With my Golden Gate project in print, I wanted to apply for some grants for photo books. I quickly noticed every single grant or major award required the artist to have an "artist statement", which was something I've never thought about. I saw a guide online by The Creative Independent and it really got me to reflect on my relationship with photography and why I've gravitated towards it. To write an artist statement, I needed to understand myself. It made me go through my photos to critically analyze and find commonalities across my body of work.
Before even diving into specific photography I do, why did I choose the medium of photography to begin with?
To me, I think it has to do with the photographic process and its effect on the viewer. When a painter paints something, whatever they produce is a result of their imagination or an interpretation of reality. But when I take a photo, I'm literally capturing a slice of reality at a certain time. It doesn't matter what the subject is, the first reaction a viewer will always have is "this is reality", whether they realize it or not. That, to me, is incredibly interesting. If the premise is that photos are a slice of reality, then we can start bending people's expectations and assumptions of the world around them. Photography can then be used to expand a person's understanding of the world, alter their perspectives, and push their imagination.
Examples of this powerful effect can be seen in both photojournalism and advertisement.
Big businesses understand the value of photography in advertisement and spend ludicrous amounts of money on photoshoots. Alternatively, they could use other mediums but the emotional response wouldn't be the same. It's the same reason photoshopped celebrity ads have contributed to many self-esteem issues in society.
Similarly in photojournalism, because people perceive photos as truth, the framing and timing of the photo can completely alter the narrative of the scene. There are uncountable cases throughout history where people have fabricated their own narratives of photos, sometimes it leading good change, other times not.
It's also for these same reasons above that I gravitate towards photography. At first, it started with capturing memorable scenes. But as I learned more about art and photography, I started capturing more interesting and different scenes. Throughout the years of doing photography, I've expanded my perspective of the world and learned to grow a great appreciation for things around me. As such, I'd also like to use photography to expand the perspectives of other people. I'm not interested in producing work in photography that can be represented in other mediums. This answers the first question of "why".
The next question is the question of "what" - what kind of subjects am I attracted to?
After browsing through my photos, I noticed a few commonalities across my photos. The first and most obvious observation is that my photos complement the "why" I've mentioned previously - I like to capture perspectives, places, things, and scenes that are unique, neglected by people, and under-represented in photography (at least to my knowledge).
The next commonality is the mood of my photos. I tend to be attracted to subject matter that exhibits a sense of calmness and quietness, as if the scenes and things in the composition have already passed their climax. Consequently, the work has "low energy", is quite minimalistic, and has a sense of "control". I think this is also a result of the way I practice photography. I often see photography as a form of meditation that I do in solitude.
Finally, I lean towards compositions where there are hints of humanity in the piece, often subtle and without any actual humans being present. Again, this is personal to me as I find humans and life to be incredibly interesting. I feel the need to document interesting and thought provoking details of humanity that are often taken for granted, ignored, or even completely forgotten.
After going through this exercise, I now find it easier to describe my work. It turned out to be incredibly helpful in discovering my own unique style, which I think is important to every artist. Now to condense and sum everything up into an artist statement that represents me (for now):
I'm a visual artist working in the medium of photography. I am motivated by challenging common perspectives of our world. Through photography, I shrink, flatten, and contort the objects of our civilization to draw out the subtle presence of humanity and its relationship with the world. I'm drawn to the quiet solitude and memories of places, things, and people that have become more invisible after shifts in time and culture.