Short bio: Ryan Harrison Gould (b. 1986) was born in Miami, Florida. His parents were importers of lithographic prints and introduced him to the arts at an early age. For Gould, the process of creating imagery begins with deconstructing the implications of contemporary sexuality. This body of work, titled POV, focuses on identifying the pornographic industry as the organization of power that informs and constructs the limits of our sexual imagination, and through its proliferation, has created a hyper-sexualized world. Drawing influence from popular keywords found in pornographic search results, Gould highlights the non-sexual that has become eroticized through language.
Why do you photograph on film? I chose black and white medium and large format film predominately because black and white is an abstraction from reality while retaining an inherent documentary feel. This is in relation to pornography’s appearance of unmediated documentation. Additionally, with the advancement of technology, pornography is capable of depicting incredibly accurate detail down to the pore. In hopes to mimic that level of resolution in my photographs, medium and large format was my only option. Through an awareness of the limited number of photographs able to be taken, the manual process of loading film and the meditative practice of pouring chemicals and hand developing film, I find that I am a more conscious photographer. If I release the shutter too early, by the time I advance to the next frame, the moment is over. This forces me to move slowly and to be more aware of what I am trying to achieve. For me, the struggle and constraints of analog technology breeds creativity. In choosing an output, I decided to make gelatin silver prints because it retains the inherent documentary feel of black and white film. Although I use digital editing technology to adjust contrast, dodge and burn, these are simple adjustments any first-year darkroom student could achieve, and I wanted to maintain the truth-value of documenting an action or scene in the final print. Gelatin silver printing—being (until recently) an entirely analog process—maintains a sense of being a truth bearing document while Inkjet prints come with an air of doctoring.
What is your work about? I’m interested in epistemology; specifically, I’m interested in how language and images interact and impact our understanding of the world. Photographs have long been regarded as unmediated copies of reality, however visual rhetoric suggests that images conceal ideological mystification. Language, on the other hand, evokes mental images. The mental images produced resonate with our previous experiences with the associated text. This may be lived experience or virtual. In either case, we often neglect to question where certain associations have been formed. This body of work, titled POV, situates itself within the framework of pornographic click-bait. If one has come to understand words like ‘wet’, ‘oral’, ‘hole’, etc. to be inherently sexual, do we then—when primed with these words—activate some sort of erotic charge?