Yesterday I finished my application for the New York Foundation for the Arts grant for photography. I apply almost every year and I’ve never gotten a grant. This year the only category that I could apply for was photography. I was hesitant to apply, not really considering myself to be a serious photographer but I figured why not. I have used photography as art before under The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard but I figured that using it for the grant application would be confusing. I decided to do it under my own name. I have a lot of photographs from Pennsylvania from when I go back to hang out. For the application I thought it would be a good idea to establish a theme for the photographs and worked an a working statement that would be a concise explanation of the project. NYFA stresses that an artist apply with a fully worked out body of work that can be easily identifiable. I have a real problem with this since I don’t generally work like this and feel that my practice actually rails against this type of tendency. I try to embrace a multiple range of techniques and ideas in order to counteract branding as a commonplace art making philosophy. I feel that it is inherent within my art making philosophy to develop a type of multiplicity that can only be accessed through a complex network of interconnected yet different kinds of working ideas. This of course has caused endless amounts of difficulties for me when applying for anything. It never seems to make sense and I tend to lump similar looking objects together in an attempt at creating, what I think, is an understandable “body of work”. I consider myself essentially to be an installation artist, but this is a hard proposition to sell, and I’m forced to sell myself as something else.
Anyway here’s the working statement that I wrote and below that are a selection of photographs that I submitted as well as a description that I opted to write for each image which I thought added a narrative to each. None of it is a lie but I definitely thought about how to edit information in order to support the larger concept.
Being from rural Pennsylvania gives me personal access to experiences and situations that are simultaneously intimate and voyeuristic. Through photography I’m able to document the various people that I meet in my travels through rural Pennsylvania and capture the complexities of life as they exist for other people. The situations that I’ve been able to experience include the difficulties of aging, funerals, governmental eviction, destitution, celebration and fear. My photographs are accurate portraits of people as they exist in a particular place and time, and often, is the only remnant of a lost moment, a fragment that is long gone and never to return.
Jason is not a racist. This is a Halloween costume that his mom made for his dad many years ago. The story was that his dad wore it to a Halloween party and, in completion of his costume, set a cross on fire out in the front lawn as a joke. Jason’s mom looked on in horror. Her African American friends were not amused.
I met Rick through a friend. He liked to stay up all night doing work while high on Meth Amphetamine. Sometimes he wouldn’t sleep for days on end. He went to jail for many years for beating up a gay man who he said was “hitting” on him and then punched a cop during the arrest. Here he’s fixing his backho at about 3:00 AM.
Dale lost his arm when he was a teenager. In this photograph it’s 6:00 in the morning and he’s tired. He’s been working all night to try and salvage his pool from his house which is in foreclosure. The sheriff is coming in 6 hours to evict him and his family.
Allen retired from Chemistry in 1970 and spent the rest of his life painting landscapes. When he was young, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University before being sent to England as a bomb site specialist during World War II. He died in 2011 and left behind over 700 unsold paintings.