Monday, June 23, 2008

Sam Fog curates Athens photo show

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2008 at 1:36 PM


All Photos by Carl Martin

CARL MARTIN: Photographs 1986-2007 is a comprehensive look at the work of Athens photographer Carl Martin, that was curated by recent Athens transplant and Interpol drummer Samuel Fogarino at Opal Gallery in L5P and runs through August 2.

This collection features 32 of of Martin's photographs spans twenty-one years of his life spent between New York City and Athens, GA. His unique awareness and fascination with the world around him resonates in the loose comic geometry of his lens. The range of subjects is not limited to a particular typology, but simply what was being seen, "the way things are."

The following interviews with Carl Martin and Sam Fogarino were conducted over the phone and in person on June 19 as the show was being installed.

Carl Martin

Chad Radford: Tell me a little bit about how the show is broken down.

Well, it’s more broken up than broken down, actually. It’s broken up into sort of a single entity. Over the years there were a lot of tangents in terms of what I was working with or working on. About a year-and-a-half ago I realized that maybe I could tell a larger story of a single entity rather than isolate the different tangents or aspects of our human existence into segregated and scientifically analyzed areas. It would be more like embracing life itself in a more realistic way if it were all over the place. In the photographic world there’s a methodology of working that was established 20 or 30 years ago, called Typology. And in that kind of analytical, intellectual approach to photography, Typology was a way to put photography on an intellectual platform and sculpturally separate it out of the hurly burly of life itself. I want to bring some cohesiveness back; give a larger view and attempt to tell a larger story. That’s kind of the genesis for the show.

Tell me about the sections of the show.

I moved to Athens in 1990 and I was struck by these guys that I would see on the street. There was a look or an unmodified acceptance of how things were. I lived in New York City where everyone is very image conscious and I was struck by the looks that I was seeing in Athens so I tried to capture it. And it was the first segue into the culture and into the community. I would bump into these guys and that’s how it started. That shifted into more casual portraits. Nothing too formal, and then an expansion into the cultural aspects of it all, the architecture, the automobiles and the landscape. There was another body of work, called “Systems of Organization,” which was built around the ideas of 19th century organization and how they were passing from our culture as we move into the digital age. There were so many different ones that I would get my head wrapped around and zoom in on. There were others, and these bodies of work were all somewhat successful and held their own, but they ended up being this clinical assessments and I feel that our culture and life itself is richer than that. It deserves a step back for a larger view for telling that larger story. Even though we are working from a smaller community. It’s the view from within the community that’s important. I certainly don’t think that they hit all of the cultural angles, in terms of some sort of documentary approach. This doesn’t reflect back on to any particular reality. But by doing a body of work like this, you can create a new experience that is somewhat reflective of that specific reality. But I don’t claim that this is a specific reality or that it conveys it in any nonobjective way.

What was Sam Fogarino’s role in the process?

Sam has been great. It’s 20 years worth of work. There are thousands and thousands of photographs. I had done an initial edit of a couple hundred photos. Sam brought an outside perspective. Even though he’s the drummer for Interpol, he is a sub schooled visual artist, and really has a good sense of what is connected and what is working and what is not working. I wanted complete and unbiased input, and the collaboration with him is sort of what I’ve been seeking for years – working in a way that would have some resonance. But also, who wouldn’t want to work with a rock star?

Did he curate the show?

That was his role, yes, but that comes with caveats and all kinds of dialogue. But he was a great sounding board and a fantastic help in pulling it together.

Sam Fogarino

The flier for Carl’s show has you listed as Curator.

In my opinion that term is a little too proper and maybe even too kind. My role was to go in and help Carl narrow things down with a little added perspective. I’m reluctant to take on such a role, but it was very much a collaboration between the two of us. We would go to Carl’s studio and second guess each other. He would say ‘OK, so you like this photo, why?’ I had to tell him why and have a pretty good reason.

Part of the reason why I decided to do it was because I had a good rapport with Carl from the moment that I met him. He might be reluctant to take on this title, but he was a little bit of a mentor for me. He’s a very inspiring person to be around. You don’t have to go into anything with him and have any expectations, but you will walk away with something out of a seemingly normal outing.

That’s kind of what a curator does.

It’s funny. Putting humbleness aside, what it really came to is that I don’t know if I would have done this for anyone but Carl.

Have you done anything like this before?

Not really. I have worked closely with my wife, Christy Bush and edited her work when she has asked me to. I wouldn’t say that I have a burning passion for that facet of photography, editing and curating. But I am very interested in it. I like seeing it and I like being around it while it’s being created. I collaborated with my wife when she did her show, Soundtrack to Nothing. I liked working with Carl in the same way and learning other aspects about his work and his personality.

Do you think that being a musician gives you a different perspective on the work?

I think it does and I think it’s that way with a lot of musicians. The marriage of image and music is amazing. I have no profound words for it because it is beyond me. I can’t see one without the other.

This is a broad generalization, visual artists think of things in more abstract terms and get lost in art spew and the reasons as to why they’re doing something, and they tend to over-intellectualize things.

Man, you took the words right out of my mouth. I can’t stand that, and Carl can’t stand it either and anything that I do with music or photography or art in the grand scheme… I’ll read the rules, just so I know what not to do. In my twenties I wondered if the path would change as I grew older. And in my thirties and approaching forty I wondered if I would turn that around and go proper, just for a change. But it’s funny because I’m less willing to do that, the older I get.

What do you like about Carl’s photography?

It goes back to that whole thing, which is that I believe in what he’s trying to say. There is an honesty there and when talking with Carl about some of these photos, he was pretty concerned about some of the more downtrodden visuals. He didn’t want it to be exploitive at all. He wanted it to be way more positive. He didn’t want it to be like, ‘look at the white man, showing off how poor these black people are.’ He really didn’t want that, and we edited a couple of pictures because they were a little too raw. It would be hard not to come off that way and he would have some explaining to do.

There’s a real honesty there and he wants to get to the heart of it. You can see that in his photographs and it’s easy for me to identify with that. I believe what he’s saying with these pictures and I believe that there are some parallels that will never be identified or accepted, but that’s not the issue.

A lot of the photos are tied together by color schemes. But there are also a few black and white photos that really stand out. More so than if the entire show was black and white. In this context the details really stand out, like tire treads and cracks in a vinyl chair are really eye catching.

It was important to do that because it kind of gives your eyes a break and shifts the focus a bit. You can kind of rejuvenate after being exposed to all of the color.

It’s difficult to put a date on them as well. The show covers his work from 1986-2007 but they all blend in to this weird David Lynch kind of timelessness.

Totally. Or just a sense of a time that is always easy to identify. Even in those New York loft parties, it could have been 1986 or it could have been yesterday.

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