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: Yes—I watch the creative process very carefully. I don't have a single way of working. I have a collection of strategies for working that I call on for the particular needs of a given situation. I make photographs that document the world before the lens, which I alter very little. I make photographs that I alter significantly.
I sketch with images or words and find or create raw materials in the world from which to construct new realities. I make images that faithfully represent the world outside. I make images that construct and reveal a world inside. I respond to both the external world and my internal world. I bring the outside in and the inside out. I realize that intention fashions a process, that process influences experience, and that the work done is a product of experience. My work becomes a meeting place for a complex set of phenomena.
Nice way to turn the tables, by the way, finishing an answer with a question. At least you didn't answer a question with another question, although that can sometimes be interesting, especially in your case. Are you a painter or a photographer?
JPC: That's someone else's question. And you already know the answer.
I'm a visual artist. I make images. I'll use any tool that seems appropriate for the task—charred wood, paint, still photograph, moving photograph, rendering software.
That said, while I defy categorization, I recognize that each medium fosters a certain kind of interaction with a subject, itself and myself. They all have strengths and weaknesses. You need the right tool for the job and enough facility with the tool to get the job done well.
JPC: Why don't you want to talk about the tools and techniques you use?
JPC: You mean my Canon EOS-1Ds, Apple G5, Adobe Photoshop and Epson 9600? As a painter, I was never asked about my Windsor Newton sable-hair brushes, watercolors, pastels, graphite, canvas or paper. These are tools we use to get work done. I love my tools. I use the best I can find. But tools don't make work; people do. It's much easier to talk about technique than content. One is not a substitute for the other. In a similar vein, Jerry Uelsmann remarked that memorizing a dictionary doesn't guarantee that you'll have something to say or learn to speak artfully. To be fair, there's a time and a place for technical talk; it can be useful. This is not it.
JPC: What's your favorite Photoshop tool?
JPC: You've got to be kidding me.
JPC: Why do you teach? Who are your teachers?
JPC: I teach because I find it deeply fulfilling to help other artists. I hope the work I do makes a positive contribution to the world. When I teach, I get immediate confirmation that I've been able to help others.
My parents, both artists, taught me a tremendous amount. Throughout my education, I had many fine teachers, in many fields, most in disciplines other than the arts, who helped me learn how to learn. I learn from work done by others. I learn from my colleagues. Teaching has taught me. Everyone and everything has the potential to teach.
JPC: I always ask this of the people I interview. You should receive the same courtesy, even though I know what's on your mind. Is there anything that we haven't touched on that you'd like to discuss?
JPC: You know I have so much more to say. We've only scratched the surface. But I know we have a limited amount of space here. I post interviews and artists' statements on my Website. There's a lot of information there and more accumulates every year. In some ways, it's like a public journal.
JPC: Gosh, I think I just became self-conscious.
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