Monday, March 10, 2008
subjectify interview: daniel shea and caitlin arnold
i have really enjoyed checking out the photographs of both Daniel Shea (above, top) and Caitlin Arnold, so when i recently found out that Daniel and Caitlin have been friends since high school, i was intrigued. today, both are fine art photographers and bloggers, though they focus on different topics (Daniel has a show about mountaintop removal in Appalachia going up on 3/28 at MICA, and Caitlin is working on a series about girls in adolescence).
instead of just posting up some photos by them, i asked Daniel and Caitlin to interview each other for Subjectify (thanks, guys!). i asked them to discuss their connection, their interaction in photographic communities (online, art school, blogosphere, and otherwise). part one of their conversation is below...
Daniel: We've known each other since high school. Did we have a photographic relationship at that point? I don't think we did.
Caitlin: i don't think so either. i know there was a punk rock relationship
Daniel: Yes, that's how we met. The good old punk rock. Every serious artist over 20 was a punk at some point in their life.
I still am. Are you?
Caitlin: no i got soft... but seriously something i find interesting is how the group of us after high school went off into the same fine art world.
Daniel: Well I think suburban punk kids often find refuge in their art rooms in high school. That's where I made my best friends, people that I'm still friends with today, and have had a tremendous impact on me.
I feel like at some point in college we both became obsessed with photography, again.
Caitlin: yeah, oddly enough, the internet brought us back together.
Daniel: And 4 years later we're in the same network of people. I think this would be a good time to talk about blogging. For you, is that a mix of getting your stuff out there and also participating in a art/photography community?
Caitlin: i think i started a blog because i was bored. i really started to take it "seriously" within the past year, showing new work of mine and then talking about art/photography.
Daniel: Do you feel like it's helped your "career"?
Caitlin: i can't really say. i know that the internet has seriously helped me though because people look at my website. there have been occasions where if if i wasn't linked, i wouldn't have gotten a job or an email.
Daniel: I mean, it's been said before, but that's the primary way of viewing photography.
Caitlin: for this generation of artists, yes totally.
Daniel: We started off when this was all ready the case though, so we have nothing to compare it to. For us, using the internet as a networking/exposure tool may seem like the only way to do it. However, all the communication benefits of the internet, when applied to photography, make it very obvious why it's such a great thing in some ways. For me though, I still use my blog in a traditional diaristic way. Not in a, "today I woke up and did this," but more in a way to emphasize the importance of process in photography.
Ok, enough about blogs, let's talk about our work.
Caitlin: well tell me what it's like to be out of school and no one is pushing you to make work anymore
Daniel: I love being out of school. I've always been simultaneously very grateful for the opportunities and privilege that art school allowed me to access while remaining very critical, and often, very, very bored. For a brief moment I thought being out of school would somehow make my life a little less clogged, but I work harder today than I ever have in my life. Working a full time job that is both physically and mentally draining at times (teaching), as well as working on your art full time is exhausting. But I would never give it up. I'm still completely obsessed with photography, thinking about photography, and making photographs. I look at some of my peers who don't feel the same way, and I realize that art school for a lot of people will be the last time they make work.
But I digress. Art school hardly prepared me for the "real world," but I've always been pretty independent and ready to work an insane amount to get something I want. So doing the grind, it doesn't bother me.
That was long and slightly convoluted...but what I'm trying to say is, yeah I'm doing fine outside of school, I was also self-motivated to begin with, so making work now isn't really a struggle outside of the Western elements (you know, time, money, etc.)
Caitlin: let's talk about photographers that we're looking at right now. who are people that you've been looking to for inspiration?
Daniel: Well overall the work I respond to most strongly are people like Roni Horn, Sol LeWitt, John Baldessari, Victor Burgin, Lynne Cohen, Richard Prince, etc.
They were all very important for me in terms of forming a critical eye.
But simultaneously, I love work from that period like the new topographics. And also the more rigid approach of German typologies.
New work though, I'm into Collier Schorr, Roe Ethridge, Beate Gutschow, Lars Tunbjork, Mikhael Subotzky, and others who bring fresh contemporary perspectives to the document.
Caitlin: Beate Gutschow spoke at Columbia recently. She's such an interesting photographer.
Daniel: Yeah she pretty much embodies everything I love about rendering landscape as a historical/critical motif. I know you look at a lot of portrait photographers...
Caitlin: I spend a lot of my time looking at photographers who focus on portraiture. I know that I have been focusing my attention the last two years or so on making portraits, so people like Hellen van Meene and Rineke Dijkstra are some influences of mine. I also think that some of the faculty here has been an influence on my work. Last semester I took a portrait class with Dawoud Bey which was a very stressful time but I learned a lot about how to work with the subject. And recently Columbia hired Kelli Connell, whose work I really love.
Daniel: Yeah they're all great. Dawoud Bey is incredible. His ability to present a social document so frank, but with so much room to explore is really inspiring.
Caitlin: Yeah, he's a great person to have on your side...
coming up in part two, Daniel & Caitlin discuss portraiture, working with subjects, and critique each others photographs.