Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blue Mitchell

The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to have Blue Mitchell as juror for our upcoming exhibition, Grayscale. Blue is an active photographer, publisher, curator, educator, and a general photography wunderkind. Blue granted us an interview about his personal work and various other projects. 

As Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Diffusion, your curatorial vision focuses on unconventional photographic processes. How do you think this will influence your selections for Grayscale?

I'm not sure the unconventional part really applies here, but what I can say is if you look through any Diffusion you'll see a significant amount of black and white or monochromatic work. My love of the traditional silver print will certainly play a large role in this call. No matter the methods of arriving at "grayscale" images, I will be drawn to the work that has the most interesting compositions, use of tones, and of course content. Shooting for "grayscale" forces the artist to see differently, to understand tones and create images that we do not see with our own eyes.

A Father's Gift

Your online gallery, Plates to Pixels bridges the gap between antiquarian and digital photography. What was the motivation for starting this gallery and what are its goals?

When I first launched the gallery in 2007 I was concerned with the dichotomy between the digital photographer and the analog photographer (and of course those who work in both worlds like myself). I've always felt the divide was superficial and that eventually we'd all realize there's a plethora of tools available to photographers. Plates has been my way of bringing these seemingly different worlds together. Now as the gallery and perceptions have evolved it has become a venue to showcase work that really speaks to me in one way or another. I also find it is a fluid promotional tool for the emerging photographers I showcase. The site continually evolves, for instance Diffusion was born from it. There's been many facelifts to the sight but the core value and quality of work has remained the same. I've had l the opportunity to review work and several festivals and reviews over the past few years and I've found a large percentage of my featured artists at these events. I also strive to keep the call for art submissions free of charge so we do not alienate anyone.

Argus Returns

How have your experiences as a curator and publisher influenced you as an artist?

Positive and negative, my personal work has mostly suffered due to lack of time and energy though since I spend some much of my creative energy on other projects. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s allowed me more time to contemplate purpose. Seeing so much amazing work on a continual basis has been completely inspiring and has really benefited my own artistic voice. This is primarily due to the insight I have now in knowing what other photographers are doing, what they're producing, and what ideas are being addressed. Losing this naivety is good because it is likely I will know if other artists are addressing similar themes or styles. It can be negative because the innocence of not comparing my work to another is almost impossible. Just recently I was swearing under my breath at a photographer for producing an amazingly beautiful new series that's dealing with very similar subject matter and style as myself. I forgave them and will be inviting them to be a part of Diffusion or Plates at some point in the near future.

Overall, it's been a positive and rewarding experience (curating) for me on a personal level, even when creating my own unique voice has seemed extremely challenging.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Your personal work has an interesting relationship between the past and the present by blending historical techniques and subject matter with present-day compositions. How do you straddle the line between referencing the past while still keeping the work contemporary?

I actually find it quite hard not to reference the past, at least in the case of art. The way I work typically requires a lot of process whether it’s before, during, or after image capture. Outside of process and subject, I'm also a designer and I tend to lean on my design sensibilities when creating a body of work. This may be where the contemporary aspects show themselves but to be honest I don't really know. I'm a work in progress, continually learning and evolving. I can say, I love modern photography that references it's roots in some manner, or moreover links us to art history. Most of my favorite photographers have a sort of timelessness to them and that's what I would like to accomplish with my personal work.

The Golden Egg

Monochromatic images have a timeless quality about them, but recently, the photography world has been trending towards color work. How do you see black and white fitting into the contemporary art world?

Great segue! If you look at the masters of photography, the most accomplished work that has been revered for years, is traditionally the silver gelatin print. Although there has been a shift to color I strongly believe that the traditional monochromatic print will always be a strong influence in the fine art realm. My personal belief is that this is about seeing. Most of us see in color, we relate to the world around us based on color references. So when we as viewers approach a black and white photograph it becomes an entirely different experience with the environment. Our normal perceptions of place and subject are stripped away. Tones become the hints to understanding and relating. The simplicity and quietness allow us to rethink, review, and reevaluate things we may normally take for granted. I'm certainly biased in this subject, but I do believe that photographers that have a understanding, vast or minimal, of good black and white photography tend to make better color photographs too. This could be a gross generalization but I believe this is because they understand how color value works.

Creating Galaxies

Finally, what does success in art mean to you?
Success is obviously a relative term, but for me it's the same as success in life. Is it rewarding? Does it enrich your life? Does it help you find your bliss?  Often, in the art world, success tends to be based on trends, popularity, and sales. Success is often looked at as a term for being accepted and revered by peers and others, but for me is much more simple. I'm just happy if I enjoy what I'm doing. I feel it's even more successful if its touched someone else's soul in some way. Art for me, is not about mass appeal. I recently read an interview with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and I think he says it well when asked about his reactions to reviews.

“ an artist it's an incredibly dangerous time to pay attention, too much, to what other people think. Because it inevitably leads to either homogenous, crowd-pleasing, meandering work, or it leads to something that's just as insincere...”

The deadline to submit to Grayscale is September 19. Visit for more information.

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