Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University. This Friday’s #ArtCrush is Jerome Clark, a fourth year photography student in thesis.
In this series, Jerome and Morgan talk about engaging with questions of failure and perfection within artists, how to create effective portraiture and using historical photographic processes.
Who or what are your main inspirations?
I mainly find inspiration in conversations, interactions with others, and thoughts (often questioning why I am interested in something). Also just taking in the environment and culture around. There is something within those experiences that act as a catalyst in wanting to push an idea further, transforming the idea into a body of work.
What subject matter do you tend to spend the most time working on?
The subject matter I have been spending the most time working on is interactions with people through past experiences. I have also been working on trying to find elements or materials that can serve as a way to represent a message. This has led me to explore techniques in the darkroom and using many processes as a platform for tying my work to subject matter. For example, in my thesis, I have been using solarization as a way to represent a loss of control, as you lose some control through the solarization process itself and you are never quite sure what the outcome of the prints will be.
You work a lot with portraiture, what do you think are essential elements of creating an engaging portrait?
Some essential elements of creating engaging portraits are having an understanding of what is being created beforehand and being on the same page in what is being created with the subject. I am interested in taking photographs that are thoughtful and hints or says something beyond aesthetic (though aesthetic still plays a role in my work). Listening to what the subject likes or dislikes is important in creating an engaging photo. Paying attention to these details not only shows that you care, that you are listening and you have the subject’s interest in mind but this also helps you to think of other ways to successfully photograph the subject in a way where everyone is happy.
Jerome Clark, Caleigh, resin-coated prints developed and solarized in the darkroom, digital inkjet print, 2018
“The process of solarizing images involves developing the photos in the dark room and re-exposing the images another time to low light as they are developing which ends up damaging the prints but also can changes elements like texture, and colour if the process is effective.”
What body of work are you working on right now?
The body of work I am working on right now is my thesis. I have been talking to artists about how their ideas surrounding perfection can negatively influence or affect their work and state of mind. Through conversation, I was really interested in hearing and understanding their thoughts from many different perspectives, and the psychology behind their way of thinking about their work. I was also interested in finding commonalities between myself and the subject, which range from feeling the work is inadequate, to feeling the work is never done or like you have failed after starting over two or three times.
The title of your work, Before our Conversation, insinuates to the process of the art practice. Of conversations that happen with those who are photographed and how that is the process of the project. What is your insight into how these conversations contribute to and mould your concept?
The title definitely insinuates to the process of the art practice. It can be broken down into two parts. The first part involves taking the subject’s photograph with a medium format camera to capture a high amount of detail. Taking their photo always happened before the conversation involving the subject’s artwork. The second part involved having the conversation, where I got to listen to what was being said and learned about the subject’s way of thinking. I felt naming this body of work Before our Conversation made a connection to something outside of the images, even before the viewer has a chance to read about the work. The title implies that something has happened and that the images are the outcome, which helps when looking at the photographs and not necessarily knowing exactly what is happening. These conversations contribute and mould to this concept through all of these conversations and showing how aware people can be of their own negative thoughts, especially towards their own artwork.
Solarizing the images also speaks to the idea of loss of control and giving that control up to other elements. What made you want to take this project in that direction, and what is the process of solarizing the images?
The topic of control plays a big part in my work. I often feel a loss of control and that my work is incomplete because I cannot be in complete control of the outcome in what I am trying to create. This realization is what led me to think about experimental processes where some control was being lost, which is why using solarization worked for this body off work. The process of solarizing images involves developing the photos in the dark room and re-exposing the images another time to low light as they are developing which ends up damaging the prints but also can changes elements like texture, and colour if the process is effective.
Jerome Clark, Aref, resin-coated prints developed and solarized in the darkroom, digital inkjet print, 2018
Is there anyone who you would like to work with in the future?
Yes, there are so many people I would like to work within the future, especially in portraiture. I would like to collaborate with other artists where they also bring their discipline to the work we would create together, whether that involves painting, drawing, sculpture, creative writing or text, etc. This will help in bringing out one’s interests and passions in a photograph. At the same time, we can learn a lot about each other through our interests.
You seem to work as a conceptual artist as well as a commercial photographer. What do you see as links between both of these streams and how do they inform your art practice?
For me working in both conceptual and commercial photography, it is important that both types of photography are communicating something. Also that both styles of photography share a message beyond aesthetic or what is on the surface despite how different both styles may be from one another. The principles of design can also be found in both styles and I am actively considering different elements like line, space, mass, colour, and texture in how they inform the end result of an image. I would like to work on ways to have both conceptual and commercial styles coming together more in my art practice. There are image makers like Nick Knight, Inez and Vinoodh, and Sølve Sundsbø who I feel blend conceptual art, commercial photography and fine arts well together.
Jerome Clark, Loredana, 2018
Are there any specific OCAD U Faculty who have influenced your work? A specific discipline or course?
Yes, there are a few!
Peter Sramek who has influenced refining the technical aspects of my thesis work in the darkroom, especially when showing me another way to solarize my prints to isolate certain things about the solarization process that I like. Kate Schneider, April Hichox, and Simon Glass have influenced me to think more critically about what I am seeing when looking at artworks and thinking more critically about what I am trying to say. Catherine Black, and Lillian Allen, for influencing me in articulating my thoughts, especially when describing my work. (Take one of their Creative Writing classes if you can!) And John Jones, for influencing how I see light in studio, and guiding me to look for elements in photographs that hint at something else like symbolism for example.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?
Photograph everything and anything you find interesting. There have been so many instances where I did not take a photo of something I found interesting because I was conscious that there were people around me or I was worried about being judged for taking a photo of something that someone else would have thought was bizarre in that moment. The subject that caught your interest should be the only thing on your mind in that moment.
Friday #ArtCrush is a weekly blog series highlighting students in their final year at OCAD University.
Interview by Morgan Sears-Williams
About the writer: Morgan is a photo alumni and runs the Friday #ArtCrush series on the OCAD U Photography Blog. She loves speaking to other artists about social justice, how to break barriers within artist communities and nurturing the arts in alternative non-institutional spaces. She is the Art Co-ordinator for The RUDE Collective, and has done workshops on intersectionality and allyship relating to LGBTQ folks. To see more, you can visit her website or her instagram.