Daniel Gordon is a 21st century Matisse, reincarnated as a photographer. His works are a combination of both physical collages and digital manipulation, resulting in complex yet playful photographs. Although Gordon is always very composed, he is also in the middle of moving his studio into his new home in Brooklyn with his wife, who is also an artist.
Your first series, which you made as a student, are photos of you flying mid-air. After doing portraits, you moved towards making still lives. Can you expand on this transition from one photographic genre to another?
There are a lot of years of experimentation in there, with all kinds of side projects, but let me think back to when I was a student at Bard. I began making "Flying Pictures" when I was a freshman, and as a sophomore I began making another group of pictures that I called "Constructions". They were photographs of various tableau built entirely out of C-Prints. I was interested in making these photographs "real" by constructing, and then photographing these objects. The parallel for me had to do with the transformative act of making a picture. I worked on both of these projects for the remainder of my years at Bard. It wasn't until my last months of graduate school that I even thought about making portraits. I tend to work deeply in one area, and then move on to something new when it feels exhausted. I find that the longer I work the more there is to make, as I like to return to old subjects with new knowledge. Right now I am working on some portraits, and have plans to make more in the near future. Basically, think everything is linked, and circles back over and over again, changing in small ways with each cycle.
"I tend to work deeply in one area, and then move on to something new when it feels exhausted"
Your photographic tableau are like the anti-photoshop. As photoshop usually invisibilises the artist’s work, you make every edit not only visible but also an integral part of your image-making process. As photography changes, and our lives become more imbued with technology, how do you see your work evolve?
I was born in 1980, and have lived half my life with the internet and half without. I think my work shows this dichotomy in that I use digital and analog tools (i.e. Photoshop, Epson Printers, and 8x10 Cameras and Film)–I like to push this conflict, leaving rips, tears and glue within the tableau but also using obvious photoshop tools and radical colors when making certain objects.
These elements– the tears, the glue, the photoshop tools, are all traces of the fact that you make your photographs in your studio. What does a typical day in the studio look like?
It really just depends! Sometimes I'm working on the computer and other days I'm photographing and working on sets or objects. My ideal day is when I start out already working on something that I have direction on. I can just get right to it, be focused, and maybe discover new things as I work.
Where or who do you draw your inspiration form?
From art and life, friends and family. I don't know–I guess, a little bit of everything gets mixed up in the soup.
How do you think a book vs. an exhibition creates a different experience of your work? Does one excite you more?
Right now I am very much into exhibitions that involve using wall murals to change the architectural space. It's been really interesting to think about them as "background layers".
Finally, what advice do you like to give aspiring artists/photographers?
Be generous with your friends and keep in touch with everyone. Watch a lot of movies. Read books, but make sure to spend time with people. Work hard. Always be working and don't treat anything too precious. Just keep going and eventually something will catch on!
Interview by Claire Debost