Monday, November 2, 2009
An Interview with Dan Monick
Dan Monick's capacity for love is immense.
He loves his relationships - the good times and the trying ones, too. He loves inspiration, be it accidental or accidentally on purpose.
He loves old signage, ominous skies and foreign advertisements stapled in a noisy jumble of symbol and language to telephone poles. He loves objects so far removed from context that the meaning becomes lost in translation and the viewer is left with more questions with answers. He loves spinning a good story and using a photograph to tell it even more.
But looking at his most recent collection of work, it seems as if Dan Monick loves the quiet moments most of all - the ones that when strung together create the entire landscape of a life, but by themselves are fragile and fleeting. And all too often overlooked by the rest of us.
Dan Monick sits down with LittleBird Gallery to talk about all these observations and how they came together to create the narrative for his upcoming show.
LittleBird Gallery: Can you tell us about how the title for the show came about?
Dan Monick: My girlfriend [Catlin] and I were driving along and this Rod Stewart song came on - and funny enough, that’s where the title came from. But it seemed to have to do with everything going on… and then later when we were putting the images into sort of individual “chapters”, the theme pretty much showed up.
The last show [with Little Bird Gallery] was called “You Know Only You Can Break Your Heart” and this was sort of the next logical step.
LittleBird Gallery: When you are talk about chapters, do you see the exhibit as a whole telling a specific story?
Dan Monick: There’s no question I’m trying to tell a story - both through this and “Only You Can Break Your Own Heart” and to tell you the honest truth, they’re both about my girlfriend and our relationship. The previous show was the narrative about this two year period where we had broken up and the journey I went through in the time.
LittleBird Gallery: So this show is a continuation of that narrative?
Dan Monick: Kind of. It’s about what came out of that period; what I’ve learned since. Most of the images were actually taken with her nearby so, yeah; our relationship is really present through out.
Another part is that it’s a heavy nod to all the people in my life I have been influenced by. While I think everything is still shot very unconsciously, the trails and tribulations of the past few years put my brain into a spot where for the first time I could sort of consciously edit as I was going along.
For instance, this piece [an image of a table top at the end of a meal] was inspired by Steven Shore. I’d didn’t set it up on purpose but we were sitting there and I looked down and I was reminded instantly of this image [from the cover of one of his books] and so this was my little nod to him.
LittleBird Gallery: Commercially, you are known for your portrait work and yet the subject matter in this exhibit focuses on images of everyday objects - often in a state of disorder or decay, and almost always out of context.
Dan Monick: The funny thing about portraits - because I have done portrait shows as well - is that people either identify with the images in a really hardcore way or not at all. So I very intentionally stayed away from portraits in this collection.
But I’ve always shot stuff like this - little narrative stories. When I’d started out I didn’t know much about Robert Frank who I later came to find out was known for this style that I’d [unknowingly] heavily borrowed from. And it was kind of weird that I’d always shot this way and really wild to find out that these guys were drawn to photographing the corer of the room too.
As I did learn about guys, like [William] Eggleston and Steven Shore, I didn’t want to shoot like them so much as I saw they had these amazing characters and I wanted to live in there lives. So it wasn’t so much about documenting my life as it was about creating a fantasy world that I wanted to live in.
LittleBird Gallery: One of my favorite images of the show is the man in the ticket booth. It seems to comprise elements of all of the themes you have running through the exhibit.
Dan Monick: That was taken at the Minnesota State Fair… well, I wont ruin it by telling you the back-story, but there is this image that I love and when I saw this moment, I knew I could recreate it.
So, it’s kind of like doing a cover song, you know? I have thought about this image through out my life and when I looked through the viewfinder and snapped the shot… Well, it’s not a copy - it’s not perfect - but you still get that feeling. It works.
LittleBird Gallery: You leave a lot up to the viewer in your images - and I almost don’t want to hear the stories behind them in order to have my own experience.
Dan Monick: Good! Along time ago I remember people would tell me that as an artist you have to do this and this and this in your work for the viewer to get it and my response was “fuck that”. That makes no sense to me.
It’s funny because I’ve always got a camera in my hands and the idea with a camera is to capture the moment where something happens. But if it makes more sense to me to show the moments around the action because then your letting the viewer sort of fill in the blanks with their own story.
And I think that’s kind of nice.
“Dan Monick: My Love For You Is Immense” opens Saturday, November 7th from 7:00 to 10:00pm at Grain : 3135 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039 in back studio and continues until November 20 by appointment only.
Interview by Bri Ana Drennon
Photo credits: All images by Dan Monick.