FotoFilmic: Your artistic approach to photography is known to present and use a rich variety of formats and stylistic approaches. From sharp, vividly colorful, digitally altered renaissance-esque portraits to more fluid, evanescent narratives shot on black and white film. Can you briefly describe the intuition at play behind each aesthetic vision and how their may run parallel to a larger artistic coherency?
Erik Madigan Heck: I’ve always been an advocate of using many different aesthetic approaches, rather than tying oneself down to one style. I think working in a project based approach, rather than stylistic approach is much more interesting, and creates deeper, more varied results- at least for me personally. I always begin with what the project is trying to say, as opposed to some idea of how I want to appear as an artist. I’m interested in creating beautiful work, as opposed to a recognizable “style”.
F/F: As stated earlier you often stick to film for some of your commercial assignments: do you also photograph digitally, and if yes what is also your rationale for it?
EMH: Yes, I often shoot digitally… I’ve found both to be equally compelling mediums for different reasons. I shoot digitally because the commercial environment now demands it, but I’ve also found a way to make the digital work appear filmic aesthetically, so I’ve finally become comfortable with using it.
F/F: As a fashion photographer based in New York working for some of the best industry magazines and ad campaigns of the moment how do you find the medium of film to remain a viable creative option? What would be according to you the most substantial pros and cons to shooting on film today?
EMH: To be honest, its not really a viable option for commercial work. Clients prefer to be apart of the creative process, which essentially means shooting tethered to a monitor, so they can see what is working and what isn’t in the composition. When I take on commercial jobs where I act as the creative director as well as the photographer it becomes more of an option. The most substantial pro and con to shooting film is really time. It slows down the process, which for commercial clients can be bad, but for reflection is really good. Sometimes you need the time to process mentally the shoot before you edit, as often with digital you are editing as you go- which can also be detrimental.
F/F: You currently have some work up at Bosi Contemporary until June 14th. How would you value the experience of seeing your work on print in a gallery setting versus seeing it in a magazine publication? There is a widespread opinion nowadays that book publications may have supplanted the gallery print in reaching their relevant audiences: what do you think?
EMH: I’ve never said this before, but my work really needs to be seen in a gallery in order to experience it in it’s complete form. Seeing my work in a larger than life size (as is currently at Bosi Contemporary) enables the viewer to enter the work in the most comprehensive way possible- in a way that isn’t fully possible just in book form. I’m also a huge advocate of the internet in terms of making the work public and accessible, however to truly experience my work I think one needs to see the gallery prints. For the second part of your question: I love both books and galleries for different reasons. I don’t believe books can ever take the position of a gallery and vice versa. To me, seeing a large print transforms your relationship to the image, as does seeing an original darkroom print on a wall that isn’t necessarily big- both size and texture can totally reinvent a photograph in a way that would never be possible in a book, or online. Books work great for narrative photography and sequencing, and especially for photographers like Taryn Simon, or Alec Soth, both whose work really is bound to books one might say. But I often rather have the narrative exist in one image, rather than in a series, so for me books become less important in a sense.
F./F: You’ve also been making some wonderful shorts all shot on Super 8 film. Can you tell us what attracted you to the moving picture in this particular format, and how its very physical and manifest aesthetic worked its way in your stories?
EMH: Super 8mm film, historically, was used as the immediate, accessible, home-video format of my parents generation. It had the immediacy of the iPhone in a sense, and I think a part of me is drawn to the nostalgia of a medium that is totally lost (Kodak no longer produces super 8mm film), but that wasn’t lost that long ago. Again, Im really drawn to texture in my work, and Super 8mm film has a texture that I find to be really beautiful and engaging. With my shorts I love to incorporate poetry and music to create a sort of abstract narrative that’s aimed at making ourselves aware of our own mortality. Almost all of my films deal with death on the surface, which is furthered by their being made on this particular film itself- a dead medium.
F/F: FotoFilmic is dedicated to promoting the new generations of photographers attached to film: what essential advice or recommendation would you have for them?
EMH: Try to buy as much of it as you can before its gone for good. Actually, I don’t believe it will ever be gone for good, but I’d rather be prepared than run out…
F/F: What have you been up to recently? Any recent achievements, projects, news you want to share?
EMH: I just published an issue of Creem Magazine, that I guest edited and curated. It serves as an accompanying catalog to the exhibition at Bosi Contemporary- its a 224 page magazine, designed as a book- where I did all of the photographs and text as well. The first half of the magazine is a series of interviews with people in the world of photography, such as Kathy Ryan of the New York Times, the curator Susan Bright, Vince Aletti from the New Yorker, Taryn Simon, Miranda Lichtenstein, Elinor Carucci, and the filmmaker and photographer Jerry Schatzberg. The second half of the magazine is all new works I’ve created for the issue— its taken the last three months to put it all together, but its been a wonderful experience.
F/F: If anything was possible, what would be your next ultimate project photography-wise (or else)?
EMH: Feature length film….
© All photographs by Erik Magidan Heck
FotoFilmic’s new FILM TALKS series is all about sharing experienced views, artistic endeavors, industry outlooks and how to reshape the contemporary practices at the center of the film photography medium today. FILM TALKS invite advanced artists, independent publishers, photo editors and art dealers, as well as the broad creative crowd of visual arts to engage in insightful dialogues with FotoFilmic about film photography in all aspects.