Art brings photographer/writer Jonathan Blaustein ‘into the moment’; PCA&D welcomes him Oct. 6 for Virtual Artist Talk
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Saturday, October 3rd, 2020
Photography and writing are intertwined for Taos, New Mexico-based artist Jonathan Blaustein. His work in one medium — photography — is part of collections from the Library of Congress to the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His writing — six years as a photo critic for the New York Times Lens blog, a weekly column at A Photo Editor, and bylines for The New Yorker, VICE, and Hyperallergic — feeds another branch of his creative drive.
And now, he’s combined both in his first book, “Extinction Party,” which brings together more than a decade’s worth of his art projects exploring consumption in America.
Blaustein will present a Virtual Artist Talk Tuesday, Oct. 6 at noon. A link will be shared with the College community closer to the event date. Members of the public who wish to attend should email: email@example.com.
What was it that drew you to photography — what does the medium allow you to do, or to express, that other mediums just didn’t “fit” for you?
JB: I first began making photographs as art back in 1996 on a cross-country road trip. At the time, having a camera in my hand allowed me to see more clearly and deeply, as a young person, than I ever had before. So photography was my real introduction into the creative process, though I had done a bit of writing before.
It was the act of seeing more, observing more, that I found intoxicating. It brought me into the moment like nothing before.
These days, I enjoy writing as much as taking pictures, (as a different method of expression), and occasionally work with drawing or installations too.
Have you ever taken what felt, at the moment you saw it, to be “the perfect photograph,” capturing exactly what you want it to — Is that even possible? Or does each photo capture something of your goal?
JB: It’s an interesting question. Over the years, I’d say I’ve taken many photographs that felt perfect. That I wouldn’t change one bit.
But for 12 years, (2006-18) I worked mostly in the studio, so I was photographing inanimate objects that couldn’t move, under controlled conditions.
In that phase, there was little left to chance. If it wasn’t quite right, just make a tiny change and do it again.
How do you discipline yourself to keep photographing, keep working, when the inspiration isn’t there, or when what you’re envisioning seems out of reach?
JB: I’m very lucky in that my weekly column at APhotoEditor.com means that I have to write each week, and have been doing so for nine years now. That means I never turn my creativity off, so it never gets stuck. There are often phases in which I don’t make photographs, and eventually, I do feel a bit jammed up, but something always seems to come along in the nick of time.
Right now, I’m using my Instagram feed (@jblauphoto) for a new series called “Quarantine Paradise,” as I’ve been walking in circles, more or less, for many months, stuck on our very beautiful horse farm Northern New Mexico.
It’s a radical departure from the studio work that fills my new book “Extinction Party,” but I think shaking up one’s photographic process is vital to staying engaged.
Do you know yet what the focus of your Artist Talk will be when you speak to the students at PCA&D?
JB: I plan to talk about the four projects that interconnect in “Extinction Party,” as their themes about consumption and the environment are very topical. But I’d also like to discuss the ways that using our creativity in different media can keep us fresh and vital as artists.
Art at top: “one dollar’s worth of double cheeseburger from McDonald’s,” Jonathan Blaustein, 2008