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
JPC: What do you hope to achieve through your work?
JPC: I hope that my work can reinvigorate people's passion for and participation with nature. There are many artists who have documented the changing conditions of our natural environment with the hope of inspiring greater success for preservation efforts. I thank each and every one of them. And I hope that my work can inspire similar acts of conscientiousness and compassion. I make my contribution not by documenting what has passed in an attempt to slow or stop this process. Instead, my work suggests ways of relating to the natural world. It asks people to look closely at what's outside, what's inside and how deeply involved in the process we all are. It's not an invitation to get involved; we're all already involved. It's an invitation to clarify our involvement, to reinvigorate our participation and to empower and celebrate our highly personal and unique contributions to this process. Change happens. Do we accept change in ways we don't want or do we work toward change we do want?
JPC: Speaking of change, you can't always tell what has been changed in your images or how it has been changed.
JPC: I make altered images that don't look altered and unaltered images that look altered. The effect is deliberately disconcerting. This ambiguity begs the question “How do we know what we know?” The inability to answer this question through conventional means offers the viewer a chance to reflect upon his or her own experience. My images are an invitation to look at us looking. The world is wonderful and mysterious. My work is an invitation to participate more fully in that mystery.
JPC: Seeing is not believing. Believing is not seeing.
JPC: Hey, isn't this my interview?
JPC: Yes it is. Now get a grip. You know I'm just trying to get you to say more. So, say more.
JPC: I deliberately leave traces of my process in the final work. I consider this a form of disclosure. While I attempt to be more transparent, to be open to the possibilities of my subject, my medium and myself, I feel I must acknowledge the presence and influence of all three. I prefer that a viewer assumes that my work has been altered, even if it hasn't been, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. That sets up a dialog where the viewer starts asking questions rather than making assumptions. My work with abstraction dematerializes my subject matter, raising questions of permanence and impermanence. Abstraction drives the viewer away from the external toward the internal, raising questions of objectivity and subjectivity. I'm trying to transcend the Cartesian duality of objectivity and subjectivity. I'm striving for intersubjectivity. Subject, witness and viewer are all engaged in a dynamic exchange. My work is like a reflecting pool—reflecting the natural world, reflecting my impressions and interactions with the natural world, reflecting the viewers' interactions with my work and the natural world. The reflective quality of my work has been intensifying.
While I think it's a noble concept, I don't believe objectivity truly can be achieved. We've been deconstructing the notion of truth in photography for some time now. Digital imaging cuts to the core of this line of inquiry and does so very publicly. This is good. We need a more consistent and vigorous dialog on the subject. We can't assume that a photograph represents truth any more than people in the Middle Ages could assume that because something was written in Latin it was the truth, even though both were considered standards for truth at one time. Today we're forced to recognize that notions of truth are complex and highly problematic. Truth is constructed. Interpretation is a highly creative act. Still, we need consensus with others to help validate our conclusions, but more importantly, to live together with one another. These are very challenging issues. Because we're all in this together, we need each other to help us create answers that are useful.
JPC: So which one is it? The truth is out there? Or the truth is in the eye of the beholder?
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