Our new arts feature writer AdAsteroid takes on Sally Glass for a hard-hitting interview full of bone-crushing art opinions.
AdAsteroid: Let's not beat around the bush here. Your new show is opening this Saturday at Bows & Arrows, tell us a bit about what you have in store.
Sally Glass: It's a collection of ten pieces, narrowed down from a series that I shot for a class I took last semester at UTD. It started off as an assignment that had to do with night photography, and it sort of took on a life of its own. I started off just wanting to experiment with materials and building a space that I could shoot light around in and see what sort of colors and shapes would emerge, but it quickly evolved into me creating these foreign environments that took on a whole spectrum of depth and space, which wasn't intentional at first, but ended up being more and more about controlling those elements to produce a certain perceptual effect.
AA: Your title is Iris Folds; where did that come from?
SG: I was struggling with the title cause I like things to speak for themselves most of the time. My friend Marissa is a big craft person, and she was making these Iris folds; it's a really intricate way of folding paper so that it creates the illusion of depth and the space collapses in on itself... an infinite dimension type of thing. I thought it was perfect. Although, I guess it does sound kinda flowery and girly, which doesn't really represent what the show is about.
AA: When I heard the title I thought of Iris in terms of the lens of a camera, and folding that to "fold" space - it's really interesting that comes from a paper folding technique.
SG: I don't like to be as literal as that with titles and things, but it is nice because it works on different levels, and the whole intention behind the photographs is for the viewer to have their own interpretation of the space and the environment shown, so it makes sense that the name would have different interpretations as well.
AA: Tell me more about these abstract environments you've created..
SG: Each image was constructed to exist as its own foreign universe, or one that feels foreign or alien, but that also appears recognizable in a way. Nothing is intended to be completely representational of anything in our world, in our realms of perception. So there's a lot of color, unrecognizable shapes... they're basically just abstract landscapes.
AA: But there are identifiable elements in it...
SG: Yes, they are abstract landscapes with identifiable elements that are intended to attract the viewer into a mysterious, intriguing space that they would not otherwise be found in. That was a very exciting concept to me while I was making these images.
AA: Speaking of being literal, a lot of your past work has been documentary in style and content. How was working in what is almost a different medium?
SG: It's interesting because what led me to want to become a photographer in the first place was documentary style portraiture and how captivating it is. In its purest form, these are events that are outside my realm of control, that are as they are... Purely experiential moments that I have no bearing on, and that I don't want any bearing on. My favorite style of photojournalistic work represents the photographer as a complete, utter observer. As for my own approach, I don't even want the subject to be aware of me, and that's what's difficult and scary about it for me. That was the biggest challenge I noticed when I started shooting documentary style. In regards to abstract work, I was always interested in images that occurred purely by happenstance or those "happy accidents" that seem to be so prevalent among photographers. I guess the difference between that type of work and my current stuff, is that during this assignment I seized the opportunity to control my own instances of abstraction instead of just being there to capture something that was already happening, or by accident. I had the freedom to build from scratch what I wanted to convey through the lens with all of these colors and shapes and spaces with the materials I was playing with.
AA: Not to be too psychoanalytical but how do you feeeeel about that? The difference between being carried along the path and the very direct control these photos take of the whole world you're creating?
SG: It makes me feel like the work is more of a personal expression because, I mean, the best documentary style photographers or photojournalists are masters of their craft; they're fearless, they see people and interact with people as their form of expression. That wasn't how I did it - I wanted that to be me so badly but I was scared of it. It scared me to rely on other people, (strangers most of the time) to be vessels for my personal expression. Not like I'm scared of people, but I did experience a serious trepidation when confronting these people and saying in a conceptual way, "I am going to approach the world via this image I'm creating, with you as the focus."
AA: It's always seemed like it would be very intense to lasso people into your creative output that way.
SG: I mean it doesn't have to be that way; I'm making it sound way more serious and analytical than it really is, but I did really experience a visceral reaction when I felt the urge to approach a stranger to photograph them, when I was faced with the knowledge that I had to either capture this one moment, or risk feeling like I'd failed. In the end, it is just me walking up to a person and taking their picture, it doesn't always have to be this huge dramatic thing, but I felt like I wasn't living up to how I wanted this image portrayed. I wasn't doing it justice and I wasn't being the best photographer I could be, because I was trying too hard to create an aesthetic that had already been created better by someone else.
AA: Do you have any particular photographers in mind?
SG: Diane Arbus, she was the most fearless... she was a big influence on me to find people, relate to them and sort of corral them to be my subjects. She was so meticulous and got to know each of her subjects; at least well enough so that they were comfortable being exposed in front of her. That quality was what I had always emulated about her and others, but I also wanted to be completely separate from that process, as a pure observer.
AA: I can see that you still have a strong admiration for documentary photogs. Do you feel like this series was a detour or a fork in the road?
SG: I think it's a fork in the road. I had a lot of fun doing this series, and it feels like so much more an extension of my personality and what I want to make. It felt like more of my own... art. I still don't feel comfortable saying that I'm an artist and this is my art, because it seems like such a lofty ideal to be an artist sometimes and I feel like such a novice in so many ways. I am really proud of this work, that I made it myself and that I used minimal Photoshop, mostly just color correction - everything else is pretty much how I shot it.
AA: Well that is amazing because they are intimately constructed environments, and I had no idea if they were actual constructions or Photoshop phantasms. You mentioned that you feel like your spirit comes through these better, and I've always thought your sense of optimism and glee came through in your social work for wsjr. I feel like when I look at other social sets I see a lot of static posed shots and in yours I see a lot of pictures of joy and ecstasy.
SG: One of the main things I always wanted to be consistent with is non-posing, the complete candidness of those shots. So many times people would be like "Okay, take a picture of me like this," and I just lost all interest in that within the first five minutes. I don't want to catch your deliberately inauthentic self; I want to catch you when you're not paying attention to someone paying attention to you. When people are already putting themselves on parade in a bar, for example, and then they pose for you, it's like a double mask protecting them from exposing their authentic selves.
AA: That's beautiful cause a lot of social photography has devolved into posing for your Faceook page, cheating out and then it's just boring - you take pictures of people with sweat dripping off of them while they're screaming along oblivious to you.
SG: Well that's what's interesting to me, that's how people actually are, and that's I guess one reason why I did it so long. It's not like I had a quota to get paid for wsjr. It was fun and I met people and was in environments that I wouldn't have been in if I hadn't been there with a camera.
AA: Speaking of that, let's reel it back for a second. You double majored in psychology and philosophy - hiyo! So you do this, and then you take a totally different route with photography, and now you're taking classes to hone that skill.. What was the spark, how did you wind up going down this road?
SG: Well, I graduated from college and was preparing for the GRE so that I could apply to programs in Cognitive Science or Clinical Psychology. However, I realized pretty quickly that I was not into preparing for this test at all and having it be a hindrance on my life, resulting in a potentially undesired outcome. So I started thinking about other alternatives to a life as a clinical psychologist and photography was always an interest, starting in high school. A big mentor of mine was my high school photog teacher Roddy Parkinson. After this realization that being a psychologist would be a bummer, I bought a Minolta 7d from Roddy and I just started shooting and it's been a learning process ever since. I knew I needed to just go out there and do it, there was no way I could just learn how to shoot by sitting around. That's actually one reason wsjr was such a great opportunity for me. It allowed me to go out every night and take pictures and more pictures, even of drunk people in bars. I was just going out and doing it.
AA: Well, you have a tremendous body of work because of it.
SG: Yeah! I'm really proud of it. I mean it's party photography, and that's not necessarily a respected medium at all, but I'm really glad to have it all documented. It was important at the time, and it was an important stepping stone to whatever else I'll do, and it was fucking fun!
AA: It's an awesome standing document on what has been the keystone site for the music scene in Dallas these past four years. Do you hear that, KEYSTONE SITE! So, how did you become THE wsjr photographer?
SG: It's actually kind of an innocent story...
AA: First innocent thing about the entire site.
SG: I know, now I know how cynical and debaucherous the whole thing is! I was kind of a homebody after college; I was 22 and had just moved back from Ft. Worth the year prior. I met Schwa and Sober and Select through a co-worker and they had me take pictures for Hot Flash and the Party in the Summer of 2007. They put the pics up on Central Booking, and it just went from there. Stonedranger emailed me - actually it was a Myspace message.
AA: Oooh, that is archival!
SG: It just said something like, 'Hey, do you wanna take pictures for us?' and I was like 'Yeah, sure!'. I didn't read the site at the time and really had no idea what it was all about, but it seemed like a cool idea.
AA: The very formal, rigorous process of interviewing for weshotjr
SG: Oh yeah, they did a background check and everything (chuckles) As I started get more involved, I shot lots of bands I may never have known about or listened to otherwise. It really enriched my life artistically and musically, and the people involved; we became sort of a family of buddies. Not to be too cheesy but it was kind of a golden age for me.
AA: So, you have two photo shows up at once, one at the Magnolia and your new show at Bows & Arrows, you're performing regularly as a musician, and still photographing for wsjr. What's next for the inimitable Sally Glass?
SG: Now that these two shows are up, which have been so consuming since I got back from Israel, I think I'm going to take a a break from performing regularly in order to re-work what I want to do musically. I haven't really had the mind-space to do so since I've been so involved in getting this work out there. I have some ideas and some good peeps and I'm ready to get back to it in a real way; writing and playing is important to me and I'm really excited that I'll have a lot more time to focus on that. Hopefully I'll keep growing as a musician and photographer, and that's all I can really hope for. And for people to listen.
AA: Thank you Sally, any final words?
SG: Come out to the show dudes!!
AA: GET YOUR ASSES THERE!
Iris Folds (Sally Glass)
Bows And Arrows
1925 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75206
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Amazing last-second Art List comments by Richardson Heights:
Thank you so much, new contributor AdAsteroid. And thank you Sally. There's a big group show Saturday night at Craighead Green, and also something sort of interesting looking at Marty Tomas Gallery and the MAC. The show opening Saturday at Marty Walker Gallery is titled "STRIPPED, NEO-MINIMAL STRATEGIES IN CONTEMPORARY ART", which sounds just about the last thing I would want to see. But maybe you would see. Do something, et cetera.