In Conversation | Nathanael Turner
As we come to the end of the fantastic exhibition At Water: Los Angeles,
curator Haggblom caught Nathanael Turner to ask some questions in
between his hectic schedule.
KH: In an interview with the online journal All this is Rocket Science
you stated that you would like to photograph Obama on acid tubing down a
river! Any updates on that vision?
NT: Haha.. The other day I photographed a man bathing in a river, I
think thats close enough. More important than the content of one image,
to me, is the narrative formed over time. The content of a group of
images allows for a complexity that isn't possible in a single image.
Each day that I photograph for a particular project, I am making images
based on the previous experiences Iv'e with that project. When I first
start working on something, there are usually a lot of open-ended paths
and as I make more images and the project evolves, the physical and
emotional qualities begin to take form.
While installing the Wallflower exhibition one of our employees from
Arts Mildura, who is originally from NY, recognized your portrait of a
girl named Elise as an old acquaintance. From NY to Mildura! You were
also recently interviewed by Patricia Karallis from the London-based
Paper Journal who is originally from Mildura! How strange, don’t you
think? Beyond these uncanny coincidences, any thoughts on the positive
and negative impacts of the rapid acceleration and expansion of
photographic practice via the Internet? Where is this leading us?
There is nothing better than realizing the physical connections that
exist around these transcontinental collaborations. The internet is a
powerful tool, but it's also incredibly distracting. Within my own
practice, the internet has a very little role in how I make work, but it
does allow for opportunities like having a gallery show with you in
Australia or publishing a book in London. It makes for an art world that
is more accessible and fun, you just have to learn how to ignore all
the internet noise.
Related to this subject, you recently launched At Water, LA at the NY
Art Book Fair. What were your experiences of that event? How does one
cope surrounded by so many cool publications? (And did you see Christian
Patterson’s new book?)
I wish I could have made it to the book fair this year. It's a very
special event and is an amazing opportunity to interact with lots of
people we may usually only slightly interact with on the internet.
As with a couple previous Wallflowerian exhibitions, we asked you to
choose a video work to screen alongside your pictures in our other
projection spaces. Can you talk Michael Hernandez up a little? Images of
the same people/places can be spotted in his video and your images. Do
you guys often work together?
Yeah, we are good friends, so we often end up in the same places. As
soon as you asked me for a video piece to go along with the show, I knew
I wanted Michael's, which is made up of short cell phone clips. I
thought conceptually, the two works could inform each other.
Speaking of similar places, I have also spent time in Helsinki (I am
actually half Finish/Swedish) and it's a pretty crazy place. What did
you think of Finland?
During that trip, I spent time in Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark,
and Finland was by far my favorite place. I felt a strong connection
with the people and I think my quiet personality fit well there.
Collaboration interests us at Wallflower. You have also worked with Graham Walzer on a couple projects?
Graham and I went to school together in Rochester, NY. We met during an
intensive summer photo program, since we were both transfer students. I
think we were both really trying to challenge ourselves with the medium
and found a connection through that passion. For a few years, we were
collaborating on a blog, called Double Cuddle. There wasn't too much
focus, but it was a great way for us to bounce ideas off each other,
kind of creating a shared online sketchbook. After a while, it seemed to
have served its purpose and both of us moved on to make more physical
things, self publishing a few books and such.
In a sense this exhibition was a form of collaboration. With great
trust, you sent us proofs and digital files to make the prints here in
Australia. Did this make you nervous? I found it rather exciting to be
frank. Would you work like this again in the future?
I found exciting too. I wasn't too nervous about your ability to bring
the show together, but I was nervous that my attempt at constructing a
show in my living room wouldn't translate to the gallery space. It was
difficult to visualize how the work would feel thousands of miles away,
but it seemed to have work out well. I really like this type of
collaboration, because the work begins to take on a life of its own. If I
had done this show in LA, I would have been more involved and in
control of each detail. Especially with the book, I found the
collaboration created something that I wouldn't have been able to do on
my own. I sent Lewis and Alex a couple of hundred images to work from,
and before really talking about a direction for the book, I let them
begin the process of creating the first edit.
You call yourself a “collector” and have a large archive of negatives
that you draw on when putting together bodies of work. Is this how you
plan to continue making imagery? Any new projects you can tell us about?
I would say that my interest in photography stems from my collecting
hobbies as a child and teen. That act of collecting has evolved into
something more complex. The same way I would walk into the woods to find
things for one of my various collections, I go out collect elements to a
I'm working on a new project thats just starting to take shape, so I'm not ready to speak about it just yet.
I have to ask, how was it photographing David Lynch?
Well, I arrived at his studio and was shown a very nice concrete wall
that I was suppose to use as my background. He stepped into the room and
introduced himself, touching my shoulder. A spiritual aura filled the
room. I took 20 frames on my Mamyia 7, then he looked to his assistant
and the shoot was over. haha.
As with most Wallflower interviews, we will conclude with a
recommendation from you in regards to tunes. What would you recommend as
a soundtrack to listen to for this show?
This was one of just a few albums that I listened to while editing this work.
Shlohmo - bad vibes