Georges Pierre Monceaux - In my next book, 'Enduring Renewal' the photos represent the inversion of 'Diminishing Returns' seeing how it will be shot in some of the richest counties in California, which includes the counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara.
Art SF Blog: What is the name of your most recent body of work? Is there a setting for it, and how long have you been working on it?
Georges Pierre Monceaux: The title of my current series is “Enduring Renewal”, I have just really started it. There was a lot of location scouting involved. It’s about how the history of the Tech industry and how it has brought changes to the Bay Area. Not only in the obvious aspects of Bay Area life like property value, job growth, attitudes..etc, but also subtle changes to the history of Bay Area culture in general.
Your photography book “Diminishing Returns” has recently come out. What does the title mean in relation to the blurry film photographs presented inside?
The blurred images within that book represent foggy memories of a fictional life. The whole book is a story of success and failure, loss and abandonment. The last image is that of death, released into a perfect sunset. Those photos were taken were the poorest counties of California.
In my next book, ‘Enduring Renewal’ the photos will represent the inversion of ‘Diminishing Returns’ seeing how it will be shot in some of the richest counties of California, which includes the counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara.
How do you embrace your mistakes when shooting film photography?
With both humility and pride. I look at the the mistakes as humbling, full of wisdom and experience. And then pride, whereupon some thought and deliberation. I look at the mistakes in a new light and learn something from them.
How often are you in the dark room? Do you use alternative processes?
I don’t work in a ‘wet’ darkroom, I do however scan my emulsions with a professional scanner and make adjustments, the same type of adjustments one would make with photographic chemicals. After that, I produce a high quality Tiff file, I send out for prints to be made to my specifications. I’d like to eventually get into making my own prints in a traditional darkroom, however as of now, I simply do not have an adequate area to set all the equipment up.
How many times have you lost an entire roll of undeveloped film?
I started taking photographs in the summer of 1995 when I was eleven years old, so I have honestly lost count. Sometimes I find negatives that I forgot about or thought were lost forever. I used to steal disposable cameras from Lucky’s Supermarket and I would lose those from time to time. I would take photos with other people’s cameras then at the end of the day or weekend just forget about them. I have no idea how many negatives are out there that I took and will never see.
Do you consider yourself an American Landscape photographer?
Yes, in the sense that I am completely fascinated with suburban landscapes and natural landscapes. I tend to fuse in my work. In a lot of ways, I seek out the juxtaposition of man made and not.
How has the Bay Area changed since you first started to shoot? Has your subject matter always been the same? How do you describe you subject matter?
I have been living here since I was born in 1983. So I have seen much change. When I started shooting, cameras were still a big deal to own as a preteen. Film was expensive and developing was time consuming. Currently we are at a point were cameras are taken for granted. Now, I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just the reality we live in. As far as the Bay Area changing, I would have to say that the changes have been massive and constant. I feel that the people in the Bay Area anticipate change, it’s around every corner here.
I started shooting with 110 film. I photographed mostly my friends and the stuff we saw while out skateboarding both in the suburbs and in San Francisco. At first it was just the suburbs, after time though I would take the bus up to El Camino until it turned into Mission. I was 11 years old at the time and I would say that my eye was starting to become more aware and respectful of art. I liked to see the graffiti in SF and the galleries in Soma and Union Square. In 2001 I started shooting live music shows and doing band photography for album Liner Notes, just local bands and musicians. This experience is what would expose me to other interesting subjects, and I began to really understand how important photography is. I did not see it as an escape from life, I saw it as a way into life.
My subject had always been climbing to what it is now, even though it is just much more refined and pronounced now. Subject matter for me is tricky because what my eyes like is something that does not seem to be acquiescing with the present and future landscapes of my ideal photogenic America. The subject matter itself, I suppose, could be defined as ‘Slices of American life’. I’m only here to document the human condition. I try to get people thinking about where and when my photos were taken. My intent is to produce a body of work that can not be chronologically identified immediately.
Do you also work with video? What about other types of media?
I still work with video sometimes, I used to quite a lot. For example I have shot a few music video, My favorite one being for my friend’s old band ‘Kail’ which I produced in 2004. I shot it on mini DV Format with a RCA camera, an interesting thing about that camera was that it had a 1.2 megapixel still camera built into it. So I used that for digital photography. Some of these images are actually on my Instagram. Also, I have to admit that I do enjoy using the iPhone video app these days. I make strange short videos with it.
I have dabbled in drawing, graffiti and fine art painting. There are these doodle characters that I have been drawing since I was 13 years old, they are kind of like externalized glimpses of my ego and self. I estimate that I have drawn somewhere in the tens of thousands of these mental apparitions with various mediums on many canvases and various surfaces.
When I was 12, there was this Unical 76 gas station down the street from my house and they threw out a large amount of the old plexiglass price indication numbers. It was at night in the summer when I saw this pile sitting there on the corner by the pay phone so my initial reaction was to take a photo, which I did. Then I was going to skateboard off in to the night and then I thought to myself ”Hey dummy! You can paint and draw on those!.” So I proceeded to go back and grab as many as I could, I believe I made two separate trips that night, haha. I still own a few unused ones that I’m saving for a rainy day and or when I feel like painting on one. They are out there though, I would paint some at home and then put them in my bag, go for a ride and leave them out in the middle of nowhere for some else to find or what not.
So yes, there are other mediums I enjoy using to create art. I have also been playing the guitar for 15 years. Photography though…photography is my true calling.
Name some landscape photographers that influence you. What about some street photographers?
Honesty I would say that Janelle Claire Bernek (@JanelleClaireBernek) has shot some amazing landscapes over the years. I really enjoy her Landscapes. She is primarily a fashion and contemporary fine art photographer, but hey! When she shoots landscapes, she does not fuck around!
Another really good photographer that shoots good 21st century landscapes is Ron Cabuno (@Ron_Cabuno). Him and I are going to put out a split photo zine this year. He has some beautiful shots of American wonder. I do not know much about him, all I can say for sure is that he knows what he is doing.
As far as street photographers go I’d say that I really enjoy the work of Daniel Arnold. He is inspiring when comes to me taking a chance with or getting closer to a street subject. Some of his photos make me wonder how the hell he got such an amazing fraction of a second and so stealthily, might I add.
I draw inspiration more from people I meet and talk to face to face, with that said there many who inspire me. Ray Potes is one. He is a huge inspiration not exclusively for shooting photography, also for getting photography on real formats of media as well. Ray has been shooting and printing for a long time and he is a wonderful person for his contributions to the spirt of American photography .
Silver Warner is also a bing inspiration to my photography, he has an almost reckless style. Knowing him well though, I understand that there is always a method to his madness.
In addition, one of my other favorite street photographers is Troy Holden. He captures San Francisco in an almost primal or hunting like style. Brilliant black and white film works of the ever changing streets and culture of San Francisco.
Short answer is that there are far too many people who inspired me to list all of them. I’m lucky to feel so inspired by the people I see and meet.
What is a good book/publication on photography?
Summer Nights, Walking by Robert Adams is a great book. It is full of thought provoking images taken in 1970s suburban Colorado. That book is a favorite of my collection. There is a book that I believe every street photographer should own and that is ’In Our Time’ by The Magnum Agency. It is a mighty tome of shot after shot of awe inspiring photography. I highly suggest that all those reading this find a copy and study it.
Now, when it comes to current publications I suggest anything being put out by king Hamburger Eyes or The Dead Beat Club. Both of these publishers put out a consistent flow of topnotch material.
Do you think the advent of technology, displaying digital photography through social platforms has augmented or diminished the originality of contemporary photographers?
Both. On one hand, I would say that it has diminished photography. I say that because it is apparent that there is sea of mediocre shit and only a few islands of refuge in the vastly photographic internet.
Now on the other hand, I would say it has augmented. Because I am also inclined to believe that the digital revolution has indeed democratized photography and there are some very talented artists out there using social media to its fullest potential.
Whether some of these people can be considered ‘photographers’ any more is up for debate. Nonetheless there are some good things happening on the net. With the advent of Web 2.0 and a constantly connected network of artists communicating, there are bound to be pros and cons. One thing is certain though and that is that it was a lot more laborious and time consuming to be a working professional photographer 20 years ago. Back when all the work was done with feet and hands. One had to really put themselves out there in the public and that was hard for timid and or shy artists. Talking to galleries in person, going to a lab or running a private home darkroom, rubbing elbows at art shows just to get a morsel of attention and a few kind words about your work and so forth. The web has changed all that. Now a successful artist is one who knows how to use social media in an effective way. To manipulate it, essentially.
I think we can all agree though that the internet has removed the once ever present equalizer that was ones real life social behaviors. It is also becoming increasingly simple for one to sell art photography on the internet and maintain a relatively private life. That was practically unheard of in the old days unless you had already put in years of work and had a good agent or reputable gallery representing you and handling all the customer relations.
Nowadays, I have no idea what the amount money is that gets transferred from buyers to photographers every year via PayPal, Square and so forth, but I’m curious to know. The global economy is changing at a seemingly accelerated pace and the art economy is along for the ride. I think that social media has turned a lot of people on to the concept and appreciation of photography in general. The fact is that Film sales are up and there are more and more photos are being taken every year. Originality is subjective. The internet is definitely speeding up the process of influence and evolution of photography though. I think we all have moments every so often where we scratch our heads and wonder if what we are looking at is original or not and sometimes if what we are viewing is even a ‘true’ photograph anymore. ❖