As editions of the first piece from my new “Connections” series have started to find homes, I thought I’d take a moment to talk a little bit about what I’m doing with this series, where it’s coming from and why.
I was a designer before I was a photographer and the initial motivation to pick up a camera stemmed from needing to fill a design element, so my initial look through the lens was purely aesthetic. Obviously I moved into storytelling later, but I never stopped thinking of composition. One could argue that street photography is also an experiment in abstracting the subject, but that might be a bit of a bleak take. Camera in hand, I intentionally tried to look at things a little differently than what I saw from others around me, and this lead to trying out different angles and perspectives. Often I found myself looking up.
Right away I was attracted to the similarities, stark feeling and contrast of both power lines and leafless tree branches in winter. Especially in black and white, which is my default. I started taking pictures of these right away, again with a “layout” approach and if you followed my early flickr, instagram and various other “moblogs” you might remembers these as recurring themes. The overhead rat’s nest power lines of Tokyo only exacerbated this fascination so once I started spending time there my collection of these images started multiplying.
In the past 2 decades I’ve amassed hundred of these photos, always feeling that there was something to them that I just couldn’t put my finger on, and if I just kept scratching at it sooner or later the connection would reveal itself to me. In the meantime I kept looking up and kept collecting photographs of settings that struck me. One thing I started thinking about a while ago was how both tree branches and power lines (or telephone wires in some cases) were means for transmission. Information being sent back and forth. And of course the duality that finds its way into all my work was present here as well, bouncing between the natural and the manmade. Intentional vs accidental, or maybe questioning how much intent is actually in the natural.
I kept finding new ways that these images and their subjects were similar and for a while I considered doing an exhibition that just juxtaposed the two sets, allowing the viewer to make the visual connection on their own but something about that wasn’t quite working for me. It felt unfinished. Around this time I started playing with AI. While I loved the idea of text prompt generated imagery, I was immediately fascinated by the idea of feeding my own work into the machine and seeing what it spit back at me. I loved the distorted abstraction and a kind of return to shapes and light and a step away from the literal subject that had been the focus of my original photos and in a way pushed me to look at my work a little differently again.
(Above: A crow in Tokyo by me, Below: Dall-E reimagining my crow)
As I continued to play with these new tools I thought again of the images of trees and wires that I’d been amassing and I began seeing what AI might make of them. The first attempts were admittedly uninspired though I didn’t really have a clear idea what I was looking for. Just kind of poking around to see if I stumbled across something interesting. Telephone poles that look like trees? No. Tree branches that look like power lines? No. The further I got away from my work the less interesting I found it, and in that realization I hit on something. What if I returned to my work very intentionally? What If I seeded the AI with several images and asked it to combine them – not in a “give me one photo of trees and powerlines” kind of way, but in a “here’s a bunch of images of the same thing, combine them” kind of way. What I got back was brilliant.
Without the projected human context of “this is this kind of thing, that is that kind of thing – and they are different things” the AI just looked at the shapes and structures and tried to imagine what it would look like for them all to fit together. This was the missing piece I’d been looking for – it wasn’t a question of how do these two distinct bodies of work fit together, but how could I combine them into a singular thing that continued to work with the narrative I’d been building.
These new images did exactly that – this collaboration being a direct synthesis of the human and synthetic, a merger of the natural and the manmade. Suddenly the relationships get more confusing and more less straight forward. The clear lines between one and the other fall apart. The black and white (both color and theme) becomes endless shades and interpretations of grey. Thinking back on the notion of communication, it’s less clear what kind of information is being sent, and where, and by whom. I’m always attracted to art that makes me ask questions and that’s hard to do with my own work because I usually have the answer to begin with, but this brought some of the that uncertainty into play. These outputs, unquestionably grown from my own imagery, had become their own thing leaving the viewer with much more room for their own individual assessment.
I decided to create 2 different distinct collections – editions and 1/1s. To differentiate them the editions will be a 1:1 square format and the 1/1s will be more traditional 4:3 landscape aspect ratio. There will also be a series of physical prints, and potentially a book collecting them all at some point in the future. Because of how deeply invested in this process I’ve become I decided that the actual distribution of these pieces should also be part of the project and fit into the concept of connections and relationships. To that end, I’ve begun gifting the first piece in the editions collection to people that I meet in person. This piece is effectively an open editions, until I decide to close it and while it may end up on the secondary market at some point minting will only ever be available from me, directly, in person. I’m not selling this piece, it’s a free gift from me to the recipient which further contributes to the concept of relationships and connections. Each future piece in the editions collection will be available to different groups of people under different circumstances. These will be announced as they are released.
I’m still deciding how and when to release the 1/1 collection and if I’ll do it on my own or through a curated platform. I’m still fine tuning which pieces will make up that collection, and how large it will be. A lot of potential directions here and decisions I’ll make as I get to them. In the meantime the focus is on the editions, and I’m very happy that so far the people I’ve given one to have resonated with the project and appreciated how it’s coming together. I’ve set up an Instagram account for this project specifically and will be posting art there as I make it public. Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this look behind the curtain.
Update: The 2nd piece in the Editions collection is available now, it’s only available as a burn to redeem. You’ll need 9 NFTs from my previous “cats” collection to exchange. (current floor is 0.0023 on OpenSea, 0.0001 on Blur)