Whilst researching for our latest issue “Thereness”, we came across a selection of videos on featured artist Roe Ethridge. In this particular interview with MoMa’s Curator of Photography, Roxana Marcoci, Ethridge discusses his experience of working in commercial photography and its influence on his personal projects, and in the process gives us an interesting insight into his unique approach to making fugues that are achieved through what he refers to as “amnesic states of wondering”.
Here is an extract from Maggie Gray’s article in issue 12 of 1000 Words:
“Roe Ethridge studied at Atlanta College of Art, after which he found work as a catalogue photographer to make ends meet, so the theme of day to day luxury and branding is one he knows well. On top of influencing his subject choices, Ethridge’s commercial experience informs the eclecticism of his style. Working to other people’s briefs throws up a host of visual and thematic scenarios. As Ethridge put it in this interview, he can photograph “a golden retriever one day and an underwear model the next.” He brings the same incongruous variety to Le Luxe: a turn of the page leads the viewer straight from bikini-clad women to a thoughtful shot of an empty maple syrup jar. Unlikely reverberations and echoes emerge throughout the book. One photograph depicts men breaking up stone slabs for the Goldman Sachs construction. In three others, similar slabs feature as impromptu ashtrays. Are they from the same source? Does it matter if they’re not, if the associations still resound? Other themes, such as Ethridge’s fascination with textural surfaces, are woven more intrinsically into the whole. His free and associative combinations deliberately reflect the heterogeneity of a photographic career – the juggling of projects, the frequent unsolicited finds and the constant casting about for inspiration. Nothing in his work happens in isolation as he draws, untethered, from his entire visual practice.
That Ethridge is prepared to include images from all areas of his work, and beyond (he regularly borrows from public sources such as newspapers and online media) is a powerful thing in itself. Some of the pictures he employs are pixelated and blurred, brazenly failing the standard tests of ‘good’ photography. But contemporary life sees a constant bombardment of images, good and poor, particularly online where they are circulated, replicated, cropped and corrupted with ease. Ethridge is one of several artists who have taken the plunge, raiding this plethora of modern photographs to create work that – to quote video artist Hito Steyerl – offers a “defence of the poor image” instead of bemoaning it. This practice of grabbing, scanning and pasting from other sources raises thorny questions of ownership and originality which Ethridge confronts with humorous candour.”
Also worth flagging up is this short interview and slideshow of Ethridge’s work created by The Photographers’ Gallery as part of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2011 and, finally, here is an installation video of Ethridge’s exhibition Le Luxe II BHGG at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills that took place June 9 – July 21, 2011.