As Katrina has been on my mind alot for the last year and obviously this week, it was not such a surprise to learn that Robert Polidori has a new series of New Orleans centered on the disaster. The pictures are due for exhibition this fall at the MET. There is a short interview with the photographer at Art:INFO. Several knockout thumbnails are included of homes decomposing in the aftermath of the storm throughout this past year. They are beautiful, horrifying and fascinating works. Poverty and decay seem to have a way of preserving the strangness of the "past". Polidori has some interesting insights into artmaking and photography.
Here's a sample of the interview:
Something that has always struck me about the high level of detail that you’re talking about in your work is that it allows you to make your pictures more telling in psychological terms.image: Robert Polidori
Yes, I think so. When images are soft, they just remain evocative, or in your imagination. You get a mood, and it remains on the emotional level. The viewer has to put more of him or herself into it. When there is more detail, it’s like that old expression: There’s no fiction stranger than reality. Reality will compose the most extreme paradoxes and contradictions and adjacencies, which can’t be understood.
So detail gives you more mental work to do. There are more things to look at, which suggest more and more questions. All that mood is still there anyway, so it’s like the double-punch effect. It’s a question of keeping the mind occupied while the emotions are being silently manipulated on the back burner. I just think it makes for a richer experience. And it has the added value of being a more accurate historical record. So you have something for everybody.
And how does that relate to the pictorial sophistication of your images?
I’m not one of these artists who’s making art about the processes or the rules of art-making. I’m not interested in that. I think that that’s been gone through, and I think that it’s one dimensional. It’s not about art-making. However, there are aesthetic principals there, pictorially speaking. The grammar of my pictorialism comes from pre-Renaissance and Renaissance perspective, because all of that stuff is built into modern lenses. So that is assumed in the technology that I use.
What would you say was your basic reason for taking photographs?
I don’t take photographs because I love doing it (though I don’t hate it). Some photographers are in love with the process of taking a picture. Psychologically, I’m more interested in the situations that taking the picture puts me through, and what it forces me to witness. I really do it because I want that picture. It’s like I’m collecting evidence, like a detective looking to solve a case. I don’t mean that literally, but I use it as a simile. It’s a thing about phenomena and asking questions. And answering some, but not answering all of them.
Yes, I see that. It’s like you were saying earlier about reality’s paradoxes. It seems to me that this is what makes these New Orleans pictures so poignant. Each image presents the evidence of someone’s neat and ordered life that’s just been turned upside down.
Yes, it’s imploded. I’m interested in interiors, and I have been for a long time, simply because they’re indices of individuals’ personal values. They tell you a lot about the individual. Like I’ve said before, to me interiors are both metaphors and catalysts for states of being. You can take a portrait of somebody, and you might have a feeling looking at their face, but you know less things about them by looking at their face than you do when you look at the way that they compose their own interior space. What interests me are their values.