Wednesday, June 13, 2007
John Paul Caponigro - Caponigro On Caponigro
The renowned fine-art photographer and digital technology master goes one-on-one with himself in an exclusive DPP interview
John Paul Caponigro: What are you thinking? Interviewing yourself? How can you do that?
JPC: I do this professionally with other artists, so why can't I do it with myself? What's an interview? Questions and answers. I can ask questions.
I can answer them.
I love good questions and the insights they can bring. Questions lie at the heart of my work. My work is a product of asking questions, and it raises questions for those who see it.
Besides, the classic interview questions can be so formulaic. What's your history? What's your education? Who are your influences? What kind of equipment do you use? What are some of the finer points of your working process (framing the question with the assumption that you work like other artists)? I answer those questions year in and year out. Once you've heard that, don't you want to hear something else? And, after all, you've got the inside track here, you know everything about me—where I've been, how I got there and what I've been thinking. You should be able to ask insightful questions that no one else can and in a way that both helps me feel comfortable answering them and allows me to be as clear as possible.
Oh, by the way, just like Cartier-Bresson, I prefer the word “conversation” to “interview.” And do I address you as you, we or I/me? Do I address myself as I/me, we or you?
JPC: Good question. I don't have an answer. But then, you're the one being interviewed, so the burden is on you to come up with the answers.
Do we still need the initials before each question and answer here if they're the same? I'm the one asking the questions for now, so that means I'll have to come up with the answer for that one.
Let's start with the basics. Why do you take pictures?
JPC: I make images to express wonder and love for the world. The picture frame is a meeting place. Making images offers me a way to explore the natural world, my responses to it and my community's responses to it. The responses can be universal, cultural, personal or some combination of all three.
JPC: Why focus on nature?
JPC: The natural world is the matrix we arise from that sustains us and that we return to. It is us. I make no separation between us and it, although that pattern of thought is deeply embedded in our culture, so deeply embedded that we don't even possess language to describe the larger phenomenon of us/it. Through my work, I hope to deconstruct this false duality and suggest a more holistic way of relating. If we treat the environment, or anything, really, as a part of ourselves, our actions toward it will automatically become more conscientious and we'll be happier, healthier and more complete.