Why I Make Images, Software, and Other Stuff

I have an impatience with using things the way they were designed to be used. When I see a system, I think “what are its limits?” “how can I break it to make it do something else?”. This is my way of understanding it, shaping it, making it mine.

I don’t feel there’s anything special in how artists do their work — many others have the same creative instincts and do almost the very same things. What makes artists different is only in that we do it with self-expression as the goal — when there is a goal that can be articulated. I love the freedom that affords, of doing things out of curiosity without thinking in practical terms, the exhilaration of discovery and reinvention. It was something I was doing for a long time without recognizing it as art-making.

Photography and computer art became my media really pretty accidentally. I had wanted to be a novelist or screenwriter since I was young, but after working at screenwriting in college and for years after, I never got to the point that I felt I had something special to offer. I found writing frustrating in that, being unable to see the whole of a screenplay at one time, I would lose the sense of flow within it. Meanwhile, I was traveling often and would use photography as a way of understanding the character of places I’d visit. After a while, I had built up a visual catalogue of odd moments and visual mysteries from places that interested me. For my day job, I’d been working as a programmer. I would come up with experiments of my own — often with narrative or visual components — to lean computer skills, without thinking of them as art. When I took my first continuing education class at ICP years ago, these interests and habits first coalesced into a conscious art practice. I was introduced to photographers unfamiliar to me whose work I felt affinity for. Aspects of art history that had previously seemed opaque were opened up, and I suddenly had a context in which to think of my own work. I connected with other artists, both through classes and online, and started to feel part of a community.

Why do I do it? I’m not entirely sure. I love my job and find it satisfying on a day-to-day basis — but in the long term, I don’t identify with what I’ve accomplished there. I know someone else in my place would have done the same things I did, and the differences between my work and theirs are not personal. I remember the moment I first realized I was more proud of a series of images I’d created than anything I’d done professionally. The images were flawed but they unquestionably carried the mark of my thinking. It was then that I decided this was what I wanted to do.

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