INTERVIEW: DANIEL GORDON
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
All is not what it may seem in the work of Petros Chrisostomou. The British artist meticulously sculpts strangely familiar miniature worlds … only to blow them out of proportion again with the simple click of a camera.
Gordon creates three-dimensional collages out ofimages he mainly finds on the internet and thenphotographs. In a way, he sculpts his images, whereby he does not hide the fact that his works are “glued” together. Gordon is not looking for a seamless and spotless image. The rawness onlyemphasizes notions of artifice and authenticity.
Gordon was the lucky winner among 100 nominated young photographers from 27 countries across the globe.
"We were impressed by the high quality of submissions coming from many different countries,” the jury announced. “We voted unanimously for the winner Daniel Gordon, whose work draws from the classical genres of still life and portraiture explored in the main movements of modern art.”
“Coming from a generation that is comfortableusing pictures from the internet, Gordon findsa unique way of reconstructing found imagery into three dimensional collages, which he then photographs. We are delighted to recognize this highly original and colorful work. He thoroughly deserves his place in the company of former award winners, which is fast becoming a who's who of contemporary photographic practice."
The Foam Paul Huf Award was first handed outin 2007. Previous award winning work includes the surreal artistry of Swiss duo Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, the staged glamour of American artist Alex Prager and the raw reality of South Africa’s Mikhael Subotzky, who went on to become a Magnum member.
Gordon’s work was previously shown at MoMa’s prestigious New Photography 2009 and the 2010 Out of Focus show at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Gordon also published several books, including: Still Lifes, Portraits, and Parts (2013), Flowers and Shadows (2011) and Flying Pictures (2009).
Daniel, first of all, congratulations on the Paul Huf Award. Were you familiar with Huf and his work?
“Thanks so much! To be honest I wasn't familiar with his work.”
He was in many ways a classic photographer, Holland’s Cecil Beaton if you like. Your work is quite different: bold, rough, colorful, though it has its own sense of harmony. As a young contemporary photographer, how do you look back at the masters of the past?
“It just depends on the specific photographer.I think any genre of photography can be really good, so long as the photographer makes good pictures.”
Could you tell us a bit more how you work? How does a Daniel Gordon image come to life?
“I use found images to construct three-dimensional tableaus that are lit and photographed with an 8x10 view camera.”
You do not hide the fact that your collages are, in a way, glued together. Is that your way of reminding the viewer that an image is never a picture-perfect reflection of reality, but a construct?
“I think that's my way of making them my own. It's hard to see all of the glue, rips, tears and seams when looking online, or even in print in a magazine or book. They are best viewed at full size as a print – until then I really think they are just approximations.”
To me, the rough edges and cut-outs also suggest a certain violence. Is that a major theme in your work?
“Yes, that's a part of my work. But so is beauty. Itry to make pictures that conflate opposites.”
The body plays an important role in your work. What do you find so fascinating about thebody?
“I have one, and so does everyone I know! In other words, a body is intrinsic to our existence.”
Both your parents are surgeons, I believe. Coming to think of it, they, like you, are in their own peculiar way in the “cut and paste” business. Maybe a surgeon and a photographer are not so different after all?“My father is a surgeon and my mother is apediatrician. There are definitely similaritiesbetween my interests and my parents’ interests, though they have the ability to save lives – I'm just making pictures.”
Your work is often praised for its painting- like qualities. And, frankly, when I first saw some of your portraits and still lifes that was the first association I made. Yet in your interviews you seem a little annoyed by that association.
"Maybe “annoyed” is not the right word, but you always stress you are a photographer, not a painter."
What do you find problematic about the
parallel? Or are you just afraid of being labelled and pushed into a corner?
“I think my issue with this parallel is not that it exists (because it does!), but that I'm praised for it. Sometimes I get the impression that people are implying that the thing they like about my photographs is that they don't look like photographs.
My process from start to finish is extremelyphotographic. I just don't want that very importantfact to be lost. In other words, it's fine to talk aboutpainting or sculpture in relation to my work, I just feel it's important that my pictures are ultimately viewed as photographs.”
I am sure there are many, many photographers you admire and are inspired by. As that would make too long a story, let me ask you this: what was the last photographer or photographic work you saw that really touched you?
“The Robert Adams retrospective at Yale University. It was a slow, beautiful and haunting show that was truly incredible.”
Finally, I guess, 2014 could not have started in a better way. What else may we expect from Daniel Gordon this year?
“I have a solo show opening at Wallspace in New York this Fall, as well as a group show at Pier 24 in San Francisco. And of course a solo presentation at Foam! I'm so excited to visit Amsterdam!”