It’s safe to say that John Divola has had a very successful four-decade career. I enjoyed listening to this podcast and hearing the “who, what, where, when and why’s” of his work and his interest in degeneration at a time of advancement. His explanation of why he was brought to the abandoned houses that ended up being the landmark for “Vandalism” and “Zuma” serieses was fascinating. He said he was simply looking for things to paint silver. That response was so great because it is an example of how curiosity and inspiration can lead you to where you need to go. Out of his Zuma series, I am particularly fond of the Zuma #3 photograph;

 John Divola, Zuma #3, 1977.

I also enjoyed the comment he made on the interest he has with the detail a photograph can picks up. It’s something about photo and how it renders little detail, like a piece of glass, that causes his curiosity and the incidental information is what he finds most interesting. I think his frequent use of flash contributes to this idea because the flash changes the natural light of a photograph and commonly alters what the human eye sees. Keeping his glass comment in mind, I attached another photograph that has mesmerizing detail.


John Divola’s art seems pretty compelling of sorts and in the interview he seemed to have some really thoughtful ideas even if he contradicted himself a little bit. I was mostly interested Divola’s works about vandalism, and those running dogs. I mean what’s that about. Also he used flash (in “Vandalism?”), which is super fantastic because I feel as if most professional photographers think flash is silly and a bad quality technique. So he says the relationship between silver paints and silver in photographing wasn’t necessarily what the Vandalism series was about which was confusing I guess it was more about combining the paint and photo? When they talked about “As Far as a I can Get” and the amount of time it takes to run away from your camera, but in context to aging, losing speed, that series became more about mortality. Which you cannot see at all from just photos in a way, and my perception of that series and all of this other series just greatly increases in quality with his artist statements and his words in this interview. For some reason the images only didn’t not seem as successful as they did after I learned the background story on each project.

I did like when Divola and the interviewer person discussed the “Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert” series. Those pictures were pretty decent mostly because the movement of the animals was so simple but effective, but more importantly the thoughts behind it were fascinating. To Divola that series talks about time as fiction and the pictures becoming fixed moments. Also one thing leads to another. He says some cool things in his artist statement about it.
Is his artist statement about “Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert” he say this thing:

“Contemplating a dog chasing a car invites any number of metaphors and juxtapositions: culture and nature, the domestic and the wild, love and hate, joy and fear, the heroic and the idiotic. It could be viewed as a visceral and kinetic dance. Here we have two vectors and velocities, that of a dog and that of a car and, seeing that a camera will never capture reality and that a dog will never catch a car, evidence of devotion to a hopeless enterprise.”

On another note, why note look at this picture by Andrew Lyman

I enjoyed listening to John Divola. It was great to listen to about how he started. As other Emily and Ali posted, Divola talked about how he does not always have idea when he goes out shooting and that its the photos that give him the ideas. I think this is a very interesting way of working but not something I can do. When I take photo I have to have some basic idea of what I’m trying to do. This idea can grow and change as I take photographs, but I can never start a project without a plan. Even if I’m just going to go walk around and take photos, I have to plan where I’m walking to before I leave the house. I may not always know the meaning or what I’m trying to show until I see all my photos fully developed and together, but I really enjoy setting up  scenes and placing people or objects in photos rather then just walking around and trying to find things that interest me. 

I really liked hearing that a professional photographer like John Divola doesn’t always have an idea when he goes out shooting. He said he often realizes what his goal is after the fact. That is something that I tend to struggle with. I don’t always have an idea of what I want to shoot or what I’m trying to say with my photographs. This definitely happened with my last digital project. I was unaware of what I was going for but everyone else saw something and I then realized it made sense. It makes me feel more comfortable with my work knowing that other artist have the same issues.

So John Divola said in the beginning of the interview that he only started going into abandoned houses when he was in graduate school and already seriously making photographs. Ever since around the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, i’ve tried to explore the forgotten areas of my home area around Long Island by venturing in to abandoned places. A group of no more than 3 of my friends and I would go out into places like the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, Pilgrim State Mental Facility, as well as the abandoned Veterans Hospital and Clinic near my house. Something has always fascinated me about walking through the buildings and on the grounds of these abandoned places, about being able to observe the amount of time that has passed, and how much it must have changed since it was left to the elements. I’ve always had an urge to go to dangerous or exhilarating places for the sake of making photographs, but it interests me as to why I am more interested in it as a young person versus why John Divola would pursue that much later in his photographic career.

After taking Intro to Photography and View Camera, I realize that I am particularly interested in two things; photographing people and the effects of cutting film. Since the main advantage of a large format camera is higher resolution (more detail) and the focus of a contour drawing is simply the outline shape (and not the minor details), I am going combine the two. For my final, I am proposing 6-10 large photographs. I am hoping to take close up and refined portraits of people and then create a blind contour drawing of the outcome. I will place the blind contour drawing on the negative and trace the outline with an exact-o blade, cutting through the film. I realize that the blind contour drawing will not line up perfectly with the negative. That being said, my hope is that the final product will be an abstracted, mosaic-like photograph that holds enough detail and information to decipher the underlying image. I have decided to enlarge these photographs to 11×14 (or larger) so the detail will be apparent. Let me know what you think, feedback is always appreciated!

While I was listening to the John Divola podcast, I noticed that he spoke a lot about the evolution he made in his goals and in his work from the time he began photographing to the current.  He said that when he started out, he wasn’t giving too much thought to what he he was photographing and why, but that it became clear to him after he completed a project or even in the middle of one, exactly what his work was about.  I also felt like I could relate to this because on any number of occasions I will have no idea what I am doing and then one of the last photos I shoot will make it all come together, or even suggest an an entirely new concept to me.  Divola seemed sincere, and I liked the fact that he was not overly analytical in his responses.  I think this relates to the article we read last week about “the thing itself” and letting the subject matter of the photo speak for itself instead of trying desperately to construct meaning. 

Your next two writing assignments are:

1.  Listen to and respond to this interview with photographer John Divola, for next week:

2.  The following week, you need to post a short project proposal for your final project.



I’ve never really stopped photographing my own work or only made photographs for an assignment in class, but I have been feeling a bit of difficulty figuring out what I’d like to photograph. Recently, when I’ve been out and discovered some place or something that I’d like to photograph, I bring my camera and focus on that thing for an extended time, and often returned several more times to take more images. And I feel like this is a result of me having difficulty form ideas behind my work or having them be expressed through my photographs.

It feels a bit claustrophobic in terms of subject matter. I used to photograph many different things frequently, but now my choice of subject stays in one place for a longer time.

Maybe this is because of the nature of the view camera. Maybe the camera is changing the way I think about photos.

So basically photo isn’t new or exciting. Also you can’t make art out of it unless you are at a university, and yeah that’s definitely true, and I agree with everything this guy is saying.
In a lot of situations photography isn’t art because it is used solely as a transmission of documentary ideas– it’s used in advertisement, medical shit. Which is actually really great.

This is a great time for me to read this because I’ve been thinking a lot about how the concept within a subject is really the only important thing in a photo. I mean we can all can make a decent photo print. Therefore, the actual process of photography is (perhaps inherently) useless. Mostly because a photo is about, as someone might say, “THE THING ITSELF.” Seriously though, if you can identify the subject, then it matters that you took a picture of it. That’s why I am really trying to use photo as an avenue for my ideas, instead of as a tool to communicate about the medium of photography itself. Don’t we already know that photos capture light?

Hey in the mean time look I found some art.

Steve Kahn