walking / archives / San Juan

Over the past decade my work has tended to built large archives of photographic images associated with particular cities. The archives are available online as independent entities (https://www.flickr.com/photos/circles-of-confusion/collections), but they also serve as source material for works in a variety of forms, ranging from individual prints to room-sized installations of image-text arrangements. In a statement on photo archives originally published in the now defunct LPV Magazine as part of an article on my Venice work I described an archive’s potential to “accommodate within its boundaries multiple trajectories of glimpsed meaning — sequences, arrangements, videos, essays, whatever – that intersect within its depths.” (Statement posted as: https://aferrostudios.org/2019/02/17/statement-on-photographic-archives/)

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Wall segment from Space Interim (regarding bounds) installation

Also important, however, is the process of gathering the images through extended periods of daily wandering a city, always without map or guidebook, photographing whatever catches my eye, ranging from scraps of paper and debris on the street to major monuments and iconic cityscapes. Over the course of extended periods of daily shooting, attention shifts in a manner that seems to combine the street photographer’s pavement-pounding with the psychogeographic derives (drifts) pursued in the fifties and sixties by the Situationists / Letterists (though those walks were social, fast paced, and very drunken while mine tend to be solitary, slow, and, despite stops for an afternoon drink, boringly sober). Drifting along over time, that which is familiar and ordinary gets sorted out from the unfamiliar; established neighborhoods as well as less established but still coherent regions take shape in mind; as do the very undefined and nameless, but often particularly fascinating, areas that seem to be no place in particular. The resulting archives, however subjective, retain photography’s documentary character even if my primary motivation tends more towards imaginative reconstruction.

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Two panels from Space Interim (regarding bounds) installation

Photographs made during briefer stays, such as a recent six day mainly non-photographic trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the other hand, have a very different quality. Having only ten or so hours to shoot in a couple of distinct areas, my attention moved over the surfaces. The resulting pictures, a number of which I quite like, seem somewhat insubstantial in the absence of any kind of broader context of a denser body of images that might result from a longer stay in San Juan (…very tempting…). This may suggest that even if my main interest is imaginative that that imagination has to be rooted to the actual world. That’s just the nature of photography.

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San Juan, 1/2019

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