Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Caleb Charland: Inquisitive & Blasphemous
Caleb Charland’s physical manifestation of scientific curiosity is made of light and time
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
"I think people have a pretty good grasp on how photography works," says Charland. "They're not necessarily experts, but the idea, drawing with light or long exposures, they kind of get that because it's so ingrained in culture. That's why I always target eighth-grade science—after that, it becomes a lot of math and a lot of things that you can't necessarily see immediately. Most of my techniques are no more advanced than intro to photo stuff—long exposures, manually adding light to the film in front of the camera, etcetera. People really seem to respond to the quotidian nature of it."
Charland owes some of his inspiration to an unlikely, albeit equally weird and wonderful, source: the music of Tom Waits. Like Charland, Waits pays no heed to rules or conventions.
"I love his whole approach to sound recording," Charland says. "Part of it's just being inquisitive and blasphemous. If the dumpster in the back alley sounds better than your kick drum, throw a mic in it and just beat on it. I think this whole idea of 'high art' or whatever, I don't know, I think that's kind of a myth. I think it comes from wherever you need it to come from. And I don't think there's anything wrong with having fun making art."
Art, science, fun—it's all the same to Charland. Though his art school teachers helped him understand the importance of the "performative" aspects of his work, the end product is always being served by the technique. The print is the thing, although for the artist, the process is part of the wonder. He enjoys exploring a hypothesis, testing it with a camera.
Each picture begins as a question of what's still possible to photograph. By using the basic elements of the medium—light and time—I think there are still many things to discover."I think one of the reasons they invented science was to have a logical way to pursue the unknown," says Charland. "Like, well, we don't know what the hell it is, but let's pretend we do and then do some experiments pretending we know what we're talking about, and then those experiments will show us what we don't know about, and then we'll gather knowledge that way.
"Photography is a means to represent an experience within the world," he says. "The exposure is a certain length; the task takes so long, so it's a measurement of time and light and the activity before the camera. It's also a way to measure possibility. Each picture begins as a question of what's still possible to photograph. By using the basic elements of the medium—light and time—I think there are still many things to discover."
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