Interview with photographer Duncan Oja

DuncanO4 F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?

Duncan Oja: I have been taking pictures about as long as I can remember but only started getting serious about it in high school. since I was very young though my passion has always been exploring everywhere I could and collecting little treasures I found. I think photography was an appealing medium because I’ve always been more interested in discovering and pointing out things in the world that interest me than creating new things altogether.

F-Stop: All of the work that you present on your website seems to be a result of being “On the road”. Can you tell us a bit about your work overall?

DO: My work does often have to do with being “on the road.” I have always been interested in the culture and aesthetic of roads, I think I am drawn to the liminal spaces they create and the people who pass through them. I really enjoy shooting on the road too, I think it gives me the time and space to focus on my work and I feel like it has a way of helping me to see places and things more objectively.

DuncanO5

F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making your images or your creative process more generally?

DO: I generally work on one or a couple of separate projects at a time. Sometimes they start with a specific concept, and sometimes come from sort of aimless shooting, most often I find something that I am drawn to in the world (as with the backs of signs) and after thinking about it for a long time without deciding its stupid, I dedicate a lot of time to it and start shooting.

F-Stop: How do you choose what or who to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

DO: I usually choose things that interest me in the world and have for a while, things I can’t stop looking at anyway. I think for whatever reason they have a striking visual presence to begin with, so they would make good photographs.

F-Stop: What do you think interested you in the backs of signs?

DO: Something very simple and basic first drew me to the backs of signs and I was interested in them before thinking of them as a potential art project, but looking again as an artist I think I was interested in the lack of any concept or specific meaning, that presence of absence. From behind, the signs loose their intended message and become purely things, objects in the landscape, monuments of absence. This seemed to remind me of something I have always enjoyed about photography; it’s ability to show the plain being-ness of a thing honestly and beautifully.

DuncanO7

F-Stop: What do you want people to experience or think about when they look at these photographs?

DO: I guess I want people to experience what I do when I see these things, and agree that there is something special there. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

F-Stop:Are you working on any other projects currently?

DO: I am, right now I’m traveling in South America and shooting but without too specific of a project. Back home I was working on a project about these big sort-of stumps that I was seeing a lot especially in the northeast when a tree is removed from someone’s yard and the branches cut off, but for whatever reason the bottom five or ten feet of the trunk are left. Like the blank signs they are these beautifully empty, purposeless structures.

DuncanO11

F-Stop:What photographers or other artists inspire you?

DO: I have always been inspired by Walker Evans. I also really love the geological survey photographers of the nineteenth century. Eugene Atget may be my favorite right now, his photographs are strikingly beautiful but still with a subtlety that I think I strive for in mine.

See more of Duncan Oja’s work in the group exhibition Duncan Oja’s website: duncanoja.com

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Interview with photographer David Gardner

Jerry and Ann. Full-timers. Quartzsite, AZ

Jerry and Ann. Full-timers. Quartzsite, AZ

F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?

David Gardner: The seeds were planted at a young age but didn’t take root till much later. During a family outing in the Santa Cruz mountains, I got separated and lost in the forest. I was 8. I wandered around for a few hours completely terrorized until I came across a young couple on the trail. To calm me down, they put a camera around my neck and showed me how to use it. They also taught me how to drink from a stream and showed me how to identify various plants around us. I went from utter terror of my surroundings to complete joy, and the joy and curiosity of the natural world, and the desire to picture it has lingered all these years after.

But that desire to photograph was dormant for many years afterward. In my large family, there were always cameras around, but they were toys to us – something to be played with. I would use my Kodak Tri-Chem packs to develop my B & W snapshot negatives in the bathroom – because it was fun. I felt the magic, but the thought of using a camera in pursuit of creative expression never seriously occurred to me until my mid-20’s when I discovered the work of Ansel Adams. Adams led to Edward Weston, but more so his son Brett. Brett led to Minor White, and Imogen and the whole West Coast School. I learned early on that I was more visually oriented than verbal, and I was attracted to the way a photograph could express what I was feeling about the world around me. Photography was the perfect form for me because it was rooted in reality but could be used to express so much more. Unfortunately, I was entangled in a non-photographic life by then.

It remained a serious interest though, and I took classes to learn more at the local community college. This is where I met my friend and mentor Stephen Johnson. He is a master fine art landscape photographer and pioneer of the digital imaging age, whom I’ve now known for more than 35 years. On the first day of class, he stood at the blackboard, drew a rectangle on the board and said, “This is your world and you control everything in it.” I was just so lucky to have found someone I felt so in tune with visually at that point in my life.

While mostly self taught, Stephen has been my guide these many years. He taught me all the technical aspects of picture making, but more importantly, he guided me in how to “see” photographically. I still wanted to go to art school though, and applied at the San Francisco Art Institute. I thought a degree was important. My entrance portfolio reviewer was Jack Fulton. He looked at my work, looked up at me and said, “You don’t need to come here. There’s nothing much more we can teach you”. While that was kind of great to hear, it also discouraged me from wanting to try and work it out. Working at a full time job and attending what few classes I could get at night was not a pleasant experience. I attended for a couple of semesters, then dropped out. I’ve been mostly working it out on my own ever since.

Value Added Amenity. Walla Walla, WA

Value Added Amenity. Walla Walla, WA

F-Stop: How did the project “Life on Wheels” come about?

DG: Well, I am primarily a landscape photographer. When I stopped working full time in 2006, my wife and I bought a motor home so we could travel the continent to photograph the landscape. While doing this, I began noticing some of those around me in the places we stopped to camp seemed a bit different from what I thought vacationers would be like. They would stay for weeks in one spot, hang around the campground a lot and seemed to know lots of other campers in the area. A large proportion of them seemed to be from either Texas or South Dakota.

Since I was also in camp a lot during the day, I started approaching them to shoot the breeze. We’d talk about general stuff, but eventually I learned they were actually living full time in their recreational vehicles. They’d sold their homes and property and traveled the country. I was shocked as to how many people were doing this. It was not what I expected and assumed about the older generation and what retirement was about. They were lively and had a positive attitude toward life.

I admired that zest for life. Enough so that I felt compelled to photograph them. You have to understand this was a huge leap for me. I don’t photograph people. I have never wanted to photograph people. But each time I walked away from a full timer, I would kick myself because I hadn’t had the nerve to pull out my camera. Eventually I decided I couldn’t call myself a photographer if I didn’t do a project I felt uniquely qualified to do.

So I finally just resolved to try it out. I knew something was there, and would be interesting not just to me, but others as well. I really wasn’t even sure I could photograph people in an interesting way, but I had to try.

F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?

DG: The process for this project is quite different from anything I’ve done before. Initially I decided to travel down to the small desert town of Quartzsite in Arizona. Quartzsite has a year round population of about 3000, but in January and February over 1 million people pass through – all RVer’s. Not all are full-timers of course, but many are. They come primarily for the winter warmth, but it has become sort of the Burning Man of the Geritol set. I refer to it more as “The Gathering of the Tribes.” There are rock and gem shows, swap meets, flea markets, all culminating in a giant RV show at the end of January. The land around Quartzsite is all public Bureau of Land Management property, and people can stay long term for very little money. Out in the middle of nowhere really. I found a group of RV owners who had the same brand as me and asked if I could join the gathering.

I started by identifying prospective subjects. Then I approach them, initially just to talk. I work the conversation around to whether they are full-timers, let them know I am working on a photography project about the lifestyle, and eventually ask if I can include them. I’ve only been turned down once.

I have found the more time I can spend with them, the better my images are. I started by doing the whole process in an hour or two. Now I often spend multiple days between visiting and photographing. Sometimes I actually travel with them from place to place. As their guard lowers, they tend to open up and reveal more. I am completely honest with what I am trying to convey and I think it comes across. Sometimes we meet only in passing and I can only spend a few minutes.

I wanted this project to be mostly about the people, but it also seemed important to include their rigs and the landscape they occupy. I think of it as a sort of environmental portrait project of all of those aspects. So I wanted portraits of the people, both outside and inside their RV’s, and images of them living the life, and I wanted portraits of the rigs in the environment.

Jim and Chica. Baker City, OR

Jim and Chica. Baker City, OR

F-Stop: How do you choose what or who to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

DG: Since I travel 4-6 months per year in my own motor home, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to include in the project. I started by just photographing any full-timer I could find. Eventually, as the project became a little better defined in my head, I began refining what I wanted. I look for people and situations that best represent the lifestyle – grooming habits, how they connect personally and online, etc. Interesting personal stories can lead to more intimate pictures, and unusual or quirky characters – no shortage there – also add a nice touch. I also look for dramatic environmental lighting for the “rigs in the landscape” images.

F-Stop: What are some of the things you have learned about the people you have met and/or this lifestyle they have chosen?

DG: They’ve actually really opened my eyes as to the vitality of what I’ve always considered the “Older Generation”. They are not content to live out their lives in one place. They want to engage with new people and places all over the country, and they do this by embracing the newest technologies in their rigs. Solar panels give them the ability to exist off the grid and meet in remote locations. That’s where I find many of them. WiFi and Skype enable them to surf the web and stay in more intimate contact with one another.

The whole nature of home and family has changed for them. It used to be, kids could rely on their parents being a safe haven for home visits or babysitting – a sense of home base. Now the parents are traveling and the kids don’t like it. They want their parents close!

The rigs themselves would seem to be gas guzzlers – and they are – but full-timers aren’t driving all the time. They stay put for weeks or months. They are using solar panels for power, composting toilets for waste, and because one can only carry so much fresh water, they are natural conservers. The carbon footprint of the typical RVer is much smaller than any stick and brick home. Oh yes, the reason they often seem to be from Texas and South Dakota is because there is no vehicle registration fee in those states so full-timers save hundreds by registering there.

I’ve also had a personal realization over the course of this project. I’ve come to understand my own trepidation toward aging. About 2 years into the project, I remembered a conversations I had in my 20’s at a bar over multiple drinks. The question was posed, What age will you be when you start to be old? I said 60. Next month I turn 60. I realized I’d been worried about becoming old and what I thought that meant. The thing is, I don’t feel the way I thought I would back then, and neither do any of the people I’ve been photographing. This project has been a great way for me to work through my own silly notions.

Roger and Elaine. Death Valley, CA

Roger and Elaine. Death Valley, CA

F-Stop: What do you want people to experience or think about when they look at these photographs?

DG: I think many of the things I spoke to in the earlier questions, but also to give people an inside glimpse of this lifestyle. I think it’s also important to adjust our view of how baby boomers are still forging new territory in retirement.

F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in the series? If so, which one and why is it the image that stands out to you most?

DG: Each time I come back from a photo trip I come back with new favorites, so it changes a lot. But some are Roger Catches up on Facebook, Debbie with Rupert and Elliot, Jolly with his Fighting Knife. I also like a lot End of Day, Valley of Fire and Evening Gathering. Those images really embody a sense of the people and the experience of being out there for me.

F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?

DG: I have a couple of ongoing projects at the moment. I am stepping back a bit to some landscape roots for a series called Sandscape – abstract sand dune work. Not sure how commercial it will ever be, but this kind of work for me is so satisfying. Also a new project I’m tentatively calling Western Myths. I haven’t completely wrapped my head around it yet – just making pictures as I travel in the west at this point. I hope that it will speak to the perceptions of the west as opposed to the realities that I experience as I travel.

F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?

DG: I mentioned earlier those who brought me to photography, Ansel, Edward, Brett and the like, but as my photographic interest in the landscape has evolved, I find my influences have also. Robert Adams and Stephen Shore became important to me, and now I look to Richard Misrach and photographers like Terry Falke and Lisa Robinson for how landscape should be approached. And of course my friend Stephen Johnson.

To see more of David Gardner’s work: lightight.com

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Seven Artists @ Soho Photo Gallery

September 3-October 2

Rita Baunok

On the Gypsy Row

 

“Romani first appeared in Hungary in the 14th century, fleeing the conquering Turks in the Balkans. Since they were thought to be refugees from Little Egypt in the south of Greece, they are still known by the term ‘Gypsy’ today. Their population forms the largest ethnic minority in Hungary. The majority of the Hungarian Romas still live segregated on the ‘Gypsy Row’– on the last streets of the villages and towns.”

© Rita Baunok

Mike Cullen

Everything Is Broken

 

“This collection of images reflects the internal tension I’ve been experiencing of late. To be sure, I’ve  got no right to complain (heck, I have a show of my photographs on the wall of SoHo Photo Gallery). But unemployment, depression and all the attendant emotions that come along for the ride…well, sometimes it feels like everything is broken.

The title of the show is borrowed from a Bob Dylan song of the same name.”

© Mike Cullen
Colin Delfosse
Congolese Wrestlers – Kinshasa 2010-2013
“I was hypnotized when I saw it for the first time.  In the dark and muddy streets of Matete district, the atmosphere was warm and full of music.  The boxing ring trembled as fighters collided.  But what struck me more than anything was the theatrical performance. Beyond the fetish and other magic objects, the Congolese wrestlers were authentic showmen whose magic dance and physical exploits held the public spellbound.  I was on the edge of my seat.” 
© Colin Delfosse

Ruth Formanek

The Altered Landscape:  New Humanoid Constructions
 

“A photo of a landscape may or may not look like its original. The landscape can’t be changed but its image can be converted to whatever you choose. The landscapes in this show of 12 digital color photographs-mostly of Utah’s rocky mountains and Florida’s lakes-playfully and sometimes whimsically express something suggested by their original shape or color. The original image becomes a means to an unknown end, sometimes with unconscious themes.”

© Ruth Formanek

Ellen Jacob

Waiting Room: Kay

“Life and death, the fragility of human connections, the certainty of the end. We know death is waiting; yet we persist. This work explores the waiting, the persistence and the places, largely separated from life, where we live while dying. Waiting Room is a photographic installation about Kay, 54, dying of cancer.  Through Kay’s story at the boundary between life and death, I tell the story of all of us.”

© Ellen Jacob

Jay Matusow

Stairways

“I had never given much thought as to why steps and stairs seem to work their way into my photographs, until I assembled this collection. I suppose I like the fact that stairways ascend so hopefully, and that they have all those neat, organized right angles. They are purposefully demanding, literally and metaphorically taking us to a new level, but they also keep us honest, by requiring us to do a little work to get there.”

© Jay Matusow

Scot Surbeck

Street Seen

“I take pictures of people on the streets on New York City, almost everyday, all year round. I look for those fleeting moments when human emotions and physical surroundings combine to create stories of joy, pathos, absurdity, contradiction, anger and humor. In this show — like my two shows earlier this year — I continue to explore and celebrate the street life of New York City.”

© Scot Surbeck

Soho Photo Gallery
15 White Street
New York, NY 10013 www.sohophoto.com

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Manuel Pandalis & Scott Tansey

unnamed-2Manuel Pandalis
PURE
&
Scott Tansey
LA PANORAMAS

August 2 – August 31, 2014

Manuel Pandalis’ images take audiences through a raw and intimate visual exploration of human physiognomy. With the rejection of strict poses, make-up, and intense post-production he allows his models to come as they are, creating unique portraits that focus upon the subjects face and revelations that are ultimately exposed through the human gaze.

Scott Tansey has been taking photographs for over 40 years. He has been highlighted on the Leica blog and has exhibited recently at gB Gallery, Bergamot Station and other LA galleries. In addition, his photographs have been published in Audubon Magazine and Consumer Reports.

Leica Gallery Los Angeles
8783 Beverly Boulevard
West Hollywood, California 90048

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Paul Graham @ Pace/MacGill

unnamedPaul Graham: Does Yellow Run Forever?
September 5 – October 4, 2014

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 4, 6 – 8 PM

Pace/MacGill
510 West 25th Street, New York

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Book Review: Dirty Rendezvous by Chas Ray Krider

Dirty Rendezvous

They say that the downfall of every great hero is wine and women. In the case of Dirty Rendezvous it’s more like whiskey and women. Chas Ray Krider has made a career out of contemporary/classic fetishized retro pinup photos with a hint of mystery while using some of the most gorgeous alt models on the face of this planet. I hate using the word “alt” because truly what the fuck does “alt” mean any more? The hint of mystery I mentioned can be described as a mixed bag of feelings when viewing the photos in this book. The images are extremely well put together, well lit for mood, staged in an extremely alluring and provocative way and if you flip through Dirty Rendezvous you can’t help but question the relationship between photographer and model.

DR2

There must always be some kind of connection between subject and subjector, whether it be friendship, quiet kinship, money, a desire to create art, or any other unquantifiable and intangible reasoning behind a great photographic relationship. The beauty of this book is the suspension of belief you feel when you flip through the pages. Each visual tells a story and each model in frame begs many questions. These are the cool chicks you try and talk to, the girls you’re afraid are into things you have no idea about, the dangerous chicks who will ask you for a light and stomp right into your heart with a 6 inch heel. They could be your ex, your cheating wife, the mysterious woman you just met at the bar, your ultimate fantasy, or a nightmare just beginning to unfold. Stare at these photos and try to come to any sort of conclusion. The mystery is the majesty in these images. The anachronistic setting of the photos only adds to that illusive ambiance between dream and reality. Recently coming off a huge Twin Peaks/David Lynch bender makes me appreciate certain stylistic elements in these photos even more which harken to a forgotten time long ago.

Dirty 2

Who are you and why are you here? The images will also fill you with a sense of detective noir. Are these women suspects or victims? Both? The photos lend themselves to a simpler life but one with many secrets buried underneath the covers. Krider’s excellent sense of lighting and composition leaves us wanting more. The audience wants to solve the mystery and hear the secret of the story that we’ve been swept up in whispered in our ear. On the other hand this book is full of awesome pictures of awesome babes and goddammit I love both.

 

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Dirty Rendezvous
by Chas Ray Krider
Goliath
For more info and to purchase the book: https://www.goliathbooks.com/shop/en/books/all-books/4/dirty-rendezvous

 

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Book Review: Those Were The Days When I Used To Drive Around With A Horse’s Head On by Espen Ramberg Krukhaug

Motorhead

I love music. I love metal. I love punk. I’ve always gravitated toward the heavier side of music and the heavy/extreme music scene in general. “Those were the days…” is a book through the perspective of a person who has toured with bands. If you’re expecting crystal clear photos of bands that give you pangs of nostalgia or the spark to say “Hey, I have their first CD and it’s awesome…” You will be sorely left out. It took me a few viewings to figure out what this book was about and I think I nailed it. This book is breath you take when the after party is over. This book is the desolation of staring out into the street at no man’s hour and realizing everyone is in bed and you could be the only person awake for several city blocks.

Bunks

I grew up playing in bands in NYC and the feeling I get from these pictures hits close to home. The show is over, the gear is loaded up, you’ve said your goodbyes to the people who were gracious enough to come, and now all that’s left is to try and find something to do with that post show restlessness. Sometimes it leads to exploring, getting a bite at a diner, or falling asleep in your car. Other times it leads to having a different perspective on things at 4AM on what could be a week night. This book encapsulates all of that. There are no rock god photos in here. This book isn’t backstage at the Motley Crue show. This is the unknown. You’ll find city views, street shots in not so nice neighborhoods, fans, teen angst emerging like fiery lava spouting forth from an erupting volcano through a swirling moshpit, and the chaotic rock show feeling that anything can happen at any given moment.

Super Pussy

The book is put together very well and makes a great conversation piece. The cover that reads “Super Pussy” in the distance is extremely intriguing to say the least. As far as photo selection goes this book takes you on the ups and downs of witnessing life on the road. There’s new places only to be explored after the sun goes down, tired eyes, strangers, and most important the feeling that whoever is in these photos are there to have a great time.

 

Those were the days when I used to drive around with a horse’s head on
by Espen Ramberg Krukhaug
Einer Books
2014
For more info and to buy the limited edition book: http://www.einer-books.com/product_detail.php?pid=18

 

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London Life Competition Exhibition @ Art Bemondsey

London-Life

London Life Competition Exhibition
7 – 29 August 2014

23 finalists will be displayed at Art Bermondsey – winners will be announced on opening night. The grand prize includes six months representation and mentorship with Gallery Director Laura Noble.

Art Bemondsey
1st Floor
183 – 185 Bermondsey Street
London
SE1 3UW

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Shai Kremer @ Julie Saul Gallery

 Shai Kremer, World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract #13, 2001-2013, 48 x 64", pigment print, ed. 7

Shai Kremer, World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract #13, 2001-2013, 48 x 64″, pigment print, ed. 7

Shai Kremer World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract
September 4 – October 25

Opening reception: Thursday, September 11, 2014, 6-8 pm

Julie Saul Gallery announces Shai Kremer’s third solo show, timed to coincide with the opening of the new World Trade Center. An evocation of site, a remembrance of tragedy, a progression towards healing – Shai Kremer’s Concrete Abstract series at once aims for an individual and universal response to the destruction and rebuilding of the World Trade Towers. Like his past series, Kremer maintains “a post-traumatic gaze to the cityscape of Manhattan – and by extrapolation, to the sociological landscape of America.” Kremer combined copious images to illustrate the site’s former self as well as its years of reconstruction. Kremer uses a process linking “accumulation, destruction, and reconstruction” forming images which are formally and psychologically complex. Here he literally layers images within one frame, whereas in past work he expressed his vision through individual images.

Julie Saul Gallery
535 West 22nd Street, 6th floor | New York | NY | 10011

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Kurt Kaindl @ Fotohof

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Kurt Kaindl: Travelling in No Man’s Land
19 7 – 24 8 2014

In 1989 the Iron Curtain fell. Today, 25 years later, the next generation has scarcely an idea of ​​the significance of this border, and especially by the great influence of her disappearance on the European development.

Geographically Kurt Kaindl s photo report follows the intra-European border line from Lubeck to Trieste. He has, at the suggestion of the “Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs” (BMEIA) started this project in 2008 and continued to the present day. Retrieved from “both sides” – from the East and the West – he approaches the (former) border and represents the special atmosphere is photographically: The situation created by the vast no man’s land landscape that remained, but also destroyed settlements and especially the people, still or now live again only at this limit.

Fotohof
Inge Morath–Platz 1-3, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

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