Abstract. Gestural. Active.
See the work of Steven Marks, our featured artist of March 2018.
Vibrant and explorative, the work of Steven Marks transforms photography into a gestural act, with the camera acting like a brush, at play in the space between art and life. His work shows how camera improvisation can produce bold and emotional pictures that challenge perceived wisdom about the nature of photographic practice.
What's the biggest source of inspiration for your artwork?
My vision has always been iffy, but it started to become seriously impaired in the '80s. By the late ’80s, I couldn’t see well enough to work. My doctors encouraged me to seek out another career. I did. In 2012, central vision was restored in my left eye; the following year I started to photograph with intent again.
Simply being able to see color again clearly has been the biggest source of inspiration. One has no idea how dull and insipid the world appears when one’s vision is impaired as mine was. The artists who inspire me today are Thomas Ruff, James Welling, Gerhard Richter, Joan Mitchell, and some of the other Abstract Expressionists. Rauschenberg and Johns, of course. Oh, and every musician whose ever decided to take what’s written and say, 'Well, let’s start there and move on.'
Photography can walk the line between abstraction and more straightforward representation. Your recent work leans towards the abstract; what led you in that direction?
Photography is inherently an abstraction from some indexical representational reality, and I wanted to see how far I could push that idea by making the index difficult, if not impossible, to identify. I also wanted to explore the potential of “camera-work”; that is, use the camera as a kind of paint brush or musical instrument to create visually striking pictures that turn memory into raw immediacy. “Action photography,” in other words.
"What is it” is the most commonly heard reaction to my work. The better reaction might be “How is it?” or “Who is it?"
Favorite camera and why?
I use a a small hand-held camera because of the improvisational aspect of my picture making. These pictures couldn’t be made with medium or large-format equipment, and analog color prints would be too time consuming and costly to make. That said, my pictures are not Photoshopped in any way - not that there’s anything wrong with that - and are created in the camera, a Nikon 800E, and processed in LightRoom.