April 4 — May 9, 2015
During previous incarnations as an editorial photographer and even as a portraitist, I’d always been a documentarian of the human condition, taking on projects that involved the homeless, poverty and urban blight, as well as ethnographic studies in Central and South America, and Indonesia. But no matter what I’d photographed, my underlying intention was to connect — to create an understanding between my subject and the viewer, even if that viewer was only me. I still shoot what is real and in front of me, but photographing people had become a reactive exercise and now I want to be contemplative--to slow down and give myself the opportunity to look more closely--at everything.
I spend half the year near New York and go to the city once or twice a week. I’d lived there full time earlier in my career, but had lost sight of the minutiae, the fine details of life that were in front of me, and as that landscape became background to me, what was unique became ordinary.
Now I have time to walk the streets--to see and hear the rawness of street life as it exists in New York, without the weight of other agendas. As the city continues to grow, modernize, replace its core population, and become the center of world wealth, those who struggle to stay and survive rely on outlets of private communication that are in plain sight -- they are coded messages expressing frustration and anger, resentment and resolution—encrypted for their own consumption.
This past summer, the minutiae became foreground to me as amazing abstractions emerged in an ever-changing collage of arguments and proclamations about turf and the politics of the ‘hood. They inhabit bulletin boards of brick, glass, backdoors and entryways, tucked between the new buildings of a city that’s constantly reinventing itself.
Derived from a historical context of earlier graffiti artists, the current wave of graffiti artists’ work doesn’t scream from the sides of subway cars. While the medium still uses spray paint; stickers, stencils, waybills and wheat paste have been added to the mix. These are visual dialogues.
New to me is the augmentation of my technical experience and the printing medium to make that connection, pushing the boundaries of reality while attempting to honor the subjects with a more substantive voice in the process. I’m playing with the limits of the digital medium, both in capture and in print. I’m pulling all the information possible out of a digital file and shoving that data to the edge of its ability to record accurately.
of these artists, even though they are mostly anonymous to me. It’s a kind of faceless group portrait. I want these prints to have the vitality and cacophony of the urban street, and engage the viewer in that dialogue.
Jeff Baker, 2015