One can think about the country coming into it’s own with the development of the camera. I started out by tracing a line across the country to loosely follow the footsteps of earlier trips.
Wars, industrial and cultural revolutions, social rebellion, and civil rights, all have their iconic images through which we can feel connected to our collective history and perhaps imagine our personal histories that we were unable to experience first hand. Part of this was my own desire to be outdoors and to experience the Monuments as an adult and the other part was to document my own experience in these places in the same way my family had.
Does race enter into that way we capture the landscape? Emile shares his experience as a black photographic artist: For me, it’s complicated. However, over last 10 years living here my identity has become as muddy as my genealogy. African-American, looks white (“could pass for Puerto Rican,” said my sister). I feel this intense desire to make art that is explicitly political, but then I take landscape photographs in the vernacular of so many white men who are canonized in photographic history.
People often comment that I’m “from everywhere.” Born in Los Angeles, raised in Australia. I think a lot about this quote from an interview with Mel Edwards “Rarely are African-American artists asked to discuss principals and dynamics and art on a level of aesthetics at the higher level.
Anything between Los Angeles and Austin was worth visiting. People seemed more concerned with the photograph they were taking on their i Phone, than their own direct experience.
Everything was being mediated through an LCD screen of some description.
Emile Askey has the unusual heritage of being half black and half Greek and a homeland of Australia.
I first met Emile when we were classmates in the MFA program at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, NJ.Then again, that puts a heavy burden on the photographer, and the historian to present an unbiased and “truthful” account of the events they are documenting. That our information is unbiased, uninfluenced and impartial, presented for us to be consumed as fact. My first observation was how foreign all of these place felt.Were the first photographs of the American West taken to show the physical, and unsullied natural beauty, or were the photographers commissioned by the railroad barons to bring the masses west and make them a fortune in the process. A William Henry Jackson photograph of the Yosemite Valley taken in the 19th century presents this landscape as some idyllic, Eden like, untouched Utopia, a place to create a national park and preserve for future generations. I couldn’t place my- self with any of my own memories.I pointed my own camera at them, while taking the same pictures of myself with my i Phone. As this body of work of has evolved, my sole focus on tourists started to feel limiting.I didn’t enjoy the restriction of my travels to one particular idea. Dishonest to the landscape and its complex histories, and to my own experience as well.is produced for the ear and designed to be heard, not read.