Tell us about the inspiration for your piece.
“Jungfrau Region” the Photograph, is a near facsimile of a topographic map of the Jungfrau Region located in the Bernese Oberlan in Switzerland. At first glance the Photograph is simply “retinal art”, as Duchamp would call it. The printed topographic textures, paired with the folds and bends of the physical map creates a pleasing, naturally random, and snowy soft texture that the eye can easily move across. A real nice picture, could go on a wall, nobody will find it too risky or offensive, just some tame black and white imagery, sure.
But what gives me the right to photograph a map and re-sell it as my own? I did not draw this map, nor did I print it. The map by itself is already a serious feat of the artistic and technical. Real science and research went into this map! For all intents and purposes I could have just used a flatbed scanner to reproduce this map, or better yet just frame the original map! Its equally impressive in color.
What about my photography makes this map different enough to call it my own? Sure, I took this photo near peak of the Jungfrau Mountain, but you as the viewer don’t know that, and even if I did, who cares? I didn’t take it with a weird artsy angle or as part of larger still life that I arranged thoughtfully with other related goods. This is simply a digital facsimile of a map, I just used a camera instead of a scanner. Sure I added some grain, converted it to black and white, even put in a fake light leak: all in an attempt to make it stylized and vintage to be more than just a scan of a cool map, to make it “mine”.
In doing that have I become an artist? Was that an artistic thing to do? Did I just plagiarize a product of the Swiss government? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I know I’m not posing any new questions, perhaps I’m covering old ground as this is not too different than putting a toilet in a gallery, signing it and calling it art. The Dada movement started in Zurich, thats swiss. Maybe I could play the meta card: swiss map taken in Switzerland raising questions about what is art? I don’t have an MFA and got a D- in art history. Am I really that serious of a guy to even attach that kind of a discussion to my work?
I don’t have any answers to the questions I asked, nor did I intend to ask them at the time of taking the photo. I thought it looked cool, which is what motivates me to take most of my pictures. I get so easily wrapped up in my day to day technical grind as a commercial photographer worrying about skin tones, fill lights, lip color, retouching notes, etc, that I haven’t divulged past the technical side of my work in a long time: perhaps never. When I initially shot this photo I instantly liked it because of all the shapes and tones, and pretty textures, when I was given the opportunity to properly print and show it in a gallery setting, it made me really second guess myself and what I was doing, and that doubt has since pushed me forward. I have thoroughly enjoyed the internal discussion “Jungfrau Region”, the Photograph, has opened in my mind. It is not the deepest of thoughts but deeper than normally get about my photography.
What’s been your most interesting shoot thus far & why?
Kind of a loaded question! I have met some interesting celebrities when I used to assist, some of them were interesting. But even the biggest baddest celebs are still just normal people. I was responsible for a total on set disaster once: . I knocked over a v-flat at Philip Lim’s studio, it hit a huge glass vase that was full of really nice flowers (and water) on top of a REALLY nice table made out of mirrors and other expensive and fragile materials. Kanye was there, he just shook his head and looked down, almost to say “man that sucks” Alexa Chung was there too, she was cute, she didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Philip Lim seemed worried about the table, I was terrified. James Murphy was drinking champaign in the corner and gave me an empathic look. If you google “Ben Baker Alexa Chung Phillip Lim” you will see Kanye’s look of badass disappointment in my clumsiness, he is literally sitting there watching hole disaster strike moments after the image was taken. Was embarrassing to say the least.
So that was my most interesting story when was assisting. My most interesting shoot of my own has to be some the the Tests I have been shooting lately! I have found some really talented stylists and make up artist and Hair people and we get weird!!!! I have been hand dyeing backdrops (some hippy shit I know), really messing around with using set tools as props, making all the girls I shoot look like tom boys. Trying to broaden my scope of possibilities while narrowing in on my own voice.
I shoot a lot of super technical photography for look books, e-comm, and even still-life, its very regimented and precise, I like that a lot (a lot a lot). I’m really becoming totally confident in technical stuff, just comes second nature now, What I’m saying is that I’m going to get strange with my work this coming year!
I went to an air show in texas once, they had some crazy explosions and top quality people watching. There were huge explosions, I got a turkey leg.: http://www.firstnameryanlastnameslack.com/vietcong-at-temple-tx-airshow/
What are you working on next?
I’m working with the a local motorcycle club, DKMC, do do some wheelie photography! The way we are going to shoot it is secret, and has never been done before, so there is no reason why the photos won’t be mind bogglingly rad! I’m also working on selling my moped to get a dirt bike, so I can do wheelies with my motorcycle club buddies.
But I think the answer you really want is the next job I’m working on, which is some e-commerce work for a new women’s line, should be some babes. Life is good y’all.