Thursday, January 29, 2015
Interview - PhotoWorld China - Have Fun with Daintiness!
Thank you for your time to take this interview about your project Processed Views: A Survey of the Industrial Landscape, 2014 a series of 10 editioned archival pigment prints 18”x22.” We are making a feature about the topic “food photography”, so we hope you to talk more about your idea of this topic during answering the questions below.
How did you fall in love with photography?
Lindsay. I have loved photography since childhood. My father set up a darkroom a couple times a year to print family snapshots. I grew up looking at National Geographic and Life Magazine. I understood photography was a magical medium that literally brings time and space into our consciousness.
Your jobs are all relevant with photography and images, please tell me about what do you do in your daily work?
Barbara is a Chicago-based photographer and graphic designer. She has a BS in Visual Communications from the Institute of Design+Illinois Institute of Technology. Her work includes the design of annual reports, corporate identity and many projects for non-profit organizations. Ever looking to the art historical past to invoke order and harmony, her search for narratives to explain life.
Lindsay is a Milwaukee-based photographer and lecturer at the University of Wisconsin /Milwaukee. She received her MS in Visual Communications at the Institute of Design+Illinois Institute of Technology. She teaches darkroom and alternative processes classes. Inspired by the intersection of science and history, she organizes her world balancing skepticism and the unconscious.
What does this career mean to you?
Our jobs allow us to use photography, a medium where we can engage in a “visual conversation” with other people.
About our collaboration. Collaboration challenges the notion of the primacy of the individual artist’s vision, the artist/model relationship, and ownership of the final work. Collaboration demands moving beyond personal stories and into the realm of collective experience. It has been the core of our practice and mirrors the fluid and mutable ways of storytelling traditions.
How did you meet each other? How did you two decide to collaborate together?
Our collaboration grew from our student work at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1970’s. At that time shared the same questions about our identity as women artists and we began using photography to answer those questions.
Collaboration was not a conscious decision. It grew out of making pictures that told stories. On a practical level, working together provided an instant critic, a willing model, a stylist, a road trip companion, a technical assistant and an editor....and it was often more fun!
Collaboration challenges the notion of the primacy of the individual artist’s vision, the artist/model relationship, and ownership of the final work. Collaboration demands moving beyond personal stories and into the realm of collective experience. It has been the core of our practice and mirrors the fluid and mutable ways of storytelling traditions.
I saw your bio and found you are based in different places.
We worked together in Chicago for about 10 years when Lindsay moved 100 miles north to Milwaukee, to start her family. She has two daughters and lives with her husband. Barbara lives with her husband in Chicago, and has two sons.
How do you work on photography projects together? Which part do you do respectively?Our image ideas are developed through research and debate, editing and compromise. Division of the work changes with each project, depending who has the time, appropriate resources or committment to a task. We shoot together or separately. To bridge the distance between two cities, we rely on email and telephone, we share ideas in our research blog notebooks (http://notebook-ponderfood.blogspot.com/) and taking a few days at a time to get together in the studio.
Tell me the story of the very first photo you shot. Are you still shooting this theme now? Where did you shoot them? Please tell us the process of taking these photos. What did you prepare before shooting? Any details?
In 1976 we took a “road trip” to New Mexico while still students. (In the US, a road trip is a kind of photographic right of passage...think Robert Frank or Stephen Shore.) We shared cameras and took lots of photographs: snapshots, visual jokes, short stories, and serious visual studies. We performed as photographer and model, sometimes with costumes and props, sometimes nude. It was a spontaneous, organic process....we were photographers on the road! When our fellow students--mostly men--saw our prints, they were perplexed and said we should not take photographs like we did!
Those comments made us want to make more photographs!! From that time we began to consider the difference between the myths, power and authority of women vs. men. This theme reappears in our work as our lives changes. We are currently working on a project that compares female portraits with male figures painted by Michelangelo.
When did you start shooting “Processed Views” series? How long did you take to complete this series?
We were looking for balance between the “homecooking” we grew up with and the current system of industrial agriculture, food processing and marketing dominates American’s lives.
In 2012 we began Processed Views and have finished this summer. The project consists a series of 10 archival pigment prints sized 18” x 22.”
Where did your inspiration come from?
For inspiration, we always e turn to mythology and history to guide our research. The settling of the West is America’s great mythology and is often referred to as Manifest Destiny. The historical photographs of Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) can be seen to illustrate this myth.
Watkins is famous for his photographs that framed the American West as a series of amazing landscapes and endless possibilities. However, much of his work was commissioned by the corporate interests of the day; the railroad, shipping, mining and lumber to record and advertise their achievements.
We used this inspiration to show how American’s uncritical history of using technology and resources in the name of progress may transform the land in ways that are unintended and somewhat horrifying.
Your photos look like various landscapes, did you design the scene or story of the photo before shooting?Yes, first we listed food products we wanted to depict. Then we looked for a Carleton Watkins landscape which would make sense with that food. Building the landscape was an intuitive process and inevitably the food itself dictated the final form of the landscape.
How did you choose which food to use?
Each photograph shows a different part of the industrial food system we wanted to question and challenge. We chose popular foods which contained high-fructose corn syrup and sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, artificial flavors and the destruction of the land with moncultural farming methods.
How did you build the scene?
To mimic mountainous terrain of California and Oregon, we constructed foam-core bases on which we placed the food. We lit the scenes to balance the happy colors of the food with a sense of natural, outdoor light. Theatrical lighting gels were used to create the water. We created a color pallette which would “seduce” the viewer into an food land in which agricultural production and food processing is taken to an extreme.
After looking at our photographs, we wanted the viewer to ask:
Have gone too far in technological ability to control nature in order to fulfill fantasies prosperity and progress? Should we rethink our fun-food utopia?
Did anything impress you a lot while you were shooting?
While we were shooting we were startled at how unpleasant and strong the food smelled. We were surprised that our pet dog was not interested at all in eating the food we used in this project.
We were also impressed with the enormous amount of information about food, health and farming techniques we found on the internet. That is both encouraging and confusing. We recorded interesting ideas and images we found in our research blog: (http://notebook-ponderfood.blogspot.com/)
Was there any difficulty during the shooting process? Tell one story of it.
Blue Dye #l Precipice was the most complicated photograph to make. We cooked many Duncan Hines Blue Velvet cakes to build the Precipice. The color was so intense! It was very disturbing!
The first time we shot the photo we used popsicles of many colors, shooting til they melted to a huge puddle on the floor. What a big, sticky mess! That first attempt at the picture made the final version easier....but no less smelly and messy.
Did you two have different opinions in the shooting? How did you solve it?
Of course we both have ideas we want realized, but we stay open and figure out ways to embrace or resolve differences. There is no sense of ownership of the images. Often the artwork itself often leads us to a solution.
Which is your favorite photo? Why?
We like them all! Most popular and poignant though, is Fruit Loops Landscape is made with products that are marketed to children for breakfast. We hope it makes viewers really think about the food we eat and that we serve our loved ones. And isn’t the pink sky beautiful!?
What did you want to express through this series of photos? You mentioned technology and environment problem in the (artist statement?) instruction of “Processed Views”, can you explain your idea?Simply, we want to question our current relationship with nature.
We have learned that the earth is not a collection of separate resources to be exploited, but is a network of systems in balance and harmony. If we are part of nature, we are what we eat. If we destroy nature, we will destroy ourselves....although it may seem fun at first, it will end in a stinky mess.
What public feedback did you receive? Have you received any impressive comments?
Some of the photographs have gotten attention on the internet. It is our hope that the images stay in peoples minds after they click to the next site.
What is the most funs and gains in shooting this series for you two? Can you speak of them?
We love to make photographs that are fantastical and have humor! When people look at processed views they laugh, at first.....then they look disgusted. That is very gratifying! We had a lot of laughs planning and building these scenes.
We gained a lot of knowledge about American popular food culture, which is terrifying, but also hopeful. More and more Americans seem to be questioning the destructive side of food technology and looking for balance.
I saw there is another series about “food” on your website. Why do you care about this topic so much?
Food is not just a commodity, it is a symbol of nurturing. As mothers, wives and caregivers, we wanted to explore this precious relationship.
In 2009, when our children left home and we began working on a project about the emotional and physical love that flows through the act of preparing and sharing food. This project is called Ponder Food as Love.
We find sustenance in the tasks of nurturing, the body becomes serving platter, altar, banquet – it is offered and feasted upon. The line between serving and self dissolves.
In America vernacular speech, “processed” refers to food made in factories, often with the addition of artificial additives and techniques that favor longevity over nutrition. “Views” is often used in reference to tourism and scenery that is conventionally pretty. Postcards show “views” --special landscapes that are sold to the tourist.
Our Processed Views are fantastical places to visit, but we hope no one wants to live there!