Our New PiecePosted: January 17, 2013
On November 9th, Simon and I hit up Unassisted, a group photo expo down the road from our apartment in which two photographer friends were participating. We had a great time and met a lot of cool people but left the exhibit empty handed. After three days, however, our friend Sven Boecker‘s stand-out image of an Austrian-made glock was still haunting us. We contacted him and told him we wanted to buy it and soon after, the 5 ft by 4 ft image, created by layering 24 individual photos, was OURS.
We had the piece in our apartment for over a month before we actually hung it due to weight and time constraints. This puppy weighs 40+ lbs and we needed Simon’s engineer dad to determine whether our walls could support it. In the days leading up to hanging it, I felt very uneasy about having the photo in our apartment. I was still blown away by its presence and loved the image but given the tragic recent school shooting and gun controversy, I was afraid that displaying it on our wall might signal that I am pro gun. If you know me well, you know my weapons of choice are high fives and chest bumps.
I told Simon about my apprehension, and he explained that, like all pieces of art, its meaning depends on both the viewers’ interpretation and the artist’s intent. He was right. My initial reaction to the piece was one of surprise at how a weapon associated with death and pain could paradoxically be captured in such a beautiful and intriguing way (remember I said this image haunted me for days). Briefly, Simon’s take on the piece was that he found it very interesting that Sven chose to enlarge something that is physically small but has a huge social impact to a size that more closely reflects that impact.
I finally asked Sven about his intent with this piece and his response was very insightful.
“It is kind of an extension or almost a metaphor for a struggle I have had within photography.
From a very early age, I was hyper fascinated by really well-engineered objects, particularly cameras. Specifically my parents’ camera. My wanting to be involved in photography was born out of a fascination with the instrument rather than a passion for imagery. This continued well into working as a photographer. It was only probably 8 or 10 years into my career that I identified this as a bit of a problem as I was not allowing myself to develop at all. At some point, I decided that I needed to overcome my fascination with the camera as an object and start focusing on creating images. This is something that I still struggle with. My photo of the gun was made by using my actual skills to create an image, transcending my love of the camera as an object. To show another very finely-engineered object in the same way that I once viewed the camera: with total fascination of engineering, craftsmanship, texture and quality and a complete disregard for utility.
In the end, ignoring utility, a glock is not too different from a Leica camera. But, when we start to explore utility, both objects also have similar power. They are both able to protect, save, exploit and destroy. A single photo has the power to be as liberating or as destructive as a round from a gun.
They are essentially tools that are very close cousins in both operative function and delivery of consequence. My photo of the glock, while ignoring utility, I think does invite debate on whether it is the object itself that can be judged on its own or if we need to consider, more importantly, the function of its user.
Having said all that, my intention was simply to use my learned skill as a photographer to show people how I see finely-engineered objects.”
We hung it above our bed because it is the only wall in our apartment that can support its weight. Unintentionally, it reflects how fucked up it is to sleep with a gun by your pillow “for protection.”