AUSTIN REYNOLDS (Petaluma CA, USA)
Austin Reynolds (b.1993) is a photographer based in Petaluma, California. Reynold’s work primarily deals with isolated and intimate subject matter. Finding the unnoticed and piecing it back together into society. Documenting his personal life in a way that explains the strange encounters and relationships along the way. Rather than conventional documentary work, Reynold’s tends to find himself in situations without formal encounters.
-Avenue for the Giants-
The San Francisco Bay Area is today typically known for its leading role in the tech industry–the big tech– from Facebook to Apple, to Uber and Lyft. As the Bay Area became more and more of a tech imperium it has become harder for the middle and working classes to survive– plumbers, mechanics, postal workers, restaurant workers, electricians, even the most modest of service jobs like gas station clerks . After moving here from North Florida two years ago, what I saw was astonishing. Having worked as a chef, a janitor, a postman, landscaper, and other various jobs, the hypocritical atmosphere in the Bay Area was vivid. Known for its progressive and leftie views, the reality was in stark contrast to how the middle class and below were being treated. In this land where the rich seem to survive while the pigeons below feed off the scraps of those above, prove to be true that hypocrisy is here and new millennial capitalism is now the blood of San Francisco.
Rather than photographing the obvious and expected elements of San Francisco-The City, I prefered heading outside where people flocked after they saw what was coming in the ‘90s. I live in the North Bay, in Sonoma County, rich and bountiful land, prospering primarily from the wine industry and farming. While a large number of people here commute to SF, I stuck to photographing outside the city, what I found to be honest, humble and sometimes humiliating images rather than the hubris. When people elsewhere think of the Bay Area they usually mean San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond and Marin, but from my stay here, people now commute on a daily basis to San Francisco from as far as Sacramento. Keeping housing cost low and their incomes high, however the cost it pays to get there. This lifestyle is what stuck out to me the most, unrelenting about of work just to get to work, to spend money on a home you nearly never stay in. Some even rent commuting housing so they cut the cost of their commute, and end up paying for two separate homes. It sometimes seems as if we have landed in a new tech Gold Rush, but the reality is a hyper Gilded Age where immense wealth and privilege is concentrated at the top while the majority of folks struggle to get by with stagnating wages and shrinking opportunity.
This series of photographs encapsulates modest living, trivial objects, and a plain view of what is comfortable with me. I photographed on film, making the series more intimate for me as well as for whoever I photographed. In a world where we have all succumbed to digital, leaving us with a camera phone always at the ready, too often and too easily rendering a stagnant pool of repetitive and pretentious photos. Instagram has put a stamp on photography, making it accessible to everyone to show their portfolio on screen. While this may be exciting at first, it seems to have left the art behind only to create a monetized trend that leaves us blind to the photographic print. William Eggleston said that he had “a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more important or less important” as he photographs the everyday. Eggleston’s philosophy is the prime spark that brought me to photography in the first place.
Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
Like a painter, I think of my film as my paint and the camera as my brush. The art of painting still remains the same as it did some 32,000 years ago. Photography has now been around for 192 years give or take, and in that time it has developed so quickly. We are now in a time where digital has become suffice, and analog practice has become a thing of the past. I agree, as a tool in the field digital is superior and useful, however as an art the practice of using physical materials is far more powerful. Being able to control your work and visualize your palate is critical, there is no need to recreate the wheel. If painting can still withhold its value 32,000 years later physically and not digitally, I believe photography can withhold the same standard as an art.