Ann Ploeger: Daniel,
I'm thrilled to hear from you and so happy you were able to see my prints at the Portland Art Museum.
Oh, that shutter click - how vital and how revealing of myself. Staging these portraits is me trying to control the image; the shutter click is the magic moment of spontaneity proving no matter how much I try to control things, there needs to be this divisive moment where the click dictates the final result: where it erases my preconceived notions about what I thought I wanted the image to be allowing it to become my art.
The "My Melinda" series has more of agenda than the other portraits in that I wanted one subject to be the many sides of femininity within the horror framework. The most successful images in the series are the ones where spontaneity played a major role; where there was freedom to explore within what I thought the images should be. I shot this series in my own house, so I had to look at my domestic environment as the stage. This was very challenging for me because "My Melinda" worked best when there were less props, less environmental clues because they ultimately distracted from the imagery.
"Ivey and Colin" is a great example of how the subject's home environment is a major player in my portrait photography and how important the objects are to the imagery's creation. The home and its pieces allow me to create this puzzle within my frame. I truly feel most present and alive when I get to create these images on the spot. Often I make a portrait in a home I've never been to before where my photographic eye is boss: I choose the space, often the attire, and yet the subjects and shutter clicks do all the talking. There is always an inherent truth to the portraits no matter if I know the subjects or not.
I love making both types of work. My portraits, like the one of "Ivey and Colin" come very easily to me. The "My Melinda" work was a lot harder for me to figure out, but the challenge of making the work informed my environmental portraits in an invaluable way. Controlling chaos is one thing, but trying to evoke emotional chaos through simplicity made me a better photographer.
Daniel Leng: Thanks for the generous reply. It's so interesting to hear you talk for the process, down to the words that you use to describe it. I think a lot of photographers who I've talked to empathize with the idea of trying to "controlling chaos", or trying to finding the decisive moment that represents of a what they're seeking, whether that's figurative or abstract. I love the idea of "evoking emotional chaos through simplicity" as a process description though. As a humble photography student, I find myself doing that in the darkroom, on the other side of the shutter click... trying to distill the ideas what were captured through controlled chaos... in order to create something that evokes... I don't think I've ever considered that what we evoke is "chaos" in the end, though it seems very accurate. A beautiful symmetry.
Daniel Leng: Ann,
I feel fortunate to have seen your prints recently in the Portland Art Museum and am thrilled to see more of you work here on Point + Line now. The installation at PAM was perfect to me, as viewing the prints in a dark room really accentuated the already vibrant images and stories that the work tells. Overall, I love the questions that your work asks so eloquently by navigating the line between real, hyper-real, and unreal.
I'm curious to know about your process for creating (or perhaps just unveiling) these "accidental unspoken narratives." I'd imagine that in the case of this image, which seems to be a bit more dramatic, outspoken, and purposefully staged, the concept and story preceded the image, but in the case of a portrait like "Ivey and Colin" (https://www.pointandline.com/works/1865), you might meet the family and let the people and objects lead the storytelling, perhaps even revealing unintended layers of meaning after creating the image.
Where does the click of the shutter sit in relation to the "making of the image" for you? Assuming this varies, is there one process for making images that is more rewarding to you? Why?