Current Feature: Andrea Blanch
Steve Miller: How did Enigma come about?
Andrea Blanch: I always love a good mystery, a puzzle, I love to figure things out.
S: What guided you in choosing artists for the enigma issue?
A: A lot of shoe leather. I let the photographers speak to me. Some have been found through active discovery, speaking to friends, and I rediscover artists whom I have always admired. I knew I wanted to include fashion photography since fashion imagery is inherently enigmatic. Once I decided that, my first thought was Guy Bourdin. When Sally Mann was brought to my attention, I thought ‘she has to go in the issue’, you’re looking at the bodies decomposing and the concept behind it is fabulous, but it takes the audience a little bit to get there. And Moriyama is one of the most famous Japanese photographers alive because he has his own unique style that creates an enigmatic experience for the viewer.
SM: Lets talk about your photographs, my first response when I looked at those images was “What the hell am I looking at?”
AB: I felt like going for a walk and I just walked into it. I didn't know what I was going to find, but I went looking because I have been fascinated with fire from a young age. Fire is so beautifully compelling. After my first shot, I noticed the firemen's uniforms all had this tape that glowed, and I love things that glow. The images are all about the glow. So however I could enhance that or make it work, that’s what I wanted to do. When I realized I was photographing the Deutsche Bank fire, it took on a different tone. My pictures present this in an abstract manner. Conceptual photography is something I favor. I usually don’t start with a clear concept, the work is continually evolving.
S: So getting back to you regarding enigma and glow… I actually didn’t know, couldn't figure it out, I had a sense of New York and the street but not much more than that ...was that intentional from the start or a byproduct of circumstance?
A: A little of both… I was photographing, what I later learned was the Deutsche Bank fire and the firemen’s uniforms caught my interest... I wanted to do more with it and so I manipulated the photos. They look a lot like paintings, so I brought painting to it when I was editing. I had someone here who was working the computer with me and I said ‘well let's do this here and what if we did this here’, and the manipulation really added to the photos.
S: So what I’m hearing is that you’re really gutted, and rooted in intuition, and being in the moment. As opposed to having premeditated thoughts like ‘this is so deconstructive and I’m breaking down the image and there could be a conceptual practice behind this’.
A: That could be the result but when I first started taking pictures and fashion photographs, I began with following my gut. I'm still flying by the seat of my pants.
S: Have you used this specific kind of manipulation before?
A: I use it in commercial work but this is the first time I have used it in my own work. It was part of my creative process, rather than like plastic surgery.
S: I don't think you use manipulation like this in your work very often.
A: No I don’t...but I like it! I don't think there is anything wrong with it. When I was editing them, I thought that my manipulations represented what I photographed. They represented the fireman and it was really about the him and the uniform that represented him and felt it would make a great image.
SM: You’re a fine art person that went into fashion and now you're coming out of fashion and through the magazine getting back into fine art. I think that's an appropriate trajectory of what's going on, and the magazine has become a vehicle to explore some of the issues in contemporary photography.
AB: When I first started taking photographs I began with fashion because I was working with Richard Avedon. Now I’m more in-tuned with the conceptual motivations behind fine art photography since I’ve done this magazine. But there's a whole chunk of my life that I shot straight because it was 1978 and it was before digital photography. I think one of the reasons why I got bored with fashion was because it wasn't heavy enough for me after a while. I think fine art gives me more room to explore and expand on whereas fashion kept me in a box.
S: For you, there’s lots of precedence, like I think you in a way, especially with this word glow, you’re definitely more in the realm of someone like Wolfgang Tillman that can do commercial, advertising, fashion, documentary, ambient world, and abstraction. But for example on Artspace, you sell mostly your fashion pieces.
A: Its fashion! That’s what they want and they say it sells...so I'm giving it to them. My archives are mostly fashion because that’s what I was invested in for a time. I wasn’t somebody who was always with a camera walking around the streets because I had steady work in fashion, and there were times I felt I didn't need my camera with me. So now I do much more spontaneous photographing since I’ve stopped taking fashion pictures.
S: It seems like you want to ride the line of fine art and fashion more and more going forward.
A: Yeah I do. I’d have to discover it. If I could do more things like the Deutsche Bank fire photographs, I'd be very happy because I'm very happy with the way that those came out.
S: With the ubiquity of the camera phone, now everyone's a photographer. How do you locate your practice in this fluid image world….or how does anybody?
A: I don’t think it matters. For instance, I don't think I take great pictures with my iPhone, I’m just not used to it. The framing of it is just a little bit weird for me. But I’ve thought this for a long time, as long as you take a good image, it doesn't matter how you got it. I'm not a nob about it.
S: The enigma on the sursavage the fireman allows the work to reference these really diverse worlds that are outside the image from neon lights to flying saucers and ghosts. The first visual impact of the image stands out as distinctive and open ended in both interpretation and the movement towards abstraction.
A: I guess it's really a documentation of an event and then I just went further with it by capturing the glow.
S: So going forward, I have a feeling you’re gonna go into something more experimental and different.
A: Yes, everything's changed so much. If I can learn some tools I’d like to use them. I see some of the things that people are doing and I think ‘oh my goddd I’m so jealous’
S: Who would that be? Can you think of a person?
A: Well even somebody like Marilyn, the way she employs different techniques and she just had an editorial in Bazaar. She had a beauty story and...somebody like her or somebody like I don’t know...I mean I like a lot of people, I’ll have to think about that.
To see more from Issue 17 Enigma click here