Monday, March 28, 2011

Interview with Head-On Photo Festival (unedited)

I was recently interviewed by Lyndal Irons from the Head-On photography festival in Sydney, Australia about my blog; The Altered States of Agoraphobia Flickr group project and it's companion blog ASA(II). Lyndal did a wonderful job turning this interview into a beautifully illustrated article with images from the Flickr group pool, which was then published at the Head-On blog.
I have since been asked by a few people to see the unedited interview, so I have decided to publish it here for the first time with an alternative selection of photographs from the on-going Flickr project, including some new photographs I made on the road from our recent trip to Dodge City and Hutchinson, KS.
The Head On Photo Festival is Sydney’s major innovative showcase for Australian and international photography, reflecting a vibrant, diverse cross-section of new and traditional photographic practices covering all genres. Head On aims to present good photography regardless of the celebrity of either the subject or photographer. Events for 2011 will include indoor and outdoor exhibitions, screenings, workshops, a seminar as well as some special events. Venues include public and commercial galleries, cafes, park-lands and the streets of Sydney itself.
Many thank to Lydal for giving me this oppotunity to talk about the ASA project.
Head-On's website can be found at this link:

US 56, KS

When did you start Altered State of Agoraphobia?
I started Altered States of Agoraphobia (ASA) about a year and a half ago.

Under what circumstances?
I’d been in the U.S for about a year and a half and had made quite a bit of work. America came as a great inspiration photographically and I was buzzing with all sorts of ideas. I had taken several long road trips, seen quite a lot of the country and had also kept a few written journals along the way. I was also beginning to develop several photo projects which I was excited about and I was looking for a place to explore them further. I had already been posting images at Flickr and was an active member of its community, but I felt I needed to focus and edit my projects in a more personal space. At that time I was also beginning to have exhibitions locally and I needed a place to let people know when and where they were.

Paxico, KS

Ellsworth, KS

What were you attempting?

I wanted something which showed my work in progress and to also help me think about what it was I was doing. In the introduction to ASA I state that these images could be described as a collection of psychic co-ordinate points I have plotted between the imagined America that I brought with me from England and the real America which I found on my arrival in 08. It was my search for a kind of personal orientation between the dream or idea of a place and my actual experience of it in reality. Ultimately it is a journey which explores the destination. ASA has also been for me, the digital equivalent of laying prints out on the floor to see what I’ve got, and it has helped me think about where I’m going photographically. Starting ASA seemed like the perfect place for this exploration and it has since proved to be a valuable tool in my creative process.
Jetmore, KS
What response did you get from people?
The response to ASA has been fantastic. And I think it gave those who already knew my work (and also those who didn’t) an idea of what I was doing in a broader sense. Showing them something of the framework I was using to build my various projects around and how they were connected. I know, for many people, ASA helped to put my work into a context, which made it easier to access. I’ve had some encouraging and insightful feedback from people right across the world and this has been affirming and a source of continuous inspiration which has contributed to my growth as an artist. What really makes my day though is when I hear that someone has discovered my work for the first time, having stumbled onto it from somewhere else, where I might have had only a single image published.
Ellsworth, KS
Kinsley, KS
How big has it grown in readership?
For the purpose of this interview I have just checked my stats and I have had over 7000 visits in all. These visits have come from right across the globe too. It’s exciting to think that my work is being viewed, and I hope enjoyed, by such a widely dispersed audience. When I compare this though, to the stats of Altered States of Agoraphobia (II) which is the blog I set up as a companion to the Flickr group which I started only a few months ago, this number is small. ASA(II) is getting over a 1000 visits a month and growing in popularity all the time.

Lewis, KS

Ellsworth, KS

What motivated you to begin the Flickr pool? How many people now contribute?

The Flickr pool came about at a time when I was unable to get out and make pictures myself after I decided to return to school. At the same time I was seeing all this amazing work posted on Flickr and I wanted to focus it somehow and starting a Flickr group seemed to me the natural thing to do. I was seeing so many wonderful images made by other photographers from every corner of the United States who were photographing places I had not visited myself but wished I could, and were shooting some really interesting and original work. It was then when I decided to invite some of these photographs to join the group as a way of extending the work I’d made with my own projects. My intention was, with the help of other like-minded artists and photographers make an extensive psychological, geographical and cultural investigation into the United States by what I call its ‘Resident Aliens’. In the ASA(II) blog intro I call it a contemporary photographic exploration into both the psyche of the artist and also a document of the world in which he or she inhabits and the forces acting on both. The group has only been running for just a few months and it already has almost 200 members and close to 3000 images in it.


In ASAII (your edited showcase of the best of your Flickr group) what are you looking for when you're curating?

This is my first experience of acting as ‘curator’ and I have mainly felt my way through it and trusted my instincts about which images work and which do not. It’s a really subjective thing and at the end of the day my choices have been made purely on personal taste, but yet anchored firmly in the concept of the group too. There are certain themes I am particularly attracted to, but I am open to consider anything which moves me. When I post a run of images on the blog I always try to sequence them into a loose narrative, unlike the ‘image of the day’ photographs which generally stand alone. There are so many really extraordinary images in the Flickr group pool and refining them for the ASA(II) blog has been sometimes a difficult, but interesting challenge. As a guide I have always very much stuck as closely to the ‘rules’ I set down for the Flickr group and I have mainly chosen images which tell me something not only about the subject which is being photographed, but also says something, I believe, about the photographer who made it. In that respect ASA(II) is a place where 1+1=3.

What are you cutting?

When I first opened the group I allowed every photographer who joined to submit three images a day and it did not take long for the submissions to build up quickly and I was suddenly overwhelmed by images which I had to either accept into the group pool or deny. Most I denied, because the group was not open long and it took a while for people to tune into what I was looking for. There were however, a handful of photographers, who took up the challenge with ease and I immediately included these images into the group pool to set both a standard and example of what I was looking for and I began building the pool from there. I also then cut down the submissions to one image a day in a hope of making members consider their submissions more carefully and this has worked well. In terms of what I am cutting, this has again been a totally subjective thing and difficult to put my finger on.



What's surprised you during the process?

I guess I never expected such a positive response to this project in such a short amount of time. In just a few weeks of the group opening, for example, I was contacted by Brian Formhals who runs the excellent photography website La Pura Vida, inviting me to make ASA a regular feature in the form a monthly selection of images made from the group pool and accompanied by a text. After I put together the first of these features I decided to hand it over to the group members, because it was about their experiences of America after all. I have had a terrific response to this also and seen, so far, some inspired and varied submissions. I regularly post these features on the ASA(II) blog and the 3rd La Pura Vida feature will appear later this month.

Swing and a miss

New York (Early 1970's)

not this shit again?


Any thoughts on the future of ASAII?

I have had several ideas. My initial intention for the group was to produce, once the group was up and running, a quarterly magazine of some kind, but recently I have also been thinking perhaps a book too. I also have designs on having an ASA exhibition at some point also. I have not made any steps towards this yet because I have had very little free time recently because of school, but I would love to find a space to show actual prints of some of this incredible work and I think it deserves it. I will see how things pan out when I graduate in May.


Cadillac, MI  2010

Anything else you'd like to add?

In my experience, Flickr has an amazing photographic community and some incredible photographers have accounts there, posting some of the most interesting, cutting edge and original photography I’ve seen anywhere. In many ways I consider Flickr the front line in photography today. Great things happen there all the time and it’s a wonderful place to collaborate, weather it be part of an exhibit, magazine or book ( on-line or in print). The ASA project could never have happened without this talented and passionate network of artists and it's exciting to be part of it. Before I discovered Flickr I felt very much like I was working in a vacuum and the only work I had access to was that of established artists presenting polished bodies of work. I’ve since discovered that communities such as Flickr and also are the raw pool from which many talented photographers find focus and direction and emerge with some really inspiring projects.

Click this link to watch a slideshow of the group ASA pool

To view the individual photograph credits for this post please click the image. Unfortunately I was not able to list the artists names below the images, like I usually do, on this particular post.
Lydal Irons original Head-On article can be found here:
The ASA(II) blog can be found here:
The ASA Flickr Group Project can be found here:
The First La Pura Vida feature can be found here:
Dodge City, KS

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