Director’s Choice winner Joshua White planned to be scientist. But after receiving a camera as a Christmas gift while a college student studying microbiology, he fell in love with the photographic process and its different tools. White dramatically revised his career plans, transferring to Northern Kentucky University and pursuing a degree in photography. What surprised him the most at his new school was its emphasis on studying various artistic methods. “I was not aware that I would have to take drawing, painting, ceramics, etc., and at first resisted the idea. My education there . . . helped me understand the importance of being a well-rounded artist.”
Director's Choice 0281
His winning image 0281 is part of the series A Photographic Survey of the American Yard. The images are made with an iPhone, with all manipulation occurring in-phone. “There are really amazing things happening with these cameras we all have in our pockets, but it is still a sort of fringe technology.” His choice of camera for this project has led to many conversations where White has had to defend his work simply because it was made with a camera phone. He rejects the notion that a tool defines the quality of art, and believes that his role as an artist is to question himself and the world around him using whatever tools make sense.
While he has fully embraced photography, White hasn’t completely abandoned his scientific roots. A Photographic Survey of the American Yard is a scientific exploration of everyday plant and insect life around his home in Boone, NC. He considers the body of work expansive, having already amassed over 400 final images and with more specimens waiting to be photographed. Because his subject matter is so small, he prints each image to only four inches square.
White draws inspiration from his daughter, who teaches him to “remember what it was like to discover everything for the first time.” Perhaps encouraged by her curiosity and his own childhood adventures, White loves the idea of a playful exhibition which would encourage visitors to get down on the floor as if they were discovering these specimens themselves. When thinking about how he might ideally design an exhibition of this work, White stated:
I love creating situations where viewers have to interact, so the exhibition I have designed would transform the gallery into a sort of intermediary space, somewhere between backyard and traditional viewing environment. The images will be displayed on a small shelf about 1 foot off the ground, all around the perimeter of the gallery, unframed and printed 4” square. The floor of the gallery will be covered in sod and the viewer asked to remove their shoes.
These photographs reference the illustrations of antique scientific texts. “There is a growing realization that science and art are not that different at all, and that we need both working in concert to understand our world.” White’s strong connection to science adds him to the growing list of artists who are enmeshing their work and ideas with explicitly scientific aims. “I think I am one of a contemporary breed of artists who use as many forms of knowledge as possible to inform my practice, and to explore ideas that have moorings in many different facets of culture.”
Botanicals is on view through October 26, 2013. To view more work from the exhibition visit www.kiernangallery.com