blandscape

PHOTOTALKS: 'MARTIN BUDAY'

BY ANDREA FILIPPIN

1. Your photos could be described essentially as “human”, so as the landscapes and places it portrays, and this is all the more surprising when one realize, only later, that man is almost never represented. An awkward presence that of man which is evidenced by his own absence, as if the traces left behind were strong enough to live longer. Is there some critical intent, in this sense, in your photographs?

Blandscape is an on-going photographic survey of everyday Americana and they are absolutely human: over-looked places, objects, buildings, vehicles, and signage. They are mostly vacant, emptied spaces, void of people but reeking of human presence. I like to think of the Rolling Stones’ album, Aftermath. On a rare occasion, these spaces will include people or animals (typically dogs). I am fascinated by the decisions people make and why they make them. Choices have been made and here they are for us to look at.  I am not trying to make any sort of statement regarding clues for change or praise for cultural artifacts. I obviously make nods to the past, not to be overtly nostalgic, but to study human experience through the observance of things soon to be forgotten, replaced or glossed over.  I enjoy the layering effect of these decisions over time and how a photograph can transform our perception of common things. I love dry humour, playful relationships and quirky coincidences. If you can’t find magic nearby you will not find it anywhere. It’s hard to top what Eggleston said about being at war with the obvious.

2. The temporal dimension seems to be central in your work. The depicted scenes appear to be waiting, crystallized in the precise moment that precedes some unexpected event. This gives rise to some tension in the viewer. Is it something that you deliberately seek or does it arises spontaneously out of the way you see and return the reality?

Photography is the best medium to record information, describing more than can be explained. It forces attention, the need to look and look again. I want to be rewarded with surprise and a re-charged awareness of my surroundings, enjoying the subtle mysteries and metaphors found in the commonplace. If there is tension in certain photographs, that is a good thing; it can be a catalyst in creating this heightened awareness. I like anticipation. I believe this tension to be more spontaneous rather than deliberate. I try to create loose and open-ended narratives for the viewer to complete. I want them to be engaged, but at a more gradual, subtle pace.  I want the photographs to slowly reveal themselves. They require patience.  When I look at others’ work, my favourites are the ones I return to time and time again, discovering something new with each visit.  Formally, I strive for precision with a simple but vital design.  I learned this from studying Japanese woodblock prints, but more essentially from my grandfather, G.W. Martin, an avid painter and former painting professor at the University of Hartford, CT. 

3. Despite the messy richness of everyday objects, road signs, billboard and vague traces of humanity that fill your photographs, one gets the impression that what is represented is nothing but situations, or at least its most immediate surroundings. Then, when you read the captions we find that both series Stay Golden and Blandscape were carried out in several cities as in different States. Are we facing the representation of an idea of America rather than a real place?

They certainly represent more of an idea rather than that of a real place. I am merely investigating what this idea might be.  It doesn’t particularly matter where the photographs are taken. As I stated earlier, these are photographs of the everyday landscape. These places exist everywhere, not only in America, but throughout the entire world. These are certainly “real” places and they are taken in America, but I enjoy the transformative process that photography entails. As photographs I want them to be more generic than site-specific despite having the actual locations in the titles. This also ties back to the viewer’s subjectivity and how he/she will view them, ultimately making them their own.  If they are successful, they should be universal, neither here nor there.

4. Many of your shots are united by the presence of recurrent elements, so it is difficult to believe that it is just random. If we take subjects such as dogs and cars, it is natural to assume their role as a symbolic or metaphorical, as if for you it comes to new archetypes. Can we talk about a personal imagery as precise as, at times, obsessive?

It certainly isn’t random.  Dogs are one of the most domesticated animals and look basically the same anywhere one goes in America, if not the world. Are they products of their environments? Maybe. Can they be symbols or metaphors? Absolutely. The bottom line is that I just like them. I find humour in them and they are more accessible than, let’s say, a giraffe or a kangaroo. To me they are just as exotic and they are everywhere, as well as cars. There can’t be a better symbol or representation of “America” than a car, even if it’s not from America. I will admit I am rather obsessed with both of them. Photographers in general tend to be a bit obsessive. I like to have certain reoccurring subjects, objects, colours and patterns within a single photograph as well as in the series. Again, it engages the viewer and makes the whole greater than a sum of its parts. I want a dialogue within an image and between the photographs to occur, speaking to and rifting off one another. It’s all just a little bit more interesting that way.

© All copyright remains with photographer Martin Buday