SJ: In your artist statement, you write “’We Are Only Shadows’ … is composed of images of people and places in transition…at the middle of the world”. By creating a “New Ecuador” in your images, how are they informing the viewer of Ecuador in transition, besides adding to their already preconceived notions of third world countries? What do you hope the audience, as outsiders, gain from these images? What do you, personally, gain from making them?
PL: This is what I’ve learned from making art: How much I tend to incorrectly assume and how little I actually know about almost everything. At which point in conversations like these I pretty much start making up things on the fly.
I would love to be one of those people who has an idea, is able to articulate it, and, once it’s executed, be able to tout how successfully everything turned out and what it all means. But I’m not. If, as Robert Rauschenberg says, “Screwing things up is a virtue,” then I’m currently on target to one day become a saint. Consequently, I don’t think much about what an audience might think about or gain from my work. At most, I hope that in the end someone finds the result interesting enough to spend some time with it.
As an aside, I’m not sure I know who the “audience” is in our day and time. The bell curve of people drawn to art has dramatically shifted demographically and become infinitely more convoluted and three dimensional. The Internet culturati don’t speak with one voice. Instead of one art establishment, there are a multitude now with divergent offerings and points of view, serving a multitude of audiences. The degree to which photography and digital imaging alone have been sliced and diced and served up on the web is mind boggling.
In the 1930s, Beaumont Newhall described four photographic categories: Pictorialist, Social, Journalistic, and Modernist. Today, a Google search on the terms “photography categories” turns up 271,000,000 associated links. One of these links, picked at random, lists 50 categories.
In addition, there are now scores of online photo competitions, themselves competing for our dollars and attention. Dog Photographer of the Year (thekennelclub.org.uk). Check. The World’s Best Private Aviation Photographer (privatefly.com). Check. Seize a unique opportunity “to capture the diversity and beauty that is the fabulous mining industry – and win $10,000!” (snowdengroup.com). Check.
In other words, the art world, and, in particular, the world of photography and digital imaging, has become flatter, more populous, less concentrated and correspondingly less hierarchical. The medium has inevitably evolved into a global, democratic art form; the most democratic in history. And, like every good democracy, the landscape it occupies is chaotic and unruly. The playground I started playing in over 20 years ago is now very, very crowded.
The point I’m trying to make here (I think) is that, nonetheless, I still come to the playground everyday and for the very same reasons as before. I don’t bring an agenda or a set of expectations with me. If someone is impacted by the content I leave behind, I’m all the happier for it, but that isn’t the goal. If one half of the process is to screw things up, the other half, of necessity, should be to have as much fun as one can while doing it.