"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Thursday, July 11, 2013

kirk crippens: portraitlandia

I applied for a residency at Newspace Gallery in Portland and didn't get it. Kirk Crippens did. Here is an article recently published in Wired that discusses Crippens' project, as well as a few of my favorite pictures from the series.
"Portland, ah Portland. A place that has become the dumping ground for America’s stereotypes of alternative living. The city’s recent renown has been shaped largely by a single TV show, Portlandia. Love it or loathe it (the third season has driven most Portlanders toward the latter), there is no denying that Portlandia and its lovable, quirky characters have forged perceptions of the city as a refuge for kid-like adults, crusties, neurotic locavores, trenchant radicals and naive idealists.
When Crippens, a photographer from San Francisco, was granted a month-long artist residency at Newspace, he wanted to test this dominant narrative and hit the streets to meet real people. Throughout the month of April, for his series Portraitlandia, Crippens made 45 portraits. He expected his work to stand in sharp contrast to the fictions of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, but at the end of it all found that there was significant overlap between their view and his.
'I like the TV show. I was influenced by it subtly. In the same way Portlandia loves the characters and the good life [in Portland], my pictures share a joy that I saw in the city,' says Crippens. 'Both projects are drawn to funky culture.'
Ten months before his residency, Crippens reached out to friends in Portland with emails and phone calls asking for contact details for iconic Portlanders. When he arrived in Portland he relied on the spare rooms, time, generosity and enthusiasm of scores of people. Portraitlandia is about the community, and it was only possible because of the community. 
The collective effort secured portraits with clowns, cuisine-entrepreneurs, a stripper, body modification enthusiasts, the eldest elephant in an American zoo, a sex blogger, a nun, and former Mayor Sam Adams to name a few. 
Portraitlandia was an experiment for Crippens with new equipment. Using a loaned 4×5 camera with an array of lenses, he stood under a cover behind the view finder and took his time to get the exposure right.
'Using a slow, old process, getting under a cloth, having subjects look through the viewfinder. It made the project,' says Crippens. 'It’s not like 20 minutes when you’re working with digital. I asked for two hours of peoples’ time. Subjects’ patience grew from the novelty of the process; it allowed them to get comfortable.'
If you think the title Portraitlandia is a bit cheesy, so does Crippens. His friends had to convince him to go with the catchy wordplay.
I’m aware that making a pop culture reference in the title may turn some people off, particularly those in the art world,' he says."

article by Pete Brook for Wired

Mary Kozlov, mail carrier

Tres Shannon III, founder of Voodoo Donuts

Ron Funches, stand-up comic

Rachael Reckless, dancer and stripper

Damos Abadon, local artist and student welder

Jason and Ren, newlyweds/first-time homeowners

Fred and Toody

Andy Lewendowski

Nik Sin

Laura Gibson, musician

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