Sunday, September 7, 2008

baby steps

Todd Deutsch from Chasing the Family Drift

Yesterday I had the good fortune of hearing Todd Deutsch talk about his work, past and present, in conjunction with his current show Chasing the Family Drift, that's up at Blue Sky. I've been smitten with Todd's work for a good long while now and it was great to hear him talk about it and see how that discussion compared to the BS I've come up with every semester in class. So, now that a full 18 hours have passed, the talking points that stick:

• a photo a day: interesting how Todd described the structure of the Family Days project (that of making one photograph for each day) as working well for making the work, but not necessarily for presenting & editing the work. As I've gone on about before, I think far too often we draw these lines in a somewhat arbitrary or pseudo-sociological fashion, based on a particular subject matter or geographic location. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In this case, I think it makes sense because it comes back to the first-person, but yeah, once you're shooting, the pictures have a mind of their own and it's probably best to let the photographs inform one another rather than the calendar or a map. Of course, of course, there are always exceptions...

• the big picture: at some point early on in the talk, the question of truth came out as being a guiding force in Todd's practice. Which photos more honestly described his family life? Thank you Todd for bringing it back to the obvious. I hope that doesn't sound sarcastic because I'm not being sarcastic at all. Seriously, this is the fundamental question, isn't it?

• weiner-talk: like some other children I know, it ends up that Todd's sons have penises. That being the case, said penises are often present and noted within the course of day to day family life and, on occasion, find their way into a photograph or two. Todd was the first to bring up that question and leave it at that- what do you do with a photograph predominantly featuring your child's nether regions? In the search for truth/honesty within the family, it seems like it has to be acknowledged. My children spend a good portion of their days absentmindedly pulling themselves around while they go about their lives. Part security blanket, part leash... could there be a more potent symbol of childhood innocence?

For that reason alone, I'd argue that yes, the photographs must be made. But Todd's talk brought up another important aspect of this issue- that while a photograph of his son playing video games in his underwear at the age of 10 might not bother the boy, that same photograph, if seen by a girl in his class, might actually affect his day to day life. That's the sign of a good parent right there, isn't it? Looking out for their child, farther than the child might be able to see for his or her self.

So, what's the answer? Well, showing the images in question within the context of a slideshow where the question & the issues of trust, respect, etc. take center stage is a pretty great solution. It adds a new dimension to the artist's talk and makes it something more than a quiet formal rehash of someone's website.

That's not to judge others who freely show it all. I love Tierney Gearon's work, for example, but we've all just got to figure it out for ourselves. I can tell you that I've got a few family pictures that I'd love to use, but can't, simply because they make my family uncomfortable. I guess until I'm prepared to post pictures of my own business (don't worry, I'm not about to go there), I can't ask it of them.

Todd Deutsch, from the series Gamers

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