Mystery. Surprise. Simplicity.
Meet June's Artist of the Month, Gary Anthes.
Ancient temples in Cambodia. Slot canyons of Utah. Long-abandoned factories that hug the historic Ellis Island. Photographer Gary Anthes has never been afraid to trek out into the world in search of the mysterious and moving. Simple but emotive, honest but mysterious, scientific but artistic, Anthes’ work is a happy marriage of dualities - and proof that opposites really do attract.
What drew you to photography?
I have always been drawn to activities that have a technical/scientific angle plus an artistic/aesthetic aspect. Photography fits that bill very nicely.
In addition to being a fine arts photographer, you've also acted as a writer and journalist. Has your writing influenced your artwork?
The two things are, for me, symbiotic. A picture can be worth 1,000 words, but a word could spawn 1,000 pictures. I see writing as an amplifier for my photography; that is, whatever emotions may be carried to the viewer from the image can often be enhanced by a few carefully chosen words.
Is there an artist whose work has influenced or inspired you?
Although I can't measure it, I think I am influenced by every photographer whose work I see. I have also been inspired by a number of painters, including Wyeth, Whistler, and Hopper.
Anything that you want to say to people who don't know much about contemporary photography, but are interested in learning about it?
It can't hurt to study what critics and curators say about it, but the best way is to look at a lot of images, in books and in galleries, and to form your own opinions. And don't just look at photographs – one can learn valuable principles and practices by studying paintings as well. Sometimes the painter will have done something difficult or impossible to do with a camera, but that stretches the mind of the photographer in a good way.
Do you search for things to shoot, or do they seem to find you?
Some of both. Much of it has to do with being alert and ready for things that present themselves to you, often very briefly.
We know that some of your work is inspired by locations or historic sites, like your Silent Light series (about Ellis Island and an old factory in Connecticut), for example. Is there one location or journey that inspired you the most?
In my early years of photography it was the desert Southwest of the U.S. More recently it has become mostly city streets, with and without people.
For me a work succeeds when it is honest, and usually relatively simple. It avoid gimmicks and showing off. The words of the late photographer Dorothea Lange inspire me: “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.”
Ever had an incredible breakthrough moment in your career in the arts?
About ten years ago I sat down and very quickly scrolled through thousands of my own photographs. Without applying any critical thought, I quickly flagged the few dozen that I really liked a lot, ones that really moved me. I then went back and closely studied the selected pictures, looking for common subjects, styles or characteristics. I wrote these down and ended up with a much clearer understanding of what I liked and didn't like, what I was good at and not good at. A very useful and eye-opening exercise!
You have a book being released soon! Can you tell us a little about that? What inspired it?
The book, Pictures at an Exhibition: Points of View, marks the end of a nearly three-year project in which I photographed people in museums and galleries looking at art. It was based on the observation that the art world pays a great deal of attention to artworks (naturally), and to the artists who create them, but that viewers and consumers of art are equally important and deserve our attention.
Works featured in this email are available for purchase. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries, or shop Gary's work in the online store, linked above.