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Interview with photographer Erin Geideman

Ian on bloodstained bed

Ian on bloodstained bed

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

Erin Geideman: I started studying art photography at Syracuse University in the beginning of 2010. Although I had been interested in the medium since high school, I thought it was easy and didn’t require much effort. My opinion quickly changed when I was first shown the works of Nan Goldin and Larry Clark. I saw that these photographers were making breath taking images of the grittier side of life and using them to create complex and interesting narratives. In spring of 2012 I took a class taught by Doug Dubois that focused on photobooks and sequencing. We spent four hours a week looking at pivotal photobooks created over the last century and learned how to use our own images to create meaningful layered narratives. This cemented my interest in the medium as I believe photobooks are one of the most effective mediums to portray narrative, my main interest in art.

F-Stop: The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “I Can See Right Through You,” can you tell us about this project? How did this project come about?

EG: Following in the tradition of the snapshot aesthetic I first started photographing my friends in the winter of 2009. It wasn’t until my best friend Ian was shot on August 20, 2010 that my work had a direction. I was so disgusted by the tragedy I witnessed that the only way I knew how to process the event was by making pictures. I photographed Ian and his family for the next three years as they learned to cope with the trauma they endured. In the end I created I can see right through you an 84-paged photobook. Over time I saw how they gradually grew apart, fighting circumstances and personal traumas that rendered them depressed but not hopeless. I created a family album laden with themes of intimacy, alienation and pain.

Kristen and Ian

Kristen and Ian

F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally? What were you looking to capture?

EG: I had two distinct approaches while creating I can see right through you. In the aftermath of the trauma my friends and I would frequently get together for alcohol-fueled parties. Here I would shoot with my DSLR and external flash, making thousands of snapshots over the span of three years. As time progressed however, I realized I needed to utilize other techniques in order to best tell our story. In 2011 I first started shooting medium format film. I would expand upon themes I saw in my snapshots and use those as jumping off points for my staged portraits and still lives. I wanted to capture the emotional and psychological impact of the event to show how we had been changed by it.

Ian in blue chair, I

Ian in blue chair, I

F-Stop: What do you hope people see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at your photographs?

EG: I’ve always been bothered by the brevity and emotional carelessness of news stories. Ian’s story for instance appeared on the news for one day, “Man shot in apartment robbery” and then it forever disappeared from the public consciousness. I want to change that; to show that an event as minuscule as a single man getting shot has long term ramifications and consequences. I want my audience to gain an understanding of the emotional, physical, and psychological impact an event like that has, long after the news story dissipates.

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

EG: My favorite image is Ian on bloodstained bed. It was made on Ian’s 22nd birthday, our last photo shoot together. Ian hated being photographed and would often become angry with me for making pictures. On this day he was so confrontational he actually made me cry. Afterwards, I made this photograph. I wanted to show him as an innocent martyr with the bloodstain on the bed functioning as a reminder to the trauma that stole his innocence.

Bloodstained bed, close up

Bloodstained bed, close up

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

EG: I recently started another project, again focusing on themes of trauma and loss. In January my good friend’s two month son Benny was murdered at the hands of her husband. Since his death she has had a difficult time coping with the loss of her child and husband, while struggling to remain strong for their five-year-old daughter. I want to make pictures with her and her family to help aid the grieving process as well as to create lasting memories of her son whose life was cut far too short.

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

EG: Nan Goldin and Larry Clark were my early favorites, but recently I’ve been looking at a lot of photobook makers. Valerio Spada is excellent; I love his use of color and his creativity in bookmaking. I’m also a big fan of Alec Soth, Doug Dubois, and Leigh Ledare.

 

To see more of Erin Geideman’s work: www.eringeideman.com

 


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