Wednesday, June 10, 2009
CM Top 50: Damion Berger
Damion Berger, .....I'm an Englishman in New York - as the song goes.
• Is photography your day job? If not, do you want it to be?
The term 'day job' is something of a misnomer, photography takes up most of my waking hours but it's not yet the only thing I do although it's rapidly becoming so.
• Can you remember/describe the first print you ever made? Why photography? Why do you do this?
My first print was definitely one to forget aesthetically - aged 16 and at boarding school in England, I remember feeling like the first person to access my school's poor neglected darkroom since the war. Cobwebs and lack of instruction aside, I nonetheless emerged with a print - a sorry looking portrait faded due to minimal time in the developer and fix. Nonetheless, that initial sense of alchemy ignited the flame so to speak, which was further fanned as an assistant to Helmut Newton and then given some formal direction whilst at Parsons.
Why? That first appreciation of the wonderment of the process continues to underscore the foundation of what I love about photography. I could go on and on but my motivation ultimately comes down to wanting to consistently challenge and surprise myself artistically, and the stimulation derived from trying to produce work that is both fresh and strong - mindful that one cannot help but build on what has come before, whilst conscious of the importance of avoiding repetition.
• How did your project develop?
In hindsight, the 'In The Deep End' series might at first have been a subconscious reaction to my 'R.S.V.P - The End Of Opulence.' project, during which I had been dressing up in 'black tie' and travelling extensively to photograph the very traditional and dry (excuse the pun) world of society Balls and other formal functions. Swimming with a mask underwater in a busy public pool in the South of France, I was immediately bowled over by the photographic potential - it felt like a mix between the energy and surprise of Cirque du Soleil intertwined with a the grace of some contemporary ballet. I had no idea about underwater photography to begin with but I found a used Nikonos in a shop nearby, bought a pair of swimming trunks to match the colour of the camera and started to spend day after day in different public pools, swimming around with the camera held tightly between my legs to avoid suspicion. It was such an escape both visually and psychologically from what I had been doing and it also felt so far removed from the work I was familiar with of the genre. I had gone from photographing a world so steeped in social reference to one that couldn't have been more devoid of such context. Apart from the physical challenge of repeatedly having to hold my breath for that moment longer whilst my lungs were burning for air, I was mostly content to avoid being labelled a pedophile and simply live to shoot another day!
• It's early yet, but have you had any concrete opportunities arise from your participation in Critical Mass? Shows? Publications? Print sales? High fives at a party?
The short answer is yes, I think so. It's sometimes hard to draw a direct link and say such and such a thing happened because of this or that, its often less tangible than that. Reviewers, competition judges, gallerists and the like are much more likely to respond positively if they've previously been exposed to the work via Critical Mass or otherwise. Many people I've shown my work to for the first time have told me they've seen it somewhere before, only to remember that it was thanks to CM. Other than doing strong work, I think familiarity breeds success and CM much to do with that - around the same time as CM, I was included in Magenta Foundation's 'Flash Forward' and subsequently awarded their inaugural book award. Although by mutual consent we've decided not to publish the book together, 'In The Deep End' will nonetheless be published through another publisher next Spring. I was a nominee in the recent NY Photo Awards and my 'R.S.V.P. - The End Of Opulence' series received an Honourable Mention in CENTER's project competition and that work is also slated for publication next fall with Mets and Schilt.
As for high fives, I'm still holding out hope - you never know. I'll be part of a group show "Hot Fun In The Summertime" opening on Thurday June 18th at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in NY - If anyone reading this comes to the opening, I might get lucky!
• Who are your favorite photographers, images, websites, projects, or blogs, etc. that inspire?
My favourites run from J-H Lartigue, Cartier-Bresson & Elliot Erwitt to Adam Fuss, Abelardo Morell and Vic Muniz.....and of course many more. I'm also a big fan of Tierney Gearon's recent double exposure series aptly named 'Explosure'.
• Do you have a favorite youtube video that you'd like to share? It doesn't have to be photo-related.
A bit of English humor: The Subprime Crisis