Solar Culture Gallery – Letting Light Into the Dirty Corners
by Mark Hahn
Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ
Opening Saturday 22 February 2014
These are some early photographs I shot when I first started shooting with my girlfriend Kim. Up until then I did everything artistic completely alone. We met at a Solar Culture Gallery opening when we both hung work. We talked about my photographs. Where I found what I shot. Within a week we met up to shoot photos together in the alleys downtown. Shortly after that, we started heading out into the Arizona Copperbelt. It changed everything. These photos are from Safford and Winkelman AZ, not that it strictly matters where they were taken. We could have been anywhere and we could have found the same thing.
My Photos On Display:
When you take your photography seriously, as do I, shooting photos together with someone else takes a lot of trust and respect. You have to recognize when to give the other person space to do their own thing and them you. At its core, the creative process is both personal and private. You can’t share this comfortably with many people.
Probably what was hardest for me to give up was the exclusivity of discovery when shooting with Kim. When you are out by yourself and stumble on some fragile bit of amazing reality, you feel like an explorer. Your discoveries are your own. When you go out with someone else, you give this up. You can’t take ownership of any one thing you find since it is right there, free for anyone to shoot. This is especially apparent when you find yourselves shooting the exact same thing basically side by side. You have to completely let go of feelings of possession and ownership of what you see.
Unlike other arts, you have to accept the fact that when you are out shooting together — and have very similar equipment — that theoretically you could even take the exact same photograph. This doesn’t happen, but it could. For me, this ended up freeing me because by giving up exclusivity and ownership of my subject, it forces me to more thoroughly concentrate on my emotional intent and the aspects of my art that are independent of subject.
Once, during a particularly brutal critique in art school I ended shooting down some asshole who didn’t get what I was trying to do with my work.
“I don’t care what I’m shooting or whether or not you like my subjects! I use reality as my medium — whatever reality I come across — and I make something new with it. The subject is just whatever happens to be handy at the time. The emotional meanings are in the underlying abstract connections that hold my photographs together.”
There was probably a lot of youthful bravado in this proclamation, but I meant it and it was still true.
It doesn’t matter to me that most people will my see my photos on a deadpan literal plane. I like the tension between literal and abstract, the inanimate mixed with the most deeply emotional content and the magic found among the trash. Shooting with Kim has probably resulted in me developing this sense more keenly than I ever would have had I continued to shoot my photos alone.
Interestingly, shooting together doesn’t get in my way of exploring the emotions of existential aloneness, it just makes it more fun — and fun is one emotion that I’ve never explored much in my art. Fun is something better to experience in real life. Art provides an avenue to work through the difficulties that have piled up inside you over your lifetime. Difficulties are easier to overcome when you are out enjoying and exploring life with someone else.
Photo: Kim Nicolini