How are you doing? What has been keeping you occupied while indoors?
I am actually doing well. However, I deeply mourn all of the loss that has occurred and try not to scream at the television and the daily press briefings. I have always been a news follower, and in fact it often informs my work, but this is a little bit overkill. How this will affect my work? I’m not quite sure yet, but I’ve been utilizing this time to go through my archive of images and it is always amazing that there are things that you skip over on your contact sheets because you were so focused on very particular things at the time of shooting.
For instance, I have found several images that I have added to my House Hunting series. I have recently been digging through published and unpublished work because very early on I started doing some posting on Instagram and came up with some kind of funny captions that were very relevant to anyone who has been stuck inside of their homes. I was pleasantly surprised that my off the cuff captions actually were making people laugh and the fact that people found humor in some of my pictures was really interesting to me. I’ve never encountered that reaction before from viewers thinking something was funny. And moreover they were thanking me for posting those pictures every day. So I have continued practically daily since this lockdown started.
How does the lack of movement within the world affect you personally and does it have an effect on how you are making work?
I am quite flexible in life and I have found ways to make this concentrated time at home work for me. I was in Normandy until the beginning of March, finishing a commission there, and as I was driving back to Charles De Gaulle airport the traffic signs directed you to tune in on the radio for COVID-19 updates which was very scary. Mind you, this was before the world really understood the gravity of what was about to come our way. We were happy to arrive back in the United States when we did. Fortunately, I have been able to spend this time focusing on printing photographs for an installation I’m going to have at Pier 24 that is now scheduled for later this fall. I am very fortunate that a couple of years ago I moved all my printing into my studio which is behind my house. It has really been useful to be able to make my own exhibition prints, it’s kind of like growing your own vegetables.
Have you been able to photograph while in ‘quarantine’?
Because I often shoot through the windshield of my car, I sometimes don’t have to get out of the car to make images. I have utilized this and have been out photographing a few times.
Has this time given you space to reflect on past and/or upcoming projects?
Absolutely. The flexible meaning my images can have has never been more apparent to me and I have been reflecting a lot on my House Hunting work. Curiously, so have other people. I have fortunately had that work featured in the New York Times, W, and even the New Yorker during this period because people recognize and relate to the sense of being isolated in the places that we are sheltering. It is not always "home sweet home”.
Knowing that you are very involved with the photobook world, which photography books have kept you engaged while at home? Is there any work that is particularly resonant to you at this moment?
I have been really focused on looking at the portrait genre because I can’t imagine that it would be very easy to get together with somebody to make a portrait at this moment in time. Especially if you need to stand 6 feet away from them. It seems like a luxury to be in someone’s inner circle and be close enough to them to make a sincere depiction.
One book I’ve been looking through is by Collier Schorr called Jens F.
In this book, Schorr took over an Andrew Wyeth book called Helga and essentially interacted with, and in many cases overwrote, Wyeth’s paintings with images that were taken of a young man who was Schorr’s neighbor in Germany. It is a fascinating book and quite intimate.
What are you looking forward to past this period?
I’m looking forward to continuing the work I did that was featured in my latest publication, Bright Black World. Believe it or not, the working title for my next book is The End Sends Advance Warning, which sadly was a prescient title. I can’t wait to get back out into a winter landscape and I swear I will drive all the way to Northeastern Canada if it is not safe to fly this winter. I am very hungry to continue my work on shooting for this book. Like everybody else, all my plans for Spring were cancelled. I was on a roll with shooting, having been to Alaska, North Dakota, and Normandy in January and February. The moment I can pick that up again, I will.