Matthew Brandt

Matthew Brandt

Matthew Brandt

1864

Hardcover, swiss-bound
10x8 inches
64 pages / 28 images
Edition of 350
Pubished by Yoffy Press
2018

 

 

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From the artist:

In 1864, Matthew Brandt recreates George N. Barnard’s 19th century images of a devastated, post-Sherman Atlanta. Using source imagery housed at the Library of Congress, he makes new albumen photographs from Barnard’s images.

Fortifying the foundational ingredients of the 19th-century albumen print — egg whites, silver nitrate, and salt — with peaches, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, Brandt plays with external assumptions about the South, at the same time revealing a complex understanding of the complicated history his project explores.

Get a copy of 1864 on the Yoffy Press site here

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Interview | Q's: Dana Stirling A's: Matthew Brandt

First can you tell us a little about how you came across photography originally? What inspired you to work in the lens based art form?

I helped my father work as a commercial photographer growing up. My chores consisted of sweeping the studio floors, packing equipment etc. To me it was just what my dad did for work and I didn’t have much interest in photography until moving away to college. When I took my first photo class, I quickly realized that I had a huge head start. There I began to explore photography in relationship to artistic practices and started to try to make my own photographic objects.

You use for most of your work alternative processes and what some might say unique techniques such as using dust to tint your images, vintage printing methods and more. It is interesting that all your work has the additional element of the physical act of you as the artist on the photographic medium. Can you tell us more about what it means to you and how this came about to become a signature aspect of your work? How do you choose the ‘right’ technique for each project?

In the body of work ‘Dust’, I used dust as the inherent pigment in the printing process, it wasn’t a ‘tint’ or effect. I bring this up because it may convey some of my focus in the materiality as an integral component to the image. And this is usual for most of my works (but not always). Photography is a physical act of translation, and I first began working through this notion with a focus on the index. How can one really represent a subject? I thought one idea would be to simply incorporate the actual subject’s material into the process, so the subject’s material would help dictate its image outcome. In essence it was an attempt to bring the subject closer to its representational form. Did it really work? Probably not, but it was an attempt that brought about some interesting ideas.  

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In this book, 1864, you recreated George N. Barnard’s 19th century images of Atlanta and images post war and it’s aftermath. What inspired you to follow in his footsteps and recreate his work? What have you learned from this project? What do you think have changed since his time, and what stayed the same?

I began with a visit to Atlanta, and was struck by its history in relation to its cultural freshness. It is a vibrant city with a tumultuous past. I began ‘1864’ in the beginning of our current presidential term and was feeling, as many Americans that the country is heavily divided. This feeling of division in relation to Atlanta’s history brought me to look at images from Barnard. I thought it would be interesting to present a place in a place, so these works were made specifically for an exhibition in Atlanta. 

Can you tell us a little about the process behind these images? How did you perfect this old technique and how you ‘modernized’ it? What were the biggest challenges in re creating these images?

I can’t say that I ever perfected the technique because I never had full control of the process. But this was all part of it. I like to set up circumstances to be surprised. Barnard made albumen prints, so it made sense to follow that thread, though my process was very different, it is in principal the same. I began with experimentation in the conventional Albumen printing materials, egg whites, silver-nitrate, salt… which lead me to peach pies. In terms of challenges, my biggest challenge was not technical but more ideological. I was dealing with the tight rope of representing a place for a place as an outsider. I am essentially a tourist with mirrors, and it is challenging to try and make this work. 

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For this project you also included food in to your photographic process – can you tell us what these ingredients mean to the project? Why these specific ingredients?

The ingredients for peach pie were added because they are delicious and have particular associations with southern cuisine. It is a dessert that has so much inherent optimism. Who does not smile at a peach pie? I thought this might help balance and simmer the overall tone of the work. 

For me the charm in these old alternative processes is their ‘mistakes’ or light leaks, scratches etc. This is not a question per se but I would love to hear how you feel about this aspect of the imagery.

What originally stuck me with the original Barnard images were the marks and mistakes on many of his negatives. As one could imagine, it was very hard to make photographs back then on the road in a hot tent during war times. To me these marks in the negatives told a story about their creation. These marks were most pronounced in the skies, and this was where I focused my cropping/compositions. I heavily cropped his images mostly determined by these marks. And in the process of printing these images, his marks began to blend with my own, so in the finished work it is hard to tell what he did and what I did. I enjoy this kind of conflation of time. 

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Lets talk a little about the book itself. The book layout and overall design feels like a tribute to some traditional books and methods, from the book cloth to the size to the layout. I think personally it really sets the tone for the images and the subject matter. How was the process of creating the book was for you? What was the hardest part in creating the book?

This book went very smooth in its creation and was a pleasure all the way through. It was always going to be a simple and modest book, and I think this simplicity helped us all put it together very naturally. 

What advise can you give young artists who are looking to create their own book? What should they absolutely need to know before starting?

It is easy to make a book these days with small batch printing. If you have an idea, ‘just do it’. Work with the initially energy… and all the other stuff you can kink out later. 

What are you working on now? Any new projects, exhibitions or news you would like to share with our readers?

I am working on a couple other site-specific projects coming up. In August there will be a project shown in Minneapolis where I am playing with flour and Mississippi water. Minneapolis was a huge flour milling city in its beginning. 

I am also working on a show for the Newark Museum that will open in March next year. I have been collecting minerals from the museums science collection among other things, and working with silver from the company Engelhard (a Newark precious metal refining company) to make daguerreotypes among other things. 

 

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