Interview – The SIP Filter

Rotem Rozental from the Shpilman Institute for Photography talked with me about my work, inspiration and upcoming projects.

Read it on-line here.

What was the first image you ever took?

Well, I was always making snapshots growing up, my father is an avid amateur photographer so there were always cameras around the house, but the earliest memory I have of setting out to make an image was for a local travel magazine in AZ which was having a competition for the best “spring flower picture.” I geared up with all of my fancy filters and macro lenses and just all the “stuff” which I thought belonged in a photographers kit and went walking in the desert with my grandfather who was to show me the best spots to find the flowers. I clearly remember searching for just a certain image, the image I had seen a hundred times on postcards and calendars. In other words, I was looking for images which I already new existed. I was trying to make the image that was expected, not something new. To this day, when I am working, I often look at the ground glass and like what I see, I then ask myself why I like it and the answer is often because I have seen it before. I now know that I don’t have to take the picture.

Why did you want to become a photographer?

I was born in Arizona and grew up spending my summers engaging in all of the so called outdoor wilderness stuff; hiking, hunting, fishing, white-water rafting, etc’. My father and I would always try to document our adventures with the grand idea of sharing them with our family and friends back home. But of course our well intended slideshows, as appreciated and spectacular as they probably were, never came close to representing the experiences we had out in the wilderness. Though I didn’t know it at the time,  it was this frustration of realizing that photography couldn’t convey what we hoped and expected it could which kept me interested in photography and kept me thinking about what it can and can’t do. When I started studying at Arizona State, it was Bill Jenkins and the New Topographics which completely changed everything for me.  I understood that the problem was not that photography couldn’t reflect the landscapes, it was that I didn’t understand what landscape was. I was confusing landscape with nature, and that misunderstanding is what I am still very interested in. I always assumed photography would allow me the opportunity to travel, of course I imagined this being much more romantic than it actually is. I do get to travel a lot at the moment, but it is often quite exhausting.

What is the most difficult thing for a photographer in this day and age? What do you hate the most?

Well, I can only speak for myself, and the hardest part of my day is the filtering out of the flood of information and images I am confronted with. There is just so much going on in the photo world, and it is literally right at our finger-tips, it is quite overwhelming and hard to stay focused. What I hate at the moment is that I am becoming less and less disappointed with my digital equipment; it’s getting so good that I am using it more and more, and I don’t really know how I feel about that. It feels a bit like the sword of Damocles.

What inspires you?

Books and people who do work that just feels legitimate. All of my friends at Piece of Cake are a huge influence on me.

What kind of music do you listen to when you work on your computer?

My playlist is really a mess, a glance at my i-tunes and I see that it starts with The Album Leaf and ends with Wilco. Though there is one song above The Album Leaf from A-ha! Take on Me, I think it is from a disc I have called Like, Oh My God, its the 80s.

What was the last photography book you’ve read?

Empty Land Promised Land Forbidden Land by Rob Hornstra and Arnold v. Bruggen.

Who are your photography idols?

Definitely the New Topographics photographers. I found them at a time when, as mentioned, I was very skeptical about the images of the landscape. Suddenly Adams and Baltz were showing me the landscape I could really identify with, suburbs and industrial parks which I grew up in on the outskirts of Phoenix. It was pivotal for me that such images were given an artistic and intellectual authority. I had never seen anything like that at the time; I was still looking for those wild-flower calendar images.

What are you working on now?

I have been traveling back to Higley again since the housing crash to make a work about what the place look likes after the dream of Higley didn’t really pan-out. It’s not a “re-photographic” project, though there are some recognizable places. Also, this is the year that I will have spent half of my life in Europe. I am doing something in the Alps, which I have never been able to really concentrate on, so time will tell. What are your favorite blogs? In reference to my answer above, I really try not to spend so much time reading blogs and such. Again, a glance at my Netvibes start page and I have: 5b4, Conscientious, Horses Think, Harvey Benge and B-Atom when I need a laugh.