’m currently working with macros of music themes, and I don’t know that I’m reaching for anything beyond in those…although you may have noticed the quotes [on my photoblog]. I do enjoy trying to find something that is somehow related.

CS: I was going to mention that…what made you start adding the quote with the images?
AS: That goes back to the process. Selfish! I like looking for relevant quotes, almost in a puzzle-like fashion… Photos evoke words and thoughts, and sometimes quotations add to those thoughts.

CS: How would you describe your body of work?
AS: Body of work…an attempt to see life close up, far away, and just attempt to appreciate it. It’s too easy to ignore the “little” things around us, and my photography is [an] attempt to force myself to see what’s around me. If I’m lucky, maybe some of the shots will do the same for a viewer or two.

CS: What do you think your photography says about you as a person?
AS: Since I tend to have a wide variety (ok, scattered) of interests and styles, that probably reflects on me. I like “exploration.” I’ve always enjoyed the exploratory aspects of science, for example…maybe a curiosity.

image3-never-forget-andysmith.jpg
© Andrew Smith

CS: Your landscape series…is it a cohesive, continuous project, or just something you add to here and there, shooting sporadically?
AS: I believe that my landscape photography is cohesive only in retrospect; by that, I mean that I don’t consciously select only subjects that meet specific “guidelines.” Looking at the photos as a group, I assume one can find similarities that run through many. It’s always difficult to assess one’s own work, but I think I’m drawn to photographs and scenes with a sense of line.

CS: Do you actively seek these particular scenes, or do you just come across them while walking, wandering?
AS: The nature/landscape photograph series continues to develop through both intention and happy accidents! When time permits for jaunts to photograph, I’ll certainly have scenes in mind that I hope to add to the collection. As my work and family life tend to minimize time for those pursuits, my camera almost always travels with me.

Even on my hour-plus commute to and from work, on a route I’ve traveled for years, I am constantly trying to be aware of the beautiful elements along the path, and I’m still surprised at what new things pop to my attention. If I notice such a new item, or the light seems to be striking something in a fresh way, I’ll pull off to a side road and take advantage of the opportunity.

CS: Do the areas that you photograph have any significant meaning to you, your life?
AS: There are local areas that I’ll be pulled to, often because of past experiences. My first job as a teen was at a local state park, and I’m very appreciative of the area, much more so than the typical area residents who seem to forget they have this amazing place in their back yard. Positive memories from childhood trips will motivate returns…While some areas hold special meaning, I find myself much more readily finding interesting subjects in the ordinary places. I’m quite happy to be driving along after a busy day and stumble across great light and shadows from a perfect sky.

CS: Explain the role of music in your life.
AS:
Music was always a part of both my immediate and extended family’s life. It was always there and always seemed obvious to participate in it; there never seemed to be a question about whether to be a part of it. As a music teacher now, I see students that seem very comfortable with music in their lives, and sometimes comforted by it. Working with 10 to 14 year olds, I see their young adult personalities forming, and for some, music plays a very important part.

Music and photography (as well as the other arts) fit together incredibly neatly. Certainly, throughout history, the various art forms changed together and changed each other. At times it seems as if there is only one “Art” form, and there are just various ways of reaching for it.

I can remember a trip to the Smithsonian and seeing a full-size Kandinsky painting for the first time. The work clearly drew me in, as did his other pieces. It wasn’t until some time later that I read about him and looked at some of his writings. Kandinsky’s beliefs about the interconnectedness of music and his visual art were quite strong, and he spoke of his visual pieces in musical terms.

image5-mallets-andysmith.jpg
© Andrew Smith

CS: Your ‘music’ images seem to have a very sensual feel to them…is that something intentional on your part?
AS: Sensuality in the works is an interesting thought. I didn’t set out to purposely do so, but it could be a byproduct of the role of art. If art is expression, and a piece is successful in some way, there could be many feelings involved. Sensuality seems to be heavily influenced by line and movement in life, music, dance and visual arts, so the expressive lines of the musical instruments bring along a great sense of beauty.

CS: What do you hope to achieve through your photography…Where do you hope it leads?
AS: Certainly, part of it is a selfish use for me. A sanity keeper. Having said that, I’m as egotistical as the next person, and if someone expresses interest in a photo, I’m certainly glad to hear it…Leading… well, hopefully more folks to view it, and offer feedback. Beyond that, who knows?

This article first appeared 2/06/07 on Blogcritics Magazine.

October 13, 2006

Photobloggers Exposed: Smart, Talented, and Young

Filed under: Articles — chantal @ 10:51 am

Standing out among the minions of photographers out there can be a daunting, if not impossible task. Clarity of vision, a unique perspective, and technical skill are all necessary, and for many, take years to develop. Here are three young men who are way ahead of the game. They already have one factor that helps them to stand out: their age.

At 16, 17 and 18 years young, these three photographers are already well on their way to a successful career in photography, should they choose that route. They are smart, talented and ambitious, and all three, although unique from each other, possess the talent and drive that will take them exactly where they wish to go.


Lift, by Gavin Mullan

Continue reading about Gavin Mullan, Gabriel Loeb, and Azhar Chougle on BlogCritics……

September 20, 2006

New Article and Something Funny…

Filed under: Articles,News — chantal @ 3:09 pm

My new article is out:
Photobloggers Exposed: Photographers From Around the World,
featuring Leeroy Gribbon, Dimitrios Pananakis, and Emma Townsend.
Make sure you check it out.

Also this…

When I was interviewing for that article last week, I was all excited about it, I love talking to photographers. We’re a different sort of people I think. Maybe its due to the fact that we ‘see’ things differently, maybe more clearly, I don’t know…but I’ve found photographers to be truly interesting people.

So I was going on and on about the interview, when I was talking to my husband. He was on his laptop going “Uh huh…yes, wow…sounds cool…” You know how that goes, all ultra-interested.

So I said to him, “Well I just think that photographers are really cool, and among the most interesting people I have ever met.”

His reply was, “I don’t know…most of them seem like geeks of some sort.”

Made me giggle :))

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